2000ad Prog 2101
Carlos Sanchez Ezquerra 1947-2018.
The 2000ad and wider comics community has been deeply saddened by the loss of the great Carlos Ezquerra. The creator of Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog was responsible for the iconic look of the prog for 4 decades. Senor Ezquerra was a man of ready wit who related to the fans on a personal level, many of whom have shared this week their touching experiences and interactions with him. King Carlos lost his battle with lung cancer on October 1st at the age of 70. A JustGiving page has been set up to help his widow, Conchita Ezquerra.
Judge Dredd “The Small House” Part 2 by Rob Williams, Henry Flint, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse.
Ooft! Smiley drops the f-bomb on Joe this week and old stoney face does not like it one bit. Just in case you were being lulled into the idea that Dredd’s some kind of a hero, we get a blunt and brutal reality check. It’s an example of the glacial character development that makes Dredd such a compelling character within a compelling strip. There was a time (think Democracy or America) that he’d take that on his considerable chin. Nowadays he seethes in the face of Smiley’s condescension and there’s a bit of the reader that can’t help but agree with Smiley. Dredd’s not a master strategist but “naive and simple tool” is probably a bit harsh. Nevertheless, Dredd doesn’t disagree; nothing Smiley says is inaccurate. In the words of the big Lebowski, “You’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole”. Rest assured, Joe’s not going to take this lying down.
Flint’s artwork is essential in bringing the tightness and tension to this scene. He creates a stillness that manages to feel like exhausting conflict. Smiley’s doleful expression is almost regretful that he needs to have this conversation. Like a teacher reprimanding an otherwise good student that’s stepped out of line. Dredd just looms, fists clenched, body tight with suppressed rage. His anger is in complete contrast with how relaxed Smiley appears.
We’ve been assured that this is going to be an important story, but more importantly it looks like it’s going to be a good one.
Brink “High Society” Part 2 by Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard and Simon Bowland
Abnett gives us a satisfying glimpse into the high society of the title this week, fleshing out the structures and conventions of the Brinkverse. There’s a Downton Abbey feel to proceedings between the upstairs (Bigspace) inhabitants and their downstairs (Smallspace) servants. Culbard makes clever use of panels to sharply delineate the dbig/small contrast and the sudden feeling of disorientation felt by the characters in transition.
Culbard’s world builds on the unreal nature of bigspace. All is not as it seems with the rich in thought, word, deed and surroundings. Their faux-country house aesthetic is nothing more substantial than a hologram disguising massive emptiness. It’s in sharp contrast to the working class intimacy of smallspace and their relatively innocent inhabitants. Abnett’s bringing class into the proceedings and aren’t all struggles ultimately class struggles. Brink is a modern masterpiece and every episode makes you want to go back and start from Book 1 again.
Fiends of the Eastern Front “1812” Part 2 by Ian Edginton, Dave Taylor and Annie Parkhouse.
Edginton shows his flair for historical horror this week. As if the terrors of Napoleon’s retreat from Russia wasn’t enough, our protagonist and his vampiric allies discover far worse than Cossacks in the woods. Tellingly, D’Hubert and his human comrades are as fearful of Constanta as anything else, probably with good reason. Their alliance looks likely to last only as long as the vampires remain well fed.
The artwork from Taylor works in perfect partnership with the story. From the relative warmth of camp to the muted frozen patrol through an ethereal forest. Everything outside is coated in a haze that seems almost to deaden the sounds of the story. As always, the devil’s in the details; the presence of icy breath from only the humans, the shockingly sudden splash of colour as a vampire burns. It’s a thing of eerie beauty and well worth the price of admission.
Skip Tracer “Legion” Part 2 by James Peaty, Colin MacNeil, Dylan Teague and Ellie de Ville.
Our return to the Cube feels a little underwhelming so far. It’s not a bad story per se but each element of it feels like it’s been done before. The Consociation feels generically malevolent but without the character of, say, Munce Inc to motivate it. The proposed delve into Keenan’s catatonic mind looks to be a rehash of a hundred Judge Anderson stories.
With the exception of Teague’s gorgeous colouring in the opening page, even MacNeil’s artwork looks bored. There’s no sense of the dynamism of the first story and it all manages to fall a bit flat.
Kingdom “Alpha and Omega” by Dan Abnett, Richard Elson, Abigail Bulmer and Ellie de Ville.
Abnett’s second story of the prog again feels like something we’ve seen before. Kingdom has been on the go since 2006 and, despite clear progression overall, this week is definitely a repeat. As in previous series, Gene has the obligatory meeting with a slightly altered version of familiar antagonists. This time around it’s a combination of everything we’ve seen before; auxes, masters, ticks and Them. This might mean that this will be the concluding book as everything seems to be approaching an endgame.
Despite this, the artwork is a treat. Elson’s richly detailed pencils providing a strong structure for Bulmer’s rich palette. The jungle setting feels crowded but never confused and none of the action is lost in the myriad of backgrounds despite a breakneck pace. Has Kingdom reached its allotted lifespan? Possibly, but the violence and the charm of Gene-dog should carry it through for a while yet.
A prog frontloaded with excellence which risks running out of steam towards the end.