Wednesday, 6 January 2016

2000AD Prog 1962

Prog 1962 Cover by Clint Langley

Clint Langley kicks off the New Year with an electrifying ABC Warriors cover that sees Hammerstein lunging towards the reader with his hammer-fist raised high. It’s a fantastic image which really showcases Langley’s amazing art style and his ability to bring Pat Mills’ robotic creations to life in such a realistic manner. I love the intricate nature of Hammerstein’s design here, and the visual flourishes such as the rusty ‘wear and tear’ on the robot’s body – this cover serves as further evidence as to why Clint Langley is the perfect artist to work on this series.


JUDGE DREDD - STREET CRED
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Paul Marshall
Colours - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Michael Carroll returns to Judge Dredd with this fun little “done-in-one” storyline which once again places Dredd in the role of supporting character to focus on the stories of the Mega-City One populous instead. After a spate of epics during 2015, it's refreshing to return to these more anecdotal storylines with a punch-line at the end, rather than a cliff-hanger. I love the central premise behind this tale, which feels familiar – didn't Sinister Dexter do a similar tale a few years back? Not only does Carroll reduce the omnipotence and invincible nature of Dredd, but he also does so with humour. While the ending was expected, it was no less enjoyable which demonstrates Carroll's skill as a writer.


Paul Marshall does a great job at illustrating this storyline, bringing the fantastically named “Roseanne's Bar” to life with all manner of alien and robotic creatures. He also brings a cheerful naivety to the lead character of Thelvin that contrasts against the final panel when he confesses to his crime after being battered and bruised by the bar regulars. Much like the recent story in Prog 1956, “Sleeping Duty”, Carroll makes use of Dredd's reputation to have the crime solve itself without any involvement from the man himself, generating humour from the reactions of the citizens. It's an interesting examination of the character, as at first, Carroll presents him as fallible and as open to a gunshot in the back as anyone else, but then he presents him as an force of nature to the point where the bar patrons turn in Thelvin out of fear of reprisals.



KINGDOM - BEAST OF EDEN (Part 2)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With all the pace of a blockbuster movie, Dan Abnett throws Gene the Hackman and his Wild Pack straight into the midst of a Them super-swarm, allowing Richard Elson the opportunity to draw the most insects ever committed to one page. This episode is largely Elson's show, with his wonderfully evocative artwork sucking the reader into Gene's post-apocalyptic world. Art-wise, this series is completely flawless and easily one of the most consistently well-drawn series' in 2000AD history. As I've said before, it literally feels like someone has taken photos of an animated movie and placed them in a comic strip. I'm sure there are plenty of artists out there who would make deals with a small red fella with a trident and twirly moustache to have the same talent as Richard Elson.


Clearly, Dan Abnett knows when to take his foot off the gas and let the artist tell the story instead – a strategy he has adopted often in recent episodes of Kingdom, setting up huge battle sequences and stepping back as Richard Elson hits it out of the park with ease. While this is a visually stimulating technique, I am eager to see Abnett developing the central narrative of the series forward. While he has advanced time and developed a new life for Gene within Kingdom, I am looking forward to him pushing the series to the next stage and introducing a new mission statement for the character now that he has finally reached his goal.



THE ORDER - IN THE COURT OF THE WYRMQUEEN (Part 2)
Script - Kek-W
Art - John Burns
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After last Prog's introductory episode which firmly set this second series of The Order during the sixteenth century, Kek-W switches location to London to bring us the curious tale of the Rotting Man. My immediate thoughts were that this decomposing immortal was what remained of Ritterstahl's human body, cloned from the Wurm's machinery at the climax of the last series – given the way he possesses the unfortunate Daniel Calhoun and his “computer speak”, I'm guessing this is the latest incarnation of the character. It's a nice parallel to his first appearance in the original series where his metallic helmet attached itself to a fresh corpse, making use of the body to move about.


