2000AD Prog 1834 Review

Reviewer: William Cooling

Editor: Matt Smith
Publisher: Rebellion

Judge Dredd

Title: Gulag Pt. 3
Writer: Gordon Rennie
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Colourist: Chris Blythe
Letterer: Tom Frame

Last week Dredd got his 10 man squad together only for us to discover that they heading straight for a trap laid by the clone-son of the late War Marshal Karzan. This week we join Dredd’s squad deep in Sov territory search a former POV camp. Rennie is clearly at home here in writing what could so easily be a WW2/Cold War war-comic story writing effective, terse and believable military manoeuvres while allowing characterisation to take a back seat as the various characters slip into generic combat mode. This makes for an enjoyable piece of dumb action with Charlie Adlard proving up to the task of presenting said dumb action with energy and verve. A thoroughly enjoyable read especially if you yearn for the days of Battle and Sgt. Rock and don’t mind the characterisation being a bit on the thin side.

Sinister Dexter

Title: Job Jobbed Pt. 2
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colourist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Ellie de Ville

Last week Sinister and Dexter gave their apprentice Kal Cutter his first solo job, however poor Kal met a spot of bother with the unexpected experience of minders. This week Kal tries to put that set back behind and does the job with Sin-Dex sitting in their favourite restaurant giving advice. This is another excellent episode of Sin-Dex as Abnett drops the idealised fantastic view of gun-sharks previously espoused in this strip for one that gives us the ins and outs of the gun-shark business. Although this Abnett writes the script straight this approach actually quite an engagingly funny story as Sin-Dex keep giving Kal yet another task to do just as he thinks his finished. Abnett’s largely creates this humour superb characterisation of Kal who just imbues exasperation as the load menial tasks grows. This change from cheap puns and slapstick humour to more characterisation based Hancock-esque humour is a welcome sign of growth and maturity in Abnett’s Sin-Dex writing. This superior script is rounded off nicely by some superb Clarke art whose 24 influenced page layouts and mixture of Frank Quitely and Quentin Tarintino visual aesthetics has given this title the integrity and verve that it had so sorely missed for so long.

Rogue Trooper

Title: Realpolik Pt. 5
Writer: Gordon Rennie
Artist: P.J. Holden
Letterer: Tom Frame

Last week Rogue’s world fell around his ears as the conspiracy that had hired him was uncovered and destroyed by the War Marshal’s chief bodyguard and Lieutenant Arkhan. However in a shocking yet plausible twist Arkhan co-opts the plot and (covertly and unannounced except to the readers) directs the rattled Rogue to his waiting target. This week Rogue must choose whether to do his unidentified Nort commanders dirty work as the War Marshal uses his death sequence to audition for Shakespeare. Leaving that rather over eloquent and quasi-poetic denunciation of war to one side this is another taut and thrilling piece of writing from Mr. Rennie, with some excellent visuals by Holden as the Nort soldiers rush to save their commander. Unfortunately the War Marshal’s speech is allowed to dominate and despite some tasty looking battlefields shots it provokes it’s a failure. For a start the War Marshal shows no hatred for the man who killed his beloved son, treating Rogue with a mixture of bemusement and contempt. That’s not the only flaw in the characterisation indeed surely the fact that someone who was so determined to win the war he has launched an offensive of the utmost savagery (which Rennie seems to have forgotten is working for the moment) is now the Nort’s answer to Lord Lansdowne being an even bigger one. If you can ignore such flaws and the hammy, stilted dialogue Rennie gives him and to be honest it’s a lot less difficult than it sounds then you have a enjoyable read that sets up a thrilling final stretch.

Bec and Kewl

Title: Toothache Pt. 2
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Steve Roberts
Letterer: Annie Parkhouse

After last week’s enjoyable send up of early nineties mature readers fantasy comic icons Spurrier turns his attention to an easier target namely Tooth Fairies, as he reveals how the good Tooth Fairies were usurped by a bad one. This is all fairly broad farce as Bec and Kewl, separated from the League team up with the G.T.F to save the day. The plot and use of characters shows Spurrier’s intelligence, as a writer as he realised that the unsubtle and easy humour probably needs every changing targets to remain funny. And indeed it does remain funny, not quite as funny as last week with the flea like Tooth Fairies not proving as reach a mine for humour as mature comic stars but still good enough. In addition the dynamic between the comedic duo is excellent with Spurrier’s writing being excellent in having Kewl play a rather languid straight man to the bizarre goings on and the megalomaniac, money obsessed Bec (whose basically Anne Robinson on drugs). Roberts’s art is as appropriate as last week with his blunt and exaggerated characterisation and linework perfect for Spurrier’s script.

Durham Red

Title: The Empty Sun ~ Book II Pt. 3
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Mark Harrison
Letterer: Ellie De Ville

Last week Durham Red and co retreated to a time fracture to prepare a trap for the Offspring and at the end of the part he had arrived only be met this week by the anti-Offspring infantry largely consisting of the allies of Godolkin, This gives Mark Harrison the chance to do his usual slightly abstract, intergalactic light show spaceship battle and he does it well with some fantastic visuals with effective shop design and excellent CG explosions. It also means we see less of Mark Harrison’s humanoid characters which on seeing his ghastly, anorexic Durham Red is a good thing, although having said that there’s a good case for saying that having been feral for eons she should actually have looked like that since the beginning of this story. That slight niggle apart the art is pretty damn good for which Abnett should take some of the credit as for the second week running he doesn’t stymie Harrison by asking him to depict too dark an area or close ups of characters faces. Aside from that this is a spectacularly unwritten part with almost all the focus being on the Offspring destroying the human canon fodder. There is some character work at the very end, which adds a note of pathos and vulnerability to the character of Durham Red and hints at some finality. All in all another good part of this much-improved story.

Shaun of the Dead

Title: There’s Something About Mary
Writers: Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letterer: Annie Parkhouse

And we round this Prog off with a special (and FREE) bonus story that is a tie in with the new British horror comedy Shaun of the Dead. However this isn’t an adaptation of the film’s plot, instead it’s a quick introduction to a minor character in the film. Said minor character is called Mary and works as a waitress and ends up meeting a predictable fate after being stalked by a customer and bumping into the film’s lead a number of times. In many ways this is nothing more but a jumped up Tharg’s Terror Tale with the same format that forces a superficial, broad strokes approach to characterisation and plot as the writers race to complete their plot within the five pages. That said Pegg and Wright (who are the film’s writers and star/director) don’t do a bad job in what (I presume) is there first crack at comic writing with them (perhaps unsurprisingly) showing a good hear for dialogue and (more surprisingly) a good understanding of how to use the comic page to transmit the maximum information. This makes for a quite a concise and tight story although at times you wonder how much their TV/film background effects their writing as they adopt a far more “cinematic” (use of dialogue less panels) approach then is the norm for 2000AD. That said this approach does seem to suit Frazer Irving with the abundance of dialogue less panels and different “camera angles” giving him a chance to flex his offer muscles. His unique artwork does have a cleaner, more naturalistic look to it than usual but this change doesn’t diminish his ability to depict the suspense and tension that is the key to horror nor to deliver the bloody, violent punch line. While nothing amazing this is a welcome read especially when you consider it’s free.