The Weekly 2000AD Prog 2163: Kicking into the New Year – It’s The First Prog of 2020!

by Richard Bruton

We’ve had a barren three weeks without 2000AD since the end of year Christmas Prog 2162… which means it’s time to kick off 2020 with Prog 2163!
All of which means it’s time for the start of a brand-new Judge Dredd serial, the second parts of completely new strips Proteus Vex and Feral & Foe, more from the second run of the weird and wonderful Zaucer of Zilk, and all topped off with the brilliance that is Brink. Oh yes, whilst the world in 2020 might look pretty dire (seriously, there’s a continent on bloody fire), at least you can escape for a little bit with the Galaxy’s greatest comic!

(Cover by Richard Elson)

Prog 2163 is out in the UK and on digital from 8 January, with international copies coming out later – ask for it by name at your local comic shop.

JUDGE DREDD: KILL BLOOPY – PART 1 – Kenneth Niemand, Dan Cornwell, colors by Jim Boswell, letters by Annie Parkhouse
One thing I do so love with Dredd is the fun everyone has with the Judges and their roles. I’m a fan but not to the level of knowing every rank and special uniform. Which means The Special Protection Squad Judges, complete with those VIP crests, were a delight. Although again, and this is wherte Michael Carroll will come to my rescue one day, I won’t really be totally happy until I see a full-on Admin Hudge, maybe a paper clip instead of the eagle?
Anyway, Kill Bloopy… it’s a silly one. And by that I mean silly in the vein of The Fatties et al, the wonderfully Wagner-esque way of taking something ridiculous and crafting some brilliant sci-fi tale from it. Here, Niemand does it with the idea of Mister Bloopy, constant companion of the VIP in the tale…
And Dredd’s lip tells you all you need to know.
Yep, the new defence network designer has an imaginary friend and Dredd’s on protection duty. Oh boy.

Silly? Absolutely. But Niemand grounds it and nails it, making something ridiculous an almost reasonable thing, broken Cits coping with Chaos Day grief by bringing their very own Harvey into the world. I.F. Syndrome is very real. Unfortunately for all concerned, so is the reason for the title of this one.
Great work from both Niemand and Cornwell here, a blast of old school Dredd silly, where daft meets dark, it’s a great opener for what might be one of those wonderfully wacky Dredd tales.

BRINK BOOK 4 – HATE BOX – PART 14 – Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard, letters Simon Bowland
Ah Brink, the marmite of strips. If you’re in any way involved with the many 2000AD groups online, you’ll hear a familiar refrain when it comes to Brink. Way too long, dull, boring, Culbard’s art isn’t up to the good old days, blah, blah, and blah.
Well, it’s a new year and Brink carries right on through, 14 parts and counting. And it’s magnificent. In fact, pretty much every criticism of the strip is exactly why I love it and each one is wrong, especially when it comes to Culbard’s art, which is unfailingly fabulous.

Bridget Kurtis is on the case, her commanding officer in HabSec is monumentally pissed at her for the subpoena the Hate Box idea, and now the Albino turns up, the mob boss type, and it’s time for a good tense conversation. Oh yes, the haters roll their eyes but those of us who love the strip (and we are many) are in for yet another treat.
So things twist and turn and do so in a fascinating fashion, as always it’s nigh impossible to tear your eyes from the page, as the colors shift, illuminating Culbard’s so incredibly well. And in the midst of it all, a breakthrough perhaps, setting up the finale, whenever that might be. Madness, sect crime, world porn, the HabSec, the gangs, all the threads being gloriously, slowly, perfectly together. All of which does not fill Bridge with any joy.
It’s episode 14, and the speed’s not getting anywhere near what the naysayers want. And that suits me just fine.

