Here in dear old Blighty (Britain to you!) we get to pick up the “Galaxy’s Greatest Comic” every week from comic shops and newsagents. But we hear that you lovely folks in the USA have to pick your 2000AD up once a month, with the distributor packaging up four weeks worth into the 2000AD USA pack.
In my opinion, 2000AD really is, pound for pound (or dollar for dollar if you prefer) the best sci-fi anthology out there. And every month here at Comicon.com, I’ll be previewing the next pack, trying to convince you to give it a try.
Ok then, here’s what’s in store for you this month… Progs 2075-2078, a couple of Progs on from the jumping on Prog 2073, so alongside a couple of Judge Dredd tales, we get continuations of the remaining four, great strips.
In Jaegir, the Nord-Souther war wages on, with Kapitan-Inspector Atalia Jaegir caught on the wrong side of enemy lines. Mega-City One’s best Psi-Judge is in deep trouble down in the Under City, where Psi-Judge Anderson finds herself in the middle of vamp trouble. Those two wise-cracking gun-sharks Sinister Dexter have a devil of a time in their latest adventure, and finishing up every one of these four Progs, we have Strontium Dog, with Johnny Alpha still babysitting the son of Wulf, his much-missed best pal.
Covers first; Prog 2075 has Simon Coleby going grim and gritty with style on Jaegir, Alex Ronald dispenses the cover justice, Dredd style for Prog 2076, newcomer Raid71 provides the horror for Anderson on the cover of Prog 2077, and best of the bunch this month, we have the triumphant cover return of Johnny Alpha, THE Strontium Dog on Prog 2078. Carlos Ezquerra really delivering all the anger, and all the brilliance right there.
Now, as to what’s inside… every Prog begins with Judge Dredd, and so shall we.
Prog 2075 sees Rory McConville, one of 2000AD‘s new breed of writers, join with veteran (and much underrated) artist Paul Marshall to deliver Judge Dredd: The Death Watch. These done in five pages Dredd’s are a staple of 2000AD, and go one of two ways usually. There’s a quick, comedy-focused short, or as in this case, something more serious, more Future Shock with Dredd involved.
The future world of Dredd is also a perfect vehicle to satirise modern life, something McConville does really well here, using Dredd ever so sparingly, just 10 panels across four pages in a tale of fitness fanatics, using the latest tech to follow just how they’re doing. Not a Fitbit, or Apple Watch, but Chronos Blood, better known in Mega-City One as ‘the death watch. Great work from both creators in here.
(Judge Dredd: The Death Watch (Prog 2075); Rory McConville and Paul Marshall, colors Dylan Teague, letters Annie Parkhouse)
And just as Dredd is a perfect vehicle for satire, he’s also adept at serving as a backdrop to reflect the horrors of modern-day life, just like all the best sci-fi does. In Progs 2076-2078, TC Eglington and Staz Johnson present Judge Dredd: Flaws, a three parter where the scourge of terrorism rears its ugly head in Mega-City One.
Any state has its enemies, homegrown and from abroad, and MC-1 is no exception. Here, the anti-Justice Department ‘Sons of Booth’ return, stirring up block tension, stoking the fires of revolt with dirt-raking reporter Mo Malik as their unwitting agent provocateur. The only issue I’ve got with Flaws is its length, just three Progs is nowhere near enough to explore some of the complex issues Eglington begins to deal with here, ably abetted by Johnson’s artwork. But there’s a sense that, like many of Dredd’s newer writers, including Michael Carroll and Rob Williams, he’s merely staking a claim to the characters and ideas for future, fascinating, longer use.
(Judge Dredd: Flaws (Progs 2076-2078); TC Eglington and Staz Johnson, colors Abigail Bulmer, letters Annie Parkhouse)
Jaegir: In The Realm Of Pyrrhus – Gordon Rennie and Simon Coleby
Truly one of the really brilliant strips to come from 2000AD in the past decade, Rennie and Coleby’s Jaegir spins out of the world of the classic 2000AD strip, Rogue Trooper. It that, Rogue Trooper played lone cowboy for the good guys, the Southers, to the Nazi Germany bad guys, the Nords. Except Gordon Rennie has cleverly turned all that on its head, and in taking away the simplistic black and white, good guys and bad guys dichotomy has created something that’s both subtly nuanced and exciting.
Kapitan-Inspector Atalia Jaegir was a Nordland officer tasked with tracking down her side’s war criminals. But now, following the fall from grace of her all-powerful father, she and her team find themselves on Nu-Earth, deep in the heart of the battle. They’re tasked with infiltrating Souther lines, something that goes wrong very fast, but there’s much more to it than that. Hints of Jaegir’s real mission here are coming out, as are terrible secrets about her father’s past.
