In February 2012, for the 35th anniversary of 2000AD, I made a pledge:
“But here’s a deal for you. If you’ll do it, so will I. 2012 will be the year I read 2000AD. 2012 will be the year YOU read 2000AD.”
Okay here we are. Made it all the way to Prog 1800. I’ve now been at this 2000AD lark since February, with Prog 1770. And this is one of the regular complete switch round, everything starts fresh, except Dredd obviously, although they do have a special one-off Chris Weston strip that (tangentially at least) ties into the big Dredd film that I still haven’t managed to see yet.
So, how does it shape up?
First off, let’s give the cover a good kicking. Because I bloody hate it. That’s Bisley taking the piss surely? A cover that’s so 80s/90s that it must be a deliberate decision, complete with Anderson doing the impossible US comics fave – the T&A at the same time pose. Thank heavens they make those Judge’s uniforms in huge ass, no waist size eh? Plus, is that the remains of JD’s spaghetti lunch on his chin? I know why the Biz got the cover, and yes, lots of people have been mentioning it, but no, not for me.
And I’ll warn you now, it aint the last thing I really don’t like this issue. But before that, let’s turn over and have a look at what should have been the cover. Chris Weston does it again:
Right, shalll we wander inside then?
Dredd has a big problem right now. We’re in those difficult post Day Of Chaos times and although some of the strips have skated around what a colossal fuck up of a place MC1 is right now, few have really addressed the new status quo, a weakened super-power, so many dead, the entire fabric of the Justice Department threatened, Dredd questioning himself, the city’s populous questioning their masters etc etc. We’re still waiting for the next big strip, the one to take what Wagner did, and actually address it properly.
And Chris Weston’s single issue 6-pager is not the strip that’s going to do that. It never was, seeing as he turned it in nine months back according to this interview at Robot 6.
What it does do though is deliver a great little 6-page encapsulation of how much fun a Dredd story can be. Take out the grim and epic longer storylines and Dredd is about one man and his city, complete with as much ridiculous, over the top stuff coming at him/it/us from the supporting cast. And that’s what we get here. Right from the word go, straight away when we see the title, the tone is set.
There’s a reason they picked this one for the Dredd movie tie in week after all. I was going to try and avoid giving away the title, as it’s stupid funny, but it’s popped up everywhere this last week, as people talk about the Dredd where one of the D.A.N. Cannons in space starts blasting holes in MC1. It’s a Dredd by the numbers in one way, but Weston’s great art, and a sense of tongue jammed so hard in cheek it hurts makes it (just about) work.
(Judge Dredd by Chris Weston)
ABC Warriors. I know people really like Clint Langley’s stuff. But I’m just not one of them. And this new ABC Warriors strip is Clint Langley being his very best Clint Langley, really going overboard on the whole Clint Langley-ness of it. So many people I’ve seen online talking about it being wonderful, but I just find it hideously over-cooked computerised bollocks lacking any movement or emotion.
I’m not too enamoured with the story either right now. Yes, I get that it’s a set-up, and I appreciate that Langley is at least trying to inject some motion and interest into it by rotating the talking heads as they twist and turn in the spaceship, but I have to say I finished it and simply thought to myself “great, a spaceship full of moaning robots sitting around until the last couple of pages when they get out, and stand about for a bit until a convenient bloom of Martian jellyfish come floating by looking for a ruck“. What’s the betting that Langley manages to make that look static as well? So no, not too keen.
(Deadlock wants to tell you a bedtime story – ABC Warriors by Pat Mills and Clint Langley)
With Grey Area, I refuse to get too excited about it this time round. That happened with the last story, which had the same strong opener, setting up the investigation with a great sense of mystery and intrigue. And then it fell flat.
This time we get a mysterious double murder, hitchhikers next to the Grey Area, mutilated and tossed away, and the investigating team comes in as it’s Grey Area jurisdiction. What looks like a simple human on human crime turns weird when the only car passing the pair by in the murder window proves to have Grey Area diplomatic plates. And that’s the hook, that’s what made me stand up and take notice, that’s the interesting angle. It’s got the trappings of a good, possibly a great sci-fi crime procedural.
And then I remembered it’s Grey Area, it’s happened like this before, and I really shouldn’t get too hopeful this time round, as great starts like this have (so far) always let me down. Although there’s still a bit of me crossing my fingers and blindly hoping. I hope this one doesn’t do the same, I hope I’m proved wrong, but two Grey Area strips have dissapointed thus far. Two out of two. I’m not going to bet on number three rocking my world.
(Grey Area by Dan Abnett and Lee Carter)
Right, finally, and with a whopping 10-page double episode, we have the debut of Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard’s Brass Sun. Here’s a pairing with form. Bloody excellent form as well, although not here in 2000AD. No, you’ll hopefully be aware of the gents from SelfMadeHero and their adaptations of Sherlock Holmes and Dorian Gray, or from Culbard’s excellent Lovecraft graphic novels; Mounains of Madness and his most recent; The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. (There’s also the recent Vertigo New Deadwardians, but I just haven’t gotten round to that yet.)
So strangely, it feels bizarre to see them working together in 2000AD. It shouldn’t, of course not, and 2000AD has a great recent track record of getting the best of Brit comic talent involved, just look at Chris Weston coming back into the fold after a sojourn in the US. However, Brass Sun definitely feels out of place here, not necessarily a bad thing, it’s pushing the comic into new territories, nearly always something worthwile, for good or bad. It’s the attempt that counts really.
Thankfully, this attempt not only works, it’s bloody brilliant. Seriously, this is excellent, setting up an off-kilter bit of sci-fi, the story of a strange world which may, or may not, be completely literal in its talk of a Brass Sun. Could the religious power in charge be ruling over a system of mechanical nature, what is the approaching ice devouring outer planets as it goes, their stellar deaths covered up and denied by the religious controllers? Questions that don’t frustrate, merely intrigue.
This one fired up from the very start, a pull away three-pager, starting quite beautifully with the grinding cogs of a orrerie, or is it? Whatever it turns out to be, that’s a gorgeous start from Culbard:
(Brass Sun by Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard)
(More from Brass Sun by Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard – one of our heroes of this piece, a star gazer, but what stars?)
(And even more – Brass Sun by Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard – the villains of the piece? A controlling religious order, murder and fear used to hide the truth of a dying world?)
Oh, before I forget, Michael Carroll’s in here with a touching tribute text piece to Harry Harrison, a nice touch this issue.
So no, not the ideal “jumping on” issue for me. And maybe not for new readers either? It all seems a little too sedate, the problem of introducing three new strips in one go, and having them all pretty much involve set-ups and exposition. However, this issue is worth the money just for Weston’s Dredd and especially Culbard’s art on Ian Edginton’s Brass Sun. I’ve been going half a year plus now in my year of 2000AD, I’m not going to let a relatively flat anniversary issue stop me now.