Wednesday, 2 March 2016

2000AD Prog 1970

Prog 1970 Cover by Jon Davis-Hunt

I have to be honest; I’m not that keen on this Strontium Dog cover from Jon Davis-Hunt. While I normally like Davis-Hunt’s artwork on strips such as Age of the Wolf, it doesn’t quite click with the Strontium Dog universe in the same way that Carlos Ezquerra’s art does. Perhaps it is because Ezquerra has made such an indelible stamp on the series and its characters that I find it difficult to adjust to other artists’ interpretations of them. On the plus side, I do quite like Davis-Hunt's interpretation of Shaggy here, showcasing more of the hirsute character’s facial features from beneath his overflowing locks.


JUDGE DREDD - UNDERCOVER KLEGG (Part 2)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This second episode of “Undercover Klegg” continues to nail that perfect balance of humour and action as Rob Williams’ script has fun with the juxtaposition of the Judge Dredd / Sensitive Klegg partnership. As with the initial episode, most of the humour is derived from Judge Dredd’s internal narrative and his severe dislike for all Kleggs, particularly the overly friendly and enthusiastic Sensitive Klegg. Williams does a great job with the dialogue here, creating some real laugh-out loud moments as the two characters clash. There’s a great nostalgic feel to this story which evokes memories of Walter the Wobot and his similar attachment to “Judge Dwedd”, and its great to see that tradition upheld with new characters.


D’Israeli’s art is absolutely fantastic, and while it might be a shock to those used to a more realistic take on Dredd and his world, I think it’s brilliant and suits the tone of the story perfectly. I love the vibrant use of colours for the tale, which again captures the light-hearted nature of the story. With the succession of downbeat stories that have spun out of “Day of Chaos”, it is really refreshing to see an old-school comedic story for the character, with both Williams and D’Israeli bringing their very best to the strip. While Tharg has teased that this year will be a big one for Judge Dredd, I think it will be very hard for writers to top the quality of this adventure. 



KINGDOM - BEAST OF EDEN (Part 10)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As Gene, his strike-team and his trio of new recruits intrude further into Them’s home-mound; Dan Abnett and Richard Elson continue to ratchet up the tension. While I’m always quick to praise Elson’s flawless character designs, this episode really showed off his skill at creating evocative environments as the action moved away from the post-apocalyptic desert landscapes and into Them’s home territory. The episode culminates in the revelation that the central intelligence driving this latest swarm to attack Kingdom is a Them version of a Rat-King, which not only makes a truly shocking final page reveal but also acts as a nice and unexpected reference to The Ballad of Halo Jones.


After a sense of repetition in the first half of this storyline, Dan Abnett has righted his ship over the past few episodes and streamlined the narrative to focus on this small group of Aux and Humans attempting to take on the might of the Them army single-handedly. I feel far more invested in the character than I did during the epic, blockbuster fight scenes and the script seems to be providing the right amount of dramatic tension and mystery around the future of the series, removing the predictable edge that plagued the earlier episodes. Elson continues to deliver some absolutely gorgeous artwork throughout this series, effortlessly creating the right atmosphere on the page to accentuate the tension in Abnett’s script.



THE ORDER - IN THE COURT OF THE WYRMQUEEN (Part 10)
Script - Kek-W
Art - John Burns
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As we near closer to the climax of this second series of The Order, the various plot threads introduced throughout the series come together in a fulfilling way with Sir Walter Raleigh and Walter Long are reintroduced into the story alongside their flying machine, the Goode Queene Bess. The various members of The Order are called into action as Izta and Anna Kohl launch into their attack on the dreaded Wyrmqueen, promising a much more fulfilling conclusion to this current series than seen in the original The Order. Kek-W’s script continues to showcase the wonderful anachronisms prevalent throughout the series with Anna making use of short-wave radios and machine-gun weaponry, whilst the many Walter’s of the story travel across the skies of London in steampunk-esque flying machines. It’s absolutely brilliant and reminds of the conclusion of the Doctor Who Christmas special “The Next Doctor”, which had the Doctor fighting a giant steampunk Cyberman using a hot air balloon, above the streets of Victorian London.

