Time to head out to the land of 2000 AD, the UK’s greatest sci-fi weekly comic for four decades and counting… it’s the last Weekly 2000 AD of 2021, with the special 100-page Christmas mega-special Prog!
As you’d expect, the 100-page Christmas Prog is a bit special: new strips, one-off tales, more from the quite magnificent The OUT, and a very strange multi-dimensional adventure for Judge Dredd.
How strange? Try this…
Yep, you saw right… a very familiar three Dredds.
Alongside Dredd, there’s special one-off tales from The Fall of Deadworld, Dexter, and Tales from Mega-City One, plus the new continuing strips – Kingmaker, The Order, and Proteus Vex. And, because it’s Christmas, they’re all double-sized seasonal intros. And finally, only the normal-size still, but always a highlight of any Prog, the latest episode from the OUT.
Okay then… you can grab 2000 AD Prog 2262 on Wednesday 15th December. It’s a perfect Xmas present to yourself and others for when the night gets snowy and you just can’t face any more damn turkey or whatever fine alternative you might have over-indulged in this Xmas.
JUDGE DREDD: TRINITY – Ken NIemand, Richard Elson, letters by Annie Parkhouse
Well, as you’ve already seen, this one’s a bit of a weird one, bringing together three Dredds – the proper one, the 2012 youngster from the movies, and a somewhat shorter one from back in the ’90s, played by some bloke called Sly Stallone or something.
Yes, it’s a strange one, but it’s a damn good one. All kicking off with a tech billionaire by the name of Leon Fusk (hmmm, wonder who that’s meant to be?) starts messing around with interdimensional travel, completely against the Justice Department’s ban on that sort of thing.
Cue Dredd getting involved… with inevitable results…
And next thing you know, Dredd’s meeting Dredd and Dredd, all three of them pulled into this one place thanks to Fusk’s screwing around with things.
All of which gives Niemand ample chance to mercilessly rip on the Stallone Dredd, with our Dredd and the 2012 movie Dredd getting pally, after a little bit of everyone getting put in their place.
In the end, it’s not only a strange little thing, one of those moments where 2000 AD pulls out the weird and the unexpected to grand effect, but it’s actually something almost sentimental thing, our Dredd and 2012 Dredd bonding with our Dredd waxing slightly lyrical about the lives lost and the decisions made along the way.
And in that way, having this in the end of year Prog is the perfect way to do it.
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD: JESSICA – Kek-W and Dave Kendall, letters by Jim Campbell
With the end days on their way, it’s time to catch up with young Jess, who was leading a rescue party to save Judge Fairfax when she was dragged across the dimensional veil…
… and reappears someplace strange, full of singing monsters chasing her down and a heavy metal bus driven by her dead Uncle Luke, who seems to think they’re stuck in Heavy Metal heaven. Which, unlikely as it seems, appears to be true enough, especially as the scenes all seem to be coming from Luke’s memories of Skool of Hate’s album covers.
Strange is the word here. Jess struggling to cope, Luke telling her that everything’s happening according to the Beyond The First Veil book in his hands.
But Jess is still Jess, no matter where she is. And anyway, she’d far rather listen to country. But sometimes, the evil things are far more resourceful than she thinks and she may well be in a ton of trouble by the end of this one.
A fascinating interlude, full of Kek-W’s weirdness and Dave Kendall’s wonderfulness – between him and Nick Percival on the Dark Judges, that should be your nightmare quotient full for 2022 when Fall Of Deadworld continues.
KINGMAKER: FALLS THE SHADOW – PART 1 – Ian Edginton, Leigh Gallagher, letters by Jim Campbell
The return of another great epic from Ian Edginton – and it was only last week we were saying farewell to Scarlet Traces and now we get his and Leigh Gallagher’s Kingmaker back in the Prog.
Basically, think Lord of the Rings meets alien invasions here, but a damn sight better than that lazy analogy would have you believe.
Back in the day, the Nine Kingdoms defeated Ichnar the Wraith King and peace-filled the worlds. Until the Thorn came along, a race of aliens with the intention of strip-mining the worlds for all of their magic.
We’ve been following along with unlikely allies, the wizard Ablard, ork Crixus, and dryad Princess Yarrow, who actually appeared to have a chance to defeat the Thorn with Crixus’ power to conjure the Ebora, the world spirit.
Except that’s all gone a little pear-shaped because Ichnar has manifested in Ablard…
Oh dear, that’s not good.
Well, not for Crixus and Yarrow, and definitely not for Ablard. For us readers, oh yes, plot twist time and dire peril… just as you’d expect.
Plus, having it’s so good for us all to see the beauty of Leigh Gallagher showing us how it’s done as he delivers Ablard/Ichnar and Crixus having at each other – it’s a great thing to see his gorgeous linework back in the Prog.
DEXTER- BULLETOPIA CHAPTER 8: HOSANNA – Dan Abnett, Tazio Bettin, colours by Matt Soffe, letters by Simon Bowland
The next chapter of Bulletopia is a little one-off with Dexter having a simply miserable Christmas-time, three months on the run from the rogue AI running Downlode, still nowhere nearer to Mangapore’s sanctuary.
