Wednesday, 8 February 2017

2000AD Prog 2017

Prog 2017 Cover by Jake Lynch

Judge Dredd gets a bit meta with this cover from Jake Lynch as he bursts out from inside the Prog, revealing snippets of the Nerve Centre contents page as he does so. It's an effective image and I love the whole concept of having Dredd rip through the cover and out towards the reader. Lynch puts in a lot of attention to detail here, especially when it comes to the interior imagery of the Nerve Centre, and I really like his take on Dredd. My only nit-pick would be the arms, particularly the one holding the law-giver – I think the eagle emblem on his shoulder obscures the angle somewhat, making it look like his arm is coming out of his chest. That said, it's a great piece and definitely stands out from the crowd. I applaud Lynch for trying something new and different with the cover format!


JUDGE DREDD - DEEP IN THE HEART (Part 6)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

The hunt for the Sector Zero operative hurtles towards a conclusion as Dredd and his unlikely group of assistants finally discover his true identity. There’s a nice moment where it seems as if the fugitive is one step ahead of Dredd once more, but it’s revealed that Dredd has accounted for this and sent a group of Texas City Judges ahead of time. I really enjoyed the sequence between Dredd and Vega and the way he disregards her threats to jump out of the transport. I’m glad she got some clemency for helping out the Judges and I hope she returns in a later story – she had a great visual design, and I like her spunky, energetic personality.


Henry Flint continues to demonstrate why he is one of the most popular Judge Dredd artists in recent history, displaying his flair for the action sequence as he choreographs a scene where our heroes attempt to outmanoeuvre a rogue Robocab. As mentioned before, his design for Paradox Vega really helped the character to stand out and I hope Michael Carroll revisits her in a later storyline, as he often does. I have to admit that the fugitive doesn’t fit the typical look for an undercover assassin, but I guess that’s the point and Dredd’s doom-laden prediction for Weaver and his team suggests that we might see his true abilities in the next episode. 



KINGMAKER (Part 7)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Ian Edginton reveals treachery in the kingdom of the Dryads in this latest episode of Kingmaker, as he continues to peel back more layers behind this mysterious mystical world. It appears that the mysterious energy discharge from the earth which Crixus witnessed may be a manifestation of the Ebora – the very spirit of the earth itself. Lord Tycho's alliance with the alien hordes is unexpected, but makes sense within the context of the tale, and I suspect that his daughter may end up accompanying Ablard and Crixus on their quest to awaken the Ebora. Looking at the narrative structure, there are definite similarities between this series and Edginton's other epic adventures such as Scarlet Traces, Brass Sun and Helium. He has a very clear authorial voice that shines though in all of his stories for 2000AD, and there's a timelessness nature to his adventures. There is a fantastically epic scale to all Edginton's work, and Kingmaker is no exception.


I continually find myself mesmerised by the quality on display from Leigh Gallagher's artwork as he effortlessly captures the darkness of this tale. Gallagher has proven himself more than capable at depicting the grittier side of medieval fantasy, and I love the highly detailed backgrounds of the Dryad's woodland palace. With pink lightning bolts whizzing about the place and a shock betrayal, there's definitely a touch of Star Wars about this sequence and it also reminds me of the sequence from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when Saruman battles Gandalf. Edginton does well to riff on this iconic moments in science-fiction and fantasy, but without losing his own voice in the process. Kingmaker remains a highly original hybrid of genres, taking the best elements from alien invasion stories and fantasy war stories and merging them together to produce a one-of-a-kind adventure.



THE ORDER - WYRM WAR (Part 7)
Script - Kek-W
Art - John Burns
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Stepping back from the time-travelling antics of the previous few installments, Kek-W instead returns to character development as he focuses on the fates of several core characters from The Order's second series, specifically Daniel Calhoun, Francis Bacon and Izta. I really enjoyed the cast of heroes from the Elizabethan adventure, so it is great to see them returned for this third storyline, albeit aged and in the twilight of their years. There's even romance between Cyrano and the Wyrm Lady Catalina, demonstrating Kek-W's love for unlikely romantic pairings and his innate knack for characterisations. Even in a quieter, more reflective chapter such as this one, John Burns' fully-painted artwork stands out with its wonderfully emotive qualities. That final panel where Ixta and Calhoun's children are running through the fields chased by a huge Wyrm is absolutely chilling and works effectively as a cliffhanger, forcing the reader to come back to find out their fates. 



FUTURE SHOCKS - DONATIONS WELCOME!
Script - Rory McConville
Art - Steven Austin
Letters - Simon Bowland

Rory McConville returns to the Prog with another Future Shock, bringing with him relative newcomer Steven Austin, following their collaboration in Prog 1982 with the Time Twister tale, “The Timeless Assassin”. McConville opens up this short story with the wonderfully subversive concept of soldiers being forced to donate their organs to help repair more physically proficient soldiers on the battlefield. It's a great idea, and unfortunately it doesn't get much chance to shine in this short four-page story. It would have been great to see it explored in greater detail in a Rogue Trooper tale, for example. As with his debut appearance in the Prog, Steven Austin’s artwork is hugely impressive and evokes memories of those early classic 2000AD Future Shocks from the late-seventies. It’s a great self-contained story, and one that offers a breath of fresh air amongst the Prog’s current line-up. 



KINGDOM - AS IT IS IN HEAVEN (Part 7)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Dan Abnett deals with the aftermath of last episode's bloody battle between the Aux with a surprisingly emotional death scene for Cutback. While it was obvious that Michelle Barkmann and Cutback were destined for that doghouse in the sky, Abnett made both of their deaths resonate and gave them strong final moments, instead of reducing them to cannon fodder. While this story-arc has felt like an elongated chase sequence through various corridors, this chapter ends with a shocking twist that introduces another species to the world of Kingdom. The idea of a feline version of the Aux to rival the canine ones is an inspired idea and in retrospect, it seems so obvious that I'm surprised I didn't see it coming. It's a brilliant twist and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the series.


Richard Elson maintains the same level of momentum from previous installments, especially during Cutback's final moments. I'm amazed how seamlessly Elson can switch from those quieter character moments into an action-packed cliffhanger. The design of this new feline Aux is brilliant and feels smoothly into the established aesthetics of this series, capturing the animal's cat-like properties whilst maintaining similarities with the Aux. Abnett wisely preserves Major Canis for a later date, having him survive his injuries but resting on the subs bench whilst his second-in-command heads off on a suicide mission to eliminate his targets. As this story-arc heads towards its conclusion, there is a touch of inevitability about the remaining episodes as Gene and Leezee attempt to escape from the Orbital Station. That said, Abnett and Elson still know how to surprise, and I wonder whether there might be another twist in the tale before it comes to a close.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Once again, this was another strong Prog as the various stories seem to be heading towards their conclusions in the next couple of weeks. The addition of a Future Shock adds a sparkle to the line-up, offering a ‘done-in-one” adventure amongst the long-form storytelling that has been in play since the beginning of the year. It’s tough to pick a “Thrill of the Week” for this Prog, but Kingdom narrowly edges out Judge Dredd to take the spot, thanks to its surprisingly emotive send-off for Cutback and a whopper of a twist ending.

Elsewhere, Tharg’s eyes are firmly on the future, with another tease for the 40th Anniversary Edition revealing the return of Ro-Busters with the same Pat Mills / Clint Langley creative team that brought the series back for a “lost adventure” within ABC Warriors. I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane with the “Return to Ro-Busters” storyline and I look forward to another chance to visit that era again when the 40th Anniversary Edition comes out on 22nd February.


Thrill of the Week: Kingdom


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 2017 will be available in stores on Wednesday 8th February - 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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