Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our “2000 AD” weekly review column! Every Wednesday we examine the latest offerings from Tharg and the droids over at Rebellion/2000 AD, the galaxy’s leading producers of Thrill-Power entertainment. Let’s get right to it!
Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague provide the cover
THIS WEEK IN ‘2000AD
Judge Dredd: Special Relationship
Credits: Rob Williams, Patric Goddard, Quinton Winter (colors), Annie Parkhouse – letters
Greg Lincoln:We all know this plot is a scam and that many people are being played. That said, it’s hard to watch it happening, even panel by panel. It’s especially hard knowing it’s a Sov-Block plot. Rob Williams, playing the role of Mr Vinun (who we almost have to assume to be a Sov agent), makes some pretty convincing arguments. Although they may not sound very good, they are still good if you’re the target of this sting. The talking heads scene is much less compelling than the Domino appearance that follows it, and what her appearance might portend. This all feels like a bit of preamble though; the final pages of this week take us back to the present and the clusterfuck Dredd’s assault becomes in the wake of the Britt-Cit forces ambush.
This week’s dramatic upping of the stakes is due to the art. Vinun’s deep, craggy visage is full of character. He just oozes malice when he speaks to the talking heads scenes. Patric Goddard’s illustrations of him and Domino give a great impression of their personalities. Both are great spy stories staples because of the way they were designed. However, appearances can be misleading. Dredd’s dire situation is what isn’t misleadable in the art. His Britt-Cit counterparts played Dredd and his crew. The ambush’s pace leads to action right until the shooting begins. They did a fantastic job using closeups as well shadowed shots to get the Judges and ourselves to the point when the big guns start to fire. It’s not a stellar chapter because some of it feels staged, but it’s a solid story that leaves you needing next week’s chapter.
Skip Tracer: Valhalla Part Four
Credits: James Peaty, Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague(colours), Simon Bowland (letters).
Michael Mazzacane: Thus far I’ve been onboard with the character centered storytelling of “Skip Tracer”, not every strip could be just pure character and no plot, but the creative team have done a good job of balancing the two and fusing them together. This strip is a storytelling necessity, but it feels hollow because of how melodramatically the plot pushes forward.
The reader should feel something when a character experiences something, good or bad. As Nolan’s cranky old friend sacrifices himself to the horde of zombies so that his teammates may escape, I’m supposed to feel something. And I didn’t. Not that Paul Marshall didn’t try and get that emotion out of me the juxtaposition on page for cross cutting between Nolan escaping and the zombies devouring is horrifyingly beautiful. Dylan Teague contrasts warm and cool colors to create the entire page.
It could have been the splash page. A splash page is an effective piece composition. Slowly, the gun burst into a gaping blackness. That is normally the poor use of page budget I wouldn’t like. And I still don’t love it even if it makes sense for selling the sudden and inevitable nature of the sequence. Everything is the kinda masculine melodrama you would expect but it didn’t grab me.
The twist at the end about the nature Valhalla makes this feeling even more hollow and shallow. It’s a good twist that raises questions and doesn’t undo the death but still feels like it undermines it.
This strip is a plot mover which isn’t bad. They tend to happen in this structure but they don’t have to be this perfunctory.
Dexter Bulletopia Chapter 9: Malice In Plunderland Part 4
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Tazio Bettin (art), Matt Soffe (colors) Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Matthew BlairDexter, his crew and their lives were going well. They had assessed their situation, determined what was happening, and then they could fix it.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be a very good story if anything ever went to plan, and it turns out that two of the lieutenants in the rival gangs have their suspicions and plans that involve Dexter’s untimely demise.
Writer Dan Abnett makes the two narrating gangsters the stars of the show in “Dexter Bulletopia Chapter 10 Part 4” and it’s a lot of fun. While the usual wordplay is present from panel to panel, the motivations and backstory for each narrator are explained in a way that keeps the story moving. There’s a very real sense of familiarity between the two and a sense that they were good friends in their early lives, it’s just that years of working for rival gangs has the annoying habit of making them just a bit paranoid and distrustful of each other. It’s a friendship that makes sense, but it’s still shaky enough for interesting things to develop.
We’ve sung the praises of Tazio Bettin’s artwork in “Dexter Bulletopia Chapter 10 Part 4” enough to know that the art does a great job of telling the story and all that is left is to find and highlight the little things. Bettin adds a touch of artistic symmetry to this section of the story when the leaders from each gang are assassinated. Bettin does an excellent job of keeping the story moving forward. The reader is able to scan the pages quickly and wait for the next chapter.
“Dexter Bulletopia Chapter 10 Part 4” is quite the setback for Dexter and his pals, but it’s a setback that makes a lot of sense and offers a new and interesting challenge that appears difficult while leaving just a bit of hope that Dexter will get out of this alive.
Mercury Retrograde Part 21
Credits: Dan Abnett – script, INJ Curbard – art, Simon Bowland – letters
Brian SalvatoreIt turns out that the toothy smile that appeared detached from reality may actually be subterfuge. “Evan Leeden” has finally revealed who he really is. Well, sort of. He’s a deep cover plant from an unnamed agency who wants Maz to break a story. The story isn’t even all that important; Leeden needs Maz’s story to allow some cooperation between the police and his agency. Leeden will give Maz the map he needs in order to make his story come together.
On one hand, we are supposed to be excited for Maz, because he’s getting some serious assistance from someone in the know. This could also be misdirection and misinformation. In this chapter, INJ Culbard excels at expressing nervous uncertainty. Maz and Leeden do not look at each other. This is both to make the chapter seem innocent but also to let the reader see how cloudy the whole thing is. Between Dan Abnett’s purposely vague script and Culbard’s artwork that rarely draws your eye to any real center, the chapter feels a bit off-balance.
That’s because it is working.
With ‘Mercury Retrograde’ seemingly coming to a conclusion sooner than later, Abnett an Culbard are continuing to obfuscate essential pieces of information, while also allowing the reader to get closer and closer to the truth. While this cat and mouse game can’t go on forever, it is still reading as enjoyable, despite the strip going through prolonged periods of spinning its wheels.
Jaegir: Part 2 of Ferox
Credits: Gordon Rennie (Script), Simon Coleby (Art), Len O’Grady (Colors), Jim Campbell (Letters)
Christopher EganThis week violence is all around us. Part 2 is more disturbing and incontinenceful than the premiere. The fighting and discomfort that ensues are evident throughout this chapter, without being gratuitous. The creative team isn’t playing it safe, but they are using a restrained hand, which is welcome. It allows it to be seen and accepted by a wider audience without being too wide.
It continues to be a look at the layered and darker side of a war that maybe the combatants don’t fully understand. It’s gritty and upsetting in the right way. It works, even though it is only superficial. Its greatest asset is its pace. It is quick and easy to use, yet leaves you wanting more.