Editor: Matt Smith
Title: The Good Man
Writer: John Wagner
Artist: Jim Murray
Letterer: Tom Frame
In this seasonal offering Wagner shows the journey of Dredd from the Cursed Earth back to Mega-City One after apprehending a fugitive. A snow storm forces them to take shelter in mutant commune led by a human called â€œDocâ€ who has dedicated his life to looking after and educating the mutants.
Wagner delivers his usual tight scripting with a traditional Dredd story that is a mixture of straight action and comedy quips. Of course as he’s been doing these for over 25 years he doesn’t really put a foot wrong although saying that I have my doubts about the end, as to me Dredd is being uncharacteristically harsh.
However, the attraction of this story is not the script but the return after a five-year absence of Jim Murray to 2000AD (even if he was more a Megazine artist). To be honest the art is almost unrecognisable from the paints that brought Murray to prominence on Holocaust 13 with some top quality computer colouring adding greatly to what are expressive, detailed and a times highly humours pencils. A good use of shadows (and proper ones, not Batman style ones) add a lot of texture to the art and make it look more â€œthree dimensionalâ€.
A good story that acts as the perfect showcase for Jim Murray’s excellent art.
The Red Seas
Title: Twilight of the Idols
Writer: Ian Edington
Artist: Steve Yeowell
Letterer: Annie Parkhouse
In the second series of 2000AD pirate series the Red Seas following the adventures of Captain Jack Dancer ex of the Royal Navy, current of the Jolly Roger (i.e. he’s a pirate). The first one last year was an enjoyable mixture of the occult and pirate action similar in many, many ways to the Pirates of Caribbean. I mean seriously if the first series had been written last summer, it would have appeared a rip off.
Anyway we open with poor Dancer down on his luck after being dumped by his hitherto damsel in distress. We see him drinking his sorrows away and basically falling apart at the seams. Edington brilliantly writes these scenes using the fall of Dancer to flesh out his character and make him a far more sympathetic character than the swashbuckler he was previously.
However, Edington quickly moves onto to establishing a new status quo that is intriguing in the pulpy kinda way that this series excels. Yeowell’s clean, smooth lines perfectly suit the strip conveying a simple, energetic style that captures the adventurous spirit of this story.
An energetic series that is the perfect stop gap for those awaiting the next Pirates of Caribbean movie.
Monsters of Rock
Writer: Gordon Rennie
Artist: Frasier Irving
Letterer: Ellie De Ville
The third in a irregular series of one-offs where the creators of Necronauts (available in all good bookstores in TPB) and Storming Heaven join once more to make fun out of the 50s public service newsreels. Of course unlike those newsreels which had some two-bob actor these have Tharg, alien editor of 2000AD. In this one they turn their attention to the subversive qualities of RAWK.
Although these are nominally satires of 50s moral panics the tone is so OTT and with such non-satirically elements like Tharg and alien police officers the strip offers about as much political commentary as an average anti-globalisation march. Instead, Rennie’s amusingly anarchic script simply throws out political references in way that is both ludicrous andâ€¦well just ludicrous really.
Irving does a great job on the art with his style managing to both play up the humour of the piece whilst maintaining the horrifying tone of Tharg’s narration. His colouring is great too with the lurid colours perfectly suiting the prevision of the decade of Technicolor.
A great strip that will amuse anyone that enjoys satire, with no political agenda rammed down our throats but simply used to make jokes.
Title: The Books of Invasions ~ Scota
Writer: Pat Mills
Artist: Clint Langely
Letterer: Ellie De Ville
This is the third book in the Book of Invasions, which has seen Slaine, former first High King of Ireland defend his Ireland from two invasions. The first by the â€œSea Devilsâ€ led by Moloch began this time last year and saw Slaine victorious only to see Moloch return to kill his wife Nimah. From there he travelled to England to confront Moloch and in the second book killed him only to return to Ireland to face a new threat in the shape Atlanteans and their Golmahs. That book was dominated with the argument between Slaine and the defeatist elements within Ireland who wanted to do a deal with the invaders. In the end Slaine won the day and we ended that book with battle commencing.
