Advance Review: ‘The Best Of 2000 AD Volume 2’ – Even More Perfect Jumping On Points To The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic
by Richard Bruton
Another volume of what could and should be your perfect introduction to one of Britain’s finest comics. For more than 45 years, ‘2000 AD’ has been full of iconic characters, fabulous thrills, and featured the finest writers and artists. This new ‘Best of 2000 AD’ graphic novel collection cherry picks from the history of the comic, presenting tales old and new, practically guaranteed to make you an immediate fan.
Ever wondered how to get into 2000 AD? Here’s your answer… simply put, it’s a six-issue graphic novel series giving readers (you – yes, you!) the chance to experience the very greatest of 2000 AD strips from across the 45-year-plus history of the comic.
Oh, you lucky, lucky people – because the history of 2000 AD is practically littered with some of the greatest stories featuring the greatest characters, all written and drawn by many of the greatest writers and artists in British comic history.
Inside the second volume, you’re going to find two helpings of Judge Dredd, a more modern tale by Al Ewing and Colin Wilson and an absolute classic by Alan Grant/John Wagner and Mick McMahon. There’s also the second part of the first book of Brink by Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard representing the more modern era of the comic, something I’ve long been telling you is one of the greatest of 2000 AD tales, a perfect sci-fi noir procedural.
Then we have three absolute crackers from the vaults, including an Alan Moore, Steve Dillon, and John Higgins ABC Warriors short, a perfect slice of quick comedy in the shape of D.R. & Quinch’s Agony Page by Jamie Delano and Alan Davis. But best of all, you lucky folks get the entire first book of the classic Nemesis The Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.
Just shy of 200 pages of incredible comics work from across the years in one fabulous volume – if that doesn’t convince you that you should become a 2000 AD reader, I don’t know what will (actually, I do, as there’s another equally brilliant volume coming out in May!)
Right, here’s a breakdown and a preview of all to expect from this second volume…
Judge Dredd: Magic Bullets – written by Al Ewing, art by Colin Wilson, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Annie Parkhouse (originally published in 2009)
How do you start off a Best of 2000 AD? Well, with a classic modern Dredd of course! Al Ewing didn’t write a load for 2000 AD, but what he did write was damn good (check out Zombo for a perfect 2000 AD creation, creative, insane, funny stuff.) Likewise Colin Wilson on art, a comic artist whose work is equally at home in 2000 AD, US comics, and Euro comics, but who’s probably most feted for his work on Young Blueberry in the ’80s and ’90s, supported, mentored, and put forward for the job by series co-creators Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean (Moebius) Girard.
And what you get is a perfect encapsulation of Dredd, a look at the insanity of Mega-City One life with a gun club using advanced, long-range, tech-heavy smart bullets, Dredd in mentoring mode, running the case while letting the one-year rookie make the connections and pull the case together. The result from Ewing and Wilson is pure procedural Dredd and a perfect opener to this latest Best of volume.
Brink: Book One, part 2 (of 2) – written by Dan Abnett, art by INJ Culbard, letters by Simon Bowland (originally published in 2016)
Now, from Dredd procedural to a noir sci-fi procedural and, as I keep saying to all and any who will listen, one of the very finest things to come out of 2000 AD in so many years (alongside Abnett’s other series The Out, with artist Mark Harrison, in terms of quality.)
Brink is just magnificent slow-paced brilliance, one that builds and builds, with Abnett and Culbard in perfect synchrony, crafting a dark tale that’s taken us into territories we were never expecting, perhaps never more so than here in this second half of Book 1. Previously, we’d been introduced to the world of Brink, as the remnants of humanity are consigned to a series of massive Habitat ships, crammed into confined spaces, all powder kegs just waiting to blow. Tasked with keeping the peace are the Habitat-Security officers, HabSec, including the partnership of Brinkam and Kurtis. Here, within the first few pages, it all goes terribly wrong, Brinkman killed after an arrest goes disastrously wrong.
That’s how it is with Brink. The unexpected happens all the way through, as we go on to follow Bridge Kurtis through her investigation, across the Habs, tracking the rising sect crimes fuelled by a collective madness that seems to be taking hold, all the while living in the shadow of the Mercury incident that will haunt the series moving forward through Books Two to Five (books you’ll feel the need to go and buy after experiencing the first Book.)
Simply put, it’s a magnificent series, up there with the finest 2000 AD has ever published.
