Luke Graham reviews the latest 2000 AD prog…
This week’s strip is an intense affair. The overarching story interwoven between the three Mega-City strips (Dredd, Low Life and Jack Point) escalates in tension, reaping plot-points sown in previous issues and different strips, creating a much more rewarding reading experience.
Judge Dredd: The Cold Deck, part four
Script: Al Ewing, Art: Henry Flint
Chief Judge Hershey confronts Dredd over his failure to retrieve the Wally Squad list this issue. It’s a very tense affair. Hershey and Dredd have history going back to the early years of 2000AD, and Ewing highlights this with a flashback to The Judge Child storyline from 1980. The contrast with the brighter past (with a neat art effect evoking old printing techniques) and the grimmer present is a nice touch.
Hershey is hurt that Dredd did not trust her judgement to place Bachmann on the council, and that his actions have not only put Wally squad under threat but given Bachmann ammunition to use against Hershey’s administration.
But as Bachmann points out, Hershey is thinking too small, as Bachmann gives the order to her black ops troops to start assassinating Wally squad judges. It’s a scary conclusion.
We get some clues on the broader plan at work. The giant, shark-shaped city being built on the moon, Luna-2, also called the God City, will descend from the moon to destroy Mega-City, allowing Bachmann to implement her new, presumably theocratic order.
It’s a good issue, with strong dialogue and lots of seeds being planted for the rest of the story. One instance of this is when Judge Maitland has a moment of déjà vu, which shows her giving information about the finances of Black Ops to an unseen Judge dunking biscuits in tea. Could this unseen senior figure be Judge Smiley, who keeps appearing in Dirty Frank’s flashbacks over in Low Life?
It’s an innocuous two panels, but it suggests an explanation for how Smiley (and I’ve just figured out who that’s referencing) knew about Overdrive and planted Dirty Frank on the moon.
My only complaint with this week’s Dredd strip is that Henry Flint’s design for black ops Judges is different to how they’re drawn in Low Life. Flint gives them balaclavas wrapped around their heads, while Simon Coleby gives them gas masks, hoods and katanas. It’s a petty complaint, but at least both have those ominous growing red eyes.
Low Life: Saudade, part five
Script: Rob Williams, Art: D’Israeli
It turns out Frank managed to survive last week’s cliff-hanger, but has been captured and is being tortured by Mr. Overdrive and his mercenaries.
The strip begins with a flashback giving us a hint at Dirty Frank’s origin: the sole survivor of a mission that went wrong, Frank had lost an eye and his wits, at which point the mysterious Judge Smiley (the old, plain, glasses-wearing Judge with a fondness for tea gets a name this week as his badge is visible) suggests he could cope with this trauma by becoming someone else entirely, and assigns him to Wally Squad.
It’s little character moments like this that support my belief that Frank is the most relatable character in 2000AD, a man who faced such trauma that he escaped into delusion. A character who started as comic relief garners a great deal of pathos.
Whoever Judge Frank used to be, we get a hint of it this week, as a botched psychic interrogation unleashes a far more effective and dangerous individual, who reclaims the list from Overdrive, but is he too late to save the rest of Wally Squad?
ABC Warriors: Return to Earth, part ten
Script: Pat Mills, Art: Clint Langley
ABC Warriors feels like it’s spinning its wheels this Prog. After last week’s intense confrontation between Hammerstein and Quartz, Hammerstein is forced into hiding at a second-hand robot dealership. There he meets Ro-Jaws, an amusing recycling droid.
After waiting a year, it is announced that war has been criminalised and sale of war robots banned. Hammerstein’s mission was a success!
And that’s about it really. It’s basically a cooling off period, and is just a conversation between the two droids. The dialogue’s good and the art strong as usual. The moment where Hammerstein passes the time by recalling the costs of war (specifically the millions of casualties) is interesting, and a tad seditious on the part of Pat Mills.
Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds, part ten
Script: Ian Edgington, Art: I. N. J. Culbard
The plot of Brass Sun moves forward nicely this issue, as Wren and Conductor Seventeen meet the ruler of The Keep. The father of Helena (the huntress who saved the pair from the brown robots, revealed to be called Scythes) is a pugnacious and slightly revolting lord, his face covered in food as he loudly complains about his servants, reminiscing about how it used to be okay to brutalise and intimidate one’s slaves.
With such a delightful demeanour, it’s no surprise that parts of his giant estate have gone wild and are inhabited with traitors and runaways (presumably future progs will explore this area). The ruling family also seem to be at war with another family, the “Grand Dame” who controls the scythes.
Wren and C-17 are sent off with a servant to the forge to find out information, only for Ramkin the servant to pull a gun on them.
With a new set of interesting characters, future stories are ripe for drama and political intrigue. The art is great as usual, with a final splash image of a sprawling city.
Brass Sun is ticking along nicely.
The Simping Detective: Jokers to the Right, part five
Script: Simon Spurrier, Art: Simon Coleby
Bachmann’s decision to have the Wally Squad wiped out pays off straight away, with a Black Ops ninja judge attacking Jack Point, with the strip closing on a cliff-hanger with Point on his knees and a knife heading for his neck.
Ties between the Church of Simpology and Overdrive Inc are hinted at this strip, as Jack gets brainwashed in a sleep machine. As I’ve come to expect from Coleby, there are some truly trippy drawings spread through the strip.
In addition, Simon Spurrier’s writing is top notch once again, with great narration and pacing.
It’s a really good strip, with lots of revealing character moments for Jack, who keeps spiralling downwards and still has not hit the bottom. Point’s being played a patsy by someone, but is it by Bachmann or Smiley?
Strip of the Week!
The three Meg-world strips just keep getting better, so Strip of the Week goes to all three. As we get some answers, we’re left with even more questions, which is a sign of very good writing. It feels like things will come to a head very soon, but I have to congratulate the 2000AD team for orchestrating all these story elements and plot threads between three very different writers and characters.
See you next time.