John Burns' painted artwork does a fantastic job at capturing the gory scenes in the torture chamber as the body of the Rotting Man decomposes into the wood. I loved the use of colours, particularly the red and the green, which blended well together to highlight the amount of blood and gore in this sequence. Much like the original series of The Order, there is a really tangible sense of history here – not only with the references to real world historical figures like Sir Francis Drake and Sir Francis Walsingham, but also the heritage of the fictional characters who've got their own rich legacies. Kek-W is taking his time to reveal his hand like any true master of narrative, slowly establishing this new era and its fresh group of heroes whilst teasing a new threat, which might just be Queen Elizabeth herself!



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO RO-BUSTERS (Part 2)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This series of The ABC Warriors sees Pat Mills revisiting his classic Ro-Busters strip from the early days of 2000AD, albeit with a modern slant – introducing new concepts such as Nameless, which acts as a parallel to the real-world organisation Anonymous – substituting the trademark Guy Fawkes masks with Hammerstein ones in a tribute to the one robot who ended the war. Mills infuses the series with wry observations about real-world terrorist attacks, making reference to conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 and the accusations against the US government. It's an interesting blend of modern and classic storytelling, perfectly encapsulating Pat Mills' current work with 2000AD, revisiting his iconic series from the magazine's early days with a more contemporary outlook.

Clint Langley's artwork continues to look incredible, despite an unexplained transition into black and white, following the initial episode's full-colour flashback. I actually prefer seeing his artwork like this, as it reveals more of the details often hidden behind the colouring. The scene where Hammerstein attempts to restart the Mag-Lev generator is fantastic and conveys the intense pain and anguish that the robot is going through. Over the past few years, Langley has made this strip his own, bringing a distinctive voice to The ABC Warriors that encapsulates the “heavy metal” tone of the strip. I'm still unsure where Pat Mills is headed with this flashback to the Ro-Busters era, but I am really enjoying the journey into the past, even if it is peppered with allusions to more modern events. 



STRONTIUM DOG - REPO MEN (Part 2)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

John Wagner continues to add ingredients to his latest Strontium Dog epic with the inclusion of two ‘reformed’ Stix brothers, recommended by Father Phineas Stix, the religious ‘black sheep’ of the Stix family who was briefly introduced in the last storyline, “The Stix Fix”. The Stix family seem to be a recurring theme in Wagner’s recent Strontium Dog adventures and I’m glad that the writer continues to utilise the monosyllabic and conscience-free killers wherever he can. Given the hints of rebellion already seeded from Kid Knee, it seems that Johnny Alpha will have to work hard to maintain order amongst his new team of ‘repo men’.

There’s not much to be said about Carlos Ezquerra’s artwork that hasn't been said before, and more eloquently. Ezquerra’s art style literally defines this series, bringing with it a unique style and flavour that can only be described as classic Strontium Dog. While the series has had guest artists in the past, none of them managed to capture that same light-hearted sci-fi western feel. We’re still in the ‘set-up’ stage of this storyline, but Wagner’s dialogue and Ezquerra’s artwork have made this far more interesting than general exposition and scene-setting.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This was a worthy follow-up to the end of the year Prog, developing the four core serials that will form the line-up for the first few months of the year. Ultimately, it was Michael Carroll’s witty one-off Judge Dredd that shone brightest in this Prog full of stars, earning the much-coveted “Thrill of the Week” spot. However, given the fierce competition from the other stories in the Prog, I imagine that the “Thrill of the Week” will be in constant rotation.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Tharg the Mighty teases some upcoming thrills for the remainder of the year including old favourites such as Slaine, Psi-Judge Anderson, Indigo Prime and Savage, as well as plenty of brand new serials in the form of Brink, Kingmaker, Counterfeit Girl and Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld. He also has time to tease major events in the pipeline for Judge Dredd this Spring. Given the amount of thrill-power in store for readers, it seems like 2016 might be the best year for 2000AD yet.


Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1962 will be available in stores on Wednesday 6th January - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can 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!

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