In case you missed it, Saturday 6th May was Free Comic Book Day and thousands of people queued up to get their hands on various titles, while purchasing from and supporting their local comic book stores.
The idea is to drive awareness and introduce newcomers to the comic book medium. Whilst these issues are free to us, stores still have to pay for them (albeit at a reduced rate) so it works out extremely well for us, the reader! Hopefully, this has led to more people using their local stores and supporting the industry.
2000 AD presents a 32-page Prog with 5 titles, full of big names and a great introduction to the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. Throughout the Prog you will find QR codes that further expand on the stories and characters, giving you the chance to download copies of associated stories in pdf format. Yes – free comics!
Judge Dredd // Forty Years of Hurt by Matt Smith, Phil Winslade, Len O’Grady & Sam Gretton
Without giving too much away, this story cleverly taps into the 40-year history of 2000 AD and Judge Dredd. What we get is a crime that has been 40 years in the making and provides everything you need to know about Judge Dredd as a character and a title, as well as ending on probably a perfect note.
As a snapshot, Matt Smith has created what could arguably be a perfect introduction to the character that has been gracing the Prog for over 40 years. The story is a mystery with a big reveal at the end that will leave the reader with a smile. Winslade and O’Grady’s artwork is full of colourful shading and plenty of detail, making use of dark lines and rich colours to paint Mega-City One in a futuristic yet grimy light.
The very last panel of this story sums up Dredd perfectly and leaves us with a kind of ‘punchline’ that many Dredd readers have come to expect.
Blackblood // General Public by Pat Mills, Kei Zama & Sam Gretton
General Blackblood is straight out of ABC Warriors and is given his very own title for this Free Comic Book Day edition. Upon turning the page to this title, you are greeted by incredibly strong black and white artwork by Kei Zama, with some very heavy uses of black. It’s uniquely detailed and powerful, with both humans and machines given a very distinctive look.
Pat Mills has scripted a satirical story, making use of an iconic character from ABC Warriors and pitting him against an unknown adversary ‘General Public’. Taking themes varying from social media to censorship, Blackblood blends humour and the ridiculous with huge weaponry and vicious robot carnage.
Speaking of punchlines, Blackblood delivers a very funny end featuring two more iconic characters from the ABC Warriors and Ro-Busters series, making this story a lot of fun.
Hope // …For the Future Part One by Guy Adams, Jimmy Broxton & Simon Bowland
Originally appearing in Prog 2011, Hope… For the Future Part One depicts an alternative 1940s and centres around a P.I. by the name of Mallory Hope. A traditionally looking detective noir with punchy dialogue is given a new twist with paranormal and supernatural magic. Think L.A. Confidential meets Rivers of London and you’re not far wrong.
Guy Adams uses well established film noir tropes and visuals, complete with a heavy hitting character in the form of Hope and spins it on its head with a fresh feel. The artwork by Broxton feels suitably ‘of its time’ yet uses an almost spray-paint effect on some of the imagery, giving a matte and dirty finish.
As stories go, the first part sets the tone and pace with a main character who can take a beating, hold is drink and get himself out of a jam.
This was a great read when it appeared in 2000 AD and it’s a good choice for this Prog, showing how well 2000 AD blend genres.
Anderson: Psi Division // Hag Team by Dan Abnett, Dani, John Charles & Sam Gretton
Utilising another established villain, Trapper Hag appeared in Judge Dredd and this tells of an escape with accomplice Skinner Hag; Trapper’s sister. Anderson is on the case and this story again, serves an interesting introduction to the world of Judge Anderson as she is visited by Judge Death during a hallucination.
As stories go, it gives an interesting introduction, but falls short of the mark a little as a stand-alone. It deals with the threat without any sense of irony, unlike the Judge Dredd and Blackblood titles discussed previously and this makes the finale quite tepid.
The artwork is good, though not outstanding, and the hallucination sequences are quite atmospheric, showing off Judge Death while Abnett’s dialogue show how personal it has become for Death to pursue Anderson. Is it all just a hallucination?
Dreams of Deadworld // Death by Kek-W, Dave Kendall & Ellie De Ville
Straight from an actual nightmare that Dave Kendall had, he and Kek-W teamed-up to produce a dedicated story of the final days of the Dark Judges sentencing on their own world before they came to Mega-City One and judged all humanity guilty… of life.
This follows the preceding story nicely as we have the Judge Dredd/Judge Anderson depiction of Death in the previous story versus the truly nightmarish vision of Death brought to life by Kendall. It may feature the same villains, but the tone is horrific.
Each part of Dreams of Deadworld focuses on one of the four Dark Judges, with this one highlighting the leader and most iconic. It shows the utter madness that has befallen the world as well as the ruthless and treacherous nature of Judge Death himself. Following this title, Kek-W and Dave Kendall went on to write Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld (available later this year in trade paperback) and Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld which is still ongoing, originally starting in Prog 2023.
The Free Comic Book Day Prog is a great introduction to the world of 2000 AD and includes some important characters making use of established history. The two existing titles (not dedicated stories for this Prog) they have chosen to highlight stand apart as unique with Hope… For the Future and Dreams of Deadworld being worlds apart in terms of style and story, yet hold the core values of 2000 AD with fresh perspective and genuinely interesting characters. The special stories made just for us on this Free Comic Book Day are perfect for fans and newcomers alike.
The very last page of this Prog is full of references from the world of 2000 AD and is suitably fun. On a more serious note, the back cover is a dedication to the late Steve Dillon and is a tasteful and stylish tribute.
Thank you, Mighty Tharg.