Nemesis The Warlock: Book One – written by Pat Mills, art by Kevin O’Neill, letters by Steve Potter and Tony Jacob (originally published in 1980)
So we’ve had two more recent examples of what makes 2000 AD essential for the now, time to head back to the archives for the remainder of this Best of volume, starting with one of its greatest sagas, certainly the strangest, in the entire history of the comic – Nemesis The Warlock.
What made it so great was its alien-ness, a strip that was nastier, darker and funnier than anything else in early 2000 AD – equal parts social commentary, satire and out-and-out action Sci-fi.
Here, humanity is the villain, and the aliens the oppressed heroes. Nemesis is a cloven-hoofed, disciple of chaos, with torpedo-shaped head and bizarrely twisted body leading the alien resistance movement against the tyranny of the Human Termight Empire.
Nemesis’ arch-enemy in all this is Torquemada, ruler of Termight and full of the overblown psychosis and ridiculous behaviour that befits a truly great villain. Torquemada’s rallying cry through the years may have been, “Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave” but he’s always willing to bend this rule, eventually becoming a wandering spirit, inhabiting human and alien alike, and becoming the deviant he so hates in his obsession to destroy Nemesis. But whilst we see through Torquemada immediately, Nemesis is more opaque – his motivations and morals always remain deliberately hidden, alien to the last.
Over the course of the series it was blessed with quite unbelievably good artistic talent, whether that was Jesus Redondo, Bryan Talbot, David Roach, or John Hicklenton, but it’s co-creator Kevin O’Neill who defined the sheer otherworldliness of Nemesis, getting every dirty, grotesque detail onto pages of incredibly detailed, unsettling and graphic artwork.
And it’s that you’ll be reading here, the first Nemesis Book, 2000 AD sensibly using the coloured version that O’Neill produced for the ’80s Eagle reprints rather than the original b&w, where Mills and O’Neill drag you into their world, brutal, brilliant, beautiful in its grotesquery, spectacular in its execution.
ABC Warriors: Red Planet Blues – written by Alan Moore, art by Steve Dillon and John Higgins, letters by Steve Potter (originally published in 1984)
This ABC Warriors and the following Judge Dredd: The Vampire Effect, come from 2000 AD and Dredd Annuals, where you’d frequently get one-off tales of established characters such as this rare Moore-written ABC Warriors, beautifully illustrated and coloured by Dillon and Higgins.
Red Planet Blues has a lush, painted look, and a mood of an interlude, the sort of quiet, brooding tale that Moore did so well. As Hammerstein and the rest of the Warriors spend downtime assisting with the terraforming of Mars, there’s a spate of mysterious deaths that are quietly investigated, and all the while Hammerstein finds himself questioning the humans’ right to be here, to claim another planet that’s not theirs.
The history of 2000 AD is littered with gems such as this, stories that defy your expectations of the comic, brilliant pieces of sci-fi for all tastes.
Judge Dredd: The Vampire Effect – written by Alan Grant/John Wagner, art by Mick McMahon, letters by Tom Frame (originally published in 1981)
Another Annual story, credited to TB Grover, a pseudonym both Grant and Wagner used, together and alone, in the early days to give the impression they weren’t sometimes writing the lion’s share of the comic.
It might be a simple Dredd, all-out action from the start as Dredd and MC-1 come under attack from an alien energy/life-sucking organism, but it’s just one of those perfect Dredds, encapsulating what makes the character such a perennial favourite. Whether it’s this sort of action-packed adventure or a moody procedural, there’s scope for writers to do anything and everything with MC-1’s finest lawman – and over the years, brilliantly, they have.
Again, given it’s from an annual, there’s a lush, painterly feel to the artwork of McMahon here, artwork that I’ll brook no argument over is from simply the greatest of the Dredd artists, with the majority of this one across gorgeous double-page spreads. No one does Dredd like McMahon, no one, from the exaggerated posture all the way down to the boots, those magnificent boots it’s just perfection.
D.R. & Quinch’s Agony Page – written by Jamie Delano & Alan Davis, art by Alan Davis, inks and colours by Mark Farmer, letters by Steve & Jack Potter
And to end, as last volume and I’d imagine all of the volumes to come, a little lightness with a one-pager DR & Quinch, insanity and action, totally violent violence and a swift application of thermo-nuclear energy as Alan Moore and Alan Davis’ co-creations explore their roles as agony uncles – light on the advice perhaps, but with plenty of agony.
The Best of 2000 AD Volume 2 is out 31st January 2023 – your gateway to a whole new world of comics awaits!