Wednesday, 22 April 2015

2000AD Prog 1927

Prog 1927 Cover by Greg Staples

Fresh off of his work on Judge Dredd: Dark Justice, artist Greg Staples returns to 2000AD with this absolutely gorgeous Strontium Dog cover. I love the way that Staples manages to capture the Western tone to the series as Johnny heads off to Stixville, complete with a vulture sitting atop a makeshift town sign. There's always been a Wild West feel to Strontium Dog, thanks to its central conceit of bounty hunters and lawbreakers and it's nice to see this referenced in Staples' art. Even though Strontium Dog is very much Carlos Ezquerra's baby, I would love to see Greg Staples step in for a one-off story one day.


JUDGE DREDD - ENCELADUS: NEW LIFE (Part 4)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

For the first time in ages, this episode of Judge Dredd doesn't actually feature the titular character himself, taking place entirely in flashback to fill in the gaps of what happened to the Encaledus survivors prior to the beginning of this tale. Desperate for food and fuel, Nixon and Sinfield have turned to the enemies of Mega City One, even negotiating with the bloodthirsty Klegg Empire, but to no avail. It is this dismal failure that leads to some of the escapees willingly returning to the rebuilt Titan prison, as depicted in the opening episode. I'm guessing this flashback sequence will explain the purpose of the second shuttle being sent to Mega City One – given Nixon's intense hatred for Chief Judge Hershey and the Judges, it is likely that it something to do with the seemingly sentient being on Encaledus.


Rob Williams throws a shocking twist in the final page with the reveal that the Sov Empire have emerged as the escapee's saviours, presumably responding to earlier unseen pleas for help. Given the history between Mega City One and the Sovs, this apparent alliance could be a rather disastrous one for our heroes. Perhaps the Sovs are responsible for whatever biological weapon (or alien mineral) which was found on the shuttle. While the title of this story originally seemed to be related to the Titan escapees attempting to start a “new life”, I now wonder if it refers to the sentience of Encaledus – perhaps being sent to Mega City One to punish its inhabitants in a similar catastrophic storyline to Day of Chaos. As I've said before, Rob Williams continues to surprise his readers with unexpected twists and turns, and I love every bloody panel of it.



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PRIMORDIAL (Part 4)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Continuing the introspective interlude between battles, this episode of Slaine delves into the titular character's past and his relationship with his deadbeat father. With Gododin festering within Slaine's mind and memories, he is enacting psychological warfare against the barbarian, much like he did with poor Sinead. I quite liked seeing more about Slaine's father, who we met before in the classic “Bride of Crom” storyline, but to my knowledge, haven't really seen explored much in stories prior to the Brutannia Chronicles.

Simon Davis manages to keep the talking heads aspect of the series visually engaging, but one can't help but think that his talents for dynamic fight sequences are being wasted with these more slow-paced chapters. I'm sure the story will read well as a whole, but the last three installments have felt like they could have been condensed into two, evident by the fact conversations appear to have carried over across Progs. I'm sure that this is building up towards a major plot point later on in the story, but part of me is missing the mindless violence of the previous chapter, “A Simple Killing”.



GREY AREA - LOCKED IN (Part 1)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Dan Abnett's script is rich with dialogue and characterisation, managing to quickly get readers up to speed on the roles of the various characters in the team and give them distinguishable personalities and interesting relationships. Slowing things down and depicting the ETC team locked up in a prison-like environment is a boon for a writer of Dan Abnett's skill, allowing him to develop his characters and build a compelling environment around them. This whole installment reminded me of the prison sequence in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is ironic since Abnett was one of the writers of the comic which inspired the movie.


Alongside the strong script is Mark Harrison's fantastic artwork, which is the perfect fit for this particularly storyline as he manages to capture the griminess of this alien world, acting as a contrast against the cleaner, brighter version of Earth's Grey Area portrayed by preceding series artist, Patrick Goddard. I also love Harrison's design for the array of alien species roaming around the prison – the little dumpy fella watching Feo in the showers feels very Studio Ghibli, both in look and behaviour. It's these little slices of alien culture that really endears this series to me, and I hope that it becomes one of the regular strips in the Prog.



