As you will see from the graphically violent (and awesome) front cover by Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague, Defoe is back and that shuffling sound isn’t the pages being turned! It’s time for some Ye Olde Zombie Hunting, Pat Mills-style.
On top of the return of Defoe in Prog 2026 we have the continuation of Judge Dredd: Harvey, Brink: Skeleton Life, Scarlet Traces: Cold War and Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld. There is a huge amount of potential and some big names crammed into this prog and whilst it isn’t an ideal ‘jumping-on’ issue, if you’re a fan of Pat Mills or zombie killing in general, now is a good time to pick up a copy with the advent of Defoe: Diehards.
Judge Dredd // Harvey Part 3 by John Wagner, John McCrea, Mike Spicer, & Annie Parkhouse
When creating a comic book character, as a piece of intellectual property, there must be a fear that someday you will see your character fade away and become obsolete. Considerable effort is made to keep that character ahead of the curve by introducing new/different writers and artists. So after 40 years of 2000AD, what has John Wagner, the original creator of Judge Dredd (along with Carlos Ezquerra – not working on this particular title) done with Judge Dredd? He’s written a story that deliberately makes Dredd feel obsolete to the reader. To clarify: Harvey is a patented badass that continues to impress Dredd and make the judges look inferior in every way. That is the subversive thinking we have come to expect from 2000AD and certainly John Wagner. While you have Harvey (the new) impressing and over-performing, you have Dredd (the old) stuck in his ways and cantankerously certain that Harvey will fail in some way, despite the evidence so far to the contrary. The question is: will he? From the first part of Judge Dredd: Harvey in Prog 2024, it is easy to assume that the answer is going to be yes, but as this story unfolds it is unclear whether or not Mechanismo units will actually become a regular appearance in Judge Dredd stories moving forward. Perhaps we’re entering a brave new era for Mega-City One?
John McCrea and Mike Spicer continue their impressively vivid and glorious depiction of Mega-City One and the menacing Harvey. With every panel, there is a host of characters jumping from the page and the dynamism of the action and poses moves the story along with an engaging feel. The design of Harvey is simply awesome and the colouring of Harvey by Spicer really is bright and bold, launching him to the forefront of every panel he is in.
Annie Parkhouse delivers clever lettering that intersects panels and keeps the dialogue moving freely among the action without detracting from the artwork. So far, Judge Dredd: Harvey is an exciting and refreshing Judge Dredd tale.
Defoe // Diehards Part 1 by Pat Mills, Colin MacNeil & Ellie De Ville
In perfect contrast to Judge Dredd: Harvey you have Defoe: Diehards, presented in a wonderful black and white that sets the horror tone nicely thanks to Colin MacNeil’s artwork. Pat Mills begins this story arc with a slow and moody pace, introduced through two children scaring each other by reading ‘A True Tale of the London Hanged’. Not only does this set the foundation for the rest of the story to be built upon, but it also gives the reader an enjoyable first part with a wonderful horror feel thanks to the depictions read aloud by one of the children and the intensely dark yet often very realistic artwork. The warmth of a tavern full of drunkards is brought to life with some very merry faces, while the stone-paved streets outside are dwarfed by the 17th century architecture. Colin MacNeil has paid great attention to detail to give textures to every surface, while the shading that enhances the details on three of the Reekers is chilling and gruesome.
With the stage set and horror tropes firmly in place, it appears we’ll need to wait for Prog 2027 to truly start the journey. It’s a great opening part which should pull readers in easily and is slowly paced to offer the reader plenty of suspense and some important breathing space to adopt the new story among the ongoing titles.
Brink // Skeleton Life Part 4 by Dan Abnett, Inj Culbard & Simon Bowland
Ladies and Gentleman, we have an asshole in our midst – Kurtis gets to meet the Head of Station Security, Ludo Gentry who presents himself to be a potential annoyance for the rest of her investigation. This is quite a tried and tested formula and for those who have ever seen Die Hard 2, Kurtis is most certainly ‘Pissing in someone’s pool’ and yup, she’s ‘fresh out of chlorine’.
