When 2000ad first hit the news-stands in 1977, it was aimed at kids. Passing generations saw their comic mature with them. Sure, the majority of stories today are as suitable for children as they ever were, but the regular theme of ‘growing old’ might lack resonance with those under the age of 30.
Aware of its readers’ creeping mortality, 2000ad has been attempting to re-engage with a younger audience. 2018’s Free Comic Book Day saw the release of 2000ad REGENED, following the tried and tested business plan of giving kids their first fix free. One year later, 2000ad REGENED is back, taking over the regular publication for a bumper crop of thrills.
As ever with 2000ad, the anthology format is the comic’s greatest strength. If one story doesn’t appeal, the next one’s ready and waiting, and five different readers will list five different favourites. There’s a variety of flavours throughout; different writing, different pacing, different art. Consistent lettering holds it all together, with Annie Parkhouse, Ellie De Ville, and Simon Bowland each taking a pair of stories and doing their usual impeccable work.
Chris Weston kicks off the comic by both writing and drawing Cadet Dredd, helped out by colourist Chris Blythe. Focusing on Dredd’s cadet years sidesteps the issue of continuity accessibility. Long-term readers can smile at nostalgic uniform designs while mulling over the identity issues raised by cloning. Newcomers can just sit back and enjoy the onslaught of ideas, gags, and action. Weston somehow manages to write just as he draws, with an even spread of dense detail that packs in reader satisfaction.
After enjoying 2000ad’s longest running story, we shift to the first salvo of a whole new universe. Alex De Campi drops us in at the deep-end with the appropriately named Full Tilt Boogie. The writing overflows with world-building and the end leaves you thirsty for more. Eduardo Ocana uses watercolours and fluid lines to invoke various artistic legends while simultaneously bringing us something new.
Karl Stock and Brett Parson demonstrate a classic rule of Future Shocks; start with the twist, then see what happens next. A more passive voice lets us catch our breaths, a second glance at the artwork reveals all is not as it seems, and as with all Future Shocks, the story ends with an exclamation mark.
While Cadet Dredd confronted us with the unsettling fact that the future is a whole lot closer than it previously seemed, Anderson: Psi Division takes us reassuringly back to ‘present day’ Mega-City 1. Alec Worley delivers an Anderson story that could easily sit in a regular prog, while PJ Holden and Gary Caldwell turn the art up to party-time; and we’re all invited!
Finder & Keeper delivers a terror tale that, much like Full Tilt Boogie, feels like a pilot for more to come. This story plays it a little safer, with a temporary conventional ending leaving room for later returns. For 2000ad, the five person creative team of Leah Moore, John Reppion, Davide Tinto, Pippa Mather, and Annie Parkhouse is something of an unusual beast. With so many sharp minds developing ideas, it will be interesting to see how this story develops.
The comic ends with Rouge Trooper, an irony given that Rouge Trooper can never end. 2000ad’s take on Sisyphus, Rouge Trooper is destined to live the same story over and over again until embracing either nihilism or absurdity. He wanders the poisoned land of Nu Earth in pursuit of a goal that he has already accomplished, yet simultaneously will never achieve. Including a metaphor for the monotony of the daily grind was a brave choice for a kid friendly comic. Cavan Scott, Nick Roche, and Abigail Bulmer subverted what we can only presume was an editorial punishment by telling a fun story featuring giant robots. Don’t let Tharg keep you down, you wonderful droids! For the love of Grud, unionise!
There is an old Star Wars film sometimes used to demonstrate that stories for children shouldn’t necessarily star children. When young characters are written by adults they all too easily become patronising and alienating. This second 2000ad REGENED aims a little older than its predecessor. In doing so, it feels more confident. Rather than groping in the dark for something kids will find ‘cool’, it simply presents a range of quality stories knowing at least some of them will grab you. This leads to the comic being more palatable for all ages, just like it says on the cover!