Wednesday, 30 March 2016

2000AD Prog 1974

Prog 1974 Cover by Dylan Teague

Considering the strip itself focuses on alternate realities and parallel universes, it’s ironic that this cover for Survival Geeks offers an alternative take on the series’ characters from artist Dylan Teague. Compared to Neil Googe’s animated style, Teague offers a slightly more realistic take on the characters which works really well for the series and I think he would do a fantastic job as a stand-in artist. It’s a surprisingly complicated piece of cover art with a plethora of characters featured, and it’s really fun to see the male/female versions of the same characters interacting with each other on the page. I’m pretty sure that this is the first piece of cover art to feature Survival Geeks and thanks to Teague, it’s certainly a strong debut!


JUDGE DREDD - THE GRINDSTONE COWBOYS (Part 2)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Len O'Grady
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This Cursed Earth centric adventure continues to rattle along at a cracking pace as Dredd and his crew deal with the group who attacked the Munce Farms on the outskirts of the city and get a name for the ringleader behind the attacks. Michael Carroll writes some superb Judge Dredd dialogue here, capturing the brutal efficiency of Dredd and his fellow Judges. I really liked the scene where he interrogated the survivors of the skirmish, leaving their “trusted informant” to walk away, whilst dealing with the stubborn four-armed mutant. The highlight of this episode was the way that Carroll had the various Judges interacting, especially Dredd as he cut short the younger Judge's game of quoting laws to each other. He clearly has a strong handle on Dredd's voice, bringing an authenticity to the character's voice rarely seen outside of John Wagner's work.


Aside from the Cursed Earth adventure, Carroll continues to reference his ongoing story-arc involving Brit-Cit and the Emerald Isle's desire to extradite Judge Joyce and Judge Dredd for their part in the events of “Blood of the Emeralds”. Ably juggling these plot-points with effortless skill, Carroll is able to create a strong stand-alone tale that also hints towards the future, replicating the narrative structure of hit US TV shows. Colin MacNeil continues to produce some absolutely beautiful artwork here, bringing the irradiated Cursed Earth to life on the page. I am a huge fan of his take on Dredd, which rivals that of Carlos Ezquerra and Henry Flint in my eyes, capturing the strength behind the character without reducing him to a caricature. While most of MacNeil's recent stories have been set in Mega-City One and revolving around conspiracies, this adventure allows the artist to embrace a whole new locale and artistic tone, knocking the ball out of the park once more!



THARG'S 3RILLERS: REPOSSESSION ORDERS (Part 2)
Script - Eddie Robson
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Simon Bowland

Eddie Robson's three-part urban horror hits its stride in this central installment as the spirit haunting the abandoned block of flats attacks the occupants in a wonderfully choreographed sequence from story artist, Jake Lynch. This action-heavy episode provides little exposition or explanation behind events, but offers readers an atmospheric ghost story with a modern twist. While there is little narrative meat on this story's bones, it is hugely enjoyable and a great uncomplicated adventure with some beautiful artwork from Lynch. Robson has proven himself to be a master of the “three-act structure” that comes with the Tharg's 3rillers format, so I am expecting a strong finale that ties up the loose ends and gives readers a satisfying ending. After a number of successes with Future Shocks and these smaller stories, I hope to see a longer narrative from Eddie Robson in the future, which puts his imaginative world-building and love for science-fiction to good use.



SURVIVAL GEEKS - GEEKS FATALES (Part 2)
Script - Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art - Neil Googe
Colours - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Ellie de Ville

While the science-fiction trope of encountering gender-swapped versions of the main characters has been seen before, most notably in Red Dwarf episode, “Parallel Universe”, it is fun to see the concept explored with Survival Geeks' trademark wit. Artist Neil Googe takes full advantage of this female-orientated alternate universe and creates some great visual easter eggs of gender-inverted science-fiction properties such as “Biffy” the Vampire Slayer, a Female version of Doctor Who and Luke Skywalker in a Slave outfit! Part of the fun of this series is spotting all the subtle pop culture references in both the script and art. Having re-watched Red Dwarf recently, I am struck by how similar the set-up is in both series, with Survival Geeks having a distinctive sitcom feel – in fact, I could see 2000AD working with BBC Three to produce a six-part sci-fi sitcom based on this series. As much as fans want a Dredd series on Netflix or Amazon Prime, I think Survival Geeks would be a far more accessible option for television. Not that it has to be one or the other – I'm sure both series could be developed for TV!



