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Review – 2000 AD Prog 2015

Screenshot-2014-10-23-16_05_06Publisher: 2000AD
Writer/Artists: JUDGE DREDD: DARK JUSTICE By John Wagner & Greg Staples
THE VISIBLE MAN: THE SCREAMS IN THE WALLS By Pat Mills & David Hitchcock
THE ORDER: By Kek-W & John Burns
ULYSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE: PSYCHO THERAPIST By Guy Adams & Paul Marshall
JAEGIR: BROTHERS IN ARMS By Gordon Rennie & Simon Coleby
LOW LIFE: THE REALLY BIG CHRISTMAS SLEEP By Rob Williams & D’Israeli
MAX NORMAL: NO COMICS FOR OLD MEN By Guy Adams & Ben Willsher
SAVAGE: GRINDERS By Pat Mills & Patrick Goddard
JUDGE DREDD: THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENTS By Michael Carroll & Karl Richardson
Release Date: 17th Decemeber


With much fanfare, this 100-page xmas-mega spectacular promises to not only be the return of the Dark Judges in style, but a tharg-tastic bumper (re)entry point, complete with fiendishly difficult thrill-power quiz (you don’t want to know how badly I did, and I’ve been a 2000AD reader since the mid-80s!) Now let’s skip along from the fact that 2000AD only just did a new entry point issue already this year, and break down the individual stories in this prog.

JUDGE DREDD: DARK JUSTICE

With the legend that is John Wagner at the helm, you can’t help but have high hopes for this, especially when you’re seeing the Dark Judges back in style. Now Staples artwork, first of all, is worth mentioning as it’s perhaps not the Mega-City you’re used to: vistas that are almost inspiring, a bit stronger in the palette, but still very much Dredd – and what a Dredd, at that. With some astounding framing that really offsets the narrative, I am big fan of this team up. Just to be contentious though, I’m going to say that Wagner’s writing, though excellent, doesn’t give me enough Dark Judge! For all that we were promised, it’s a tiny, tiny tease in the grand scheme of things. I just wanted more – which, of course is the point. But it’s still excellent, the new Lawgiver really well-crafted, and bodes very well for a story that 2000AD are clearly banking on. Rating: 4/5.

THE VISIBLE MAN: THE SCREAMS IN THE WALLS

Talking of classics, I have a really soft spot for the Visible Man, a completely transparent man whom the government are desperate to experiment on. I’ll confess I’ve not read it since his original outing, but was as struck by it now as I am then. With this clear Lovercraftian homage (and given that, at the end of the original story, he escapes in a spaceship, you know there’s going to be something gigantic and Mythos about), the redoubtable Pat Mills gives us a story of, as always, humanity. The art is visceral, as it should be, without being gory, with some beautiful canted framing and distorted angles. Rendered entirely in pencils gives this a real edge, too. Sometimes the dialogue feels a little forced, perhaps, but overall another belter here. Rating: 4/5.

THE ORDER

Now putting a new “Thrill” in an issue like this is a huge gamble. And the pitch for this one – 13th Century knights, pistols, werewolves and a robot – reads like some terrible fanboy roleplay mashup.

I absolutely loved it, and for me it’s the highlight of the issue. Beautifully drawn, elegantly scripted, it’s evocative and compelling, with rich colours that complement the narrative perfectly. Without giving too much away, a young female warrior, Anna Kohl is on a quest to discover the truth of her father’s death – and it only gets weirder. Perfectly pitched and paced. Rating: 5/5.

ULYSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE: PSYCHO THERAPIST

Now this is just silly, but for all the right reasons. Deep in space, devilish and devilishly handsome ultimate killing machine Ulysses Sweet gets a personality graft, and isn’t happy about it. Cue a completely bonkers, laugh-out loud romp through the action/sci-fi genre with lashings of ultra-violece and a dark, wry message running through it. Great fun, and perhaps even more importantly, an antidote to the gravitas of the issue thus far – too often, compilation comics can be too earnest or samey in tone, and this speaks volumes about the editorial team (borag thung, etc.) as well as the work of Adams and Marshall. Rating: 5/5.

JAEGIR: BROTHERS IN ARMS

On which subject, the dark, unremitting of horror of Nu-Earth is brought to bear in this stunning Jaegir prequel. Jaegir, for those not in the know (and it really doesn’t matter if this is the case), tells the stories from the world of Rogue Trooper from the side of the reviled Nords, our GI’s foe. This prequel sets a context not only for the other perspective but the truth behind the war itself, and is consistent with the themes of futility and frustration that we see throughout Rogue Trooper (and many other classic Thrills). Rennie’s writing is hard work in the best possible way – it’s raw, emotional and unrelenting, juxtaposed beautifully with Coleby’s elegant, somewhat stylised art. Rating: 5/5.

LOW LIFE: THE REALLY BIG CHRISTMAS SLEEP

Who doesn’t love the Wally Squad? Those Judges of the big Meg that hide among the norms, forever struggling to help meet out justice without going native. It’s always good to see the Dredd-verse from a different perspective, and this blurring of right and wrong seems all the more apposite in light of present-day concerns about undercover police work. This is a sympathetic, poignant piece from a team that still seem to be finding their voice, but it sits well here against some stiff competition. A good seasonal read. Rating: 4/5.

MAX NORMAL: NO COMICS FOR OLD MEN

And on the subject of the other faces of Mega-City One, Dredd’s number one snitch, the pinstripe freak himself gets a superb outing here. One of the joys of 2000AD is that time marches on: history does not rejuve (that’s a crime), and we see tremendous growth and depth of character. So to have Maxy older and greyer – but certainly not wiser – is an absolute joy, and bringing in some great elements from other early Dredd gives you a dream package. This also gives us the best line of the issue – “Never get drunk with a monkey” – and is at once hilarious and thought-provoking, just as Dredd should be. A pleasure for fans old and new. Rating 5/5.

SAVAGE: GRINDERS

Pat Mills’s prequel to his legendary ABC Warriors, set on an alternate timeline Britain long before the wars that give us Hammerstein et al in the form we know and love. Despite having read some of Savage (Vol 2, iirc), hitting the start of Vol 9 in this issue is problematic, as it’s not as accessible as it could otherwise be. Without a bit more context for Savage, his motivations in working for the Neo-Thatcherites against the demented terrorists are at once vague and rather two-dimensional; it lacks the depth that I’d hoped for. Mills is rightly known for his arch social commentary, but here it feels a little heavy-handed. In some ways, it suffers from the quality of the rest of the issue, and if it was cast in another light, it might have fared better – which is not to say that it isn’t good, just not quite as good as the rest. Rating 3/5.

JUDGE DREDD: THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

And of course, we have to end with a bit more JD. Sort of.

A proper, well-conceived Dickensian Xmas tale is always a treat. Sadly, these things can be truly awful (I’m looking at you, Dr Who). Luckily, this particular Dredd tale manages to avoid being trite and contrived; instead we get a convincing tale of the crime syndicates of the Mega City, and one man’s contrition (or not) for the ghosts of the past. It’s a brilliant tale that leaves the reader wondering just enough as to what truly happened – but it’s certainly the Xmas present the justice department deserve. Rating 5/5.

Overall Rating: 5/5. A timely reminder that this is, truly, the Galaxy’s greatest comic. Go on, stuff that in your stocking.


SAMDAVThe Writer of this piece was: Sam Graven
You can follow Sam on Twitter


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