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 2000 AD
Judge Dredd: Succession Part 3
Credits: Ken Neimand (script), Leonardo Manco (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Leonardo Manco’s stellar artwork and character design on ‘Succession’ continues to sell us the players in this story of corporate climbing by assassination. He makes each of the string of victims in this story interesting to look at for the panel. Manco also makes it clear that the Justice department’s accounting decision is no joke as they employ Mechanismo judges to back up the number crunchers. Even if his panels are a little static and seemingly moments caught in amber, they do a great job forwarding the story.
Ken Neimand is playing out the details about the whys of the violence amusingly coyly. He drops in playful humorous references to modern day financial and corporate figures such as the reference to the middle management nerds hiding in Musk Mansions and the events of the Milton Friedway. Neimand also makes reference to Accounting ninjas that we never see but given the action surrounding the Accounting Judge they may be formidable. In addition to the very pointed reference to The Shining, he brings back a couple of incidental villains from chapter one in the form of the partners Shiddick and Shrouder.
Future Shocks: Volition
Credits: Liam Johnson (script), Steve Yeowell (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Matthew Blair: Earth is on its last legs and humanity is desperately looking for a new planet to live, and since the distances between planets are so massive that they make direct control impossible, humans have developed a robot that can act and observe on its own.
The robot’s mission is to preserve life, but once you realize that the programming doesn’t specify human life it’s pretty easy to see where this is going.
“Future Shocks: Volition” is written by Liam Johnson and is one of the best Future Shocks written in a very long time. The stakes are clear, the plot is very well laid out, and Johnson injects some solid humor and thought provoking themes and ideas in the script. For a story that only has four pages it does present quite the moral and ethical thought exercise and makes the reader think about current and weighty subjects such as apocalypse, colonialism, and whether or not humanity deserves to survive the end of the world. Plus, the requisite twist ending is well planned and very engaging.
The artwork for “Future Shocks: Volition” is provided by Steve Yeowell. The art is very reminiscent of the Franco Belgian clean line style with a few modern updates in that it utilizes simple line work and color scheme in order to make the art easy to follow, but Yeowell draws his human and alien characters with a bit more sketchy line work and a little more complexity than traditional clean line style. It’s art that lives by the maxim that just because art is simple, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be bad.
“Future Shocks: Volition” is a thought provoking piece of science fiction that has a lot of interesting things to say in a short period of time, and provides a very unique and fascinating twist on the concept of robotic space exploration.
The Out: Book Three, Part Twelve
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: Cyd’s journey to find her daughter seemed, initially, to be an absolutely mad plan: exploring the Out is like trying to find a needle in an ocean of hay, but Cyd has somehow not just found her daughter, but also proved the existence of the Up and broke about as many cosmic rules as one can. This week sees her daughter, again, reach out to her with a warning. This interaction leads to some fine work from Mark Harrison, who is able to draw Joey as different ages in every panel, giving a disarming reading experience that reflects her ‘there but not really there’ reality to Cyd.Continued below
It is often hard to talk about Dan Abnett’s scripts for “The Out,” because even more so than most 2000 AD strips, this is a collective experience that sometimes feels almost plotless in a single chapter. But ‘Part 12’ shows Abnett, again, tasked with creating a scenario that makes sense to the reader while not really making sense to the participants in the story. It’s easy to just rely on confusion as the delivery system, but Abnett does better than that, and disorients the reader just enough to put themselves into Cyd’s shoes, but not enough to make the story too tough to follow.
Cheerio’s apparent sacrifice this issue also hits hard, and leans heavily on Abnett’s script, due to Harrison only drawing him inside of a faux-mascot costume. But Harrison is no slouch here either, and uses body language and detail work to make Cheerio emotive and expressive. He shall be missed (if he’s actually gone).
The Order: Heart of Darkness Part Seven
Credits: Kek-W (script), John Burns (art), Jim Campbell (letters)
Chris Egan: Picking up with the bloody conflict that we were left with last week, George Washington’s gory severed head torn from the shoulders makes for quite the establishing moment. This chapter executes an excellent balance between historically, if not accurate, then a familiar swashbuckling adventure and future-seeing cyber tech and robots.
If it weren’t for the great science fiction elements this would be a pretty straightforward action-oriented period piece smack in the middle of a wildly entertaining horror/sci-fi comic strip.
Burns keeps things surreal and somewhat post-impressionistic with his gorgeous painterly illustrations. It makes for a completely beautiful look that acts to elevate the material above what some would consider to be total schlock. It is and it isn’t. The further use of B movie elements within a structure of historical fiction and political satire only continues to make “The Order” some of the best reading in 2000 AD. If there’s anything that I am unsure of when it comes to this strip is that I truly have no idea where they will end the story, ultimately. I continue to look forward to this strip every week, so I hope they land the ending with something as thought provoking as most of the strip has been all along.
Proteus Vex: Crawl Space Part 12
Credits: Mike Carroll (script), Jake Lynch (art), Jim Boswell(Colours), Simon Bowland(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The twelfth entry in ‘Crawl Space’ is the most straightforward strip in this series, literally. Vex and his crew of loyal compatriots are on a suicide run to the center of the Scorcher home world. Either they will deliver the world splitter drill to the planet’s core and die! Or die trying. Jim Boswell’s coloring takes center stage in many ways as their fiery reds and oranges help guide the reader on the one-way trip Vex and his crew are going on.
While the action and plotting of this particular strip is straightforward, writer Mike Carroll uses that simplicity further to juxtapose the heroic Vex and the Scorcher leader Tsellet. The former is trying to be heroic, perhaps a bit parodic, trying to get his crew to leave him to make the run by himself. Meanwhile, Tsellet cannot forgo their own ego and think beyond their own pride, abdicating their duty as King in the process. The sequence is a parallel to the hubris of the Empire and Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars – latter retcons by Rogue One aside.
For all of its narrative simplicity, this episode of “Proteus Vex” is among the more visually complicated in this batch of strips. While Jake Lynch’s design work has been alienating at times and their page design pushing things a little further, I wouldn’t call those pages actually hard to read. Baroque certainly but you could work through them and take your time. Balancing all the fire and explosions is an entirely differently skill set and one Lynch can control with black ink. That balance is entirely up to Jim Boswell threading the needle of orange and reds, with browns serving as a good base. Explosions are big and amorphous bursts of energy and the last 3 pages are filled with them as the ship and people all come apart. Adding more than two to a page can be a readability nightmare, this strip more than exceeds that limit. And yet it all mostly works the balance of intensity and sound page design by Lynch keep everything on track as the strip goes on a suicide run.