TAINTED: THE FALL OF DEADWORLD (Part 2)
Script - Kek-W
Art - Dave Kendall
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This second episode of Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld introduces us to what appears to be the main protagonist of this series, Judge Fairfax. Kek-W makes use of flashbacks to establish the character before showcasing him interacting with the family of farmers seen in the initial episode – it's an effective technique and I love the complexity of the character as he is depicted as rather unlikeable, yet heroic at times. As with his recent work on The Order, Kek-W doesn't explicitly spell out events, leaving plenty of space for readers to read between the lines and figure out the events not shown on the page. It's a technique that works well and rewards the more dedicated of readers.


While the initial episode focused more on setting the scene and mood of the tale, this more action-heavy installment is concerned with moving the plot forward and sending our protagonists on what appears to be a fateful journey. Dave Kendall's artwork has a spooky ethereal quality to it that suits this series perfectly, recalling elements of Peter Doherty's work on Judge Death from the mid-nineties, further establishing it as a companion piece to the Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend storyline from that era. With an air of inevitability surrounding the fate of Judge Fairfax and his fellow survivors, I am excited to see where this story is headed and whether we will get any cameos from the more famous Dark Judges. Wisely, Kek-W has focused on the human element for this prequel series and within two episodes, I'm invested in the fates of these characters, knowing full well that Deadworld eventually becomes a haven for the undead. Still, the beauty of Kek-W's writing is that despite the inevitable nature of this storyline, it remains no less exciting and thrilling!



AQUILA - CHARON'S MERCY (Part 2)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Paul Davidson
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

Starting off with a brief flashback which provides some context behind the events of the previous episode, Aquila continues to be new reader-friendly with its narrative, providing just the right amount of information to intrigue new and lapsed readers. Gordon Rennie showcases a true understanding of the weekly narrative, balancing action and exposition together in a way that has the reader hankering for more. Despite his monosyllabic protagonist, Rennie manages to keep the story moving through the dialogue of Aquila's motor-mouth companion, creating instant personalities for the series' double-act.


New to the series, Paul Davidson provides a different artistic style that maintains the high level of gore that was seen in Leigh Gallagher's work. While Davidson's artwork offers a smoother, more animated style than Gallagher's more sketch-like art, it still manages to convey the brutal nature of Aquila's world with body parts being severed and strewn across the streets of Rome. It reminds me of PJ Holden's art style in places, capturing grime and gore together in a very atmospheric manner. Much like Rennie's script, Davidson's artwork provides readers with straight-forward storytelling that is drenched in bloody ultra-violence. It's a fun read, countering the science-fiction elements of the current line-up with a dose of historical fantasy and mysticism that allows 2000AD to demonstrate its versatility as an anthology magazine. 



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Following in the footsteps of its excellent “jumping-on point” Prog 1973, this latest issue of 2000AD manages to maintain the momentum across all of its stories, delivering some fantastic second episodes that continue to engage and entice new readers. Michael Carroll's sterling script-work, ably assisted by Colin MacNeil's fantastic artwork, earns Judge Dredd the top spot of “Thrill of the Week”. However, there was some strong competition from the likes of Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld which sees Kek-W and Dave Kendall delivering some pitch-perfect Gothic horror in the midst of an apocalypse. The best thing about this current line-up of 2000AD stories is the eclectic mix of genres that fills out its 32 pages, ranging from action to horror and to comedy. There is literally something for all tastes here, proving again that 2000AD is one of the best value magazines out there, cramming a multitude of worlds between its pages for less than the price of a pint. If you're a lapsed reader, there are plenty of reasons to rejoin the fold as 2000AD continues to usher in a golden age of thrill-power.

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1974 will be available in stores on Wednesday 30th 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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