Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our “2000 AD” weekly review column! Every Wednesday we examine the latest offerings from Tharg and the droids over at Rebellion/2000 AD, the galaxy’s leading producers of Thrill-Power entertainment. Let’s get right to it!
THIS WEEK IN 2000AD
Judge Dredd: Special Relationship:01
Credits: Rob Williams (script), Patric Goddard (art), Quinton Winter (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘Special Relationship :01’ begins what feels like a complex story and it manages to set the scene well. Rob Williams is telling a story involving a plot initiated by a Sov Block hacking farm exploiting something discovered there. What it is we do not know, but the remainder of the story shows how the hack has brought the Mega-City one’s finest into likely conflict with Dredd’s Brit-Cit counterparts. Tharg Notes tie this story into the “H” arc that ran in Progs 2250-2255 and even though much of the story is cryptic, the storytelling in this espionage thriller-like “Dredd” strip manages to be engaging. The hooks are, for the most part, outside the narration and is driven by art and personality expressed through it.
Patric Goddard creates a rich looking world for this to unfold in. The opening moments in the Sov Hacker Farm create a bond with Barrikad as he is thwarted in getting the last snacks in the machine. The progression of those panels is very effective to set the scene. The panel seen from the inside of the snack machine and the heavily shadowed mid shot that follows are richly detailed and make you part of this depressing moment. As the story hints at events, the art draws you into the world. They bring that same level of atmospheric detail to the scenes that follow in Mega-City one and Bri-Cit. Dredd’s world, through Quinton Winter’s colors, is shown to be as grim, gritty and oddly colorful as we have come to expect. Brit-Cit is opulent, clean, romantically lit and stuffy in a way that can only be British. They art gives you something to chew on and explore as Rob Williams sets the scene for the conflict to come. It’s engaging, despite the fact little has really happened yet.
Hope: In The Shadows – Reel One, Part Eleven
Credits: Guy Davis (Script), Jimmy Broxton (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters)
Christopher Egan: The final chapter of Reel One is a bit truncated and plays with a duality of Mallory Hope and his wife speaking about each other in way that brings up a past fondness, resentment, and a key to unlocking what’s to come in possible future installments.
It’s a mostly light bit of writing, never really giving us the goods on what it all means, but there’s enough to it that will keep readers guessing and mostly intrigued. We also get a good dose of violence, unsettling moments, and a little gore to hold us over until next time. The biggest weakness with this sort-of finale is that it doesn’t give us enough to be a wholly satisfying end, nor is it fleshed out enough to make for a shocking cliffhanger.
It isn’t great or terrible, simply falling somewhere in the middle as many of the previous chapters have as this thriller has been stretched out. Where Reel Two could take us is beyond me, but it will hopefully zap us out of this status quo.
Dexter Bulletopia Chapter 10: Malice in Plunderland
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Tazio Bettin (art), Matt Soffe (colors) Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Matthew Blair Dexter and his motley band of fugitives have been on the run for a while now, dodging everything from dinosaur bioweapons to creepy Amish cults. Now, they are so close to their goal, which has unfortunately landed them straight in the middle of a mob war.
Dan Abnett is the usual writer on “Bulletopia Chapter 10” and his long standing work on this particular story, coupled with his well deserved reputation as a writer in the broader comic book world, have granted him a considerable amount of breathing room. It allows this particular Dexter story to start off slow and set everything up properly, which is good because this story has a lot of promise for some great action. It feels like the main bad guys could be a little more interesting considering all the stuff that Dexter and his group have had to face off against in the past, but we’ll see where it goes.Continued below
Tazio Bettin’s artwork in “Bulletopia Chapter 10” does a great job of showing a desolate, almost post apocalyptic rust hell of a town that promises to be an interesting playground for our heroes and the ensuing action. As for the mobsters themselves, they’re well dressed and have some interesting tattoo designs, but other than that they’re just ordinary gangsters. Also, I don’t know if this is a mistake or a missed deadline, but there is a whole page that contains some pretty important information and is completely blank. It doesn’t detract from the story, but it is a real immersion breaker.
“Dexter Bulletopia Chapter 10” is another solid introduction to a new challenge for our heroes, and while it’s pretty ordinary compared to their previous adventures, it will be interesting to see what happens and where they go from here.
Skip Tracer: Valhalla Part Two
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (colours), Simon Bowland(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: We finally have some meaningful plot movement as Nolan is given his call to adventure, ominously asked to go back to the beginning if he wants to get his daughter to Eden. It’s a simple moment that has been building and building as the creative team put the reader in the daily life of Nolan as a Father and protector. Now all of those fatherly obligations take on new weight with this task.
Spending all that time with him also helps to justify, more so than usual, the sudden telekinetic fueled anger he has at realizing the Princess and his former friends are the ones behind this latest disruption to their life on the land. Even without all of the pages his anger at being KIDNAPPED because someone else has “need” of him like a pawn would have been justified, but because of those previous two strips it lands even better. Even if his attempted attack is easily thwarted.
Paul Marshall does a nice subtle trick on the fourth page as Nolan powers up. He lines the figure of Nolan in a downward diagonal line across a variety of panels. It creates a solid reading line but also helps to gives a better feeling to progressively angrier states compared to just looking at the panels individually. That panel of anger is contrasted with the page of pure joy, the first real indication that such an emotion can exist in this story. The page designs of 3 and 4 effectively mirror one another creating some wonderful symmetry.
“Skip Tracer” continues to be a just plainly well designed and engaging read of a Father trying to take care of his daughter, though I hope she gets to have more to do going forward instead of being a McGuffin get out of jail free card.
Brink: Mercury Retrograde Part 18
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), INJ Culbard (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: Just when it seems like Maz has a grip on what exactly is happening, ‘Mercury Retrograde’ throws a curveball. This entire chapter is basically Maz being given information that his story, the biggest of his career, is actually only a drop in the ocean. There’s something much bigger happening, and he has the ability to break it to the world.
What Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard have done so well with “Brink” this year is to cast doubt on just about everything that has happened on the page. We know a little more than Maz about how far the unions are going, in terms of their rituals, but everyone else that Maz has encountered could either be telling the truth or, just as likely, feeding him lies. Or making him a patsy. Or being fed lies themselves. And the strip conveys that really well.
Culbard does a great job in this strip of sowing those seeds through panel composition: the positions of the characters, the strangers in their periphery, the coloring. All of it gives off a sense of dread (though not Dredd). This chapter felt almost like a scene from The Conversation, which is about as high a complement as one can give about a story that foments looking over your shoulder and casting doubt.
There have been a few moments in this strip where it feels like the endgame is in sight, but then an installment like this comes through and it can be tough to tell exactly how or when ‘Mercury Retrograde’ is going to be brought in for a landing.