Sunday, February 25, 2018

2000 AD PROG #2069 Review and Spoilers

Thrillpower At Maximum?

Written by: Ian Edgington, Peter Milligan, Pat Mills
Art by: Dave Taylor, Rufus Dayglo, Dominic Regan, Patrick Goddard, INJ Culbard, Clint Langley
Letters by: Annie Parkhouse, Simon Bowland, Ellie DeVille
Release Date: February 21, 2018
Cover Price: £2.75

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve picked up a copy of 2000AD. When I was a spotty youth in the 80s, the comic was a staple of my reading diet and, when our esteemed host Mr Werner asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing the latest release, I jumped at the chance. As with all serialised anthology titles, the experience of reading this prog is a very varied one. While the Judge Dredd strip features the opening part of a new story, the other four strips are all well-advanced into their story arcs and it’s sometimes a bit of a challenge diving in to an unfamiliar narrative. Still, that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

Judge Dredd is undoubtedly the character most closely associated with 2000AD and this week’s opening instalment of “Live Evil” does a decent job of showcasing him at the start of an investigation that promises murder, mystery and a dash of the supernatural. After seeing the deep-space science research vessel “Hettie” crash into an unsuspecting mega-block (a sequence rather powerfully drawn by Dave Taylor), we get our required exposition courtesy writer Ian Edgington’s elegantly scripted conversation between Dredd and another judge who’s able to provide the background he (and we) need. In the process, we find out that everyone on board the “Hettie” is dead and that the final two crew members who appear to have killed themselves were married. Something is clearly fishy here. Dredd decides to go and visit Lamia, a judge in Mega-City One’s Exorcist Division whose gifts include seeing and being able to communicate with the dead. Due to the recent chaos plague, Lamia’s afraid to go out because, well, there are rather a lot of dead people hanging around the big meg at present. Dredd essentially bullies her into obeying him and that, as they say, is that. As openings go, it’s economical, intriguing and atmospheric. 8/10

Next up is Bad Company a futuristic war strip, which has been a mainstay in the comic for a good few decades now. Original artist Brett Ewins sadly passed away a couple of years ago, but in Rufus Dayglo 2000 AD have found someone eminently suited to assume his mantle. The same manic violence permeates the strip as does the same emotional expressiveness. Nowhere is this clearer than in this issue’s portrayal of Mac, a member of Bad Company whose mind has been twisted by his war-time experiences and who takes the opportunity to come to his senses in one of the riskiest ways possible. Arguably, the effects of the experience are a little too dramatic to be believable, but they set up a truly memorable – and tragic – ending. It is extraordinarily difficult to tell a story that hooks the reader and delivers an emotional punch at its end over the course of six pages, but Milligan and Dayglo manage it – apparently without breaking a sweat. Impressive stuff. 8.5/10

Savage, by Pat Mills and Patrick Goddard, is, I think, a follow-up to an old (very old) 2000AD strip about a near-future war between the ‘Volgans’ (that’s Russians to you and me) and the West. It certainly seems to be following a similar timeline: Britain invaded by Volgans in 1999; Bill Savage leads the resistance to victory in 2010. As I said in my introduction, this story is pretty well-developed at this point and this week’s instalment starts very much in media res. Savage and his band of resistance fighters are facing off against what looks like a Volgan scientist whose brain has been transferred into a robotic body and a horribly scarred Volgan general. The resultant back-and-forth (about some kind of mental transference time travel technology) is intriguingly tense, but, without the context of the previous 8 parts, it’s a little confusing. Nevertheless, there’s a very nice old-school sensibility to Goddard’s art (it wouldn’t be out of place in the old Commando comic books I read as a kid) and there’s enough drama here to encourage me to search out the previous issues. 7/10

It seems a bit odd to get a whole load of background information dumped into a story 9 parts in, but that’s exactly what happens with this week’s Brass Sun. This is a series about a clockwork solar system (a literal orrery) whose artificial sun is dying. In previous books, a young girl Wren sets off on a quest to find the key to that will restart the sun and save the entire solar system. The current book appears to be set some time after the events of the initial run and features a Wren who, scarred and dispirited, has given up on her quest. She relates this to a character whose name we aren’t given this time round but who is obviously important. This character has crash-landed on Wren’s planet and, after Wren patches her up, tells her that, in the wider Orrery, there is a holy crusade underway to find the key for themselves. This instalment appears to be a lacuna, a moment in which the series catches its breath before plunging into this book’s closing sections. Wren’s world-weary bitterness, her disillusionment about her quest, are palpable here and it’s clear that Edgington and Cublard are, at least in part, taking a hard look at quest narratives and some of the tropes frequently found within them. Despite the fact that this segment is essentially one big infodump, the relationship between the two characters is skilfully portrayed and the art is, on the whole, very good. 7.5/10

Rounding off the issue is A.B.C. Warriors by Pat Mills and Clint Langley. This title has been a staple of the comic for a good while. The ABC Warriors, war robots designed to survive – and fight – in extreme conditions (the ABC stands for Atomic, Bacterial, Chemical) are currently on Mars trying to keep the peace and finding themselves embroiled in a conflict with some old Volgan meks, aided by the treacherous Blackblood who used to be one of them. This strip is very much a slugfest between the two sets of robots, so whether this will appeal or not very much depends on how you like Clint Langley’s art. Personally, I love it. Not only is the action blisteringly visceral, but the designs for the enemy robots are gloriously creative. That said, this is easily the weakest of the five strips story-wise, with little context given to understand what’s at stake. Mind you, it’s always good to see Mongrol in action. 6/10

Bits and Pieces:

Judging by this issue’s contents, it looks like 2000AD’s in good health. The strips here contain a nice mix of mystery, high concept sci-fi, horror, action and good old-fashioned war stories. On the whole, the art is of a high standard and for £2.75, this offers a series of quick shots of comic goodness. Or thrillpower, if you prefer…


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