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2000AD, PROG 2050

by ModernPanther on September 26, 2017


Writers: T.C Eglington; James Robinson; Dan Abnett; Pat Mills; John Smith; Kek-W; Matt Smith

Artists: Colin MacNeil; Leonardo Manco; Mark Harrison; Simon Davis; Lee Carter; Steve Yeowell; Dave Kendall

Colourists: Chris Blythe; John Charles

Publisher: Rebellion

 

 

 

Are you interested in Judge Dredd, but have been overwhelmed by forty years of weekly issues and not known where to begin?  Are you intrigued by the vast possibilities offered by 2000AD’s range of characters, but not know where to start?  The answers to your questions are “here” and “now”.  Prog 2050 is a "jump-on" issue, specially adapted to allow new readers to quickly consume large doses of thrill power, without a complete scrambling of their neural circuits. It’s a bumper sized mega issue which deserves a bumper sized mega review.


 

“I am the Law!”. It’s not just a warning to troublemakers to put down their weapons and assume the position – it’s a declaration of intent. Judge Dredd is the law made flesh, a character firmly lawful/neutral on the alignment axis, focussed on enforcing the rules no matter what.  Judge Dredd: Icon looks at Dredd’s role as the living embodiment of a totalitarian political system, how citizens react to that, and the problems it might cause.

It’s been five years since Chaos Day, when a weaponized virus swept through the Mega City One. Hundreds of millions where killed and vast swathes of the megapolis were left in ruins. Rebuilding is well under way and there are plans to erect a statue of Dredd in memoriam to the judges who gave their lives. But how will the citizens feel about a monument of man who indirectly cause the disaster in the first place?

Judge Dredd: Icon captures the madness of Mega City One, the spiralling tension in the cramped city where people have nothing to do. It also satirises the bizarre sight of people violently protesting in favour of oppression and brings back a character seen only recently, who perhaps has quite a lot of mileage. Its a sound introduction to Dredd and plays with ideas which will sadly be familiar.


 

Rogue Trooper first appeared in the pages of 2000AD thirty six years ago, and the saga of a genetically engineered soldier fighting a ceaseless war on Nu-Earth to avenge his dead comrades has been popular ever since. The blue-skinned Rogue, a near unstoppable soldier and the last of the Genetic Infantrymen, is accompanied by the personalities of his fallen comrades, saved forever in digital form and uploaded to his equipment.

There have been several attempts at building upon the Rogue Trooper universe, with varying degrees of success, and even a full blown retcon of the character and world which was eventually shelved. Rogue Trooper: A Soldier’s Duty, which is the first 2000AD story written by James Robinson, goes back to basics. It blends exposition with ceaseless action, capturing the essence of the character without unnecessary fluff. There is some beautiful artwork by Leonardo Manco, also new to 2000AD, which captures the breakneck brutality of battle alongside the calm arrogance of command. This return to the core principles of the series is really something special.


 

Grey Area has had its ups and downs as a series. The Exo Transfer Control officers tasked with maintaining the customs area for all alien arrivals the Earth have found themselves combating xenophobic terrorists conspiracies, hurled across the universe to take part in an intergalactic war, and dealing with bigotry within their own ranks. In Grey Area: Homeland Security, the squad are gathered together to be confronted with a new challenge. There’s a lot going on here, with an ensemble cast to set up, a political situation to introduce and a new foe to explain. Grey Area handles this well, but we’ll have to wait for the story to take off.

My one issue with Grey Area is in a female alien character given the name “Resting Bitch Face”, “Bitch” for short, who while everyone else is in uniform seems to be dressed in a swimsuit. The character is an important part of the team and is treated with respect throughout, but there’s something jarring about it. It’s an unusual choice, not really in keeping with the rest of the story or 2000AD as a whole.


 

As you will probably remember, the British government began secret experiments into creating super humans in the 1930s to counter the growing threat of Nazism. The first super humans became an important part of the counterculture movements of the 1960s and have long since become an established part of British society, with even a superhuman British Prime Minister.

As the son of two members of the super team Cloud-9, Robert McDowall was always destined for greatness. Since a successful pop career in the late eighties and early nineties, McDowell, more commonly known simply as Zenith, has removed himself from the limelight. InSight managzine correspondent Martin Howe catches up with the pop culture legend as he turns fifty to discuss music, fame and battling extra dimension entities.