The dynamic between the two characters is, as always, fast flowing and punchy with plenty of attitude and more than just a little intrigue. The artwork by Culbard creates what appears (at least from this part alone) to be a truly unpleasant individual, brimming with arrogance in his facial features and who looms over Kurtis with far greater physical presence. Kurtis is on form and is having none of it and the scene is left mid-flow with neither character really having the upper-hand over the other.
There has been no real action in Brink: Skeleton Life so far and it could be accused of being a tad boring if it weren’t for the fact that Dan Abnett’s writing makes for compelling reading. That said, we still haven’t got into the nitty-gritty of what’s going on and it leaves the reader with plenty of questions but no answers. The dialogue is fun, but where is it leading us? As with any anthology, keeping each issue engaging must be a mammoth task and breaking down an investigative story such as this one into such small chunks is perhaps even more of a challenge. It’s been enjoyable so far, but there needs to be more next issue to really keep us engaged.
Scarlet Traces // Cold War: Book 2 Part 4 by Ian Edginton, D’Israeli & Annie Parkhouse
Things get weird and trippy in this part as Ahron gets the back-story on the Martians through a psychic link told wonderfully using D’Israeli’s abstract artwork and some great lettering by Parkhouse. If you were to ask for a piece of artwork that looked ‘sci-fi’ you’d be hard pressed to find anything that fits the bill better than D’Israeli’s art in Scarlet Traces: Cold War. You get B-Movie style designs of architecture and Martians with strong bright backdrops of space and some very weird and wonderful environments. The history of the Martians is structured into a helix shape that is full of creative uses of iconography and character designs that depict the evolution of the Martians.
Edginton takes this issue and uses it to upload a full backstory and history into our puny Earthlet minds. You get the feeling of coming out of a dream in the final few panels as reality hits you and you realise that actually, as nightmares go, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the reality of the days ahead. The entire plot has opened up and our two characters are in for a harsh run full of moral dilemmas and a truly epic task. The reader is left with an unease that questions the motives of the Martians and the way in which they are perceived by humans, yet leaves you with no doubt over the magnitude of the threat.
Scarlet Traces continues to impress and keep you invested in the story.
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld Part 4 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall & Ellie De Ville
Judge Death has always been a fantastic villain for the Dreddverse and has a rich and twisted history within Judge Dredd as well as 2000AD as a whole. The prospect of experiencing Sydney De’Ath before he become the infamous Judge Death is a joy and thanks to Kek-W and some brutal artwork by Dave Kendall, we get to do just that.
Fairfax and Jess are in a tight jam and the set-up leads the reader perfectly into a flashback to the academy days of Fairfax, where Sydney De’Ath is a tutor. The story and artwork are sadistic, with the horrific injuries depicted being brought to the page in grisly detail. The battered and pulped facial features of Fairfax in this flashback scene after he sustained an attack from fellow cadets, is haunting while the presence of Sydney’s pale features are equally ghastly.
Each part of this story offers something new to the reader, both in the present and in Fairfax’s past. The team-up of Kek-W and Dave Kendall seems completely harmonious as this title continues to delve deeper into the history of one of the most iconic villains to grace 2000AD. The characters are balanced both in personality and visual creation, the dialogue contrasts against each character and the story of a world gone mad is presented with harrowing effect.
2000AD Prog 2026 is full of big names and thankfully the content delivered lives up to the high expectations the names bring with them. The current story arcs are in full flow and Defoe offers a change of pace and style from the sci-fi/futuristic titles that are ongoing. Brink is a title that has been very enjoyable but the story has yet to expand and hasn’t lead us to any revelations or big questions, instead offering a relatively clichéd new character and subsequent interaction. Judge Dredd: Harvey keeps up the excitement and engagement with the reader, while both Scarlet Traces and Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld keep opening the plot and backstories on which they are based. Keep ’em coming, oh mighty Tharg.
2000AD Prog 2026 is available in stores, online and in digital via www.2000adonline.com on Wednesday 12th April 2017.