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2000AD, PROG 2100 REVIEW

by Gavin Johnston on September 26, 2018

Writers: Rob Williams; Dan Abnett; James Peaty; Alan Grant; Ian Edginton
Artists:  Henry Flint; INJ Culbard; Colin MacNeil; Jake Lynch; Steven Yeowell; Dave Taylor; Richard Elson
Colourists: Chris Blythe; Dylan Teague; John Charles; Abigail Bulmer
Letterers: Annie Parkhouse; Simon Bowland, Ellie De Ville 
Publisher: Rebellion

2000AD celebrates its 2,100th Prog with a jump-on issue, with all new stories, ideal for new readers. It’s also a bumper sized issue, with seven stories, rather than the usual five...

...this is going to need an extra large review...


There’s a charge in the air when Rob Williams in on Dredd script duties. His stories deliver possibly the most interesting version of Dredd outside of creator John Wagner. His Dredd is self reflective, fuelled by a rage and duty. Wiliam’s isn't afraid to take risks, turning the world on its head and dispatching characters he’s spent years building.

Judge Dredd: The Small House is the latest stage in an arc that was embarked upon more than six years ago. It also features some of the most original and interesting character in Dredd’s world.

A polite Machiavelli, Judge Smiley is part character from a John le Carre novel, part Alan Bennett. Smiley was retrospectively written into Dredd’s world way back in Prog 1803. He runs the Justice Department’s Black-ops, pushing the chess pieces around the board when no one is looking. He is the Deepstate. But an actual Deepstate. Not one just made up to cover for incompetence.

Not only does The Small House mark Smiley’s return, in also stars Dirty Frank in all-action mode. I love Dirty Frank (and Dirty Frank loves babies. Except the Nazi ones). There’s a real joy in a character who refuses to take himself seriously, and who quick witted dialogue could veer off in any direction.

Frank and Dredd team up to investigate Smiley’s use of alien technology. Frank gets most of the heavy lifting, whilst Dredd gets to scream angry instructions. It’s actually a charming relationship, smartly written and undercut with a real sadness. For the most of the last decade, many Dredd stories have involved his unconscious, repeated, and failed attempts to build a network of confidants. Meanwhile, Frank lost his own family. It’s a buddy movie in the making.

 

 

In the world of Brink, the Earth has been abandoned to environmental catastrophe. The remaining humans have moved into space, living onboard an array of vast space stations. Cramped together in this unnatural environment, eating artificial food and swallowing pills to reduce the shear terror of living on the edge of the abyss, the human race has begun to lose it’s mind.

Brink is heavily inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft. Its horror isn’t in massive octopus-headed gods stomping through civilisation, but the terrifying idea that some people believe in those octopus-headed gods, and are willing to do anything to appease them. Book Three, Brink: High Society, opens with investigator Bridget Kurtis once again going undercover to investigate a conspiracy that seems to be entwined with the most powerful members of this society.

A Sci-fi horror with mad cultists in space might sound like an all-action genre. Instead, Brink is careful, well paced and reserved. Its characters are very real, genuinely affected by outburst of violence. As Kurtis is systematically stripped of her possessions and redressed in a company uniform that resembles something from the 1800s, the quiet chills come from pondering the type of minds that think this necessary, and what they might have to hide. Brink takes ordinary people, and shows the horror just below the surface.  And as Book Three opens, that horror is closer to the surface than ever.

 

 

There’s another bleak future for the human race in Kingdom: Alpha And Omega. The Earth has fallen, this time to giant alien insects. The humans have all gone, but first took the entirely reasonable step of breeding an army of dog/human super-soldiers, engineered to protect their masters at all costs.

With the human past leaking into myth, the world of Kingdom is brutal but poetic. It’s the tale of the need for love and purpose. But it’s also about big pictures of big heroes fighting big monsters. This Prog involves a quick recap on previous adventures, and it might be a lot to take in, but Kingdom is ready to explode into violence next week..

 

 

After a lacklustre first appearance a few months back, Skip Tracer returns in Legion. The previous story was a mash of sci-fi detective archetypes, jammed together under a single, neon lit roof. This second adventure feels more grounded, more solid.  Just like the first time round, we open with a chase which quickly turns around, before getting a bit of an explaination of where the story is likely headed.  It's clearer, more refined than before.

Skip Tracer could be saved by Legion, and it’s looking good so far.

 

 

Judge Anderson returns to where the where the Dark Judges first appeared thirty seven years ago in Anderson, PSI Division: Death’s Dark Angels. It's a nice litle comedy horror, with a band of desperate cultists whose hobbyist summoning gets out of hand. Both Dredd and Anderson appear, and it’s a fun if lightweight tale, with a whole bunch of classic Mega City madness.

 

 

There’s something strange about Sinister Dexter: Tight Grouping. How is it that five pages story in which a bunch of people chatting about the last Sinister Dexter story can be so captivating? The closest it gets to action is a pistol being fired at a target – and yet it’s fast moving, full of humour and very human characters bouncing off each other. Billi is shopping for a gun after her run in with the Devil, and Dexter is still suffering from a serious case of thought-balloons. Tight Grouping is excellent catch up, and functions as a fun, if perhaps confusing, intro for new readers.

 

 

the original Fiends of the Eastern Front was a horror story set during the World War 2, with blood thirsty vampires involved in the battle between German and Soviet forces. Fiends of the Eastern Front: 1812 transfers the action to Napoleon’s attempted invasion of Russia, told via the diary entries of a soldier who discovers that vampires walk amongst them.

Artist Dave Taylor is best known round these parts for his busy skylines and strangely organic machinery. In 1812, his art is stripped back, with wide and beautifully bleak landscapes that radiate cold. Credit is also due to letterer Annie Parkhouse, for producing something a little bit special.

It's not always like this.  Sometimes, 2000AD will have a couple of stories that don't hit the mark.  But when it' s good, it's very good.  A mix of genres, from a whole bunch of creators who are willing to take risks.  Prog 2100 is 2000AD doing what it does best.

Our Score:

10/10

A Look Inside