The return of Zenith had been teased by 2000AD’s PR droids for some time now. A short written interview with the character might not be what fans wanted or expected. However, it is...nice. It’s like finding out an old friend who used to drink too much has settled down and is doing well for himself.

Zenith last appeared in an ongoing story back in 1992. Rebellion published all four phases of the Zenith series in lovely limited edition hardbacks a few years ago, much to the chagrin of original writer Grant Morrison, who claimed to retain copyright. Does this brief article indicate a return to these pages? I sort of hope not.  Not all bands need to get back together.  Sometimes heroes should be allowed to enjoy their retirement.


 

Slaine: The Brutanian Chronicles, Book Four: Archon, Part One, reads like the title given to some vast and sprawling fantasy epic, brimming with dragons, knights,  noble houses and marketable incest.  In truth, Slaine is about a Celtic warrior who kills things with an axe.

Throwing the reader into the middle of a massive fight, quickly followed with ruminations on the origins of man and the role of thedevine, the pompous absurdity of this ongoing saga is staggering. There’s no allowance for new readers here, no introductions. However, for all its world building and worthiness, Slaine is, in essence, a vehicle for a variety of talented artists to draw big, gory fantasy battles and wondrous landscapes. Simon Davis’ painted art, which also graces this prog’s cover, is at once scratchy and chaotic and evocative and detailed. His characters, frequently course and caked in blood, are carefully coloured, glistening like many faceted jewels.


 

After the simplicity of Slaine, take a deep breath and delve into the welcoming, warm waters of Indigo Prime. Tasked with maintaining the multiverse, or altering the nature of reality for the benefit of the highest bidder, the agents of Indigo Prime have appeared sporadically and spasmodically since their first appearance in 1986, sometimes popping up in the most unexpected places.  Indigo Prime: A Dying Art seems to take up from where the last series left off in 2014, with the organisation in disarray. Don’t let that worry you. Even without the sabbatical, the underlying logic of Indigo Prime is difficult to follow. Let it wash over you and glory in the magnificence of a story that features cat soldiers, the author William Burroughs, singing plants, Doctor Crippen, a neanderthal and Cthulhu in the first episode.  Lee Carver’s cool, clear artwork is like a refreshing dip in a pool on a hot summer day.


 

Hitmen Finnigan Sinister and Ramone Dexter run into trouble when disposing of a corpse in Sinister Dexter: Down in the Dumps. The quick talking duo have been enjoying bizarre adventures sine the mid-nineties, taking on cyborgs, criminal kingpins and alternative realities in a long list of stories.

Here they play with the idea of that longevity, as the pair discover that time has moved on and their old dumping grounds have long since been redeveloped. Its a nice and simple intro story to a sometimes overbearing backstory.


 

The writers of Judge Dredd realised many years ago that Dredd had a habit of shooting criminals dead and that this was having a real impact on any attempts to create recurring bad guys. To address this serious shortage of villainy, they created Judge Death, a dimension hopping, body swapping, genocidal zombie. Having set upon the idea that, since all crime is committed by the living, life itself must be a crime, Judge Death had previously murdered the entire population of his own reality and was eager to spread the good word.

The Fall of Deadworld: Home tells the story of just how one might go about systematically killing a planet and becoming an undead tyrant at the head of a rotting, magical army.  Judge Fairfax, who had retained at least some of his humanity and fled as his fellow lawkeepers had gradually gone insane, has been captured and returned to the capital to face judgement. Meanwhile, the variously monstrous judges bicker amongst themselves as they set about tracking down the few remaining survivors.

Imagine someone managed to capture your nightmares, distil them into liquid form, and use them to paint the pages of a comic book. The Fall of Deadworld is truly horrifying, horrific and genuinely unnerving. It is filled with deformed, decaying and deranged characters, illustrated in a muddy, messy style by Dave Kendall. The worse thing is, for all that we might hope that de facto hero Fairfax might somehow survive, we also know that he won’t win. In Deadworld, hope is already lost.


 

Prog 2050 displays some of the many worlds of 2000AD, with something in every genre from a wide range of creators. It’s the perfect starting point.

Our Score:

10/10

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