Wednesday, 27 January 2016

2000AD Prog 1965

Prog 1965 Cover by Cliff Robinson & Dylan Teague

Cliff Robinson is up there as one of my favourite Judge Dredd artists, and his covers are usually fantastic and innovative images, and this latest iteration is no different. Robinson injects a sense of dynamic movement to the piece with the motion blur of the Lawgiver as Dredd swings it around to fire at his unseen target. I love that the aperture of the gun is used to represent the zeroes in 2000AD’s logo – it’s a stroke of genius and again proves Robinson’s skill at designing cover art. I also love the tagline at the bottom that makes use of alliteration to add rhythm and movement to the text that mirrors that rapid-fire nature of the image. 


JUDGE DREDD - GHOSTS (Part 3)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Mark Sexton
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After the violent carnage of the previous episode, this installment sees the Justice Department determined to locate the killer rogue Judge who was behind the attack. Rather than getting fixed completely, Dredd is left with a memento of the attack in the form of an arm-length robotic cast, which is working to knit his flesh back together whilst he begins the investigation into Judge Grayden. Michael Carroll's script is filled with twists and turns, and the fast-paced nature of this story is fantastic – it's shaping up to be one of the best Judge Dredd stories he's written for 2000AD. Carroll has thrown both the reader and Dredd in at the deep end, and has us gasping for air as we attempt to figure out the mystery that threatens to engulf us. It's a great narrative technique, and I love seeing Dredd out of his depth and on the back foot on this one. While the past twelve months or so have been heavy on “corruption within the Justice Department” stories, this one has managed to stand out from the crowd based on its more dramatic narrative style.


Another reason for the success of this story is Mark Sexton's impeccable artwork. I absolutely loved the sequence with Dredd interrogating his suspect, and the way Sexton cloaked him in darkness with only part of his helmet and his shoulder pad visible as he asks his questions. There have been plenty of interrogation scenes in Judge Dredd history, but I don't think many have captured the true sense of fear that citizens must feel when they are in the chair. Turning the page, the room is filled with light and dozens of Judges are revealed to be watching the interview – it's a great visual trick and you can almost imagine the scene playing out in real time with every dramatic beat hitting home. With Carroll's amazing script, which has echoes of a political thriller about it, and Sexton's tremendous artwork, this is shaping up to be a strong year for Judge Dredd stories, with Tharg hinting at more to come in Spring.



KINGDOM - BEAST OF EDEN (Part 5)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Once again, Richard Elson takes the lead on this episode of Kingdom with another action-fuelled installment which sees Gene and his pack attempting to reach Kingdom ahead of the Them horde. Focusing on the “Gene-Machine” and vehicular carnage creates further associations with the Mad Max franchise, which should only serve to boost the popularity of the series when this latest storyline is collected into graphic novel format. While I do appreciate the action-packed nature of the series, and Elson does an absolutely flawless job at bringing the characters to life, this series seems to suffer the most from the constraints of the six-page weekly format and would read much better in a US monthly format. I absolutely love the series, and enjoy re-reading storylines as a whole, but on a weekly basis, it does feel a tad decompressed which makes it tough to review sometimes!



THE ORDER - IN THE COURT OF THE WYRMQUEEN (Part 5)
Script - Kek-W
Art - John Burns
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As a child, I remembered watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and being transfixed to the television as Indy seemed to fall in and out of scrapes for the entire running time of the film. It felt like the perfect balance of exposition and action, fuelling the narrative of the story without ever slowing down for too long. This second series of The Order reminds me of that same feeling as Kek-W takes the reader on a comfortable adventure through Elizabethan England, name-checking plenty of historical figures as he goes along. Even though we've barely touched the plot, I am going to make the bold statement that this series of The Order far surpasses the original, and I loved the first one! I feel like Kek-W has hit his stride with the characters and is able to take his time to develop the story, presumably because he has a longer game-plan now. He is no rush to get to the meat of the adventure and is enjoying the journey just as much as the reader.


