Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2000AD Prog 1912

Prog 1912 Cover by PJ Holden

It’s the first Prog of the year and we’re treated to an excellent cover for new thrill, Orlok: Agent of East Meg One from PJ Holden. I really like the use of shadows to hide the sinister Sov assassin in the dark, with only the bare minimum amount of light shining in through the window blinds. This effective use of lighting really helps capture the tense and gritty espionage tone to the strip inside, as well as drawing attention to the character’s iconic facial scarring across his mouth.

Script - John Wagner
Art - Greg Staples
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After last episode’s slow-paced introduction, the story transitions to the Mayflower spacecraft where the Earth colonists are now a month into their journey. The ‘captain’s log’ narration, which talks about the day-to-day events within the community, features a vague reference to missing people and a death which acts a nice piece of foreshadowing for Judge Death’s appearance towards the end of the episode. It appears that a month has passed since Death infiltrated PJ Maybe’s mansion, but it is unclear what happened to Maybe and why Death has decided to board the Mayflower. It could be because he is in a weakened state and doesn't want a confrontation with the Judges just yet, until he has consolidated his power and chosen a new host body. Even though the story continues to adopt a measured approach, I’m really enjoying the anticipation and the ‘calm before the storm’.

There are a few references to Necropolis here with the Sisters of Death and Kit Agee mentioned. It helps raise the stakes of this story somewhat, by comparing it to the devastating mega-epic from the past. It certainly seems like Judge Logan doesn't stand much chance of surviving this tale, if the Sisters of Death are using him as a bridge to cross worlds. Greg Staples’ artwork continues to wow with each successive panel – I particularly like the way he manages to draw the material of the Judge’s costume. It really helps give a texture to the clothing, with the folds in material based upon the posture of the Judges. It feels far more realistic than any other interpretations I've seen. I also really like his depiction of Anderson, which seems to be using model Lauren Integra as its basis. It suits the quintessential vision of the character, although I do wonder if Anderson should be looking a bit older in her appearance nowadays, considering she is meant to be in her fifties now.

THE ORDER (Part 2)
Script - Kek-W
Art - John Burns
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode focuses mainly on the character of Ritterstahl, a robotic head that is able to affix itself to the bodies of the recently dead and reanimate them. I really like this juxtaposition of a robotic knight in thirteenth century Germany, especially one with a bit of a sense of humour and attitude. He has quickly become a favourite character of mine and I look forward to him body-swapping as his host bodies’ deteriorate or get cut to pieces. One nice touch from John Burns is the way he has flies hovering around the corpse as he continues to wear it into decomposition. It’s a small detail, but it made me smile.

Kek-W’s script continues to delight, quickly establishing a tone for this series with its mish-mash of urban legends into a medieval setting. With Werewolves patrolling the German forests, and now Wurms on the horizon, it seems like we’re in for some monster-hunting in later installments. There also seems to be a suggestion that Anna Kohl herself might not be untouched by the supernatural with some form of delayed aging as a result of her father’s bloodline. I wonder if it’ll turn out that she is some kind of half-vampire. After just two episodes, this series has won me over and I’m really looking forward to it developing and seeing the various surviving members of The Order reuniting to take on this new threat.

Script - Guy Adams
Art - Paul Marshall
Greytones - Chris Blythe
Letters - Ellie de Ville

In addition to the plot of Ulysses hunting for his original psyche-chip, we have a group of councilors on Solonik-5 who have decided to hire some rival 'maniacs-for-hire' in order to get rid of Ulysses Sweet before he gets ahold of them. Judging from the curious way that they all seem to be talking to themselves, I suspect that they have got psyche-chip's too – possibly the same chip that Sweet himself is after. I quite like the introduction of this new element with a nice range of quirky mercenaries sent after Ulysses. It kind of gives the story an 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' vibe as they all attempt to take out the target for the reward. The two hitmen engaged in constant coitus seems familiar to me – I feel like I've seen that concept somewhere else, but I can't think where.

I'm guessing we're going to see each of these new assassins explored in greater detail as the series continues. I'm slightly worried that this might contribute to a similar formulaic video-game progression format that the previous storyline suffered from, when Sweet travelled through a number of themed worlds within the spa-planet. This time around, rather than advancing through 'levels', it feels like 'boss fights'. Hopefully, I'm wrong and the story will offer something fresher than a conveyor belt of increasingly ridiculous rival assassins. I certainly enjoy the sense of humour of the strip, but feel like the plot is just there as a set-up for the jokes.

