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: Half Smart
Credits: Arthur Wyatt (script), Dave Taylor (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Sometimes, the best Judge Dredd stories are the one-shots, and ‘Half Smart’ fits that description. ‘Half Smart’ is a fun little cautionary tale that has the amazing benefit of being illustrated by the incomparable Dave Taylor. Even without the tale well told by Arthur Wyatt, the opening splash page alone is a lesson visual story telling. Taylor filled the cityscape or Mega-City One with sky surfers, mutants, aliens and all sorts of character rich, interesting incidentals figures. So many of the passersby of Dredd’s confrontation with Edwin Mullins look so much like they have their own story to tell that it feels a shame that we don’t hear them. Taylor’s visual storytelling craft is so evident with the six panel game of telephone page where the debate is built up to be a bloody MMA style battle. Arthur Wyatt’s tale succeeds in being throughly compelling in large part to Taylors imagination and pen.
The story, however, is no slouch. Edwin Mullins comes off as that self satisfied sort of smart that is hard not to dislike. We really learn very little about him, his beef, or his debate opponent. What Wyatt makes clear is that the citizens of Mega-City One are most definitely up for some bloody action, and if the event doesn’t deliver it, they most certainly will. The ending is pure, unforgiving, judgmental Dredd. It’s a strip that is very pretty and very much good for a laugh.
Chimpskey’s Law: A Terrifically Disturbing Adventure, Part 1
Credits: Ken Niemand (script), PJ Holden (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Matthew Blair: Believe it or not, there are actually parts of Mega City One that are relatively safe and stable. One of these places is a building known as the Ludi Wittgenstein block, patrolled by the diligent robotic Judge Lennie and home to the intelligent monkey Noam Chimpsky.
Unfortunately, the violence of Mega City One is ever present and this time the block must face the machinations and plots of the evil telepathic twins known as Timmy and Thruppence.
“Chimpsky’s Law” Part 1 is written by Ken Niemand, and serves as an effective introduction to the world of Chimpsky and the very real and terrifying threat that the block will now face.While Niemand doesn’t spend a lot of time introducing Chimpsky and his gang to new readers, he does a great job of showing just how creepy and scary the twins can be. While the twins talk and act like good little children, they are absolute monsters at heart and telepathically force people to do whatever they want, be it killing lots of people or pretending to be their parents. They’re incredibly effective villains and promise to be entertaining to watch.
The artwork for “Chimpsky’s Law” Part 1 is provided by PJ Holden and it is a classic Mega City One story with classic Mega City One style artwork. Holden does a great job of showing the Mega City One equivalent of the suburbs in this story, with the white buildings and actual grass making it almost look like a decent place to live. The only small issue is how Holden draws the twins. He does a good job making them look like well dressed and well behaved school children, but there are some panels where their faces look and feel a bit rushed.
While “Chimpsky’s Law” #1 isn’t an effective introduction to the main character, it does a great job of introducing the conflict and villains of the series, which promises to be entertaining and one hell of a challenge for the main characters.
Enemy Earth: Book One: Part One
Credits: Cavan Scott (script), Luke Horsman (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: It feels fitting that I read this on the day HBO releases the first trailer for their adaptation of Last of Us. “Enemy Earth” has that post-apocalyptic feel as the game, but its means of ending things is more decidedly in the Happening way of doing things. One day the flora, fauna, and animal life of earth decided to rebel and become fully hostile to humanity. Just as little Zoe was going to visit the garden center and zoo. Now five years later Zoe is a hardened survivalist just trying to get by until she runs into a scared boy and his robotic protector.Continued below
Cavan Scott does an effective job of giving readers this necessary and condensed exposition dump is done within the first two and a quarter page. Annie Parkhouse’s lettering in these pages may over crowd the page just a tad but the narration is necessary, and it fits the excessive and cartoonish style of artist Luke Horsman. These pages are all about the end of things and so there is a large amount of chaotic energy. After the end of things, the pace and page construction slow down into something more immediately understandable and tense as Zoe stands off against Jules and his robotic protector.
Luke Horsman’s artwork does a fantastic job in the small amount of pages. He captures both the loneliness and the fear that is powering this character. He is just an innocent kid caught up in a mess he didn’t create or understand. Zoe after this five year time skip is hardened and scared by her experiences but Horsman plays against the assumed stoicism such visual signifiers bring, instead using it to show someone ever so slightly loosening the tap on their humanity. Just a smidge.
“Enemy Earth” feels like it could be an interesting play in the YA market once it’s all done. The art has that cartoonish style but the subject matter pushes against that aesthetic. This is a promising and well done strip.
Future Shocks: Echo
Credits: Honor Vincent (script), Liana Kangas (art), Adam Cahoon (colors), Jim Campbell (letters)
Christopher Egan: This week’s “Future Shocks” is a classic ‘fish out of water after landing new job’ story, within a techno-horror shell. Reminiscent of bleak sci-fi like any number of Black Mirror episodes, technology and social standing take the forefront in ways that are understandable in most people’s every day experiences and including elements that we haven’t quite reached just yet, but we can definitely see on the horizon.
What, at first, seems to be a look at celebrity and fandom through a job path quickly switches to something so much bigger and upsetting. Vincent creates a compelling gateway to this world that feels like it could go on forever until the reveal happens.
The script is set at a pace that allows us to be pulled along by set up and dialogue at a pretty good clip while still giving us a chance to sit with what is unfolding in front of us.
The artwork by Kangas is dreamy and captures the not-fully-there nature of the story. It’s thin and yet gives us all of the detail and emotion necessary. Especially with Cahoon’s color work overlayed on it.
Beautiful and unsettling. “Echo” is the type of sci-fi that allows its true meaning to sneak up on you and stick with you long after it’s over.
Hershey: The Cold in the Bones: Book One, Part One
Credits: Rob Williams (script), Simon Fraser (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: There is something about the Arctic or Antarctic that just works for comics; maybe its the ample white space that gives the feeling of unlimited possibilities, but whatever it is, comics set among the snow just have a feel to them. ‘The Cold in the Bones’ instantly feels both desolate and like an open-world RPG, and the characters are given instant backstory by having them choosing, in one way or another, to endure this weather.
Simon Fraser’s art instantly reflects this. With his limited use of color, these characters melt into their surroundings, becoming one with the cold. There is a visceral reaction when reading this to shiver and curl your toes. Fraser’s characters look like they’ve been worn down by not just the cold, but life in general. Their skin is craggy and cracked, and they all appear to have seen better days. All of this is the perfect vehicle for bringing them to Antarctic City, an eery and sparsely populated city at the literal end of the world.
Rob Williams doesn’t dole out too much information in the dialogue, but because Fraser’s art is so evocative and the story of Judges so baked into 2000 AD, even if you didn’t read earlier “Hershey” tales, there is enough here to fill in a new reader, but not so much that longtime readers are alienated by all the extra exposition. There’s exactly one line that does most of the heavy lifting, and Williams seeds it so perfectly that it doesn’t stand out as particularly expository. This slow burn (freeze?) of a story is going to unfold at its own pace, and we have to just accept the pace and ride it out.