“Our best estimates say we are in a small blackout window for Souther close satellite surveillance on this sector.”
“And if best estimate is wrong?”
“Then at least we’re all going to get some exercise before we’re wiped off the surface of the planet.”
Jaegir is quite brilliant, and Simon Coleby’s incredible art is a big part of that. His dark lines and extensive use of blacks is perfect for detailing the nightmarish world of Nu-Earth. The radioactive wastes have never looked this bloody good, and the figure work is just stunning. Credit where it’s due as well to colorist Len O’Grady, who’s worked with Coleby to really bring the world to life, mixing a muted palette for figure work with bold colors where necessary to really hammer a point home.
Talking of Len O’Grady and his work with Coleby on Jaegir, a recent interview with both over at 2000AD.com had this great quote…
…it seemed silly to not push out the boat and make the environment a star; that’s why I’m always finding tweaks for the locations and time to make it feel like more then just a poison planet, it still has environments and climate, albeit that of the inside of a lava lamp.
(Jaegir: In The Realm Of Pyrrhus (Progs 2075-2078); Gordon Rennie and Simon Coleby, colors Len O’Grady, letters Ellie De Ville)
Sinister Dexter: The Devil Don’t Care – Dan Abnett and Steve Yeowell
After the great comedy of the last two Progs, Abnett and Yeowell settle down for a longer tale. Although of course, with Finn Sinister and Ray Dexter, the laughs are always there, no matter how much action they’re into. Here, sister of an old friend has a hit out on them. It’s all a mistake, but that doesn’t stop the tattooed gun-shark who got the gig doing a “one for all, all for one thing” and heads off to off the sister. Ray and Finn are in hot pursuit, and head on after the gun shark who calls himself “the Devil”.
Oh, what a tangled web Sinister Dexter weave. but thanks to Abnett, things are rarely far from a gag, even when it turns out that ‘The Devil’ doesn’t seem to run out of bullets, or lives for that matter. Still, as Fin finds out here, hitting him with a funting taxi at least slows him down.
As with most recent Sinister Dexter’s this one’s a lovely, albeit throwaway piece, fun and light, but great fun and cleverly light.
(Sinister Dexter: The Devil Don’t Care (Progs 2075-2078); Dan Abnett and Steve Yeowell, colors John Charles, letters Annie Parkhouse)
Anderson, Psi Division: Undertow – Emma Beeby and David Roach (Prog 2075, 2076), Mike Collins & Cliff Robinson (Prog 2077, 2078)
So, the Psi-Division in Mega-City One is being possessed by something dangerous and supernatural, and it’s gotten so bad that the Justice Department considers all Psi-Judges a serious threat. Meanwhile Psi-Judge Anderson is investigating, alongside the vampire possessed Psi Karyn, and the mysterious Psi Echo, and they’re heading down into the under city. And down there… bad things. Very bad things. And in the background, Hondo City are getting involved… mysteries upon mysteries, and all skilfully handled by Emma Beeby.
As for the art, it was wonderful to have David Roach’s beautiful art here for a while, but as of Prog 2077, art duties are with the experienced team of Mike Collins and Cliff Robinson. As replacements go, that’s a fine team indeed.
(Anderson, Psi Division: Undertow (Progs 2075-2078); Emma Beeby, with art from David Roach (above from 2075 & 2076), Mike Collins & Cliff Robinson (2077 & 2078), colors Jose Villarrubia, letters Simon Bowland)
Strontium Dog: The Son – John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra
So far in The Son, we’ve seen the Strontium Dog’s finest bounty hunter, Johnny Alpha, take a young wannabe new Dog under his wing. Except Kenton Stormhammer is no ordinary rookie, he’s the son of Wulf Stormhammer, Johnny’s poor, dead bff. And in The Son, there’s a real sense of Wagner bringing a beloved character back through his son as some emotional catharsis. Frankly, it’s turned into the best Strontium Dog serial I’ve read for many a year. Seriously great.
Thanks to Kenton’s mess ups, and a particularly nasty bounty of Glazers, Johnny’s out of things, injured, fever dreaming, conjuring up visions of his old mate, Wulf. Those dreams delve deep into Johnny’s psyche, and Wagner packs a real punch in his writing here, alongside Ezquerra, who’s taken his always excellent work to a new high here.
(Strontium Dog: The Son (Progs 2075-2078); John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, letters Ellie De Ville)