John Burns continues to do a grand job with the art duties, capturing the tense atmosphere as the Order stage their daring night-time attack on the Wyrmqueen. I’ve really enjoyed his effective use of colours throughout this series, starting with his focus on the red-headed Daniel Calhoun against his green palette, to this episode where the prevalent blues showcase the night sky. This attention to detail is shown in one panel where Bess and her men are unloading Ritterstahl and she entirely illuminated in yellow, which is revealed in the next panel to be the glow coming from Francis Bacon’s smaller aircraft device. With a cracking script and first-class art, it is no surprise that this series continues to be one of the most interesting and exciting new series to appear in 2000AD in recent years, rivalling other greats such as Brass Sun and Helium. It’s truly inspiring to see 2000AD experiment with new stories and universes to fit alongside its established classics as Strontium Dog and The ABC Warriors – it’s what makes this the galaxy’s greatest comic, after all!



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO RO-BUSTERS (Part 10)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Wrapping up the nostalgic flashbacks to the Ro-Busters era of the strip, Pat Mills deals with the remaining loose ends such as a deserving (albeit temporary) comeuppance for Howard Quartz and a fun scene between Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein which explains why he abandons his Ro-Busters head in favour of his original ABC Warriors head during the gap between the two series. I really liked the visual transition that artist Clint Langley employs to move away from the black-and-white flashbacks and into the computer-generated artwork of the current-day storyline. While spending ten episodes to tell a story that could have been told via dialogue may have been a bit self-indulgent on Pat Mills’ part, I’ve really enjoyed this foray into the old Ro-Busters days and this more detailed retelling of the final tale, “The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein”. However, I am eagerly awaiting the next episode to see how Mills plans to utilise these revelations in the present-day storyline and move the main plot forward.



STRONTIUM DOG - REPO MEN (Part 10)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

Things become more frantic for the Strontium Dogs as they attempt to locate the Brain of Hoomonos and the devilish Twister Sisters before the Galanthan Army arrives on the Rock. Despite the relative chaos of this storyline and Kid Knee’s constant moaning, everything seems to be working out for Johnny and his crew – as enjoyable as this golden slice of nostalgia has been, I have found it to be somewhat lacking in dramatic tension. Even though the reader has been told that the Galanthan’s are bad news and a threat not to be taken likely, we’ve seen little evidence of their power aside from the destruction of some ships last Prog and a robot battalion in this one. It feels like Johnny has been able to hoodwink them with ease, and I’m hoping that this is merely John Wagner lulling both us and the character into a false sense of security and there will be a dramatic twist ending.


Carlos Ezquerra continues to deliver some absolutely fantastic artwork in this storyline. As much as I appreciate Jon Davis-Hunt’s attempt to interpret the characters on the cover image, these characters never look better than when they’re illustrated by their co-creator Carlos Ezquerra. Once again, Ezquerra fills the environment of The Rock with a bevy of alien nasties of all shapes and sizes, and I love the main villain of the piece, the Jabba the Hutt-esque Castor Limax. While the series has felt a bit “by-the-numbers” at times, it has remained a fun and engaging read throughout and with just two episodes to go, I am eagerly awaiting the grand finale, and hope that just as “The Stix Fix” organically led into this adventure, themes from “Repo Men” will propel the next Strontium Dog storyline.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Once again, Judge Dredd takes the coveted spot of “Thrill of the Week” with another cracking installment of “Undercover Klegg” from Rob Williams and D’Israeli. However, the bar of quality remains high on all the other strips as they head towards their final episodes. There’s a definite elevation in tension across all of the stories and I’m eager to see how The ABC Warriors will develop now that the Ro-Busters flashback is over, plus Kek-W and John Burns are having plenty of fun laying waste to Elizabethan England over in The Order. This has been an absolutely amazing line-up of stories since the start of the year, and I’m very interested to see how Tharg intends to maintain this high level of thrill-power with the all-new line up in Prog 1973.

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1970 will be available in stores on Wednesday 2nd March - 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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