The Weekly 2000AD – Prog 2140 Previewed: Skullduggery In The Woods With Thistlebone

by Richard Bruton

The Weekly 2000 AD, taking a regular look around the new issue of Britain’s greatest sci-fi comic, 2000 AD. Frankly, the clue’s in the title.
Shiver with fear from that stunning Thistlebone cover from Simon Davies as the folk horror series gets darker and darker. We have a new done in one Judge Dredd and more from Anderson, Psi, more from the insanity of Indigo Prime, and more of the grumpiest copper in the world as Absalom fights demons within and without.

So, join us for the preview of 2000 AD Prog 2140, out in the UK and on digital on 17 July. Elsewhere in the world, head into your local comic shop and ask for it!

JUDGE DREDD: LIBERATORS – Rory McConville, Tom Foster, letters Annie Parkhouse
Ok, it really is time to give Rory McConville something a lot more meaty with a multi-part Dredd series. He’s a great writer who hasn’t yet had the chance to spread his storytelling wings as much as I’d like to see as yet.
And Liberators is a case in point. It’s one of those Dredd tales you imagine gets commissioned as a simple Prog filler, slotted in where there’s a single Prog gap, held on file for who knows how long, no reference to anything going on, a tale that could have easily been published at any time in the last 30+ years.
Now, this is not to say it’s bad, far from it, in fact, the tale works rather well, it’s just that it seems like a strange throwback of a tale. The simple setup of two comedic bad guys falling foul of the alien creature they’ve freed as part of their animal-rights crusade is nicely crafted but feels somewhat soulless and simply done by the numbers.
It is, however, a delight to see Tom Foster on Dredd, despite his very Bolland-like visuals merely adding to the sense of this being a tale from the 70s/80s brought into the now. Seriously, look at that “CRACK” artwork above – that’s pure old-school Dredd channelled in a wonderful way by Palmer.

INDIGO PRIME: FALL OF THE HOUSE OF VISTA – Part 2 – KEK-W and Lee Carter, letters by Ellie De Ville
Well, the craziness of Indigo Prime began last Prog with William Burroughs wrestling another IP operative through a universe skin. Now, from page 1, things are just as weirdly wonderful, with ethereal dolphins breaking through the reality plane.
Yep, Indigo Prime is a strange, strange strip. And a damn good one. All you’ve got to do if relax and just go with it. And when you do, it’s a wonderfully off-kilter sort of strip, full of multiversal madness, a real trip. Yes, it’s difficult to take in at times, too many characters being thrown at you, too much going on, but it’s got that feel of a sci-fi roller-coaster ride, better to simply go with it. And a big part of this is the art from Lee Carter, who’s found a perfect strip for his style in Indigo Prime.

ANDERSON PSI-DIVISION: MARTYRS – PART 4 – Emma Beeby. Aneke, colors by Barbara Nosenzo, letters by Simon Bowland
With Anderson increasingly desperate to find Psi-Judge Karyn, it’s not helping things to have the Chief Psi-Judge hang Karyn out to dry. But Karyn knows nothing about all this, she’s busy diving deeper into the cult of the Lotus, enjoying the newfound control over her transformations being down in their lair gives her.
So, Anderson being Anderson, it’s no surprise to see her disobeying orders, risking her own life, all in the quest to save someone she feels tied to.
Beeby does seem to get Anderson, writing her so well, and Aneke’s artwork really does suit the style of the strip, a pleasant addition to 2000AD.

ABSALOM: TERMINAL DIAGNOSIS – Book Two -PART 5 – Gordon Rennie, Tiernan Trevallion, letters Ellie De Ville
With Harry Absalom and his mob deep in the nightmarish world of the Mills, things are getting very worrying here… a definite sense that there will be blood before it’s all over, demonic presences everywhere, taking very familiar, very deceptive forms.
A wonderfully done episode, full of split pages, two different scenarios playing out on the page, Trevallion’s artwork conveying everything, the pacing, the chills, the thrills of a well played out nightmare tale ever so well.
Oh yes, Terminal Diagnosis is really an excellent piece of work.

THISTLEBONE – PART 6 – TC Eglington, Simon Davis, letters by Annie Parkhouse
Six parts in and the madness really is building, the simmering violence that’s been slowly infiltrating every page makes itself known from the start here. But even that is underplayed, all the better to keep the tension going, Eglington and Davis controlling things ever so beautifully, a jump cut away from the terrible events on page one, back to a normal conversation that turns strange onto page two.

It’s an incredible strip, full of taut, tight storytelling, a lesson in how to build tension, send a chill down your spine, make you wonder just where it’s all going to go, Thistlebone is one of those strips that may well be remembered long in the memory of comic fans.

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