Luke Graham reviews the latest prog of 2000 AD…
After watching the new film Dredd 3D last month (I thought it was great, but check out Luke Owen and Rohan Morbey’s reviews here and here) I decided to get back into the original comic book 2000AD, starting with Prog 1801.
I was a regular reader back in 2009, but stopped when the price increased. 2000AD has been published for 35 years, and is one of the few British produced comics still running. Britain used to have a thriving comic industry, with titles like Warrior, in which Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta was originally printed, and even a Marvel UK imprint. Sadly, these did not last.
2000AD is a weekly anthology comic, printing five action-orientated stories per issue (or prog), all with a science fiction, fantasy or horror bent, and always featuring a story featuring Mega-City One, home of the eponymous Judge Dredd. As Flickering Myth is now starting to feature comic reviews, I thought I’d give a brief overview of each story of the latest prog (1805), and then pick a strip of the week, so let’s rev those Lawmasters and get thing rolling you Drokks!
Judge Dredd: Asleep, part two
Script: Rob Williams, Art: Mark Harrison
Currently, Mega-City is trying to recover from the Chaos Bug, a potent virus unleashed by the Sovs (in 2000AD, the Cold War never ended) which killed 350 million civilians, leaving “only” 50 million to be governed by a depleted force of Judges. Several sleeper agents were placed in the city as part of the plot and in Asleep, one of these sleeper agents, a mild mannered construction worker called Erik Weller, has been awakened, and he means business. After single-handedly taking down a heavily armed gang with his bare hands, Erik attempts to take down Chief Judge Hershey. Can Dredd protect her, or will he have to go after Erik’s wife and kids?
With plenty of action crammed into six pages, it’s a really good story, with evocative and detailed art, and a good introduction to the character and city of Judge Dredd. A new story will begin next week.
Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds, part six
Script: Ian Edginton, Art: I.N.J Culbard
One of the main draws of 2000AD is that it’s not afraid of big-idea sci-fi, with whole universes being created by writers to tell fascinating stories. In Brass Sun, a giant artificial solar system was built by someone called the Blind Watchmaker, with whole worlds being provided for a humanoid race, all powered by a huge brass sun. It’s been hinted at in the last few chapters that the sun is slowing down, causing severe weather affects. At the start of part six, a young girl called Wren managed to escape the frozen world of Hind Leg, which has governed by an oppressive Theocracy that denied there were any problems with their environment. The parallels to climate change and specifically climate change denial are subtle but present.
Part six is pretty much an exposition dump. Last prog, Wren escaped to the Rails, a transit system that connected the various worlds, but has been sealed off by the Prime Numbers, an order of engineer monks who maintain the rails, led by a giant red robot, powered by steam and with a human face. This issue, the robot (I couldn’t find his name) explained how the Wheel of Worlds broke down, leading to a devastating civil war, with planet fighting planet. The robot then issues Wren with her quest for the foreseeable future: to find the key that will be able to fix the Brass Sun.
These exposition episodes are often a little heavy handed, but are necessary in newer series. They can be quite entertaining, especially due to their attempts at world-building, and it’s a good chapter. The art in Brass Sun is very simple, with minimal lines and muted colours, but is still good, with Culbard being allowed to draw plenty of large panels with big splash images. If you’re a fan of steam-punk, check out Brass Sun.
ABC Warriors: Return to Earth, Part 6
Script: Pat Mills, Art: Clint Langley
I’ll hold my hand up here and admit I don’t really “get” ABC Warriors. The series is about giant war mechs that are resistant to Atomic, Bacterial and Chemical warfare. Introduced way back in 1979, their history is now way too complicated and convoluted for me to get my head around.
In Return to Earth, Hammerstein (a robot with a hammer for the hand, and… leader of the ABC warriors?) recounts how he betrayed robotkind. In this long form flashback, Hammerstein is being manipulated by two UN diplomats to assassinate an important political figure. After a war on Mars, ABC warriors were being demobilized and melted for scrap. Humans seem to hate war robots in this continuity, I think?
