This years’ 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special is a celebratory affair, marking 20 years since Rebellion took over publication of both 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine. It’s a clever mix of new and old, celebrating all that’s best about the comic…
What you get in a very special Sci-Fi Special is four new strips; Judge Dredd, Kingdom, Storm Warning, and The Red Seas. The great thing about all four new strips? They’re a celebration of the new and the old, with Rebellion-era characters set off against someone (or something) from the pre-Rebellion era… all of which means you get four wonderfully fun strips that sit nowhere in continuity and are all the better for it. So, sit back and enjoy the delights of Judge Dredd vs Zombo, Kingdom vs Shako, Storm Warning vs Blackhawk, and The Red Seas vs Ant Wars.
Oh yes, all four are just a perfect celebration of the comic.
Then there’s the reprints; the classic Dredd – Leaving Rowdy, Nikolai Dante, Sinister Dexter, Terror Tales, and Dreams of Deadworld, all picked because of their particular import to the Rebellion years. Add in a couple of features and you get a wonderfully satisfying Sci-Fi Special...
JUDGE DREDD – THE IMMIGRANT – Al Ewing, Jake Lynch, colours by Jim Boswell, letters by Annie Parkhouse
Yes Dredd… Al Ewing and Jake Lynch are definitely trying to be funny here. And they succeed. They succeed so well. Haven’t laughed this much at 2000 AD for a long time.
Seriously, don’t go looking into the hows and whys of this one, just go along for the gags… of which there are, predictably, so many.
Welcome to Sector 1000 Detention Block, the place they keep the dimensional immigrants. And, thanks to the divisional acclimation initiative (admin had thought that one up), Dredd finds himself doing his officially mandated six hours a month working in a different division.
First interview… this guy…
Oh joy, oh wonderful, fabulous Zombo joy. Haven’t laughed with 2000 AD this much in a long, long time.
Mister Helmet <chuckle>, Mister Shoulders <giggle>, Mister… Grumpy? <laughs>… and it just keeps going and going.
Hell, you even get another surprise special guest on the final page. Very special stuff from Al Ewing, even a sideways swipe at immigration policy outside of MC-1 as well – beautifully done.
Only thing could have made it better, and this is by no means a swipe at Jake Lynch, who’s Zombo and Dredd are both wonderfully well done, but it would have to have had Mr Scribbly (Henry Flint) rejoin Mr Weirdy to make it a creator’s reunion.
KINGDOM – SHAKO’S KINGDOM – Dan Abnett, Richard Elson, letters by Simon Bowland
Gene The Hackman is on the search for a lost pack, down to the Antarctic, an old research post where he finds the pack… ‘All bit up, deader and dead,’ but this time it’s not Them that’s responsible, it’s something of this Earth, from a time before. Something we’ll all recognise…
Yes, it’s the Hackman versus Shako… and it’s page after page of incredible violence, where Abnett’s sat back and let Elson take the lead – and what a result, Elson’s artwork is everything you’d want the ferocious battle to be, with feral violence, two apex predators going at it, and Elson’s at the absolute top of his hame capturing it all.
STORM WARNING – John Reppion, Clint Langley, letters by Jim Campbell
Back in Brit-Cit with the grumpy old Psi-Judge Storm, right in the middle of a typical British summer, albeit one where the dead are rising from their graves. And into this comes Blackhawk, once a Roman-era Gladiator, now a dimensional travelling warrior…
Him arriving here is what’s caused the trouble, following his old comrade Battack, now a monstrous, warp-crazed demonic thing set on tearing the world apart. So, just a normal day for Storm then.
Another one where it’s not meant to be a deep dive into character, more a glorious chance to bring back Blackhawk and get some great action going, something that Langley’s artwork does here so very well.
THE RED SEAS VS ANT WARS – Ian Edginton, Steve Yeowell, letters by Jim Campbell
A salty sea tale, a cautionary thing of why young lads really don’t need to be messing about with ants. Especially not these ants…
How do you get the adventurers of the Red Seas into contact with the ants of the old, old strip, Ant Wars? Why, by the ramblings of an old sailor of course. Alcoholic ramblings or the strange true tale of the old seas? Well, it’s not something to concern ourselves with. Just roll with it and enjoy it for the ridiculously over-the-top nature of it all.
And such a pleasure to see Steve Yeowell’s crisp and clear lines in glorious black and white here again.
Now, for the reprints in the Sci-Fi Special. All of them picked for their import to the Rebellion years, with Tharg explaining his choices in an introductory section for each. It’s definitely a good selection, not necessarily the essential reading from the last 20 years, but a perfect selection of strips nonetheless. And if you are wondering about just what have been those essential strips from the Rebellion years, Karl Stack gives you 20 excellent choices in his look back text piece.
TERROR TALES – SCENE OF THE CRIME – Al Ewing and Dom Reardon, letters by Tom Frame (Originally in Prog 1296, June 2002)
Al Ewing’s first for the Prog, alongside Dom Reardon, a perfect example of how to deliver something short and ever so perfectly formed.
SINISTER DEXTER – BULLET TIME – Dan Abnett, Andy Clarke, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Ellie De Ville (Originally in Prog 2001, Dec 2000)
A one-off tale for 2000 Christmas Prog, it’s a perfect example of the essence of Sinister Dexter, breaking down a gunfight round by round, with some fabulous artwork from Clarke.
NIKOLAI DANTE – A FAREWELL TO ARMS – Robbie Morrison, Simon Fraser, colours by Gary Caldwell, letters by Annie Parkhouse (Originally in Prog 1685, May 2010)
A fever-dream episode, 10 pages of nightmarish visions for Dante, as he fights for his life in dreams only to wake and realise he’s lost more than he ever imagined, with a couple of closing pages that scream anguish.
If you’ve never read the collected Nikolai Dante, it’s something you should rectify immediately, an excellent series by two creators working in perfect synergy.
DREAMS OF DEADWORLD – FEAR – Kek-W, Dave Kendall, letters by Ellie De Ville (Originally in Prog 1948, Sept 2015)
When Deadworld first came about, the Dark Judges had, all too often, become comedic devices, their terrifying presence reduced to the level of camp. And then came Deadworld and suddenly, we went from Carry On Judging to something far darker.
As told here, it all came from a dream Dave Kendall had that led to him painting four pin-ups of Death, Fear, Fire, and Mortis. From that came Dreams of Deadworld and then The Fall of Deadworld. And we had a series of strips that brought four terrifying figures back into the spotlight.
JUDGE DREDD – LEAVING ROWDY – John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, letters by Tom Frame (Originally in Prog 1280, Feb 2002)
Well, it wouldn’t be right to have a special celebrating the Rebellion years with Messrs Wagner and Ezquerra, would it?
And Leaving Rowdy is a perfect example of what made these two creators the greatest. 12 pages of Dredd passing on his old apartment in Rowdy Yates Block to his younger clone Rico. Packed with melancholy and hints of regret, it’s made even more bittersweet with the realisation that we’ll never see any more Ezquerra Dredds.
We’ll end with a special mention for the pin-ups by Dan Cornwell and SK Moore. Moore’s an artist who burst into the Prog in recent times with his absolutely spectacular rendition of Defoe. Here, he’s delivered a double-page pin-up giving us a loving and stunning look at the history of the Prog, with characters from across its long and glorious past, pre and post Rebellion days. I won’t give you it all, just a detail, but across two pages, Moore really does some classic characters more than justice…
As for Cornwell, he ends the Sci-Fi Special this year in style, with a pledge for more years of Rebellion after this first 20. The Prog and the Meg seem in good hands here.
Long may we continue to be exposed to the Thrill-Power.