Despite the name of this blog, I seldom blog much on 2000AD-related matters. I’m going to try to start reviewing each issue from now on. That said, the last time I attempted to do this I ended up finishing Quaequam Blog! 1.0 quite soon afterwards, so the omens are not good!
The Cover: Cliff Robinson is always welcome. A refreshingly quirky retro cover which has precisely nothing to do with the contents.
Judge Dredd: Cit Emp. This is a relaunch issue, and this is a very typical relaunch Dredd story. Gordon Rennie is regarded as the best non-Wagner writer for Dredd, although I prefer his own creations more (Caballistics, Inc makes a welcome return next prog).
The object of a relaunch Dredd story is to sum up the city and the main protagonist, preferably in six pages. As such, there are certain boxes you need to tick. Wacky citizens and weird fashions – check. High crime, typically involving guns – check. Dredd arresting someone for some seemingly trivial crime – check. The plot, centring around Dredd being forced to take part in a pilot scheme based on some woolly liberal idea about ‘understanding’ criminals rather than simply smashing their faces in is also a time-honoured Dredd tradition.
In short, there is little new hear, although I’m not sure if I’ve seen Len O’Grady’s artwork before. It’s perfectly adequate, veering into Henry Flint territory occasionally, but a little sketchy in places.
Rennie, via Dredd, gets a bit didactic towards the end and starts sounding a bit John Major-esque with its ‘understand criminals a little less and punish them a little more’ undertones. Overall, nothing new or inspiring, but a neccesary interlude for new readers. Hopefully we’ll get back to the serious business of John Wagner deconstructing the world he’s been developing for 30 years soon.
A.B.C. Warriors: The Volgan War V.2. E.1. Pat Mills has been winning me back over in recent years, after more than a decade of ambivalence. Very much the creative powerhouse of 2000AD (even more so than the more consistent but less strikingly original John Wagner), he lost his way in the 90s and his scripts began sacrificing plot and adventure in favour of promoting his anti-authoritarian, quasi-pagan agenda (an agenda I have at least some sympathy for by the way, but if you insist on lecturing people, at least keep them entertained!). To his credit however, he has begun clawing his way back. I loved the post-Nemesis Deadlock story a few years ago and Savage has just about got the balance right – helped by its deliberate echoes with the ongoing nightmare that has been the Iraq War. The latest Savage run was terrific and he quickly followed it up with the equally good Greysuit and Defoe, which have dominated the comic for the past few months. A.B.C. Warriors though has been his least consistent 2000AD strip (with the possible exception of Slaine), and the first ‘return to Mars’ story was dreadful (the extent to which this should be blamed on Mills or his then-editor is hotly contested).
The Volgan War has thus far been an interesting attempt to take the strip back to its roots, roots which, with Savage have been twisted in all sorts of interesting directions recently. While Savage and its predeccessor Invasion is based in the early 21st century and is concerned with the Volgans’ (read: Russians) occupation of Britain, the original A.B.C. Warriors was set some decades later with the world coming to the end of a world war fought by robots. The strip then quickly relocated to Mars and finished before it ever really got started. The core characters later turned up again in Nemesis the Warlock, set thousands of years later. This current strip is set, story wise, after Nemesis and back on Mars, but as a lot of the intervening strips involved time travel, it is not very clear when it is set. Just to make things even more confusing, so far the story has been told in the form of flashbacks set at the height of the Volgan War (cue: lots more snarky comments on US foreign policy).
Volume 1 was okay, but a little repetitive as three characters each recalled their encounter with the mysterious Zippo and villainous Volkhan during the war. This Volume promises more flashbacks, but also more actual plot set in the present. Too early to say whether it will be another Black Hole or just another Khronicles of Khaos. I was however amused and delighted to read the references to Howard Quartz this week (Quartz was the owner of Ro-Busters in the strip of the same name which A.B.C. Warriors, and specifically their leader Hammer-Stein, spun out of).
Artwise – and this being a Mills strip the art is incredibly relevant – Clint Langley continues to produce the beautiful CGI he perfected on the Slaine Books of Invasions. Objectively, it is undeniably impressive, but it leaves me rather cold emotionally. How he works at such a high rate of output is remarkable and I recall Mark Harrison’s line about speculating whether he is in heaven or hell producing this stuff (Mark Harrison, which I still associate with Travellers, had a nervious breakdown and nearly died producing CGI for his Durham Red run).
In short, thus far this strip hasn’t blown me away, but nor has it pissed me off in the way that so many previous A.B.C. Warriors strips have. Is it too much to ask for it to actually excite me though?
Stone Island: The Harrowers Part One. Stone Island was one of those uniquely 2000AD strips which came out of nowhere last year, appeared to be an odd mixture of The Shawshank Redemption and Porridge and then quickly spun off in a completely different direction, namely Society-style body horror and alien invasion. It was like having a bucket of cold sick poured onto you when you were least expecting it (unlikely as it sounds, I don’t mean that as a criticism). It stretched Simon Davis, and artist that I am rather ambivalent about because of his over-reliance of photo-reference but is now such a 2000AD stalwart that the comic would feel strange without him. And it seemed very un-Iain Edgington.
The “Andy Dufresne” character having been despatched at the end of the first run, this new strip focuses on the “Stanley Wilson Fletcher” character – now transformed into a weird half alien monstrosity – and the only other character to have made it out of the prison alive, a blond doctor called Sara. Set some time after the first strip, the world appears to have now been completely taken over by the alien invasion. So far, we’re in Survivors/Day of the Triffids territory, with the main characters hiding out in the wild, repelling the odd attack from odd-looking nasties. It’s kept bobbing along quite happily by Edgington’s gift for witty dialogue. Again, we will have to seee how it develops.
A final thought on Stone Island: this is prime material for a computer game franchise. Given that 2000AD owners Rebellion have some interest in that area, I would not be at all surprised if we saw a game based on this before too long. And if its a success of course, a film is sure to follow. Could this succeed in being the breakout hit that 2000AD has always promised but never delivered? You read it here first.