Shot Glass of Rocket Fuel: 2000 AD Progs 1808 - 1811
By Chris Gannon
06 December 2012 — Borag Thungg, Earthlets, and welcome to the second edition of Shot Glass of Rocket Fuel, my 2000 AD review column. Last time I mentioned a wonderful narrative device that I don't believe had ever been used before. It's one that made amazing use of the anthology format, and must have required a massive effort to coordinate; it turned out that three of the strips (Judge Dredd, The Simping Detective, and Low Life) were actually connected. That may not seem so shocking, given they're all set in the same universe, but Mega-City One is a big bloody place. On top of that, Dirty Frank was on the moon! Anyway, more on those strips later. First up: ABC Warriors!
ABC Warriors: Return to Earth
By Pat Mils and Clint Langley
Having read this all back through, I really did enjoy it quite a bit. Admittedly, it was mostly for Langley's art, but Mills' writing is brimming with energy and ideas. Sometimes his satire lacks subtlety, but given the targets he chooses I doubt he sees the point in being subtle. His greatest strength is that he writes for the artists, and in Langley's case that means he's writing two kinds of stories for two different styles of art. It's gorgeous to behold, and is a great example of a productive pairing. Pat's the father of 2000 AD, and without him I sincerely doubt that the comic would have lasted five years, let alone 35. I enjoyed this installment of ABC Warriors, and Hammerstein's flashback is probably the most fun standalone story Mills has written in years. That said, I still suspect that this story will be fairly inaccessible to new readers.
By Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard
The first book of Brass Sun has come to a close. To be honest though, it only feels like the first half of the first book. Wren has her task, the most important in all of the Orrery: restarting the eponymous Brass Sun at the center of it all. The adventure ends with Wren and her companion, Septimus, meeting a new ally and unknowingly getting into deeper danger. Brass Sun did a wonderful job laying down subplots and showing the sheer scale of these planets, and you get a sense that Wren's biggest impediment will be the smaller scale politics in each of the places she visits. Great stuff and I'm hoping that the next book begins soon. From what I understand, INJ Culbard will be the artist on that too, and I'm looking forward to more of his art.
The Simping Detective: Jokers to the Right
By Si Spurrier and Simon Coleby
Low Life: Saudade
By Rob Williams and D'Israeli
Judge Dredd: The Cold Deck
By Al Ewing and Henry Flint with colors by Chris Blythe
I've decided to cover all three series in the same review because, as of Prog 1807, it became clear that all three series were linked. This really was a remarkable achievement given the busy schedules of all of the writers and artists involved, and full credit must go to Tharg's representative on Earth, Matt "Not The Doctor" Smith, for so effectively organizing it. 2000 AD had been running a campaign of teaser images for "The Cold Deck" for several weeks, hinting that it was going to be a story of some scope. But suffice to say, no one saw this coming. After the events of "Day of Chaos," where the city was left in ruins, the writers did a wonderful job of showing the Meg to be a place where hope was diminishing fast, and people seemed to be waiting for its slow, agonizing death. All the while, they'd surreptitiously laid down plotlines to show that some people, like Bachmann who was formerly head of the Meg's Black Ops division, weren't waiting around at all. Bachmann's plan was so much bigger than anyone expected, both from the perspective of the readers and the characters. The three strips do an excellent job of showing that scale while telling three different stories in their own right. Dredd shows himself to be a master investigator and someone who Bachmann managed to underestimate. Jack Point tries to escape it all, but is dragged into acts of heroism that every one of his instincts tells him not to perform. And Dirty Frank's fragmented mind reassembles itself for long enough to perform an act of desperate heroism. By the close of Prog 1811, Dredd and Frank have managed to succeed in their goals, yet their actions have forced Bachmann to act far sooner than she had planned. All three of our protagonists are left in dire circumstances going into Prog 1812, and you do get the feeling that not everyone is going to make it. A week has never seemed as long as it has between Progs 1811 and 1812.
The work of all three artists has been excellent as well. Flint has positioned himself as the name artist of the modern Dredd era. He provided a large number of episodes for last year's "Day of Chaos," and now you can tell that any story with his credit on it will be important. There's a fantastic set of panels (pictured above) where he provides a flashback to the end of the 1980 "Judge Child" saga, which wordlessly shows how the intervening decades have hardened Judge Hershey. He's incredibly adept at depicting all of the big action and the quiet moments of this story. Chris Blythe is someone who doesn't get mentioned enough, but his color work on Dredd always delivers a high quality. He's probably worked on more Dredd strips in the last decade than anyone besides John Wagner, and 2000 AD would be a lot worse off without him.
Simon Coleby's been a welcome replacement for Frazer Irving on the Simping Detective, providing a grittier pen and ink style with occasional psychedelic washes — as opposed to Irving's painted style where the splashes of color were bold. Coleby is particularly fantastic at depicting the more grotesque of Mega-City One's inhabitants, and his page where Jack falls under the auspices of the Godcity programming is something to behold.
What can really be said about D'Israeli? I mean, look at the wraparound cover for Prog 1811! D'Israeli is in another class when it comes to depicting futuristic cityscapes, and never seems to shrink at the challenge of whatever Williams writes for him — whether it's a city designed by a madman obsessed with sharks, a Klegg deeply offended by Frank's culturally insensitive assumption that he'd eat a human being alive, or Dirty Frank wearing nothing but a pair of Y-fronts and a thin membrane of plastic separating him from the vacuum of space.
As a final thought, it only occurred to me to look up what Saudade actually meant. According to Wikipedia, it "describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves." It's a fantastic term that fits in amazingly well with the current state of Mega-City One.
As I've said before, I can't remember being as excited for any comic as much as I am for Prog 1812. The last 12 weeks have been one of the strongest runs of 2000 AD in particular and comics in general. This year has been a very good one for 2000 AD, and I can't wait to see how it ends.
Where to buy 2000 AD
For those looking to buy 2000 AD, it should be available in most newsagents and comic shops in the UK. For those in the US, digital is your best option as it is available from 2000 AD's website and through the iTunes Newsstand app.
Make sure you stop by Pete Wells' 2000 AD blog. He always has great notes from the artists. And D'Blog of 'Israeli, where D'Israeli goes into extra details on his current work.