Wednesday, 20 January 2016

2000AD Prog 1964

Prog 1964 Cover by Clint Langley

After a few weeks acclimatising to Clint Langley's artwork in black and white, it's fantastic to see it in colour again here. Unfortunately most of the tension that comes from this dramatic pose is easily defused when you consider that this entire ABC Warriors storyline is told as a flashback and Ro-Jaws is currently alive in the series' present, but it doesn't detract from the layout of the image. I love this rougher look for Langley's artwork, compared to the smoother textures of his computer-assisted artwork, as it not only gives the robots a more dishevelled look but it also allows details, such as the wiry “tendons” in Hammerstein's biceps to stand out.


JUDGE DREDD - GHOSTS (Part 2)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Mark Sexton
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Michael Carroll and Mark Sexton pull no punches on this dramatic second episode of “Ghosts”. While I expected a slow-burn approach to this mystery of missing cadets, Carroll immediately turns the action levels up to eleven by having an assassin strike Dredd and brutally murdering a control room full of Judges. It is possibly one of the most shocking and violent scenes in recent Judge Dredd history, with Sexton’s fabulous artwork enhancing the sudden and vicious nature of the attack. That final panel with Grayden making her extraction and leaving a dying Dredd and numerous bloody bodies in her wake manages to communicate the trauma that occurs in the aftermath of such a shocking incident. Given the recent attacks in Paris, there is an added resonance here at this spree shooting and it’s brave of 2000AD to showcase scenes that parallel current events with both this storyline and the ongoing Total War terrorist attacks.


Sexton, along with Len O’ Grady’s pitch-perfect colour palette, is doing a truly spectacular job in his debut strip and has instantly made a name for himself in a scant two episodes. The realism to Sexton’s art helps this scene deliver a punch to the reader’s gut, leaving you breathless as you reach the final page. Aside from the quality of the artwork itself, there’s a wonderful sense of direction in the panels – I particularly liked the way the action switched to the POV of the remote drone once Dredd gained the upper hand, viewing the event from outside before its eventual introduction into the conflict. It was a brilliant cinematic flourish and really added to the blockbuster nature of this storyline. Carroll and Sexton are doing a tremendous job with this serial, subverting expectation and grabbing the reader by the throat and not letting go.



KINGDOM - BEAST OF EDEN (Part 4)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After a burst of action last Prog, Dan Abnett pours on the mystery in this installment of Kingdom as Gene and company explore the LOST-inspired hatch and unravel more layers to the series' mythology. However, there isn't much chance to delve into the new questions raised by the Auxiliary Storage facility as Gene discovers that the giant swarm of Them they encountered earlier on is headed towards Kingdom. This technique of alternating between exposition and action is what manages to keep Kingdom moving along at such a fast pace, never letting events rest too long and keeping the narrative flowing with set-piece after set-piece. Given the heavy foreboding at the start of this storyline, I have a horrible feeling that Gene and the remnants of his pack will be too late to prevent their home from being destroyed and the life that our hero has built up may be lost. Richard Elson continues to deliver top-notch artwork, bringing a very tangible mood to the underground laboratory that helped fuel Abnett's script.



THE ORDER - IN THE COURT OF THE WYRMQUEEN (Part 4)
Script - Kek-W
Art - John Burns
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With this latest installment of The Order, Kek-W continues to explore the anachronisms that were a compelling element of the initial storyline, with a motorcycle riding through the streets of 16th Century London. Rather than overtly spelling out the plot, Kek-W makes use of the character's dialogue to draw the brush strokes and allows the reader's imagination to fill in the gaps. Clearly, the Order of Ouroboros is some organisation set up by Ritterstahl, as evidenced by the helmets they wear which are fashioned on the metallic man's previous head-piece. It appears that Queen Elizabeth is under the control of the Wurms and has used her men to get her hands on the Golden Seed for some nefarious plan. I love this more sophisticated approach to storytelling, which removed the need to stale exposition at the start of this new series and allowed the reader's to join events in motion.


Curiously, I noted that this new incarnation of The Order is named “the Order of Ouroboros” - now those familiar with their ancient iconography may recognise Ouroboros as the symbol of a snake eating its own tale, which represents an infinite loop. The inclusion of this subtle easter egg seems to lend credence to my theory that the anachronisms in this series are a result of Ritterstahl sending himself back in time to engineer events a certain way to prevent the Wurms from taking over the world. Kind of like Terminator, but set in Elizabethan England and with worm creatures! I'm enjoying every moment of this series, thanks to Kek-W's wonderful scripting and John Burns' simply sublime artwork. As with its predecessor, this is shaping up to be a breakout series for 2000AD, showcasing the rich diversity that the anthology is capable of.



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO RO-BUSTERS (Part 4)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Revisiting Ro-Busters has allowed Pat Mills to showcase his sense of humour, and this episode's opening sequence which has Ro-Jaws parody Roy Batty's famous speech from the climax of Blade Runner is a brilliant example. It's clear that Mills loves writing for Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein – after all, these were the two characters who launched the whole ABC Warriors series. I am impressed by the way that Mills manages to recapture that classic Ro-Busters mood from the original series but coated with a more modern edge that references real-world developments since the late 70s / early 80s, such as Anonymous. It seems that this story is building towards a retelling of “The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein” which closed out the initial run of Ro-Busters stories.


As I've said before in previous reviews, Clint Langley's artwork looks absolutely fantastic in black and white, evoking a retro feel that fits nicely against this revisitation of the Ro-Busters era. Steeped in darkness, the sequences featuring Howard Quartz evoke a truly Machiavellian tone to the story, giving the owner of Ro-Busters an air of menace not unlike Claw from Inspector Gadget. I also love the energy that comes from the scenes of Hammerstein unleashing his pent-up anger against Mek-Quake, filled with intricate detail and the “robot gore” of wires and oil spilling out all over the panels. With its heavy nostalgic tones contrasting against the modern art techniques, this storyline feels watching a cinema classic like Gone with the Wind in high-definition and discovering hidden details you never realised were there.



STRONTIUM DOG - REPO MEN (Part 4)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra continue to develop this latest Strontium Dog caper, taking their time to showcase Johnny and his gang infiltrating the inner sanctum of the Galanthans. While nothing of note occurs during this particular installment, it remains engaging and full of the same nostalgic energy currently seen over in The ABC Warriors. I'm enjoying the slower pace to this story as it dwells on the heist aspect of the adventure, showcasing the mutants making use of their various powers to evade detection. It's a credit to Wagner and Ezquerra's storytelling skills that an episode with little action manages to remain engaging to the reader, drawing them further into the high-stakes nature of this adventure. With two of 2000AD's best creators at the helm, it's relaxing to sit back and enjoy the narrative ride which they intend to take us on.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Without a shadow of a doubt, the sheer brutality of this Prog's Judge Dredd earns it the spot as “Thrill of the Week”, with Mark Sexton's stunning artwork bringing the shock attack to life with unsettling realism. I'm also enjoying the fast-paced nature of The Order and Kingdom, which help counter-balance the slower moving Strontium Dog and The ABC Warriors, as they revel in nostalgia. 2000AD has gotten the mix of stories just right with this line-up, blending an array of wonderful worlds together to make a fine broth of thrill-power in one handy magazine format. If you like comics or sci-fi, then you have no excuse – you should be reading 2000AD right now!


Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1964 will be available in stores on Wednesday 20th 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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