And worse yet, Carrie Hosanna’s sick and Dexter’s on the search for drugs. BUt with the AI seeing all, knowing all, it’s no surprise to get Tracy showing up, with Sinister not too far away – but it’s long enough for Dexter and his ex-lover to have a catch-up, leading to a revelation on both sides.
Bulletopia is a weird one, on the one hand it’s just coming off as an extended tale being dragged out until the inevitable happens and Sinister and Dexter become Sinister Dexter once more.
But then, every so often, just like this, there’s the sense that Abnett’s got a long-term plan for his characters and that this could be going somewhere way darker.
THE ORDER: FANTASTIC VOYAGE – PART 1 – Kek-W, John Burns, letters by Simon Bowland
Okay, we’re deep into the saga of The Order right now… a time-twisting, alt-reality mindbender of a series that I really haven’t ever really found that much time for. But I do keep trying…
It all started with the Wurms, creatures attacking humanity throughout history. And against the Wurms was/is The Order, a band of elite brains and warriors fighting to protect our reality.
At some point, time became fractured and things started getting even stranger – with Order alumni Francis Bacon looking to establish a new empire and Anna Kohl and the rest of the remaining members of the Order opposing him.
When last we met… Anna and the rest had fallen off Times Edge.
Which is where we are right now in the first episode of Fantastic Voyage. Bacon’s using the head of Ritterstahl, Anna’s husband, sort-of, in another time/life, who’s now just a robotic head – see, it’s very complex – to enable comms across his empire. Whilst Anna et al are going from Times Edge to the Dirac Sea, where the unknown takes shape through temporal phantoms.
TALES FROM MEGA-CITY ONE: CHRISTMAS COMES TO DEVIL’S ISLAND – Karl Stock and James Newell, colours by John Charles, letters by Annie Parkhouse
After plenty of articles and a fair number of Future Shocks, you can really see the development of Karl Stock in this double-seized Tales From MC-1, alongside relative newcomer James Newell on art.
It’s a great one-off tale, perfect twist at its end, taking us to the now of MC-1, adding a dash of colour to emphasise the effect. But what you get before that twist is a tale of MC-1’s past, hence the b&w and the classic look for Dredd on that first page.
It’s the days before the iso-blocks, where the worst of the city’s perps were dumped at Devil’s Island, MC-1’s unescapable prison. And that’s where Jack Kiley finds himself, bunking with Mister Christmas, the master assassin who’s still operating his Christmas Kills business from inside Devil’s Island.
Surviving, making alliances, maybe even thinking of escape, and hanging close to Mister Christmas, this is Jack’s tale, covering all 45 years of his time – it’s tight, intricately plotted, and a great read, with a dash of something almost sentimental there on the final page. Well, about as sentimental as you get for MC-1 anyway.
THE OUT – BOOK TWO – PART 12 – Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison, letters by Annie Parkhouse.
Only the five pages for The OUT whilst all the rest here get double-sized episodes… no fair.
Although, with The OUT, Abnett and Harrison manage to pack so much into there that it always feels like so much more.
If you remember from last week, Cyd was in trouble deep as the Tanikar had caught up with her – the impossibly fast warrior race that had already killed her once, so it’s no wonder she’s terrified.
Faced with nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, she heads the only place she can – into her flatspace bag. And oh boy, here we go for a wild ride of an episode.
Five pages of two-hander conversation between Cyd and her bag, whilst Cyd happens to be IN her bag. And it’s just superb – of course it is, haven’t you been paying attention to how good The OUT is? Shame on you!
A few questions we had get answered – like how the Bag got to be like this and a glimpse into what the Tanikar actually are. But then there’s that one big question thrown up (literally) by the end of the episode.
Damn, it’s so good. And of course, credit to Mark Harrison for doing so much, as always. Some artists would have taken the chance of this episode to do something spare and plain, using the conversation between Cyd and the Bag as a reason to go light on the backgrounds. Not Harrison, hell no. Invention and insanity on every panel pretty much.
PROTEUS VEX: DESIRE PATHS – PART 1 – Michael Carroll, Jake Lynch, colours by Jim Boswell, letters by Simon Bowland
The centuries-long war between the Alliance and the Obdurate people may be over thanks to the Alliance teleporting a white dwarf star into the Obdurate system, but that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten.
And now that Imperium agent Proteus Vex is an enemy of the Alliance thanks to his releasing of war crime details.
It’s been a while, obviously, with the hunt for the rogue Imperium Agent taking far longer than the Alliance or the Imperium imagined.
So, with Imperium agent Melody Pen Naday arriving at the Citheronian homeworld to ask some questions of Vex’s former comrade, Midnight Indicating Shame, we’re off again on the wild ride that is this one.
We’ll find out that Vex and Ko Andrum have been busy, fighting against the Imperium, rescuing fellow flesh-pilots from the Imperium… and the whole saga gets that bit more vast with every revelation.
What makes it work and what makes it so damn different is the sheer alienness of it all. This is no space saga where the majority of the cast are human or as near human as you can get. Instead, Michael Carroll and Jake Lynch have filled it with strangeness, where everything feels different, where you just can’t put human thoughts, emotions, morales, anything, on the assembled species here.
It makes it so different and it also makes it truly wonderful sci-fi.