Wednesday, 16 March 2016

2000AD Prog 1972

Prog 1972 Cover by Clint Langley

With its distinctive red and purple colour scheme, this ABC Warriors front cover from Clint Langley certainly stands out from the crowd. I really like how the cover is split into eight segments showcasing each of the “Meknificent Seven” and their ally, Ro-Jaws. Considering how this storyline has been primarily focused on Hammerstein and Ro-Jaws, it's great to see the other six ABC Warriors represented on this piece. The red and purple lighting effects help conceptualise the “defiance code” being transferred amongst the eight robots, whilst the central purple node works well as a subtle reference to Howard Quartz, the series' core antagonist. It is also a great example of Langley's dual art styles, blending his more “old-school” pencilled artwork with computer-generated effects to create a fun and vibrant mish-mash of the two approaches.

Script - Rob Williams
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After last episode's dragon-shaped cliff-hanger, I must admit I did have reservations as to whether Rob Williams would be able to tie up the remaining plot threads involving the Klegg peace treaty in the space of one episode without upsetting the pace and momentum of the tale. Of course, my fears were completely unfounded as Williams skillfully weaved a thrilling conclusion to the storyline that never once felt rushed. I really liked his characterisation of Dredd, getting crotchety in his old age and less tolerant of stupidity such as the Kleggs. While most Judge Dredd “humour strips” focus on the citizens as the source of the jokes, it was fun to see Dredd's inner monologue being used to generate laughs, demonstrating the veteran Judge's rather dry sense of humour. I'd certainly love to see more Dredd / Sensitive Klegg stories using this same narrative technique.

D'Israeli was a fantastic choice for artist, bringing with him a light-hearted touch that suited the tone of this strip. I also loved the way he captured the reptilian regalness of the Klegg Royal Family, evoking the characters' personalities perfectly with their designs. While I initially thought this storyline was going to be a “comedy of errors” with Sensitive Klegg attempting to maintain his cover during the treaty signing, I was pleasantly surprised to see it develop into an odd “buddy movie” between Dredd and Sensitive Klegg instead. Over the last few years, Williams has demonstrated a strong grasp on what makes a great Judge Dredd story, effortlessly switching genres from the blockbuster action of “Titan” to the more humour-led events of “Undercover Klegg” without losing any momentum at all.

Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This concluding episode of “Beast of Eden” introduces more dramatic revelations and changes to the series' status-quo as it is revealed that the Human Masters weaponised the Ticks in order to eliminate the Neosectus, inadvertently causing them evolve to tackle the threat, placing Kingdom in danger. Dan Abnett sets up a wonderful cliff-hanger for this chapter, having Gene taken off-world against his will, whilst his friends and family remain at risk as a second Tick-infested horde of Them heads towards the town of Kingdom. While the initial episodes of this current storyline felt slightly superficial and lacking in substance at times, Abnett has managed to deliver some real narrative progression in the second half of the story, offering readers a better glimpse at where the series is headed, and transporting Gene to an environment that promises to deliver steer the series in a whole new direction for the next chapter.

I'm guessing when Gene inevitably returns back to Earth, it will be too late and he will discover that Kingdom has been destroyed by the second swarm, but it remains to be seen whether Abnett will spare Clara Bow and children from a dire fate. Personally, I suspect that they will escape and survive – ready for a happy reunion towards the end of the series, which seems to be on the way soon. While I've focused on praising Dan Abnett's script-work on these final few episodes, it goes without saying that Richard Elson has been absolutely fantastic across all twelve episodes of this story. With episodes alternating between high-octane action and exposition, Elson has done a tremendous job at keeping readers engaged throughout the whole storyline with his distinctive art style, which remains one of the major reasons behind the success of the strip.

Script - Kek-W
Art - John Burns
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Kek-W and John Burns' Elizabethan epic draws to a close this Prog with a fantastic action-packed ending that allows each of the eclectic characters from this latest iteration of The Order of Ouroboros to have their moment of glory. As with the first series of The Order, Kek-W has done a fantastic job with his ensemble cast, creating plenty of interesting and three-dimensional characters in a short space of time. While the conclusion of this episode suggests another time-jump in the series' future, I hope that Kek-W carries over some elements of this series over into the next. I really like this Blackadder style of moving the series forward in time, revisiting similar themes albeit in different time periods. Hopefully the next chapter will be set during World War II, as I can imagine that being a strong setting for this series and John Burns' amazing visual style.

