If you only take one thing away from reading this review, it’s that Harvey may just become an iconic presence in the world of Judge Dredd. That front cover is bursting with life (at least an AI life) with Harvey astride his Lawmaster, smoking gun raised, and an impressive use of colour by Matt Furguson giving the entire image bags of attitude and, frankly, looking just plain cool.
Judge Dredd // Harvey Part 4 by John Wagner, John McCrea, Mike Spicer & Annie Parkhouse
Part 3 had set us up for an action-filled Part 4 and from the outset we are greeted with a Mechanismo unit in full combat mode. The action is aggressive, violent, and bloody. Despite the incredibly well drawn fight sequences at the beginning, full of movement and flowing action, it is not until we get to the conversation between Dredd and Harvey that you realise how good the artwork by John McCrea and Mike Spicer is. Together they have a knack for conveying different points of interest in the story, especially so in instances like when there is a single panel among four others that is quite small and understated, yet it jumps out on the page. It’s a close-up of Dredd’s grimacing mouth and visor with Annie Parkhouse’s perfectly positioned lettering beneath it that will leave you swearing blind that you actually heard Dredd’s voice. Wagner’s dry, sarcastic dialogue is delivered by this panel beautifully and you get a clear distinction between human and machine. Whilst both Dredd and Harvey are capable of performing clinically and coldly, the human nature of Dredd (and all of his misgivings) is at odds with the empathy that is literally programmed into Harvey.
There is still a strong sense of Old Vs New and this could be a vehicle for Wagner expressing how he feels about modern writers out there. Times change, as do attitudes and it would be curious to know what Wagner’s biggest influences were when creating the character of Harvey.
So what will Dredd decide? Pass or Fail? You can find out at the end of this Part.
Defoe // Diehards Part 2 by Pat Mills, Colin MacNeil & Ellie De Ville
The end of Diehards Part 1 left us with a suspense moment, unsure of exactly what was going to happen next, but leaving you with a very good idea of what might happen. The atmosphere is tangible and the savage nature of the horror is given a wonderful presentation thanks to MacNeil’s black & white artwork – the blacks are black, but the whites are never quite that clean. Ignoring the fact Defoe is set in the 17th Century, everything ‘feels’ old thanks largely to the charcoal-like drawing from MacNeil, who could be drawing a futurescape using this style and you’d still be convinced it was centuries old.
There are some dark moments and a good dose of violence in this part served by Pat Mills, but there is wit among the horror in the form of a poet performing in a nearby tavern. There is a desperate life and death moment involving Defoe and a very large pistol, interspersed with humourous dialogue from a poet in the nearby tavern describing his own trade with a very bitter and self-deprecating prose. Who else but Pat Mills can deliver zombie hunting with a soundtrack of drunken poetry? The end of Part 2 casts Defoe as an outwardly cold character, doing what must be done in the fight against the Reekers. This also brings with it a very heavy burden to bear, suitably delivered as a very visual metaphor at the end of the part.
Brink // Skeleton Life Part 5 by Dan Abnett, Inj Culbard & Simon Bowland
The joy of reading an anthology like 2000 AD is experiencing the various writing styles and extremely varied art styles in one single issue. In this Prog 2027 and the last prog, we have Defoe sandwiched between the likes of Judge Dredd: Harvey and Brink: Skeleton Life. Both titles feature some pretty lush looking colouring and Part 5 of Brink is just as lavishly illustrated as previous parts.
Skeleton Life has been dialogue heavy and remains so. It’s difficult to keep a reader’s interest with dialogue alone and whilst the previous part felt as though it was holding back the prog, the two characters of Kurtis and Junot (the owner of the hab that is being investigated) riff off of one another wonderfully in this installment. Opinions are gathered by Kurtis and she is very clearly trying to form a picture of what might be going on with the alleged ‘haunting’ of the Galina Habitat. Everyone seems to have their own opinion, yet there still isn’t much of an actual plot progression. That said, it does feel as though all the players are on stage now and the curtain may well be falling in the next part.
Culbard’s artwork continues to impress with the varied environments that Galina Habitat offers future residents, with a highlight panel from this part depicting a wide highway beneath a mock-sky, complete with blue sky and white fluffy clouds. The facial expressions between Kurtis and Junot keep the dialogue ‘alive’ during their travel to meet with another character (the project architect) and it’s good to see that even though we might end up in a habitat floating in deep space, we’ll still get to go for a drive now and then.
Scarlet Traces // Cold War: Book 2 Part 5 by Ian Edginton, D’Israeli & Annie Parkhouse
The scale of Scarlet Traces is undeniably vast, so it is refreshing to see such personal and introspective characters at play. While the Earth forces are moving on Mars, Ahron and Iykarus are pursuing their own agenda in the fight against the Martians. Part 5 brings us in touch with what the Martians are concerned with – the survival of their species.
The subject matter is personal and the scientist in question is very clearly affected by what he is doing and the implications it has for not only the entire Martian race, but on one other character – a pregnant humanoid woman who is to give birth to the key of the Martian survival (no pressure Mum-to-be). The scientist is questioning his work and his motives, clearly at odds with the overall agenda of the Martian race. There are huge themes at play, not least of which is the mass genocide of the human and Venusian race but if you set that to one side, you have basic yet relevant themes of class, race and even gender roles. Something else this story gives is the depiction of the arrogance of human civilization and it’s perceived superiority over others – this is becoming even more relevant given the news in recent days concerning North Korea & the USA. The final two pages of this part gives a pretty terrifying lesson.
D’Israeli’s art does a wonderful job of placing the reader into different environments/situations, which makes it extremely clear when you hop to a different location in the story. The different alien races look distinctive, but this isn’t where it ends. The colouring and atmospherics from one ship to another feel completely different. When the reader is placed on the deck of a human vessel, it feels extremely at home with illustrations that are crisp and clear, making perfect sense in terms of colour and shading to ‘reality’. By comparison, when you’re in a Martian lab the artwork almost makes you feel uneasy, as the characters are illuminated with a strange glow from the environment around them and leaves the reader feeling, well… alien.
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld Part 5 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall & Ellie De Ville
The nightmare continues but this time it brought friends (potentially). Jess and Fairfax (as well as Byke) have been taken by a resistance group consisting of ex-forces and characters of a morally ambiguous nature. This part gives some room for Jess to interact with other individuals who aren’t semi-comatose (Fairfax) or an AI vehicle (Byke) and it throws us a big surprise with plenty of potential for relationships to form (good or bad).
Each part to Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld brings some incredible artwork and this is no exception; a panel containing ‘The Wall’, a mega structure designed to segregate an entire population, occupies the top two-thirds of a page and the scale is wonderfully balanced. The Wall itself feels industrial in design yet suitably gothic in its depiction thanks to Kendall’s signature style. Let’s hope Trump doesn’t subscribe to 2000 AD.
Although we have only just met this group, the dynamic between certain individuals is played out wonderfully by Kek-W’s writing. The motives and the end goal of this group is not entirely certain, so while they are looking to fight the corrupted Justice Department, the means is yet to be determined. We have reached what feels like a staging point in this story and there are hints of big things to come.
Prog 2027 ticks a lot of boxes and as you can often expect from the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, there are themes that bubble beneath the surface that are grounded in reality. Although these five stories are extremely different to one-another, the experience of reading Prog 2027 is satisfying and balanced brilliantly. Throughout the last five progs you are never left with a feeling that every story was a cheap thrill or excuse for action. Neither do you feel that it was a boring read with nothing going on. Each prog of 2000 AD is designed to be balanced enough to provide a little of everything to the reader, keeping you hooked every week – and you know what? It bloody well works.