Wednesday, 25 May 2016

2000AD Prog 1982

Prog 1982 Cover by Mark Harrison

This fantastic cover from Mark Harrison heralds the return of Grey Area to the Prog, as the series begins its final run of stories. With the main cast lined up in an action blockbuster-esque pose, there's an epic sense of scale to the image, which feels somewhat reminiscent of a Star Wars movie poster with its character placement. With this cover, Harrison manages to sum up the series in one strong image. In fact, this piece would make an excellent choice as the cover to the inevitable complete collection of Grey Area, once the series has ended. Harrison's computer-generated artwork has a wonderfully polished feel to it, and this cover works perfectly to build up the excitement and high-stakes tension surrounding the series' climactic episodes.



JUDGE DREDD - THE LION'S DEN (Part 5)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Adam Brown
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode of “The Lion's Den” touches base with the three concurrent plot threads running through Judge Dredd at the moment – Joyce's problems in Brit-Cit, Dredd's 'resurrection' and incarceration and the gradual Texas City influence on the streets of Mega-City One. Michael Carroll balances these three storylines together nicely, offering readers small tid-bits in the way of answers as he continues to craft a strong and engaging mega-epic, quite unlike anything that has gone before. Looking at the storyline, we're still unclear as to the identities of those chasing after Joyce – are they Irish sympathisers as Chief Judge Mitchell from Brit-Cit states, or part of some larger conspiracy? Presumably they're the same people who have Dredd in custody, but they seem to want both men alive for some unknown reason. There's also the question of the Texas City takeover, and whether it is part of some plot in conjunction with Brit-City's abduction of Dredd & Joyce. Carroll's story keeps the reader guessing throughout like any great mystery.


PJ Holden continues to deliver some absolutely brilliant artwork, switching between the dual locales of Brit-Cit and Mega-City One with ease and creating enough distinction in his backgrounds to maintain each country's unique flavour. His work on the Judge Joyce sequences manages to evoke a strong British crime drama feel, almost like a futuristic take on The Long Good Friday. I'm enjoying the 'fish out of water' elements to this story and Holden's artwork manages to convey a real sense of pace and drama throughout these scenes. I'm very curious to see where this story is headed, as Carroll bucks the trend of a traditional narrative structure. Presumably Joyce is going to discover Dredd's location through his own investigations and the two of them will lead the fight back to Mega-City One, but there's still plenty of unanswered questions about the motivations, and even the identities, of those wanting to challenge Mega-City One at its weakest moments. This is shaping up to be a worthy follow-up to the Day of Chaos storyline, picking up the narrative from that mega-epic and moving it into a whole new direction.



BRINK (Part 5)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Simon Bowland

With a police procedural storyline, there is often plenty of talking heads and little action and aside from a brief flurry of action at the beginning of the series, Brink has adopted that same format. However, Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard's truly inspiring world-building ensures that the story never feels dull or slow-paced, instead creating a really engaging mystery with strong characters at its centre. I'm really enjoying the world that both creators are bringing to life here, capturing that feeling of crampedness and disillusionment that comes with being forced to live in deep space habitats. There's a neon-tinged aura of griminess to the Brink evident in both Culbard's artwork and Abnett's script, and this might sound like an odd comparison but it feels like Blade Runner mixed with Wall-E. A darker, crime-ridden version of the Axiom from the Pixar kid's movie where humans aren't fat and lazing around on holo-chairs, but pumped full of chems and artificial foods by corporations and forming illegal cults.


The success of this series comes from the inspired pairing of Abnett and CulbardAbnett's inherent aptitude for dialogue ensures that this crime drama remains compelling throughout the investigation stage, whilst Culbard's innate ability to create evocative landscapes and worlds allows the Brink to instantly resonate with readers. It's always great fun to read a series rooted in such talent, and there is a strong undercurrent of confidence exuding from every panel that suggests both creators know just how good this series is. I have to say that I'm really enjoying the investment that 2000AD is putting into new stories and creators, building up a new generation of series' that rival its classics with stories like Brass Sun, Helium and now Brink. Often, 2000AD undergoes fluctuations in quality due to the very nature of an anthology publication – but I have to say that right now, it is undergoing one of the strongest runs yet, and it has been fantastic ever since I started reviewing the Prog on a weekly basis back in 2013.



THARG'S TIME TWISTERS - THE TIMELESS ASSASSIN
Script - Rory McConville
Art - Steven Austin
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This one-off Tharg's Time Twister sees Thought Bubble 2015 winner, Rory McConville return for his third story in the Prog, bringing with him debuting art droid Steven Austin! Much like with his previous work for 2000AD, McConville creates a stunningly effective twist ending into his adventure that feels like classic Future Shock material. Within four pages, he manages to build a strong narrative and glimpse into an alternate universe that leaves you wanting more. I really enjoyed the central conceit at the heart of this adventure – employing someone's descendants to carry out an assassination before they are born, and the shift in tone midway through was excellently brought to life by the story's artist, Steven Austin. Austin's artwork is simply astounding and really suits the black and white format well. It reminds me of veteran 2000AD artist Cliff Robinson and relative newcomer, Eoin Coveney, whose work recently appeared on The Alienist. This was an flawless example of a Tharg's Time Twister and a wonderful introduction to Austin's artwork – I'm sure both artist and writer will be returning to the Prog in the near future on the strength of this story. 



