2000AD PROG #1406 Review

Reviewer: Will Cooling

Editor: Matt Smith
Publisher: Rebellion

Judge Dredd
Story Title: Bob Zombie ~ Scouse Of 20,000 Horrors

Written by: Alan Grant
Art by: Shaun Thomas
Lettered by: Tom Frame

Have you by any chance heard of the American “fantasy” comic Heavy Metal? No? Well it’s a raucous comic full of the stuff you mother wouldn’t want you to see. Things such as the old ultra violence and pornographic images of young buxom women…irritatingly it’s the only place to buy English language translations of certain European comics so well you know.

Anyway…Dredd once featured in a strip unimaginatively called Heavy Metal Dredd and it was this that pioneered much of the almost Lobo-esque attitude that seeped into the 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine in the early nineties. The shock-jock style of writing with its emphasis on violence and action and the largely painted and distorted art (Simon Bisley was the main artist on the strip before he broke big) was not well received by many of the Judge Dredd faithful. Why I am telling you all this? Well, I think this strip is very much in the vein of those Heavy Metal Dredds.

The “story” is concerns a mutant serial killer that talks in Scouse/Liverpool accent (kinda like The Beatles) whilst killing unsuspecting passers by. Dredd is alerted and blows the killer to kingdom come and then delivers the obvious joke ending.

That’s it.

No really, THAT’S IT!

Now the story isn’t that bad, certainly not as bad as the www.2000adonline.com message board made out. Yes the characterisation is wafer thin and yes there is plenty of graphic violence but its enjoyable dammit! The horror movie tone is genuinely creepy with much of the credit going to the art of Shaun Thomas. His art is unique with a dark and gritty style due to his distorted and grotesque linework. However, the deal-clincher is his paints that with their use of black and strangely fluorescent dirty yellows and greens create a captivity depiction of squalor and depravity that’s worthy of any horror movie director. Grant’s script does its job in giving him the violent and claustrophobic scenes to properly show off his art and so raise this from throwaway filler to an interesting change of pace for 2000AD.

Caballistics Inc.
Story Title: Creepshow: Pt. 6

Written by: Gordon Rennie
Art by: Dom Reardon
Lettered by: Ellie De Ville

The Caballistics Inc. team’s all action romp round Ludgate’s back catalogue continue with Demon Jenny and Verse being relieved as stars in the Dracula film. Now as the Caballistics Inc. team runs for their life they thrown into another movie in what is fast becoming the 2000AD equivalent of Spot Goes To Hollywood.

This rules with its geeky b-movie references and high-octane occult action being a terrific mix. And there’s not an awful lot more to say really. Other than how great Dom Reardon’s art looks.

Now I am done.

(I so suck)

Story Title: The Furzt Case: Pt. 1

Written by: Alan Grant
Art by: Ian Gibson
Lettered by: Tom Frame

Former robot sidekicks of Sam Slade, Hoagy and Carlos Sanchez recruited his granddaughter to rescue the old man with the promise of a cash reward. However, to her horror it turns out there’s no cash reward forthcoming from old Sam. Well until she’s about to kick them out, when he offers 50thousand for help in getting his body back. Oh didn’t I mention that Sam is just a head in a jar? Must’ve slipped my mind. What follows is a hilarious romp through a body parts conference as they meet old friends, brains and the type of girls that you usually only see in manga.

This is fantastic, Alan Grant is full of the great little touches that make his comedy writing so amusing i.e. the table of brains that Sanchez knocks over all of which is shown in the background. The stuff going on in the foreground is great as well with some nice dialogue especially the guy’s night out feel when Sam meets up with Stiv…and the girls. Then there’s the art with Gibson excelling himself with a level of detail that is astounding. The gorgeous “super-panel” of the convention scene is breathtaking as her his ladies that are to be honest damn hot…and not in the Metal Hammer all hanging out way either. However, the biggest improvement is in Gibson’s colouring/painting, which was lacking in places last time around but is virtually perfect this time. Overall a great second start to the second series of this welcome revival.

