The Weekly 2000 AD – Prog 2281 – First Penitent… Now An Honest Man

by Richard Bruton

45 years and better than ever – it’s the UK’s greatest sci-fi weekly comic, 2000 AD and we’re here with The Weekly 2000 AD to give you a preview.

Tom Foster with the return of Asher on the cover

After the all-ages intermission of last Prog’s Regened fun, it’s back to regular Prog with two new strips, Judge Dredd: An Honest Man and Dexter: The Thing In The Thing, along with the continuations of Brink: Mercury Retrograde, Hope… In The Shadows, and Fiends of the Eastern Front: 1963.

But before we get into all that, 2000 AD celebrates the life of the much-missed Garry Leach in the pages of this Prog, with a page of fabulous art from Rufus Dayglo


Right then – 2000 AD Prog #2281 is out on 11 May, so it’s time for a preview…


JUDGE DREDD: AN HONEST MAN – PART 1 – Ken Niemand, Tom Foster, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Annie Parkhouse

The start of a new Dredd and the return of ex-Judge Kyle Asher, first seen in ‘A Penitent Man’ (Progs 2225-2230).

Asher’s done his time on Titan, 20 years, and bears the scars to prove it. Now, working as an auxillary, Asher’s not exactly finding it easy fitting in – sure, he’s happy to serve in whatever way he can, but there are those who can’t let him be…


And, no matter what, Asher was a Judge and has the Judge’s instincts for finding trouble. Here, that trouble comes in a pile-up, a crappy rookie Judge leaving the scene too early, two stiffs in high-quality body armour, and an off-world handgun.

Yes, Asher knows he should report it to Judge Purcell but… well, the instincts and the dogged pursuit of a lead. It’s a dangerous route for Asher to go down and one that’s bound to bring him crashing into Dredd at some point.

And damn, Tom Foster’s art is superb…


That tight line, the unmistakable influences that he’s integrated so well. It’s just tight and great to look at.

As for Niemand, as usual we have the Wagnerian-ish tone, all that clipped voiceover in the captions, the tight plot, the slow unfold. And with Asher, Niemand’s got another strong supporting character, just as Noam Chimpsky did, to drive his Dredd tales along.


BRINK: MERCURY RETROGRADE – PART 11 – Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard, leters by Simon Bowland

Nolan Maslow’s investigations have brought him into contact with the Unions, he’s looked into Habitat Security, and identified Bridget Kurtis as the other officer in the union killings.

All of that means that this is Abnett and Culbard taking us back to the very beginnings of Brink, putting a completely different perspective on it, changing what we know… it’s brilliant.

Last episode though… Mas and Hab Sec finally came face to face…


And so the familiar names from previous volumes keep coming back, the storyline keeps circling around and around all the faces, the themes, the ideas – and they are some big and brilliant ideas – that we’ve seen through the series so far.

And Mas starts putting things together – trouble is, is what he’s putting together what the evidence tells him or what HabSec wants him to put together? There’s so much guessing and second-guessing going on here, perfectly captured by Culbard.


Headshot after headshot after headshot, but in no way dull, the tension over the interrogation table just goes through the roof. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Frankly, putting it this high up the lineup in 2000 AD is just unfair to the strips that come after it.


HOPE IN THE SHADOWS – REEL ONE – PART 5 – Guy Adams, Jimmy Broxton, letters by Jim Campbell

Another one that’s all about the slow build storytelling here, another one with a stellar artist, this time with Broxton working so hard with the b&w and grey tones, photo reference all over, but never looking forced, always looking sumptuous.

Mallory Hope, the magical private investigator in this alternate 1940s where magic is part of everyday life, is busy investigating a seemingly cursed film production. So far, that’s meant Hope blundering around in the sleaze and dirt of 40s Hollywood, everyone he meets the very definition of liar…


So, as Mallory asks on the final page, is it cursed because of magic in some way or simply someone with a grudge so big they’re prepared to murder because they want the movie stopped? Or could it be something bigger, someone orchestrating all this for publicity – in this Hollywood that’s more than plausible.

Like I say, it’s a slow build thrill, Mallory stumbling around, manipulated and maneuvered, but all of it building to something bigger no doubt – after all, this one’s going to run to two series (the reels in the title) to tell the whole tale, plus we’ve already had the connection to Mallory’s magically disappeared wife and child. So there’s plenty of time to just settle back and enjoy the tone and the look of this one as things get darker and bloodier.


DEXTER: BULLETOPIA CHAPTER 9: THE THING IN THE THING – PART 1 – Dan Abnett, Tazio Bettin, colours by Matt Soffe, letters by Simon Bowland

Two hitmen, the best in the business, Finnegan Sinister and Ramone Dexter have found themselves in all manner of trouble, but never as much as they’re in right now in Bulletopia – for a start, Sinister’s been killed and brought back to life by the rogue A.I. that’s taking over the city of Downlode. And he’s on the trail of his ex-partner, ex-friend, Dexter, trying to get to sanctuary in Mangapore, in the company of Carrie Hosanna, Billi Octavo, and Kalinka.

The title of this one comes in the first page – Billi talking about the creepiness of the farm – “But funt me if they’re not always hiding something in the thing.” And, given the creepiness of the setup and the isolated, rural, tech-free community of the Rejektivist Collective… she might well have a point.

However, they’ve been on the run from the A.I. for three months and exhaustion makes for uncomfortable sanctuary. And downtime means Dexter gets too much time to think about whatever growing feelings he has for Carrie, Sinister’s ex-wife.


As for Billi, well her downtime sees her wandering the farm and doing that classic horror movie no-no of going to investigate the thing… the barn thing. Nothing good’s going to come of that at all.

Sinister Dexter, Dexter, whatever you call it, is deep into this one now, Bulletopia the overarching tale onto nine chapters, made up of smaller cuts like this one. It’s given Abnett the chance to slow down, give his characters a little space to grow. It’s far, far more than just a simple tale of two Downlode hitmen – but then again, everything Abnett writes, whether Sinister Dexter, Brink, the Out, Grey Area, was and will always be about so much more than what it seems.


FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT: 1963 – PART 8 – Ian Edginton, Tiernen Trevallion, letters by Annie Parkhouse

Last episode it was Constanta back to Blighty and the tantalising notion of a British Intelligence Service that had far more supernatural operatives running around than just Constanta – something I so hope Edginton makes more us of than just than tempting little name drop.

Here, we open with a little supernatural conversation, the dragon and the vampire on the cross, talk of the first sinner… all fascinating, all so wonderful rendered by Trevallion, a second black and white strip in the Prog that proves how effective dropping the colour can be for the right strip.


Anyway, after the finale of last episode, Major Doleman, Constanta’s Brit Intel contact, hasn’t lasted all that long and Constanta himself is in bad shape – losing body parts really is becoming something of an unfortunate habit.

As is finding himself at the mercy of his enemies. And it’s finally time for Constanta to come face to face with one Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, who has his particular reasons for wanting Constanta.


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