GREY AREA - END GAME
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Dan Abnett and Mark Harrison return to deliver the final series of episodes of Grey Area, and judging by the current status-quo, it will be a 'summer blockbuster' of an ending. With the dreaded God-Star approaching the alien Homeworld, every living creature is facing extinction on the planet including our rag-tag group of heroes from the ETC. Abnett's script manages to emphasise the dire situation that Bulliet and his team face, although he drops a hint of possible salvation when he mentions a transmitter – presumably Bulliet is attempting to communicate with Earth and I wonder if the series will end with a last-minute save. I've really enjoyed this series and am slightly sad to see it come to an end – I guess that there is limited mileage to come from a series set in an alien border-control on Earth – I mean, Abnett has already drifted far from the series' original status-quo by moving the characters to a parallel universe for the last few years. Still, I'm glad the series is getting a proper send-off, rather than outstaying its welcome, or worse yet, failing to get a proper ending.


Mark Harrison's artwork is breathtaking and the perfect artist to draw these epic space-battle storylines – I still remember being in awe of his work on Durham Red: The Scarlet Cantos way back when. While his art may get cluttered at times, I love Harrison's attention to detail and the little easter eggs he slips into his panels, such as the randy alien attempting to grab ahold of Feo. It's a nice nod back to previous episodes where the same creature spied on her in the shower. Given the upcoming big-scale battles, Harrison is a superb choice of artist for this series and over the past few years has really made it his own, bringing the grimy alien planet of Homeworld to life. Both Harrison and Abnett have made these characters extremely likeable and I am strongly invested in the outcome of this adventure, especially given the last-minute proposal between Bulliet and Birdy – the heart of the Grey Area series. While I'm sad that the series is coming to a final end, I have every confidence that Abnett and Harrison will deliver a strong finale worthy of the Grey Area series.



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PSYCHOPOMP (Part 4)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This fourth installment of “Psychopomp” offers some forward momentum on the plot as Slaine and Gort finally end their battle against Gododin, thanks to another convenient deus ex machina. Before that battle, Gododin gets in some more jabs about Slaine's illegitimacy and hints at a mystery surrounding the identity of his father, which suggests a dramatic reveal somewhere down the line – probably at the end of this current chapter. Simon Davis' artwork continues to wow my optical circuits, creating beauty and majesty in the gory violence. Obviously, that final double page spread was something breathtaking as the hordes of the half-dead congregated to do battle with our heroes. I'm looking forward to some more gorgeous fight sequences in the upcoming episodes, but once again the current storyline feels rather paper-thin and more of an excuse to showcase Davis' spectacular painted artwork rather than engage readers with a thrilling narrative. It's not too much of an issue as Davis' artwork is worth the price of entry alone, but I do wish that the story itself had more of a punch to it. Perhaps now that Slaine and Gort have escaped Gododin, we'll see some substantial developments to the plot, but the series has started off on the back foot with this chapter.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

In a Prog full of strong stories, rather surprisingly my choice for 'Thrill of the Week' goes to the one-off Tharg's Time Twister from newcomers Rory McConville and Steven Austin. An excellent example of the format, McConville's script and Austin's fabulous art really impressed me and I can see why Tharg continues to feature the Thought Bubble 2015 winner in the Prog with his strongly plotted single-issue stories. After proving his ability with these shorter stories, I wonder if we'll see a Tharg's 3riller from the McConville droid in the near future.

Elsewhere, the return of Grey Area ensures we have a double-dip of Dan Abnett space-drama goodness each Prog – although Brink and Grey Area are totally different beasts altogether. Slaine remains visually strong, and hopefully subsequent episodes will put more emphasis on the narrative rather than providing Simon Davis with impressive fight sequences to put to paper. Tharg also teases the return of Black Shuck next Prog, which will see the supernatural Viking series come back for a second series from Leah Moore, John Reppion and Steve Yeowell. All in all, it's shaping up to be another excellent run for 2000AD, with two deep-space dramas and a double helping of 'swords and sorcery' fantasy to complement an absolutely thrilling Judge Dredd mega-epic.

Thrill of the Week: Tharg's Time Twisters


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1982 will be available in stores on Wednesday 25th May - 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!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the positive review of my debut - hope to bring you more!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Steven - glad you enjoyed the review! :)
      Jamie (Pop Culture Bandit)

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