We have a bountiful selection of titles of late thanks very much to the Free Comic Book Day Prog and the continuation of five thrills in the current story arcs of 2000 AD. This week we have a great front cover with a suitably shocked Kurtis from Brink, overlayed with a computer HUD in bright blues. It screams a kind of ‘clean’ cyber-punk and INJ Culbard has made this image fit in wonderfully with Brink: Skeleton Life Part 8 as we will soon discover…
Judge Dredd // Sons of Booth Part 1 by T.C. Eglington, Nick Dyer, Chris Blythe, & Annie Parkhouse
2000 AD has never shied away from being political and commenting on current affairs through their stories and art. It’s something they’ve been doing from the outset and titles within 2000 AD have provided subtext and metaphors in abundance. We live in interesting times and many people feel powerless as a supposed majority continue to elect right-wing candidates and make seemingly catastrophic changes as the world watches in disbelief.
Art in all its forms can be incredibly cathartic in such times, be it music, modern art, movies, theatre and yes, definitely comics. Sometimes the world needs a ‘fuck you’ to authority and not to brag, but the Brits have been creating subversive comics for decades with many titles having gone on to become cult-hits such as Tank Girl or 2000 AD (among many). It’s wonderful to see, therefore, that Judge Dredd is still giving us social and political commentary and T.C. Eglington has penned a rather fitting script.
The story focuses on a downtrodden man called Kelvin, trying to make his way through life in the Big Meg who unwittingly stumbles across an underground political movement having been saved by one of its members during a mugging. Long-time readers will recognise the name ‘Booth’ from the title as being the incompetent and dangerous President Robert L. Booth, the man who lead America into the atomic wars, ultimately leading to the Judges taking control as we now know it.
The first part is presented by Nick Dyer and Chris Blythe’s fantastic artwork and colouring, painting truly dirty hallways in a Mega-Block complete with graffiti, disconcerting stains and some very unpleasant residents. The dweeby looking Kelvin is one such resident and is a good foot shorter than most characters and sporting some over-the top glasses even Harry Potter wouldn’t be caught dead in.
The Sons of Booth are self-proclaimed ‘good ol’ boys’ oozing with sickly levels of patriotism and if the appearance and attitudes of this gang weren’t enough, Eglington uses an equivalent term to ‘alternative facts’ with beautiful relish. This story is going to be worth your attention.
Defoe // Diehards Part 5 by Pat Mills, Colin MacNeil, & Ellie De Ville
Continuing a flashback sequence before the events of Part 1, Defoe continues his meeting with his contact in the British Secret Service, gathering as much information on the rise of the Diehards as he can and also explains how he’s got lumbered with Gallowgrass again on this case.
Part 5 opens up Titus’ hatred for more than just Reeks and MacNeil’s art is impressive once again in placing the reader in a dank and dirty 17th Century London. The characters are frequently despicable and the violence matches in horror and tone.
Although Diehards is ultimately a story of Titus tracking down a group of Reeks who have been terrorising London, the suspects involved in this plot are amoral by their very nature and are being fleshed out nicely as the story progresses. These villains aren’t as clear-cut as the undead, and there is a subplot building in the background that gives the violence and horror suitable context.
Defoe is stone-faced throughout most of this part (as he generally is) but the rage and hatred explodes with dramatic effect in a flashback, showing what he is capable of as an anti-hero.
The end of this installment closes on a humorous note followed with the promise of plenty of action in the next prog.
Brink // Skeleton Life Part 8 by Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard, & Simon Bowland
The plot has been building slowly in Brink, but things get very interesting in this part as Kurtis takes matters into her own hands to find out just what the hell is going on in the Galina Habitat. The part moves more swiftly than others as Kurtis goes from an intensive care unit to the bowels of the habitat, accompanied by Gibrani in a thriller sequence akin to X-Files.
The art work is incredibly atmospheric and the way lighting is conveyed by Culbard’s shading is impressive and truly engaging – drawing the reader into the environment and letting them lap up the strange hues of blue and purple. The HUDs used by Kurtis’s Tracelet (computer device worn on her wrist) gives a cyberpunk feel as she accesses logs, schematics, and maps, and overlays this on walls and (seemingly) the reader as we stare through it into Kurtis’ expressive face.
The characters all feel as though they have a part to play and there are hints of plot twists that may happen further down the story. Whether this will come to fruition is difficult to say, but there are so many questions and strange happenings that you’re left feeling confident that Kurtis is gonna bust this case wide open.
The suspense, investigative nature and atmospheric artwork make this part a redeeming feature and Skeleton Life is really starting to come together. The last panel of a panic stricken Kurtis mirrors the cover of Prog 2030 great effect.
Scarlet Traces // Cold War: Book 2 Part 8 by Ian Edginton, D’Israeli, & Annie Parkhouse
Cold War: Book 2 has moved at a progressive pace with an epic story unfolding effortlessly and with great satisfaction to read. Part 8 continues this trend as Ahron locates Sohna and begins another psychic link presenting him with a choice to set in motion events that could effectively cause the genocide of the entire Martian race. This series has presented the reader with some heavy themes of consequence and what actions are acceptable to take when we are empowered to do so. It’s a great sci-fi romp, but it’s backed up with some moral questions and deep meaning. This part in particular feels pivotal to the rest of the story.
D’Israeli’s illustration and colouring depicts the psychic links, ship environments, and aliens with bright colours and plenty of emotion conveyed in the faces of the characters. Annie Parkhouse’s lettering stands out in this title in particular as the Martian language is presented in a truly alien script with perfectly placed bubbles for some dialogue-heavy scenes in this part.
With so much at stake on a galactic level, it’s the way these huge events affect the individual characters that make this story flow so well. Scarlet Traces keeps building and building with momentum, funneling us towards a conclusion at high speed. A brilliant ride so far.
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld Part 8 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall, Ellie De Ville
Over the last 7 parts, Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld has been promising a show-down of some kind. An event that will push our characters to the limit and bring together the very real conflict between the Dark Judges and the survivors fighting a guerrilla war or otherwise simply trying to stay alive. How exactly a story delivers on such an event really depends on who is telling it. Considering how visually influenced the concepts are in Fall of Deadworld and Dreams of Deadworld, it is perhaps fitting that the prelude to this event is almost completely silent.
It’s ballsy to have a small number of pages in a weekly anthology and use next to no dialogue or monologue. There are 29 panels in total and only one panel has any lettering. I will not spoil how this is used.
The action in Part 8 is centred around a siege and how Judge Fear decides to infiltrate and attack those inside The Wall. Kek-W’s writing is dark, sickening, violent, and gruesomely satisfying as Judge Fear sows the seeds of horror and sends panic and chaos at his enemies. Dave Kendall expertly demonstrates the power of comic book storytelling with his artwork and words simply aren’t needed. They aren’t missed, but it is impossible not to take note of their absence and this is simply because it’s so unusual, especially across so many panels.
This part is breathtaking in its storytelling and the very limited number of words that do appear hit home like an anvil.
2000 AD Prog 2030 is simply wonderful in every way with the current titles ramping up momentum and the first part of a politically charged Judge Dredd set to extend the middle finger to the craziness that is world politics right now. With a perfect blend of sci-fi, horror, investigation and mystery, 2000 AD keeps the thrill-power at high standards week after week.
2000 AD Prog 2030 is available on Wednesday 10th May in stores, online and digitally via www.2000adonline.com.