ORLOK: AGENT OF EAST MEG ONE - THE RASPUTIN CAPER (Part 4)
Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Opening up with the aftermath of Orlok and the Black Widower's attack on the Oz Mutanty, which was predicted by Jiri Rasputin last episode but actually occurred in between Progs, this episode promptly reveals Orlok's alliances as he promptly executes the Black Widower and plans to take Rasputin towards East Meg One. I must admit that I felt somewhat short-changed in having the fight scenes between Orlok, Black Widower and the Oz Mutanty take place via a vision, instead of in real-time. As with the preceding Orlok: Agent of East Meg One storyline, everything seems to be moving at a fast pace and the sequences which could benefit from more “screen time” are glossed over, or explained via narration boxes. It's hard to put my finger on, but the structure and pace of the story doesn't quite feel as organic as the other serials running at the same time.



STRONTIUM DOG - THE STIX FIX (Part 4)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

This storyline continues to go from strength to strength with Johnny Alpha finally dealing with his chaperone, General Bing, allowing him to explore the town of Stixville. I really liked this in-story explanation behind the seemingly endless supply of Stix brothers who've menaced Johnny Alpha throughout the Strontium Dog series. It turns out that they really are a whole town of inbred mutants who happen to share the same facial structure and demeanour. Wagner's script continues to capture a sense of fun about the strip, whilst Ezquerra's artwork remains as timelessly brilliant as ever.


Both writer and artist work together seamlessly to deliver a superb cliff-hanger as Alpha finds himself surrounded by a horde of gun-toting Stix brothers. It's a tremendous return to form for the series and while Johnny seems to be edging his way back to normality, his dreams are still filled with nightmares and anxiety about his resurrection, suggesting that Wagner wishes to embed this survival guilt into Johnny's personality in the long-term. Considering that the character has always carried a sense of broodiness about him, this fits in with past portrayals, giving him an edge and allowing the series to switch between light humour and dark drama without much pause.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Once again, it was a close race between Grey Area, Strontium Dog and Judge Dredd for the position of “Thrill of the Week”, but Dan Abnett’s sparkling dialogue and well-crafted storyline pipped the others to the post. Both Slaine and Orlok: Agent of East Meg One seemed to be suffering with the episodic format, and will perhaps read better as a whole.

Tharg uses the Nerve Centre to tease the upcoming FCBD issue, which will feature both new and reprinted strips including, “Doctor Sin: Don’t Call it a Comeback” by Rob Williams and Luca Pizzari. I’m not familiar with the Doctor Sin character, so I’m not sure whether it is a legitimate return of a classic character or whether it is a brand new character. The preview art from Luca Pizzari looks great though, and it is great to see 2000AD putting fresh content in its FCBD releases.

Thrill of the Week: Grey Area


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1927 will be available in stores on Wednesday 22nd April - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can now be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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!

1 comment:

  1. Judge Dredd - One thing which I believe diminishes Rob Williams' work on Judge Dredd is his constant need to hark back to old Wagner/Grant Dredd material. The last panel is yet more retro Dredd material - the Sovs are back. We've also had Sinfield, Kleggs, TItan references in this story. Aside from Aimee Nixon - who was an undercover 'Wally Squd' Judge, there's no sense of coming up with fresh ideas and characters. It's just rehashed material over and over again. I suspect this highlights Rob Williams' lack of confidence or perhaps too much love for the source material. He respects the original material too much he can't break free from it and come up with new stuff. I'd rather see the writer push forward with all new characters than bring back the Sov. That's material from early 1980s era 2000AD Judge Dredd.

    Grey Area - felt like a 'filler' episode. No real advancement of the plot. Okay strip, though.

    Orlok - didn't understand the final page of the story. A bit of a plane fell onto a woman? LOL? Er.. that's weird A surreal moment. This storyline is a bit too bizarre. Not sure these backstory adventures enhance the character. It's an okay strip but on the strange side.

    Loved this week's Slaine. Pat Mills can go retro - it's his strip! - so it was nice to see flashbacks to Slaine's past. I look forward to more secrets about Slaine and his father! The last page artwork is lovely. Very dynamic image of a younger Slaine.

    Strontium Dog - back on form. We've ditched the annoying NK general and we've seen Alpha's sense of guilt over his recent actions. And more Stix! And they're as chatty as ever!

    Fave strip of the prog - Slaine.

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