This has been a great series and heralded Mills’ return to form in 2003 as he jettisoned the confusing (or perhaps just confused) continuity that had plagued Slaine and just kept it simple. You can see this in the basic plot of this story which is basically â€œbad guys want to invade Ireland, Slaine must stop themâ€. However, Mills has hung a lot of good stuff onto this, in particular he has created some top quality villains. The best have to be the Atlanteans/Golamhs hybrids which are the Golamhs controlling the Atlanteans in parasitic manner. Not only does create a great visual but makes the Atlanteans tragic figures compelled to fight.
This is best shown with Scota who is the wife of the Atlanteans leader Gael who has been overtaken by a Golmah and who it is signalled will be the lead villain of this story. She is someone who only fights Slaine due to a promise that Gael’s Golamh will relinquish him when they succeed. This gives her a sense of pathos and a sympathetic motivation, which is sometimes lacking in Mills’ villains (or women for that matter).
In this opening part we essentially see a 10 page fight scene with Slaine and the Celts getting stuck into the invaders. This gives Clint Langely the chance to shine, with his amazing mixture photo-realistic art (think Alex Ross doing fantasy) and CG esque (he says they’re painted) effects bringing these scenes too life. Special note must go to the development of the villains with Langely showing unbelievable attention to detail in their design, developing in each a grotesque and unique character.
An excellent fantasy comic story that is the perfect tonic for those suffering from Lord of the Rings’ withdrawal symptom.
Writer: Gordon Rennie
Artist: Dom Reardon
Letterer: Tom Frame
After taking the six parts to flesh out the Caballistics Inc. team Rennie and Reardon unleashes this 10page end of year special with the heavily trailed promise of a death amongst one of the members.
Throughout the excellent Downtime series Rennie heavily trailed the threat of the Israeli anti-Nazi special-forces unit, in this part we see them storm the Caballistics Inc. headquarters. The storming is an excellent scene with the Special Forces being portrayed almost as a force of nature in their pursuit of Raven. However, Rennie doesn’t allow the story to descend simply into a generic blood bath, instead he takes the opportunity to use the members’ reactions to the Israelis to develop their characters.
The quality of the script is match by the quality of the art, which perfectly captures the chaos and violence of the story. It also benefits from the higher production values of this special.
An excellent story that manages to provide a satisfactory climax to Downtime and Rennie’s plugging despite its ambiguous ending.
Samantha Slade, Robo-Hunter
Title: Like a Virgin
Writer: Alan Grant
Artist: Ian Gibson
Letterer: Tom Frame
Mark Millar is one of the most respected comic book writers of today but much of his 2000AD work is some of the most reviled of the comics’ history with even fellow comic book creators criticising it. One of his most infamous piece of work for 2000AD was his revamp of Sam Slade, Robo Hunter, which was so bad that Robo-Hunter’s creator (and 2000AD group star writer) asked for it to be cancelled. Since the end of the Millar led revamp (Peter Hogan tried to salvage something from it) the series has been in limbo.
This issue sees Alan Grant, who wrote many of the Robo-Hunter stories and Ian Gibson who drew them try to revamp the character. However, instead of bringing Sam Slade back into action they instead skip a generation (and fifty years) as they introduce his granddaughter, Samantha Slade as the new star.
To begin with though we see the reunion of Hoagy, Sam’s robot companion and Carlos Sanchez, a robot cigar who acts as anti-smoking device. The two reunite in the course of Hoagy trying to track Sam down for one more case.
Alan Grant’s script is wonderfully comic, something that we haven’t really seen him do in ages aside from the odd Dredd fill in. The best thing about is how comfortable he feels with the characters, effortlessly playing up the tics of the various characters, which is even more impressive when you consider that Sanchez was part of the Millar revamp.
