2000AD has been hitting the comic shop racks and newsstands here in Britain every single week since 1977. But you US readers have a more difficult time getting hold of “The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic”. You have to wait a whole month between 2000AD packs, where the last four Progs are bundled up for your monthly 2000AD fix.
I’m here to convince you that it’s well worth hunting down 2000AD, and every month I’ll have a Thrill-Powered preview of the strips to look forward to.
This month we have Progs 2079 to 2082, packing in some great sci-fi action, wrapping up some tales, starting some more, and giving you the very best in Brit sci-fi comic greatness along the way.
This time round, it’s Judge Dredd meets perps his own age in ‘Nans of Anarchy‘, and one Mega-City One cit finds that his name just leads to way too much trouble in ‘The Chosen One‘. And in 2082 we get a glimpse of the very distant past of the Justice Dept in ‘The Paradigm Shift‘.
The wise-cracking gun-sharks Sinister Dexter say chocks away and take to the virtual skies in ‘Gangbusters’, an AR hit that goes predictably, and hilariously, wrong. Judge Anderson‘s epic tale ‘Undertow‘ comes to its conclusion, as does the best Strontium Dog saga for many a year in ‘The Son‘. There are two dives into Tharg’s Future Shocks, and brand new tales with the return to the nightmare world of the Dark Judges in The Fall of Deadworld, ‘Damned‘, all-new bounty hunting action in Skip Tracer, ‘Heavy is the Head‘, time travelling geekery with those Survival Geeks going to their very own ‘Geek-Con‘, and the return of a re-vamped Durham Red in ‘Born Bad‘. All in all, four issues packed with great comics. Let’s take a good look inside…
Four great covers first, with the highlight being Mick McMahon‘s triumphant return to drawing Dredd on the cover of Prog 2079. No one, absolutely no one does boots the way McMahon does boots. Prog 2080 features Judge Anderson courtesy of David Roach and Dylan Teague, Carlos Ezquerra graces the cover of Prog 2081 for the finale of the latest Strontium Dog strip. And finally, a beautiful Jimmy Broxton cover celebrating the return of Durham Red in Prog 2082.
Everything kicks off each Prog with the latest adventures of the lawman of the future, old Joe Dredd.
And old really is the key here. If you don’t already know, one thing that marks Judge Dredd out above your run of the mill ever young super-types is that Dredd ages is real time. He started off in Prog 2 of 2000AD way back in 1977. The tale began in the year 2099 and every year in real life, the world of MC-1 and Dredd gets one year older. Here in 2018, it’s currently 2140 in Mega-City One and Dredd is now in his early 70s. Sure, he has the benefit of Justice Department anti-aging treatments to keep him on the streets, but make no mistake about it, Dredd is old.
Judge Dredd – Nans Of Anarchy – Alec Worley and Karl Richardson (Progs 2079 and 2080)
So here in Nans of Anarchy, Alec Worley has a great time playing with Dredd’s age, finally putting him up against someone as ancient as he is with the gloriously punny Nans.
In Nans of Anarchy, the occupants of the Betty White Retirement Block are going to be tossed out on their aging asses in a couple of weeks. Developers in MC-1 are just as heartless as they are here in our own time. But, if they can raise some much needed cash for improvements to make the crumbling wreck habitable, they might have a chance to stay. Cue the Nans of Anarchy, members of the old time girls biker club. When the oldsters need cash, the Nans get back on their rides with trouble in mind. Feisty bunch too…
Oh yes, Dredd with reading glasses. There’s a fabulously funny idea right there for you. The feisty oldster throwing shade Dredd’s way is ‘Crazy Daisy Magonnagall’, one of the Nans. And much to Dredd’s annoyance, one of the few perps he’s never managed to throw in an Iso-Cube. Sixty years of trying and nothing. You can feel how pissed he is right there in every panel.
For two issues, Alec Worley does his finest Golden Girls gone Hells Angels thing and Karl Richardson pulls off a powerful bit of artwork, with beefed up Judges and comedy Nans all over the pages. A great done in a couple of Progs bit of Dredd.