Asylum 2
Story Title: Untitled: Pt. 1

Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Boo Cook
Lettered by: Ellie De Ville

The nations of Earth have sealed themselves underneath giant plastic domes with aliens allowed to claim Asylum on a pacific Island. It used to be that aliens would have to gain the permission of the shadowy The Church. However, at the end of the controversial first series (a genocidial Rev Ashcroft-oh please!) the aliens took control of The Church’s space station and their human leader Holt crashed it down onto said pacific Island. Now Holt is in control of the Island and now a/the Government is sending the troops into to get to the bottom of the matter. What follows is with regards to the writing a straightforward solider story; the solider (worryingly named Buchanan) is given his mission and takes his solider into combat where they are promptly run into Vietnam style difficulties. Williams shows a good grasp of action and suspense with the scenes of the ambush expertly organised in a very compressed script. The characterisation is equally effective although the first series slightly puts you on edge whether such characterisation will be allowed to stand. After the treatment of (John) Ashcroft last time round I’m nervous of how the leading and founding paleo-conservative (Pat) Buchanan is going to be treated this time round. Still Williams’s a good writer and the last Asylum was an enjoyable if flawed story so I’m looking forward to an enjoyable story even if its politics may not be anywhere near mine.

One of the main reasons for this is the art of Boo Cook, one of the rising stars of 2000AD. He has risen to prominence on the back of a cartooney, exaggerated style that boasted some of the most vivid and bold computer colouring in comics. Bravely, despite the praise this approach has been getting Cook has refused to rest on his laurels and has developed and matured his style for this new series. Firstly whilst the linework is still of a cartooney/exaggerated fashion he has adopted a more naturalistic approach that brings it closer to the work of say Darrick Robertson than before. Then there’s the colouring which has come along leaps and bounds…and that’s with jumping from a pretty high base to begin with. Cook’s colouring has become more varied with his stock thick and bold computer colouring standing by side with more subtle and pastel effects in particularly on the closing pages. The artwork shows Cook’s enthusiasm (as you all can see with his preview in Across The Pond), as he must have made a conscious decision to improve and tighten up an already popular art style. This is the best art of his career; let’s hope the script lives up to it.

Strontium Dog
Story Title: Traitor To His King: Pt. 1

Written by: John Wagner
Art by: Carlos Ezquerra
Lettered by: Annie Parkhouse

King Clarkie II of Britain has been abducted by mutant terrorists, much to the horror of moderate members of the British Government. Such members as Aburey Negus are fearful that unless the King can be rescued quickly the anti-mutant factions of the Government will insist on a crackdown so leading to much bloodshed. In desperation they have turned to Johnny Alpha; feared Strontium Dog, one of the leaders of a former mutant rebellion and the estranged son of the late anti-mutant demagogue Nelson Kreelmen. However, Johnny has doubts about doing the norms dirty work…

This is so great I can barely put it into words! After a few years of inconsequential stories based on a cute retro package of comedy and action we’ve return to the heavily emotional stories. There really isn’t much to review here, everything is done flawlessly and with the minimum of fuss from the flashbacks to Johnny’s mother battling against an abortion to the delicious site of the politicians trying to smooth talk Johnny and Wulf with almost Yes Minister style insights and digs at the nature of politicians. Perhaps the most interesting character is Aburey Negus, maybe its just me but he so resembles in manner and appearance the infamous Francis Urqhuart (of a House of Cards) that one does wonder whether he’s being entirely honest with Johnny. Aside from that he’s a masterful piece of characterisation by Wagner with the politicians being shown as fair-minded moderates working in a difficult situation, with politics being firmly objectively presented as the “art of the possible”. The choice for Johnny is laid out expertly with their being no doubt as to the difficulty of his choice. Finally there is the gorgeous art of Carlos Ezquerra that has somehow upped in quality from the previous Strontium Dog with the legendary creator more than meeting the challenge of the greater potency and emotion of the scenes he has been asked to depict. A true classic in the making.

Final Word: Judge Dredd let’s the side down…if it had of been up to the standards of the other four stories than this would have been a landslide 10 out of 10 as such its only 9.5. Some may say with Total War starting soon 2000AD has never been better but I couldn’t possibly comment…

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