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: The Rematch, Part 1
Credits: Ken Neimand (script), Steve Austin (art), Jim Boswell (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘The Rematch’ features a couple of ex-cons whose crime was the same and whose time in the cubes could not have been different. They were imprisoned as an example to other blocks not to stage fights to solve their problems. Ken Neimand tells us the past and present of these two men who are set to be caught up in a rematch scheme that neither of them really want. By the end of the set up, the reader is totally on the side of both these ex-cons and, honestly, hope that they do not suffer for the greed of others or the unfairness of the law in Mega-City One. The was the story is shaping up, it is quite possible that the villains will be both the mob that want the fight and the Judges who may punish the victims. It is a great example of successfully creating empathy and investing the reader in the stakes for the characters.
Coming off of an arc drawn by Henry Flint, the more conventional art of Steve Austin and Jim Boswell may seem like standard comics fare, but it it is pretty solid storytelling. The rougher lines and more realistic figures fit this down to earth tale of two ex-cons doing their best to go straight. They do a great job of visually humanizing the ex-heroes of the decade ago brawl and make the agitators for a new fight appear to be sleazy mob figures and the Judges the boogiemen that they often are. They more than tell the tale; they make us part of it with the attempt at realism.
Tharg’s Terror Tales: The Vision Thing
Credits: John Tomlinson (script), Nick Dyer (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: Class warfare is one of the easiest things to put on the page, because even rich assholes don’t think of themselves as rich assholes. And so, when we meet Marcus, the way he presents himself instantly reads as heel: he’s rich, cocky, and spouting all sorts of business-speak. And when his life falls apart, we’re supposed to nod and get it. The audience never is given a reason to root for Marcus, even when he’s down and out. “Terror Tales” never end well, so this is just a race to see how Marcus eats it.
The good news is that he eats it in an interesting way, hypnotized by an art exhibition. Nick Dyer does a great job, especially without the help of vibrant colors, creating a psychedelic experience on the page, giving the reader a vague sense of the disruption that Marcus feels. John Tomlinson does a nice job of subverting the usual tropes of the piece by having the character only get sympathetic once he is no longer in control of his body. And so, once things get really dire for Marcus, and we want to help him, we can’t. It’s a pretty interesting way of putting it all together, and helps elevate this strip above the standard “Terror Tales” level.
Enemy Earth: Book One: Part Nine
Credits: Cavan Scott (script), Luke Horsman (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: After the shocking revelation last strip, which was followed quickly by a Hollywood Reporter article asking why cannibal narratives had become so popular, I wasn’t sure where the creative team would go next. They could slow things down a bit, lean into the change in ability for Zoe and make the escape process a methodically planned affair. Or they could just bolt for the door right away. The creative team went for the latter, but not before ringing out every drop of tension they could.
Luke Horsman’s page design in the open three pages is different from their previous work. The paneling on these pages are built around a sort of mirroring effect with a strong dividing line right down the center. The use of the door on the second page, reflecting its position from one panel to the other to show it has not moved, was very effective. It gave everything a heightened sort of specific feel. Specific in that the paneling showed you everything you needed for the story of the page to function, such as when Jules retrieved the keys. The layout of that room can be inferred more from reader experience than the art on the page, which is a great use of comics as a medium. All I cared about was following those keys slowly get folded into the reading material.Continued below
It is also during this moment of heightened tension that Cavan Scott chooses to take care of one of the real impediments to tension in this series: Nanni. The presence of the Nanny bot is cool, but what they can do is overpowered. So, they’ve had them dismantled off panel, which seems like a very big ask for these folks, but it raises the tension even more allowing this off panel nonsense to become effective. Jules and Zoe lugging around the Nanni head going forward would be entertaining.
Episode 9 of “Enemy Earth” is a very tense affair but the creative team still lands a few solid jokes. The gag about hoping the keys being the right one is the perfect use of comedy to cut the tension. It was an aside that at first sounds absurd, of course they’d be the right one, until the implication hits you and the tension has returned in a new way.
Hope: In the Shadows Reel Two, Part Seven
Credits: Guy Adams (script), Jimmy Broxton (art), Jim Campbell (letters)
Christopher Egan: Picking up the metaphysical horror thread from the third chapter, we get some glorious gore and gut-churning terror. It’s a wonderful piece of spookery. Paranoia, ghosts, magical powers, and solitude are the make-up of this entry.
Blood and verbal abuse fly through a page or two before the explosive end. Every week I have to praise Broxton’s work. I love how he uses real life likenesses to fill out the characters. It’s this perfect universe bending style that plays up the old Hollywood angle and uses them like actors in this story.
A horrific Gloria Swanson makes up the bulk of the scares and bloodlust and our protagonist is a Lauren Bacall or Meg Foster type. Stoney cheekbones and a glare that can kill, even in the face of true horror.
At this point the visuals are so strong, who even cares what the story is trying to say at this point. Follow the weird horror and enjoy it.
Fiends of the Western Front Wild West: Prologue
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), Warren Pleece (art), Simon Bowland(letters)
Matthew Blair: It’s 1882 and playwright and master of the witty repartee Oscar Wilde has a problem. It seems that in his efforts to bring the British aristocracy down a peg with wit and clever insults, he has made enemies in realms above and beyond our understanding, which is doubly problematic because Mr. Wilde is one of the few humans who can actually see the monsters coming for his body and soul. Fortunately, in a tour stop in Omaha Nebraska he discovers a vampire named Captain Constanta of Wallachia who not only believes him, but is willing to help him.
That’s right, it’s Oscar Wilde working with vampires to fight mystical creatures in the American Wild West. If that hook isn’t enough to pique your interest, I don’t know what is.
“Fiends of the Western Front: Prologue” is written by Ian Edginton and it’s a short and solid introduction to a story that isn’t going to continue until early 2023. Edginton does a very good job of opening with a solid action scene and presents the setting and stakes of the story quickly and efficiently. The script does include a lot of talking, and for most of the chapter the characters are just sitting around and talking to each other, but it’s quick and ends with the promise of a lot of supernatural and bloody action to follow.
The art for “Fiends of the Western Front: Prologue” is provided by longtime 2000AD artist Warren Pleece, who does a solid job with the artwork. Victorian England and the American West are great settings for Pleece’s artwork, who imbues the story with a sense of realism while feeling dusty and old at the same time and the characters and costumes all feel like they belong there. Since most of the story takes place with people sitting at a table and talking it relies on the ability of the artist to convey emotion, which Pleece does admirably. While the story doesn’t present too many opportunities for the art to show off, it does a great job of telling the story.
“Fiends of he Western Front: Prologue” is a short, talkative, and decent introduction to the upcoming story that presents the reader with a great idea, solid characters, and the promise of great things to come.