Monday, May 21, 2012

2000 AD prog 1775

All in all, in my experience, the Brits do a pretty good job at crafting memorable and entertaining Science Fiction. From franchises like Dr. Who, The Prisoner, Red Dwarf, Quatermass, and Dan Dare to prolific comic writers/authors like Neil Gaiman, Alans Grant, Moore, and Davis, Grant Morrison, the British have a continued tradition of innovative and noteworthy storytelling within the genre.
One of the launching points for many of Britain's comic artists and writers is a magazine called 2000 AD. Launched in 1977 and having over 1,800 issues, it's fair to say that 2000 AD has contributed a great deal to the comic world in both volume and in the caliber of its contributors. Dave Gibbons, Mark Millar, Carlos Ezquerra, and a host of others have contributed and creations of the magazine include Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog, and Sláine the Berserker.
Anyone who immediately thought of a curly-lipped Judge Dredd fighting Armand Assante deserves to burn in blackest Rob Schneider hell, by the way.
I used to pick up American reprints of old 2000 AD stories that Eagle Comics and Quality Comics had produced and seemingly placed directly in the Quarter Bin of my comic shop. Having been originally been 4-5 page serials in an anthology book, these stories dispensed with the foreplay and were nearly cover to cover action. Later in life, having learned the origin of these sci-fi adventures and having been convinced to start ordering out of Previews, I started getting 2000 AD and revisiting my old friends Judge Dredd and Johnny Alpha.

First story:
Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos, pt. 11
Script: John Wagner
Art: Henry Flint

To those unfamiliar with Judge Dredd, it's essentially a cop story. That takes place in a totalitarian society in a dystopian future. With a tough as nails street judge who never takes his helmet off. Ever.
This tale finds our titular hero embroiled in a citywide battle with an anarchic terrorist group intent on releasing a virulent bioweapon in Dredd's Mega-City One.
Having followed the story for most of its' 11 parts and counting, author Wagner is doing a solid job balancing action and episodic storytelling, no surprise considering he co-created the character in 1977 and has been writing it ever since. The art is fairly good, slightly reminiscent of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and well suited to the dystopian, almost Neo-noir atmosphere of Judge Dredd's world.

Second story:
The Zaucer of Zilk, pt. 1
Script: Brendan McCarthy & Al Ewing
Art: Brendan McCarthy

This is an interesting piece. It opens with a mildly psychedelic street setting depicting a dispossessed youth wandering through a rainy cityscape. A prose narration invites us to follow the youth through his drudging existence. He meets a surreal Luciferian fellow in a dilapidated sweet shop who invites him to eat some apple candy. The youth, much to the chagrin of the proprietor of the shop, grabs another confection and runs back into the street. He eats the candy and finds himself transported to another realm , wearing a garish costume and accompanied by a woman in a fur coat with what appears to be a propellor on her head and another fellow that I could only describe as a bald, blue, midget version of McGruff the Crime Dog. Wearing a purple suit.
Wacky Brits...
There's an obvious Alice in Wonderland nod in the opening chapter (or a Matrix nod if you wanted to lowbrow it), and hopefully this serial will continue to spiral maddeningly.

Third story:
Flesh: Midnight Cowboys, pt. 2
Script: Pat Mills
Art: James McKay

This is one of the best ideas in comics. The premise of Flesh is thus: In the 23rd Century, livestock are extinct and man is tired of eating synthetic foodstuffs. The solution?Send the cattlemen of the future back in time to the Cretaceous Period, round up dinosaurs, butcher them and sent the meat to the future.
I could stop reviewing now and be satisfied.
But it gets better.
Evidently the villain of the series is a jet black tyrannosaurus Rex with a '666' brand/scale pattern and is named Gorehead.
If this wasn't enough, when Gorehead attacks the herd of dinosaurs being driven by our time traveling cowboys they attempt to drive him off by putting smaller dinosaurs through a meat grinder/gun and firing chum at the offending T-rex. The intent is that other predators will be attracted to Gorehead and kill him in a feeding frenzy.
This is too ludicrous not to like. I look forward to future installments.

Fourth story:
Age of the Wolf II: She is Legend, pt. 4
Script: Alec Worley
Art: Jon Davis-Hunt

In 2016, the Earth finds itself under a permanent full moon and scores of werewolves begin to appear. The resulting comic reads a bit like a survival horror story with werewolves replacing zombies in the apocalypse. A group of rag-tag heroes struggles to...well, you know the drill. I do like the fact that our archetypical tough as nails leader of the group is a younger woman with a red hood.
Aside from the initial premise being a new one, this storyline has yet to really engage me. The art and colors are very crisp and the pacing is fine, I just haven't warmed up to the script.

Fifth story:
Nikolai Dante: The Dante Gambit, pt. 2
Story: Robbie Morrison
Art: John Burns

From what I've been able to gather about the Nikolai Dante universe it takes place in the 27th century where a bastard heir to the crown raises a rebel army to topple an evil tsar and his tyrannical empire. Fairly cliche and formulaic, but certainly entertaining and the character design is outstanding. It draws on Russian imagery and iconography and does a great job of blending archaic design with futuristic technology. I think my favorite example of this has to be the imperial palace, which is a giant floating Faberge egg with laser turrets.
This particular installment of the Dante saga takes place after his successful coup as he sets his mother's funeral pyre ablaze, followed by his paramour discussing with Nikolai how best to rebuild the empire. The story ends with the reveal that Dante's evil brother has survived the coup and has designs on the throne...
This hasn't been a bad installment, mostly due to the costume and background design, and the character of Dante himself. He's your archetypical ne'er do well rogue in the vein of Errol Flynn and Han Solo. The guy that every guy wants to be and every girl wants to sleep with. The story is even peppered with excerpts from his biography which is titled, 'Nikolai Dante: Too Cool To Kill'.

For having 4-5 serial per weekly issue, 2000 AD is chock full of ludicrous, usually over the top sci fi action and still manages to convey some relatively good storytelling. All in all, this book is definitely worth my £2.35 a week. I'm really not sure how much money that is in 'Merican monies, but I think it equates to about six bucks give or take. The big selling point for me is the book is ad-free with the exception of a plug for a Judge Dredd vs. Zombies phone app game.
Which is free, and pretty fun actually. 2000 AD will remain on my pull list, providing some much needed juvenile sci-fi escapism that guarantees to be event and crossover free.

By: Will "Money for Nothing and Chicks for Free" Dubbeld

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