(Judge Dredd: Nans Of Anarchy (Progs 2079 and 2080)
Alec Worley and Karl Richardson, letters Annie Parkhouse)
Judge Dredd: The Chosen One – Rory McConville and Dan Cornwell (Prog 2081)
One of the great joys of reading Judge Dredd is how simple it is for the writers to change the pace, change the tone. Sure, there’s plenty of big, involved Dredd mega-epic tales out there. But equally important are the shorter tales. Nans of Anarchy took just two Progs, and here, McConville and Cornwell deliver a short but oh so good Dredd in just one Prog.
And just as the page count can be anything from five to a few hundred, the tonal shifts in Dredd tales are what make the character so damn enduring. The Chosen One is a case in point, with a perfectly farcical little tale of mistaken identity played for laughs. Relatively new 2000AD writer McConville has a lovely comedic touch, and Cornwell, best known as yet for the football meets sci-fi tale Rok Of The Reds (with Alan Grant and John Wagner no less!) delivers a real purdy old style Dredd.
(Judge Dredd: The Chosen One (Prog 2081);
Rory McConville and Dan Cornwell, colors Abigail Bulmer, letters Annie Parkhouse)
Judge Dredd: The Paradigm Shift – Michael Carroll and Jake Lynch (Prog 2082)
After the short Dredd tales of the last few Progs, looks like Mike Carroll and Jake Lynch are going to be giving us a little lengthier tale. This new Dredd saga by Michael Carroll ties into his new line of Dredd prose novellas, set in the very earliest days of the Justice Department.
It opens with Dredd investigating a simple break-in and uncovering an old data tablet missing for 106 years, with a vital connection to something terrible that happened in the earliest days of the Justice Department. We shift back in time in the tale, with the proto-Judges investigating a US Army base, much to the chagrin of the soldiers. This is back in the days when the Judges had just taken to the streets and the status quo was changing, very slowly, very uncomfortably.
For more of the great story I have to recommend you go looking for Michael Carroll’s new prose novella, Avalanche.
(Judge Dredd: The Paradigm Shift – Part 1 (Prog 2082)
Michael Carroll and Jake Lynch, colors John Charles, letters Annie Parkhouse)
Sinister Dexter: The Gangbusters – Dan Abnett and Steve Yeowell (Progs 2079 – 2081)
Ray Dexter and Fin Sinister are gun-sharks for hire, and their latest hit sees them take to the skies in The Gangbusters. ‘Sky Scrapping’ is the latest thing in Downlode, and mob boss Arvo Blenx is enjoying the Augmented Reality thrills of playing WWII pilot. Of course, this latest hit goes south wuicker than you can wonder just why Ray keeps seeing his own thought bubbles in this AR world. Yep, it’s chocks away and tally-ho as Sinister Dexter launches into another wonderfully funny tale. Some find Sinister Dexter just throwaway, and I have to admit it took me a long time to love the strip, but love it I do, with Abnett’s comedy dialog and super silly tales ably assisted by Steve Yeowell’s stripped back artwork.
Except this time round, Yeowell’s throwing a curve for me. His art usually comes off as clean and minimal, but there are scenes here, featuring the mysterious Billi, where he’s layering beautiful tones onto his usual style…
It’s all done with a knowing nod to old-style war comics; little things such as the typ-written captions all making this Sinister Dexter a great fun thing.
(Sinister Dexter: The Gangbusters (Progs 2079-2081)
Dan Abnett and Steve Yeowell, colors John Charles, letters Annie Parkhouse)
Anderson, Psi Division: Undertow – Emma Beeby, Mike Collins & Cliff Robinson (Prog 2079 to 2080)
So far in Undertow, we’ve seen Judge Anderson going underground, taking rookie Psi-Judge Flowers, the mysterious Psi-Judge Echo, and the vampire possessed Psi-Judge Karyn to face off against the Shadow King and an army of vamps. Up top, things are going from bad to worse, with the entire Psi-Division in the grip of supernatural possession, leading Chief Judge Hershey to label the entire Division a serious threat. She’s even taken the unprecedented step of calling in help from Hondo City’s Judges with their anti-Psi abilities.
