Release Date: 23rd September 2020
Like many forty-somethings, 2000AD was a staple of my childhood reading, alongside titles like Scream and Eagle. I also devoured it avidly well into my thirties, but I have to say that in all honesty, it has been a good ten years since I last picked up a copy of the 2000AD prog.
That is not to say that I don’t enjoy Rebellion’s output. I really do, but somewhere along the way I just found myself enjoying the whole prog a lot less and ended up buying it just to keep on top of the odd title that I enjoyed. In turn, I moved onto buying collected editions of the stories that really grabbed me. Obviously titles like Slaine, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper feature heavily in my collection, but I’ve always been a massive horror fan so there’s also a lot of titles like Absolom, Scarlet Traces, Stickleback and Leviathan on my shelves too.
While I don’t have long boxes full of progs, and I’m unlikely ever to be a 2000AD collector of the epic proportions (of which I am a little envious) that some people I know have accumulated, I will always be a huge fan of the creative force behind the Prog, and their ability to produce such a long-lived publication that has such a wealth of variety in genre’s and styles.
So, I have been told that Prog 2200 is a good “jumping-on” point for those either new to the title or looking to rekindle their love of 2000AD, which sounds ideal for my own situation. This issue contains chapters from Judge Dredd, Future Shocks, Hook Jaw, Sinister Dexter, Skip Tracer and Stickleback.
I am going to commit sacrilege and say that I am not a huge fan of Judge Dredd anymore. In the early days I was definitely a die-hard fan, devouring every issue, but personally I think that Joe has said everything he had to say twenty years ago, and it’s mainly nostalgia that’s keeping him going. So, my first attempt at a new Dredd story in a decade and… wow, what was that meant to be? Ok, clearly I’ve missed something reasonably epic in the previous arc but this is a parody of what I remember Judge Dredd being, and it’s not even a good parody. At least in the old days, when there were some pretty insane storylines, you had some of the greatest comic artists in history bringing them to life on the page. Just six pages of Judge Dredd in this issue has completely switched me off again, I don’t know what the idea was. but Accountant Judges with percentage signs on their shoulder armour is just….
Moving on, we have a Future Shock about treasure hunters pillaging a recently dead planet. It’s not spectacular, but it is well written and entertaining enough. The art is more how I like to remember 2000AD, which I think helped a lot with getting me back into the story. Again, I’ve maybe missed something within how 2000AD has evolved over the last decade, but I remember the Future Shocks being a lot darker. Maybe that’s a side effect of growing up when they were being written by the likes of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, John Smith and Peter Milligan; or maybe I’m just the wrong age group for this publication now and living in the glory days of rose tinted memory.
Up next, Hook Jaw. I was always a fan of Pat Mills’ monster shark, although even I’m too young to remember the first run of the series. This new story starts off really well, throwing in a mystical origin to our toothy protagonist and a ghost story to boot. I was completely on board with this story until the last page, which actually made me stop and exclaim “what the…?” I’m not entirely sure where they’re going with this, but I’m a little worried that we’re going down the ghost-land-shark route. For me, the only person that’s ever successfully pulled off Land Shark, so far, is Junji Ito but I’m actually interested to see where they’re going with this and it’s a story I’d be prepared to give a chance.
Sinister Dexter is not a story I know, and this may not have been the ideal point to jump into it. The chapter we get in this Prog is basically impossible to follow unless you have previous experience of the characters and are fond of the repeated use of the pseudo-expletive “funt”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude and expletive used as punctuation can work, but you’ve got to gauge your audience. Now, given that I earlier posited that maybe I’m too old for this publication now, I’m a bit thrown by this change in target audience. I’m also not a fan of the artwork in this story. It really doesn’t feel like the quality I’d expect for a publication with this kind of pedigree and longevity.
Skip Tracer I actually really enjoyed. It’s a cyberpunk action thriller that is both well written and well-illustrated. It’s difficult to get a feel of the scope of this story and I’m honestly not sure what I can say about what felt like a 5 page teaser for a larger comic, but this is a story I’d definitely like to catch up on and explore further.
Finally, and saving the best for last, is Stickleback. I have been reading this story for something in the region of 14 years now. I have been itching to get more Stickleback and I’m so glad that it just happens to be in this issue. This is the fantastical story of a self-styled Napoleon of crime in a Victorian Steam Punk setting, penned by Ian Edginton and illustrated by D’Israeli. I’ve been a huge fan of this creative team for so many years and while D’israeli’s artwork can be something of an acquired taste, I personally think the style he’s pioneered is superb and makes absolutely everything he does immediately and uniquely identifiable as D’Israeli.
Fundamentally, what turns me off about 2000AD these days is that with the snippets of story that we get (typically five pages), it’s next to impossible to maintain interest between issues. I think that’s the heart of the problem, for me at least. This didn’t feel like a story book, it felt like a promo for a load of disconnected titles. I also find Rebellion’s somewhat random approach to publishing collections or finishing story arcs very frustrating, although in some cases this has been because of IP right issues rather than a willingness to continue the story.
As such, I’m disappointed to announce that 2000AD just isn’t hitting the mark for me anymore. I guess sometimes nostalgia just isn’t enough.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek