Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2000 AD Prog #1703 Review

As part of UK Week, I decided to pick up Britain’s foremost sci-fi magazine. 2000 AD, a weekly anthology magazine, has been running for decades now, and has featured in the past a pedigree of creators that would make every comic fan wet themselves: from Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and many, many more.

Wildly popular in the United Kingdom, it has failed to really catch on in such a widespread way in other lands, where it remains as more of a cult and niche item, and where it bears the stigmas of anthologies. I decided to jump in feet first, with little-to-none prior knowledge about what I was to read. Hit the jump to see what I thought about it

2000 AD #1703

Written by Various
Art by Various

The issue itself is divided into five different stories, each one roughly taking up between five and seven pages. The stories are actually quite varied in it’s theme, story and art style, which is quite nice for an anthology. We are also greeted by a short note from the editor, Tharg. In it, he makes fun of Clint magazine because of the alienation that the first issue caused among female readers, mentioning that 2000 AD is an equal-opportunity thrill provider.

I also wanted to ask something: there is a little image in the index that says "Thrills of the Future" that mentions a story called Kingdom by Dan Abnett and Richard Elson that is nowhere in the magazine. Is this just a teaser of future stories or what? Help a newbie out! On to the individual chapters...

Judge Dredd - The Skinning Room

Written by John Wagner
Art by Ben Willsher and Chris Blythe

When I said in the intro that I jumped into this thing without prior knowledge, I wasn’t kidding. All I know about Judge Dredd comes from random articles I’ve read on the internet and the Silvester Stallone movie (a nerd sin, if there ever was one). So with just the vaguest knowledge of the mythology behind this tale, and considering this was part four of a storyline, I was actually surprised how quickly I caught on to what was going on.

The Judges are all leading a big charge into a particularly nasty piece of Mega City One, a huge futuristic metropolitan city. They suffered some injuries, and one of them got separated from the group, Officer Riggs. She was somehow captured by some psycho that likes to skin people, and he’s planning to make a blousson out of her skin (the story is called The Skinning Room for a reason). My knee-jerk reaction is to be a bit offended that it happens to be a woman (the sole one of the judges by the look of it, though it’s a short story and hard to tell) that got caught. The story however, implies that it was pure chance that she got captured, and that it could have happened to anyone of the Judges. Perhaps readers that caught the previous parts could fill me in on that?

The story was short but quite good, and left me wanting for more, which is what all anthology stories should do. I don’t know all the names of the Judges, and because they all look the same in their armor, it was a bit hard at first to figure out who they were talking about. That being said, for the fourth part of a story, it was quite reader friendly (or at least it seemed that way to me). Creepy and interesting, this tale was my favorite one by far of the group. The art is quite fitting as well, grittier during the skinner scenes, and more bright on the other ones.

Defoe - A Murder of Angels

Wirtten by Pat Mills
Art by Leigh Gallagher

This story is kind of all over the place to be honest, it’s about Titus Defoe, who leads a squad of zombie hunters who kill the undead after the Great Fire of London. As far as high concepts, that’s pretty hard to beat, and the moody black and white art certainly helps this tale, not to mention the zombie crocodile. Yes, zombie crocodile.

Just like the previous story, this is a part four of an arc, but I found myself more lost as to what’s going on in the pages. There’s a lot of characters, and a lot of action, not mention hordes of zombies. Perhaps if I had jumped into an earlier part, I would have enjoyed this a lot more. That being said, there’s a seriously cool scene with the Ravenmaster. I want to read a whole series about him, please!

Age of the Wolf - Run, Rabbit Run

Age of the Wolf is the “cover story” of this week’s 2000 AD, as the star Rowan graces the cover, as she is being chased by a huge werewolf. It takes place in London, which has been overtaken by lycanthropes, with few survivors trying to stay alive. Most of the action occurs as Rowan tries to step ahead of the werewolf that is chasing her, through the streets of Westminster. As a tourist that just visited the place, I appreciated this because as I read it I would keep saying to myself “Hey, I was just there!”

There is not a whole lot of meat to the story, but it gets bonus points for crafting a nice and suspenseful chase sequence. The ending is quite open, and I’m not terribly sure what it’s hinting at, but enjoyed what was there. The art was perhaps a bit more polished than the rest of the book, and it makes it stand out from the rest, though if you prefer your art dirty and gritty, it may not be your thing.

Low Life - Hostile Takeover

Written by Rob Williams
Art by D’Israeli

This short story takes place in the same universe as the Judge Dredd one, though it doesn’t feature Dredd and just a lone Judge. Instead, it centers around the Wally Squad, members of the Justice Department who go undercover into the city. It’s a dangerous job, made worse because a corrupt Judge has seemingly sold them out. Or something. To be honest I was quite lost with this one, even if it was really funny. The artwork reminded me of Rob Guillory’s artwork for Chew (in black and white), and some of the designs are quite memorable.

Just like the previous sections of the story, this is a fourth part. Is it always like this? It makes me wonder why they don’t switch it around so if you decide to jump into an issue, you don’t get all fourth chapters. I would have appreciated some opening chapters as well, you know?

Nikolai Dante - City of the Damned

Written by Robbie Morrison
Art by Simon Fraser & Gary Caldwell

I guess I’m just going to sound like a broken record here, but once again I feel like I walked in the middle of a movie. Which to be fair, I did, but Nikolai Dante shows promise, although there’s a lot going on. Lots of references to previous events that I’m not sure I follow, though a Russian revolutionary family fighting invading forces and each other sounds like it’d be right up my alley.

I also got a feeling that the art and script were somewhat rushed, perhaps because of the limited page count that each story gets in the anthology and the weekly schedule, but this is the only one where it was noticeable. The art is uneven at times, particularly with some of the faces, and the lack of backgrounds.

Verdict - Check It. It seems to be the default rating that anthologies get, but it’s true. It’s a mixed bag, and not everyone will love everything inside this prog of 2000 AD, but there’s two or three stories here that are sure to catch your eye.

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Nick! said...

Heh... hey, Matt, as you know I only recently started buying 2000AD again myself... at the most recent jumping on points, one of which you've unfortunately run foul of here.

Ordinarily, the beginnings and endings of stories in 2000AD are much more staggered - the stories are never uniform length, so it can get a bit frenetic, but every once in awhile they'll time a few new stories starting together, to make a decent jumping-on point for new or returning readers. It was one of those around four issues back that prompted me to start buying it again, but as you noticed, that causes you a few problems if you come in a few weeks later.

The Judges are deliberately quite anonymous, and yeah, it does read as just a coincidence that the female one in that squad gets nabbed - previously that killer has only ever killed men. Ordinarily, Mega City One is a fairly gender-neutral sort of place - the violence there suggests masculinity, but actually female judges are commonplace.

The guy doing the art on Lowlife is D'israeli, and one of my favourites. You should endeavour to check out as much of his work as you can. He is brilliant, and always different, and though his career-proper started with Warren Ellis's, on Lazarus Churchyard, his strip in Deadline magazine was always my favourite, outstripping the more famous Tank Girl by miles in my estimation.

Seriously, you should check out the sale that Mongoose have on 2000AD books - they've got arguably the first Low Life book, Mega-City Under Cover, with work by Jock, Andy Diggle, Rob Williams AND Simon Coleby, and the first Nikolai Dante book, among others - Dante goes WAY back. And I think they despatch all over, though I may be wrong about that.

It's here: http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/rpg/series.php?qsSeries=67 (And you have to scroll to the bottom to find the sexy 2000AD comic stuff!)

John P said...

You're right - Thrills of the Future is a little teaser of what's coming up.

As for the Judge being captured being the only woman, there are certainly plenty of female Judges around - two of the previous Chief Judges have been very strong female characters. And she was caught by the skinner as the only Judge to have thought something was wrong when investigating the apartment and returning to confirm her suspicions - only to be surprised and attacked as she discovered the skinning room. So she was shown as very perceptive.

2000AD tends to have regular jumping on points with part 1 of every story, which is where I suppose most people are meant to give things a try. That's probably a better sales tool than rotating starting episodes - like a new #1 in US comics.

Personally, I rate Dredd, Low Life and Dante from the current stories and skim through Age of the Wolf and skip Defoe. The good thing about 2000AD is there's always something worth reading, even if one or two of the strips that week aren't to your taste.

Flip The Page said...

on the note of woman it's kinda funny that the Megazine this month made a point of having four female leads and a dredd story with a powerful woman in it, so it kinda counterbalances the one weak female moment from them in this

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing some attention to 2000AD, Infaboy have been pitching in too!

Anyway, I implore you to pick up Progs 1700-1702, This is only my third or so outing with Low Life but this is by far the easiest to follow, and I'm sure you will be able to appreciate it more. And even though you already found Dredd relativley easy to follow, with the earlier installments to add to the creepiness factor, its good stuff.

Nikolai Dante is defintley a series you would have to jump on from part 1. But it is so worth the effort. Stories where you can see the characters grow and change, where there is a defintite ending in sight, where no one is safe are a rare treat compared to american comics. There is some amazing art in their to boot. The earlier tone of the series is much more comical, swashbuckling erol flynn style.


Anonymous said...

For me its Dredd & Low Life> Nikolai Dante > Defoe > Age of Wolf.

I really don't like Age of The Wolf I was epexting something different. For it to be more like a classic horror with a little bit of a twist. More like Gradlegrave for 2000AD followers.


Matt Duarte said...

@John: I was pretty disappointed, I really like Dan Abnett, and when I got to the end of the magazine and the story wasn't there, I realized that "Thrills of the Future" wasn't the name of one of the strips.

Nick/Lee: I'll see if I can get more 2000 AD, though I might have to resort to collections, because I've been trying to cut down on my floppies, and a weekly magazine would go against that.

Matt Duarte said...

Also, Max, "Tharg" commented that same thing. Guess they really enjoyed making fun of Millar, but then again, Millar pretty much said that 2000AD series weren't relevant anymore, so I guess it evens out.

Anyway, funny how all the Brits came out to comment on this review, but none of our regular American commenters.

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