It’s been an excellent Anderson tale, with Beeby commanding things, ably taking over from long-time Anderson writer Alan Grant, to spin out a tale which, now we’ve reached the finale, appears to have far-reaching implications for Anderson and the rest of Psi-Div.
(Anderson, Psi Division: Undertow (Progs 2079-2080);
Emma Beeby, Mike Collins & Cliff Robinson, colors Jose Villarrubia, letters Simon Bowland)
Strontium Dog: The Son – John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra (Progs 2079-2081)
I’m going to keep saying it. This Strontium Dog story has been the best for a long, long time. Wahner and Ezquerra have brought a level of emotional connection to the strip with the introduction of young Kenton Stormhammer that hasn’t really been there much in the past, and it really works.
Kenton’s the son of Johnny Alpha’s best bud, Wulf, whose death still weighs heavy on the greatest Search Destroy Agnecy bounty hunter. Seeing Kenton develop, screw up, and generally put Johnny through the mill really has made The Son extra special.
Here in the last three episodes, everything is wrapped up to perfection, Kenton going up against the dangerous Glazers, Johnny’s bedside vigil, the emotional call back to Wulf, everything so beautifully illustrated by Ezquerra. A great Strontium Dog strip from two legends of 200AD.
(Strontium Dog: The Son (Progs 2079-2081)
John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, letters Ellie De Ville)
Skip Tracer: Heavy Is The Hero – James Peaty and Paul Marshall (Progs 2081 – 2082)
Skip Tracer is a brand new strip to 2000AD, but one with a real old skool 2000AD vibe about it. Following a few Future Shocks and 3-part Tharg 3Rillers, Skip Tracer is James Peaty’s first series proper for the comic, and he’s certainly hit the ground running for a pacy, exciting opening couple of episodes.
In Skip Tracer he’s got veteran (and vastly under-rated) artist Paul Marshal delivering some classic looking artwork as the first couple of episodes of this nine part story unfold.
The Skip Tracer of the title is Nolan Blake, a bounty hunter of sorts, hunting down those fugitives who’ve skipped custody or bail. Living and working in ‘The Cube’, a floating refuse dump of a city, he ends the first episode with his bounty’s brains spoiling his uniform. None of his doing, the skipper was assassinated just after mentioning he had the skinny on the goings on at the highest level of the Cube. And when his employer decides to change her mind and pay him in full after he mentions ‘The Cross’, Nolan knows there’s something bigger here, and can’t help but dig deeper, which is definitely a bad move.
It’s probably too early to call it yet, but Skip Tracer sure has the makings of a great little 2000AD tale.
(Skip Tracer: Heavy Is The Hero – Progs 2081- 2082
James Peaty and Paul Marshall, colors by Dylan Teague, letters by Simon Bowland)
Damned – The Fall Of Deadworld – Kek-W and Dave Kendall (Progs 2081-2082)
The Fall of Deadworld begins its third instalment here with Damned. It’s all set in the nightmarish alternate Earth of the Dark Judges, long time enemies of Judge Dredd. For many years they’ve been creating mayhem and death for Dredd, but these Fall of Deadworld tales take us back in time, to a Deadworld just seeing the rise of the Dark Judges. In so many ways, you can think of this as the Walking Dead of 2000AD. We know just where it’s all going, we know Deadworld falls, and falls bad, turning into a devastated wasteland where the Dark Judges have proclaimed that all life is crime, and the sentence is death.
The Fall of Deadworld began with ‘Tainted‘, with the initial takeover of the planet by the Dark Judges was seen through the eyes of remote survivors, including a simple farming family and a rogue Judge not bowing to the rule of Judge Death and his cronies. In ‘Damned‘ we’re back with that farming family, including young Jess Childs, ominously referred to as the Judge Child here. And with a decision made to rescue that rogue Judge, Fairfax, we’re off and running. (The return of Fairfax will hopefully also see a return of his foul-mouthed, sentient Lawrider steed, Byke, as well).