PROTEUS VEX: ANOTHER DAWN – PART 2 – Michael Carroll, Henry Flint, letters by Simon Bowland
Let’s address one thing I read over Christmas about Proteus Vex first. A couple of places I saw folks banging on about Flint’s art being no good, a step back, etc, etc. Oh FFS people, it’s different but damn, it’s good. You can’t see that? Really? Oh well, each to their own.
And it is different and all the better for it, shades of Zombo perhaps, but also something new for him, perfect to mark out what might well become one of those 2000 AD left-field strips, like Zombo or Zaucer of Zilk later this very Prog.

Carroll’s throwing himself into something different as well. ‘Coprolite’ in the first couple of panels? Who says comics ain’t educational. Strange characters, weird moments. Yes please.
Again, it’s a tale of two warring cultures, decades of conflict ended when the Alliance teleported a dying white dwarf in the Obdurate system. War is over. Sort of. But the scars linger.
And for Imperium agent Proteus Vex, the missions go on as well. Here, it’s a journey to the Scorcher race, a perfect bit of black & white flashback, and a chance for Carroll and Flint to enchant with the worldbuilding.
And that ship. Damn, that’s a fabulous ship.

THE ZAUCER OF ZILK: A ZAUCERFUL OF SECRETS – PART 2 – Script by Peter Hogan, art and story by Brendan McCarthy, colors by Len O’Grady and McCarthy, letters by Jim Campbell
The Zaucer of Zilk… it’s just one of those magnificently different things, where the ride is the thing. Sure, there’s a plot wending its way through it all, of wizards giving things up and finding themselves, of sacrifice, revenge, all the greatest hits, all delivered by Hogan and McCarthy.
But that’s not what you’re here for. No, the story comes under the art, seeps into your periphery as you luxuriate in the artwork. And my word, that artwork is just superb. McCarthy doing McCarthy, Len O’Grady’s colors popping out the page, unusual figures, distortions, deliberately disturbing imagery all against a backdrop of mundanity when it’s needed. Page after glorious page of it all.

As for what goes on, just enjoy it for Zilk’s sake. T’Tooth walks amongst the trousers, the Zaucer locates the Wanderer in Shinyshallow, the shoppers’ realm, Ebay in the real world, for a bit of strategising, looking to find the Zaucer’s wand. But that’s the thing really with Zaucer, the exposition happens for sure, but it’s minimally placed against the McCarthy-ish backdrop to burn your eyes out.
Excellent stuff.

FERAL & FOE – PART 2 – Dan Abnett, Richard Elson, colors by Richard & Joe Elson, letters by Annie Parkhouse
Similar, in one way, to Proteus Vex, but only in that it also features a whole new, post-war world. But this one’s more fantasy, the potential of Abnett gaggery simmering away. It’s a ‘what would it be like to be the evil leader’s minions in the years after the evil leader is defeated?’ sort of thing. And it’s really good fun two episodes in.

And the Stormtroopers here, losing their Vader, are the warrior Wrath and the Necromancer Bode, have been given their ultimatum after being captured. Go hunt your own kind or be ‘Feral & Foe’, doomed to die. It’s hardly a choice and definitely not for this pair of followers, of minor characters.
Screwed basically. Branded ‘Little Turncoat Turds’. But trying to make it work.

And finally, sad, sad news. One I covered in Comicon’s Best of Year lists, but one I wanted to raise here as well.
Over Christmas, we lost Ellie De Ville. Long-standing letterer extraordinaire of 2000AD. She passed away on Christmas Eve from pancreatic cancer.
And 2000AD, comics, everyone who knew her lost a fabulous professional, but one by all accounts with a heart to match her talent.
Her letters for 2000AD and elsewhere were never showy, never screaming look at me, look at me, and that was all to her credit. Lettering is the invisible branch of the 9th Art and deliberately so. Yes, letters can bang from the page and dominate when needed, but that’s more lettering FX than lettering proper. Ellie De Ville did lettering to be invisible, clear, readable, perfection. All she wanted you to do was take in her art without thinking about it, never pausing or disrupting the story. And she did it, week in and week out, on whatever strip her lettering was lucky enough to adorn.
Ellie De Ville. She will be much missed by us all.

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