While the initial series of The Order was something of a mixed bag, hampered with some pacing issues towards the end, this second series has been near-perfection throughout its run. Rather than being over reliant on exposition and narration, Kek-W used his characters to tell the story, creating a vivid world populated by pseudo-historical figures in a totally fictional environment. The series' trademark anachronistic plot devices continue to inject a unique flavour into proceedings, whilst hinting at the over-reaching mystery surrounding Ritterstahl, who I'm convinced is some kind of robot sent back in time to ensure that the time-line occurs a certain way. The name “Ouroboros” represents a never-ending cycle, so I suspect that the series will tie into the origins of the strip. This chapter of The Order has been the back-bone of this current line-up, delivering solid and enjoyable episodes across the past three months, and I can't wait until Tharg announces a third series.

Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

As expected, this concluding episode of “Return to Ro-Busters” acts as an epilogue for this flashback-driven storyline, setting up events for the next ABC Warriors arc, which presumably will take place in the “current-day” continuity of the series and feature Clint Langley's lovely computer-generated artwork over his traditional black and white pencils. While the climactic scene of Ro-Jaws uploading the defiance code into his team-mates didn't quite have the same impact after such a lengthy build-up, Pat Mills instead focuses on the relationships and mixed personalities of the ABC Warriors, having the characters interact for the first time in a long time. The double-page spread neatly summarises the remaining elements of the ABC Warriors' quest, listing the various threats in their grand revenge scheme in something that ends up resembling a robot-centric version of Kill Bill. I'm really looking forward to this series returning in the near future and seeing Mills and Langley push the narrative in fresh new directions and moving away from the nostalgic navel-gazing of the past few years.

Script - Rory McConville
Art - Joe Palmer
Letters - Simon Bowland

2000AD has long been a mainstay at the Thought Bubble comic convention at Leeds, hosting a Portfolio competition for new artists that offered a paid gig in the Galaxy's Greatest Comic as the top prize. Last year's competition also included a script-writing element, allowing wannabe script-droids the opportunity to pitch stories ahead of a Dragon's Den style committee. This short four-page Future Shock is the result of that competition, teaming up the winning writer and artist together for a very unusual courtroom drama, complete with an effective twist at the end.

With an Indigo Prime-esque approach to amending time-streams, Rory McConville tells a great story of two rival organisations tasked with performing “Lifosuction” on a client's childhood, accidentally causing more damage than they realised. While the courtroom framing device makes the reader think that the pair of time-surgeons are on trial, McConville performs a brilliant 'bait-and-switch' that stands up as one of the best twist endings in recent years. It's clear to see why the judges picked this script from the competition – hopefully Tharg will upload video of the official pitch onto the 2000AD YouTube Channel, as it would be interesting to see how it developed. Joe Palmer's artwork offers a simplistic, yet effective take on the storyline, bringing a quintessential 2000AD feel to his pages, evoking memories of fellow Future Shocks art droid, Nick Dyer. This is a strong debut for both winners and I hope that we see more from the pair of them in the near future!


As this current line-up of stories draws to a close, I have to say that this was one of the strongest crop of thrills in recent years. There was a great mix of the old and the new, with strips like The ABC Warriors, Strontium Dog and The Order, served beside each other like a wonderful buffet of top-class storytelling. Not content to rest on his laurels, Tharg has prepared another feast of adventures in next Prog's “jumping-on point”, with the return of Survival Geeks and Aquila, not to mention a brand-new Tharg's 3rillers and a sequel to the amazing Dreams of Deadworld, which looks at how the Dark Judges took over. This diverse set of stories just goes to show why 2000AD is the Galaxy's Greatest Comic, offering something for everyone!

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd

The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1972 will be available in stores on Wednesday 16th 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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