Deadworld is beautifully brought to life (and death) by Dave Kendall’s atmospheric artwork, totally capturing all the hideous conditions of the world. We know where it’s all going, but the journey is the thing in The Fall of Deadworld, and Kek-W and Dave Kendall bring the whole thing to a wonderfully horrible life before the inevitable doom.
(Damned – The Fall Of Deadworld – Progs 2081-2082
Kek-W and Dave Kendall, Ellie De Ville)
Survival Geeks: Geek Con – Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, Neil Googe (Prog 2082)
If you’re new to Survival Geeks, fear not. It’s a simple pickup to get into one of the funniest 2000AD strips for years.
Join Clive, Rufus, and Simon, three of the biggest sci-fi obsessives around, plus reluctant new housemate Sam as they pass their time in their two-up-two-down house. Except the house happens to be powered by transdimensional tech that isn’t quite working the way it should. So this foursome travel time and space, arguing about Dr Who, Star Wars, and generally getting on Sam’s nerves a lot. Oh, and there’s Howard, the little cuddly pet Cthulu. Awwwww.
This time round the title gives you everything. They’ve pitched up at Warp-Con XXIV. Which gives Rennie and Beeby all they need to really launch into conventions big and small. No prisoners are taken, and they have much fun pointing out all those wonderful things we all know and love about conventions… the cosplayers, the ‘celebs’ signing for cash while wondering where their careers disappeared to, the intergalactic tat, even the wonders of the comic book “guest” ghetto zone… through the door, down the stairs, usually next to the toilets.
(Survival Geeks: Geek Con – Part 1 – Prog 2082
Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, Neil Googe, colors Gary Caldwell, letters Annie Parkhouse)
Durham Red: Born Bad – Alec Worley and Ben Willsher (Prog 2082)
The return of Durham Red, totally re-vamped and redesigned, is a bit of great news for 2000AD fans. If you don’t know, she’s a former Strontium Dog, part of the same Search/Destroy Agency that gave us the great Johnny Alpha. Like Alpha, Red’s a mutie too, but her mutation turned her into a haemovore, needing blood to survive. One of the Strontium Dog’s most feared bounty hunters (by her quarry and often her fellow Dogs), she’s pitched up here completely down on her luck following the end of the S/D Agency. So it’s crappy bar work and whatever bounty job she can pick up.
As you might guess, she’s not cut out for bar work, and before you know it, Durham Red is back in the game.
Worley’s obviously put a hell of a lot of work into this revamp, and Willsher’s artwork has never looked better. This really looks like it’s a damn good strip.
(Durham Red: Born Bad – Alec Worley and Ben Willsher, letters Ellie De Ville. Prog 2082)
Thargs Future Shocks (Prog 2079 and 2080)
At just four pages long, a Future Shock has long been a staple of 2000AD. Demanding a beginning, middle, and twist in the tail end, they’re difficult things to get right. But as a break in the longer tales and as training grounds for writers and artists new to 2000AD, they’re a glorious thing when they’re done right.
Thargs Future Shocks: An Inconvenient Tooth – Martin Feekins and Joe Palmer (Prog 2079)
A funny future shock to end coverage of Prog 2079, with Palmer’s art perfectly cartoony yet delivering all the story elements Feekins packs in. An Inconvenient Tooth is a full-on Bond satire, with an MI6 secret agent getting inside the villainous W.I.S.D.O.M. organisation to take out their chief assassin The Tooth. Feekins plays it for the gags all through, with our James Bond analog having his own tooth based super power providing the final page twist.
(Tharg’s Future Shocks: An Inconvenient Tooth – Prog 2079
Martin Feekins and Joe Palmer, letters by Ellie De Ville)
Thargs Future Shocks: The Puppet – James Peaty and Nick Dyer (Prog 2080)
As with all Future Shocks through the long history of 2000AD, sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. The Puppet is one that sort of, almost works, it teeters on the verge of working, but in the end, it just stretches things a little too far. The setup, of abandoned military tech turning into wish fulfillment bots isn’t a bad idea, but it loses something in the execution.
(Thargs Future Shocks: The Puppet – Prog 2080
James Peaty and Nick Dyer, letters by Ellie De Ville)