Anyway, in this chapter, Hammerstein has snuck into Washington as part of a war memorial, which required him to be immobilized. An accomplice is going to reactivate him, but with homeland security and the FBI after Hammerstein, will the mech survive long enough?
I love the art of ABC Warriors. The drawings are great and its use of black and white is effective. But I’m finding the story quite tedious, requiring a detailed knowledge of the strip’s back story, and skimming over details like “who is Hammerstein?” and “why do I care?”
Low Life: Saudade, Part 1
Script: Rob Williams, Art: D’Israeli (Matt Brooker)
One of the other brilliant things about 2000AD is the humour and crazy concepts. One of the craziest is the Wally Squad, the undercover department of the Judges in Mega-City, where Judges dress up and act like mad people, scumbags, low lives and hobos, in order to gather intelligence in the city. Unfortunately, many members of Wally Squad take to their position too readily, and end up as mad as their personas. One of the maddest (and a fan favourite) is Dirty Frank, a stooped, one-eyed hobo who carries a teddy bear called Teddy. Stories featuring Dirty Frank tend to be really weird and funny as hell, and the first part of Saudade is no exception.
Waking up on the moon in a lavish apartment (oh by the way, there’s a city on the moon), Dirty Frank finds himself a little confused and with a lump on the back of his head. Somehow, he’s now on a board of shareholders for the Overdrive Company, a board with members so rich they eat money. Within the space of a few pages, Dirty Frank’s life is threatened and he meets the head of the company, Mr. Overdrive, a man with a shark for a head. Well let’s not discriminate; he could be a shark with a man for a body.
It’s a great set-up for a mystery, with brilliant art by D’Israeli , and fantastic, funny writing. I’m really psyched to see where this story is going.
The Simping Detective: Jokers to the Right, Part 2
Script: Simon Spurrier, Art: Simon Coleby
Jack Point is another member of Wally Squad, a Private Eye who dresses like a clown. Literally. Red nose and everything. In Mega-City, clowns are called Simps and Jack’s the Simpiest of them all. He looks and acts a lot like the Joker, if the Joker was a good guy.
Jack Point’s your classic hard-boiled detective from any film noir like The Big Sleep or Double Indemnity. So far, he’s already had to kill a super-obese informant who attacked him, who turned out to be a Wally Squad Judge. Jack’s been given a mysterious doll, a crazy mystery to crack, and someone is following him. So Jack’s response is to get drunk. That’s the kind of thinking I like.
The strip is presented like any classic film noir detective story, right down to Jack’s cynical, pun-filled narration and the black and white drawing, with splashes of colour to draw your attention, ala Sin City. In this chapter, Jack’s got to rescue his girlfriend from a corrupt Judge.
The art direction is great, creating a grungy, moody atmosphere with really evocative and enthralling writing. The panel layout is also quite different to the rest of the prog and really adds to the atmosphere of the story.
Strip of the Week!
It’s a tie between Low Life and The Simping Detective. I really can’t choose between the two. The perfect pacing and gonzo imagery of Low Life presses my buttons, while The Simping Detective has brilliant writing and fantastic art. Favourite line? “I’m hallunating brainfart-bullstomm without a hippydose high.” There’s slightly more action in the second strip, but both stories are highlights of the issue.
With the start of Low Life in this issue, plus The Simping Detective still only beginning to gather steam, and a new Judge Dredd tale next issue, it’s a great time to pick up and get into 2000AD, a brilliant British comic…
Phew, okay that ended up a tad long. Next time should be a little shorter, as I won’t have to introduce the comic and explain the context and background for each story. Leave some comments if you agree or disagree with my thoughts on the strips, and let us know what your strip of the week was?
Prog 1806 is out in all good stores on Wednesday and my review will be up soon after.