The difficult thing about the 2000 AD Progs is the short, snippets of story and art that you get before being pulled into the next one. While it can be hard to jump into, what with so many various ongoing stories at any given time, Prog 1924 serves as the perfect beginning—or “jump on point”, if you prefer—for new readers looking to get not only into the world of Judge Dredd, but into the world of 2000 AD as well. 1924 showcases some of the very best that 2000 AD has to offer, like Judge Dredd himself, Sláne, Grey Area, Orlok, Agent of East-Meg One out of the classic Apocalypse Wars story and Strontium Dog who was created by Dredd masterminds John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. There might not be a better line-up to get into 2000 AD than the one served up to us in Prog 1924.
Judge Dredd: Enceladus New Life (Williams/Flint/Parkhouse)
The first story, focusing on their star character Judge Dredd, focuses on the beginnings of the rebuilding of the destroyed prison on Saturn’s moon Titan. It appears to be the continuation of a story previously printed, but the table of contents page does a good enough job of filling the reader in with the events that preceded this story. Being only an eight-page beginning, writer Rob Williams really doesn’t have much of a chance to get things going, especially if you’re used to the full twenty-plus page comics we get on a weekly basis here, but he certainly plants the seeds to snare readers into the rest of the story.
Getting just enough action, just enough Dredd, and just enough of an idea of the scale that this world, and this universe, operates on while also showing the reader just what kind of people the Judges have to deal with on a regular basis—or, at least, one example of the many different lawbreakers that they come across.
Artist Henry Flint’s work is superb and exactly what you will come to expect with a Judge Dredd story. It’s dark, with some heavy black shadow work, it’s brutal at times and, of course, it’s all put together with the utmost care and consideration. Flint’s Judge Dredd, although we only really get to see his full face for one panel, is spot on with the perfect Dredd scowl and that signature chin. Again, eight-pages is not a lot of time, or space, to really get the look and feel of a story off, but these two executed it brilliantly and make use of every piece of paper they have. If nothing else, it leaves the reader hanging in such a way that there’s no way they won’t want to find out what happens next and that, my friends, is what it’s all about.
If nothing else, you need to pick up this 2000 AD Prog simply for the art in Sláne because holy crap that was some spectacular work. It required a few readings, mostly because the gawking at the art left me too unfocused on the story at hand, and it’s tough to say if it’s clearer than the first read. The intro does a decent job of catching the reader up as best as it can, but it’s certainly no substitute for reading the first book.
Being ‘Book Two’, Sláne: Primordial still ends up being fascinating, but maybe this first look at this character and this world that Pat Mills is creating isn’t about the story, per se, but more about a showcase of the artistic talent of Simon Davis. Since this is a 2000 AD jump on point and considering its long history, it feels more like a little glimpse of everything you can look forward to finding or at least the type of things you can look forward to, if you pick up the Progs.
Either way, Davis’ work is utterly stunning and certainly deserves more than one reading just to go over all the little details he’s included in these few pages. The character work is astounding and the almost patchwork painting style with many, many layers is far beyond what you’d expect in a comic book and comes off more as actual hang-on-your-wall-in-an-expensive-frame art. Maybe the story wasn’t crystal clear, but if you’re a fan of art in any form you need to check out this story in this Prog and then go back (as this reviewer plans) and find more Simon Davis art as soon as you can.
Grey Area (Abnett/Richardson/Parkhouse)
Honestly, Grey Area is a good little story, or intro into a story, but amongst some of the others in this Prog it gets kind of lost and probably falls short of the mark. Mark Richardson’s art was interesting, even if the first few pages were slightly confusing, and eventually went from lots of deep, black shading with heavy highlights to a clearer picture of what’s happening. Maybe it was the placement immediately after the work in Sláne, but the first few pages likely didn’t come off the way they were originally intended.
Dan Abnett’s story has some intriguing beats to it, at least from the recap at the beginning, and some of his characters’ names—most notable Resting Bitch Face—will catch you off guard and are certainly good for a laugh. Overall, the placement in the Prog seems to be the fault of this story, instead of the story and art itself. Maybe if it had preceded the Judge Dredd story this little review block would be different. Regardless, it has enough interesting elements to want to read the next part so, that’s good right?
Interesting that this tale of Orlok takes places four years (2100) prior to his first appearance in Block Mania, the lead-up to the classic and epic Apocalypse Wars and even more interesting is the reference to the 2T(fru)t virus outbreak in Mega-City Two that I’ve just started reading from the second Case File collection. That’s some old history to bring up, and little things like this help bind this fantastic universe continuity and make it even stronger—also, highly recommend checking out the Case Files and/or the recent Mega Collections simply because they’re fantastic.
Orlok: Agent of East-Meg One is off to an interesting start, especially if you’re read the beginnings of Orlok, but it’s really not necessary. The art from Jake Lynch is reminiscent of the time that we were first introduced to this Sov assassin and Dan Abnett captures the black humor and wit that from that era that you’ll come to expect from 2000 AD. It’s great to see some classic black and white work, even amongst the insane stuff we’ve seen so far, and Lynch really does a fantastic job with it. Black and white art can be overlooked at times, but if you get the right artist there’s so much that can be done with it that color would only serve to dampen the effect the artist was going for.
This Orlok tale is going to be a good one, especially since its pre-ApocWar; while that excitement might come from a love of that tale, both Abnett and Lynch are certainly very talented creators and even if you don’t know that original story this one is sure to be good.
Strontium Dog: The Stix Fix (Wagner/Ezquerra/Bowland)
John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s second most well known creation, arguably, is Strontium Dog—if you don’t know, these two masters are the one who created Dredd himself and are likely the reason this review is even happening, 38+ years later. The premise of the story was great, even not (yet) knowing a lot of the history of Johnny Alpha and for all intents and purposes the character himself was something that most should gravitate to almost immediately. There’s certainly a lot of back material to read and, as with anything, you’ll ultimately get more out of it, but this was a good introduction to the character and this pocket of the Dredd-verse.
Then, of course, we come to the masterful Carlos Ezquerra. While thus far his black and white work seems to stand out most, his work here with color is still fantastic. The signature Ezquerra look to the characters and the background imagery is ever present and there’s even a side shot panel of Johnny Alpha that you can’t help but think of Dredd—whether it was intentional or otherwise, it was just awesome. You really can’t go wrong when Ezquerra’s name is on the page, so it’s exciting that this is only part ONE of a series where we will get new, awesome Ezquerra art and more Strontium Dog.
Ending with two heavyweights like that was brilliant and considering that Prog 1924 will go down in history as this reviewer’s very first, it’s more than something special. It can’t be expressed enough how well these progs are put together and the kind of material and creators that 2000 AD gets week in and week out for your enjoyment. There is so much to love here, it’s hard to pick out favorites or highlights, so maybe it’s best if you just go pick this up. Try their digital store (Android/iOS) if you can’t get your hands on a physical copy, then look into their subscriptions. If this is any indication, you won’t be sorry. Splundig vur thrigg, Earthlets!