John Burns' take on Elizabethan England is wonderfully evocative, and really highlights the grimy feel of the era. I can't think of any other 2000AD artist who would be able to bring the same level of authenticity to the series with his beautifully painted panels capturing the spirit of swashbuckling adventure. It's truly magical to watch writer and artist come together in perfect harmony to create such a fantastic series, and I firmly believe that this has the makings of a modern classic for 2000AD. I'm thoroughly impressed by the way that Kek-W has effortlessly crafted this adventure, achieving a pitch-perfect pace that fits the weekly serialised structure of 2000AD like a glove. Each week I find myself wanting more, but not because it hasn't been enough but because it is simply comics done right! 



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO RO-BUSTERS (Part 5)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

The conspiracy surrounding Howard Quartz's attempts to frame “Nameless” for his own terrorist attacks deepens as Ro-Jaws reveals footage that proves that Quartz has been causing the recent disasters to discredit the robots and earn money through Ro-Busters. While the original Ro-Busters stories had a touch of pathos to them in amongst the humour, this more political retelling of the events works brilliantly. I love how Pat Mills weaves in elements from the classic stories, such as Doctor Feely Good and a reference to one of the best Ro-Busters stories, “Terra Meks” which told the heart-breaking story of Charlie, the guardian robot of Northpool. If you haven't read it, go right away and pick up The Complete Ro-Busters – it is one of the best stories from 2000AD's early days!


I'm really enjoying Clint Langley's art style here, such as his subtle redesigns of the Ro-Busters world to make it more technologically advanced and a natural development into the world of Termight from Nemesis The Warlock. I love the way that Langley sparingly uses colour to emphasise certain elements of the artwork, such as the explosion at New Liverpool Street or the light bulbs in both the Overseer and Hammerstein's helmets. It's a lovely touch and really heightens the artwork. I'm really enjoying this retelling of Ro-Busters' last days with increased context and background – the way that Pat Mills has gone back and knitted Savage, Ro-Busters and ABC Warriors together has been brilliant and I'm sure it's a treat for long-term fans of the series to finally see the connections become clearer. While it's not always a good idea to fill in the gaps through prequels (The Phantom Menace, for example) I'm certainly enjoying this enhanced retelling of classic stories.



STRONTIUM DOG - REPO MEN (Part 5)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

This episode features the culmination of the last few weeks of planning as Johnny and his team of mutants attempt to steal the Brain of Hoomonos from under the Galanthan’s noses. The scene itself feels like the 2000AD equivalent of that iconic scene from Mission: Impossible where Tom Cruise descends down into the alarmed room on a wire, except here we have a stretchy-armed mutant attempting to snag a fossilized brain from a robotic sentry. You can see the similarities, right?

Wagner and Ezquerra manage to maintain the tension through this climactic scene, and while it goes off without a hitch, I suspect that things are only going to get more complicated from here on out. I’m really enjoying this more low-key Strontium Dog story, where secrecy and stealth overshadow action and gun-fights, although I’m sure we’ll get to see some of that before the tale is told. Wagner has struck gold with this motley crew of mutants and I do hope we get to see more of this supporting cast in future stories as I find Johnny Alpha works much better with a side-kick, or in this case, a small team.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Wow, this was a tough week to pick a favourite strip as they were all hitting the right notes for me. As much as I love The Order, I'm absolutely loving Carroll and Sexton on Judge Dredd at the moment – it's a great double act that is producing some amazing Dredd moments. Both Strontium Dog and The ABC Warriors are fantastic as well, offering some old-school thrill-power for long-term fans. With all the goodwill they've built up over the years, both Wagner and Mills are able to take their time with their stories, advancing them at a slower pace and taking advantage of the nostalgia to create some modern classics. One thing that all of the strips have in common is their absolutely stellar artwork. From the amazing Cliff Robinson cover to the final page, this issue of 2000AD is a feast for the eyes, with a menu filled with some of the greatest artistic talent out there.

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1965 will be available in stores on Wednesday 27th 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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