Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, returning today for a special edition focused on the “Sci-Fi Special 2018.”
THIS YEAR IN THE SCI-FI SPECIAL
Judge Dredd: Night at the Museum
Alan Grant (Script), Robin Smith (Art), Matt Soffe (Colors), Annie Parkhouse (Letters)
Chris Egan: In this very special 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special, each of the short stories included are tributes to the late, great artist Carlos Ezquerra, who passed away in October 2018 after a battle with lung cancer. As a co-creator of “Judge Dredd,” the first story in the collection is a quick adventure that is literally wall to wall Ezquerra. Hot on the trail of three murderous gang members, Dredd follows the perps into the local Sci-Fi Museum and into a hall of artists, specifically into the Ezquerra exhibit. Formatted like classic “Judge Dredd” strips, this is a quick action piece that focuses mostly on the criminals falsely assuming they can escape justice, while Dredd stalks them.
Industry great and long-time “Judge Dredd” writer Alan Grant pens a clever script that is true to the famously hokey dialogue of the early stories while throwing plenty of praise to the late artist in its eight page span. The story is greatly lifted by veteran artist Robin Smith, his work on Dredd is well known and seeing him not only dive back into this world, but re-create a slew of Ezquerra’s other creations is a treat. And because of the museum setting we get to see both artists’s takes on these characters in close juxtaposition in certain frames. A really nice touch in this short story. Matt Soffe’s colors take over Smith’s linework. His palette is classic Dredd that captures the vibe of the covers from over the years. He beautifully captures the colors that all fans have come associate with Dredd’s uniform as well as the great Mega City One world.
An excellent tribute to not only Carlos Ezquerra’s career, but his invaluable contribution to “Judge Dredd,” and many more 2000 AD titles. Grant and Smith have re-created a classic comic strip that calls back to the early days of the character.
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Strange Meeting
Credits: Guy Adams (Script), Dave Kendall (Art), Ellie De Ville (Letters)
Edward Haynes: I’m new to writing about 2000AD, this is the first Multiver-city One I have contributed to, and this Carlos Ezquerra tribute Sci-Fi Special seems like a beautiful place for me to enter. While I am not entirely unfamiliar with 2000AD, I’ve read a handful of progs, but never consistently. So jumping in with this series of one off stories paying tribute to Ezquerra gives me the chance to step in without the weight of ongoing stories.
This story in particular requires no knowledge of Fiends of the Eastern Front, you could read it cold and it is a satisfying mood piece. A vampire captures a soldier in the woods and they discuss fear and war and sacrifice. It is a doing something fairly straightforward, but it does it quite well. Dave Kendall’s art sets the mood deftly, giving all the bodies in this story boney corpse-like stances, with these cool, uneasy blues mixed the occasional smear of blood red in the more supernatural moments. These are kind of obvious choices but, again, done quite well.
Guy Adams does shake up the structure a little, using a moment of trapped reflection as a framing device around a flash black that makes up most of the story, so it isn’t completely linear. These pages feature this poetic internal monologue about facing fear that I wish continued throughout as narration, but does work where it is. Kendall’s panelling shifts into page-wide shots that distinguish this framing device temporally, tonally, and rhythmically from the rest of the story in a way that makes these pages really memorable.
This was such a nice way to dip into 2000 AD, with a pensive, confident self-contained piece, that while straightforward is well put together and feels complete in a very small space.
Credits: John Wagner (script), Carlos Ezquerra (art), Jim Campbell (letters)
Christa Harader: What better way to honor Ezquerra’s legacy than with a brand new character and story the man himself worked on? Wagner and Ezquerra’s robot detective sets out to clear his name after he’s framed for murder because he’s just too darn good at his job.
Ezquerra’s art is iconic, and his legacy unmistakable. Spector’s story is relatively predictable, though Wagner’s work is solid, so the joy in this piece is watching an artist who still has a keen command of a comics page go to work. Spector’s a combination of Marlowe and John Wayne, and his trench coat and hat combo help him dominate the panels he’s in. Ezquerra fills Spector’s world with a variety of sneering weirdoes as you’d expect, from the jovial scientists to Spector’s less-than-enthusiastic colleagues. The inking is crisp and Ezquerra’s line is still relatively precise, with enough grit in the details to sell the story’s seediness.
Campbell’s lettering is a nice accompaniment to the art, with rounded rectangle balloons with a nice stroke and appropriate font styling for the procedural noir vibe. Spector is a compelling visual character and Ezquerra fills the page with lots of grit and action to pore over. It doesn’t matter that this is a story we might’ve seen before because it’s a lot of fun to read.
Wulf Sternhammer: Valhalla
Credits: Mike Carrol (script), Patrick Goddard (art), Simon Bowland (letters).
Tom Shapira: One of the things that I wrote, right after Carlos Ezquerra died, was that I don’t really want to see any more “Strontium Dog” stories. This might not seem fair. After all, other people have drawn these stories before and the strip, like any other in the magazine, is under corporate control. Still, fair or not, logical or not, as far as this reader is concerned Strontium Dog and Carlos Ezquerra are one, even more so than Carlos and Judge Dredd. It just feels ‘wrong’ to see someone else does it.
“Wulf Sternhammer” solves this issue by mostly being a tribute piece, more about coming to terms with what-was rather than promising what-will-be. In plot terms it plugs a rather minor hole, showing Wulf meeting the mutant woman who will give birth to the son he never knew, the one that appeared in the final “Strontium Dog” serial Ezquerra drew. We didn’t really need to see them meeting, Wagner was always good at bringing the reader up to speed by cutting all the fluff from the plotting, but there’s no harm in it either.
The actual meat of the story is, naturally, about memory: Wulf, alone in a bar on Earth in the town that was his home back in the Viking age, ruminates about how he was seemingly forgotten; only to be proved, in the last moment, to be wrong about it. He would never know it but he was important, he did matter. Wulf cannot control his own memory, he did not get remembered the way he wanted to, but does not mean his was forgotten. History, the story tells us, is not for us to determined. You just need to be the best person you can be. Wulf chose to stand by Johnny Alpha, and we see here the social ostracizing that results from this decision, and with that he shows he is a good person.
Like the warrior he is Wulf gets his emotional pick-up when he’s dragged into a fight; kudos for Patrick Goddard here: he doesn’t try and ape Ezquerra’s style, but there is something about the staginess of the fight, Wulf picks a guy and uses him to club someone else is a standout, that reminds one days gone by. It’s all good fun.
I’m not really sure this strip really engages with the idea of memory and legacy as much as it wants to, but as a heartfelt tribute it is fine indeed. Now let the dead rest, and move on towards the future.