However, the star of the story is the art of Ian Gibson with his lushly coloured, cartoon art just full of energy, warmth and humour. He also exhibits his usual grasp of characterisation with great drawings of Hoagy, Sanchez and Samantha, who once more confirms Gibson reputation as the premier drawer of women in comics today (even if she does look a lot like Halo Jones).
In many ways the writing and the art wouldn’t look out of place in America’s Best Comics, with the writing exhibiting the same light mixture of retro and modernity that dominates that line whilst the art having the same retro, cartooney feel if not style that heavily features their. This is even truer of the concept, which is a sci-fi update of the Private Eye. A good opening episode that quickly reintroduces old characters for (readers like myself) who haven’t read any Robo-Hunter whilst adeptly establishing the new status quo and introducing the new lead character.
Title: Book III ~ Down Pt. 1
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Anthony Williams
Letterer: Ellie De Ville
Following section contains SPOILERS
Where as Robo-Hunter is a Golden Age Thrill taking its first steps on the word to modern success The VCs are moving onto their third series since Dan Abnett started writing them in the summer of 2002. These â€œbooksâ€ take place in the second Human-Geek war with Major Smith, the only remaining soldier of the original VCs, haunting by his dead comrades becoming leader of a new band of VCs.
At the end of the second book we see the VCs shot down on route to getting a warning back to Earth of a new Geek offensive. We open this book with Smith surveying the carnage and trying to get help only to be reunited with Keege, the Geek turncoat.
The last book was not as well received as the first book largely for two reasons; one the cast was too wide with too many non-descript characters and secondly there was a lack of tight plot with too many parts just being random battles. Abnett seems to have resolved both of these problems seemingly bringing the central cast right down to two well rounded characters in Smith and Keege with a developed relationship and giving them a motivation namely get back to Earth and warn high command.
Anthony Williams’ art is as good as ever, with his cartooney, angular depiction of space-military er stuff echoing the VCs original artist Cam Kennedy. Where he did sometimes fail last time round was with some his colouring and CG effects, something he himself has promised to change. In this issue the colouring looks good helping to create some gorgeous looking panels of the surface of Charon.
Overall a good starting episode that promises to usher in a return to form for the VCs after a disappointing second book.
Title: The Sea Falcon
Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist: John Burns
Letterer: Annie Parkhouse
When you read Nikolai Dante it makes scratch your head at how bad Robbie Morrison’s Authority is. It’s not just that this is a good story and that’s bad but in the manner that this is good. With Dante he shows a lightness of touch, humour, the ability to right action scenes, a good ear for dialogue and when the mood takes him some political commentary.
Nikolai Dante is an illegitimate child of the Romanov Patriarch and a former thief who has bonded with a weapon’s shield in an alternative world where a Tsarist system remained/returned in Russia. After the crushing of the Romanov revolt Dante has fled, to be reunited with his pirate mother.
With this story, we see Dante acquire his own boat and go on his first solo pillage. Morrison produces a script that is reminiscent of the earlier stories before the mood was darkened by the civil war. Here Dante is once more Spider-Man in a Russian thief’s body throwing out just great lines whilst swash-buckling and death-defying. However, he still hasn’t escape the fall out from the civil war as he is reunited with a former ally.
John Burns puts in some great art although you can’t help but notice that his classical paints really aren’t suited to what is for the most part quite a light-hearted tale, especially as this was written for Dante’s other regular artist Simon Frasier. You get the feeling that Burns knows this too, as he seems his put in a lot of effort in conveying humour and laughter. The art is still good it’s just that Frasier would have been a more natural fit.
A good story that acts as a good new status quo establishing story for when the series returns next year.
This is what 2000AD is with an unbelievably varied array of stories ranging from horror, sci-fi action, OTT satire, pirates and comedy with the only constant being the quality of the writing. What’s better this end of special suffers from less padding than usual with the only text feature being the annual Sin Dexter text story. There also some one page comic stories from Henry Flint that all excellent. An excellent issue that is the perfect introduction to 2000AD.