Script - Pat Mills
Art - Patrick Goddard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With the vital reinforcements of Raptor Drones and Hammerstein robots provided by Howard Quartz, the allies have retaken London from the Volgs, marking a historic turning point in the war that has seemingly lead to victory after eleven years of conflict. The moment where the Volgs sign a treaty of surrender and are made to leave England has been something Bill Savage has been building up towards ever since the first episode of 'Invasion' back in Prog 1. However, it doesn't seem like the liberation of the United Kingdom from the Volgs means the end of this series as the conversation between Savage and Quartz seems to suggest that there are more threats closer to home. I have a feeling that we're coming close to the end of the series, but there might be some last-minute shocks and double-crosses before its all over. Considering that this series leads into the Volgan War of the far future and the Ro-Busters / ABC Warriors continuity, this victory by the United Kingdom feels a little bittersweet.

Patrick Goddard's artwork is simply marvellous. I love the attention to detail and the level of clarity he brings to his line-work. His style really suits the gritty war-torn environments of an invaded London and reminds me somewhat of those old-school Commando war comics, which inspired the original 'Invasion' series. The panel where Bill Savage faces down one of the Raptor Drones about to execute Rusty O'Dell is thrilling stuff and Goddard's composition helps emphasise the drama behind Pat Mills' script. Another highlight is the panel that features armies of Hammerstein robots marching into London – the attention to detail is excellent and helps communicate the feeling that reinforcements have arrived.

Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Simon Bowland

After an initial story appearing in last summer's 2000AD Sci-Fi Special, Arthur Wyatt and Jake Lynch have reunited to tell another story from Orlok the Assassin's past, flashing back to adventures set prior to his appearance in the 'Block Mania' storyline from Prog 236. It's not the first time that 2000AD has featured a flashback series for one of its characters - Cadet Anderson, Rogue Trooper and Strontium Dog, have all showcased 'lost stories' of the cast from a classic era, but this is the first time that villain has taken the titular role.

As with any flashback story, there is an element of tension automatically defused by the fact we know the character survives the adventures to appear in later stories, but Arthur Wyatt plays with this conceit by introducing an interesting cliff-hanger of having Orlok seemingly betray his country by executing his partner, stealing some diamonds and going on the run. I'm sure there will be some explanation behind his behaviour, but it is a fun way to play with the expectations of the reader and deliver something fresh.

Jake Lynch continues to deliver some great artwork as he did in the 'pilot episode' from the Sci-Fi Special. His scratchy pencils lend a grim and gritty 'pulp sci-fi' vibe to proceedings that just makes the espionage element of this storyline seem all the more dirty and underhand. The sequence where Orlok assassinates his 'partner' is brutal and offers a genuine surprise, showcasing just how dangerous and ruthless the character really is. I am looking forward to seeing this story develop and finding out just what Orlok plans to do now he has got a high-ranking Sov General, who has a penchant for torture, on his tail.


After the bumper-sized Prog 2015, this first normal-sized Prog of the year gives us a better insight into the current line-up of thrills, especially with the introduction of Orlok: Agent of East Meg One, which slots in nicely with the already established stories. I really like the mix of different genres in the line-up, giving us an eclectic combination of stories to start the year with, such as: graphic humour from Ulysses Sweet, big-budget horror from Judge Dredd, political thrillers from Savage, medieval fantasy from The Order and now, Russian spy drama with a twist from Orlok. There is literally something for everyone and it gives the Prog a more balanced feel with an equal weighing towards all types of adventure.

Always looking to future, Tharg uses his Nerve Centre to tease the return of Strontium Dog with an image that confirms Johnny Alpha's appearance in the upcoming 'The Jing Jong Job' storyline. The only question that remains is whether this story is set after the last adventure which saw Johnny Alpha presumed dead, or whether this is another of the lost stories set prior to his original death in 'The Final Solution'. While I do enjoy the nostalgic take seen in the flashbacks, such as 'Blood Moon' and 'The Mork Whisperer', I do want the Strontium Dog universe to advance and tell new stories, with or without Johnny Alpha as the flagship character.

Thrill of the Week: The Order

The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1912 will be available in stores on Wednesday 7th January - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

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