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2000AD, PROG 2073 REVIEW

by Gavin Johnston on March 20, 2018

Writers: Rob Williams; Gordon Rennie; James Peaty; Dn Abnett; Emma Beeby; Kek-W; John Wagner
Artists: Chris Weston; Sinon Colby; Dylan Teague; Steven Yeowell; David Roach; Dan Cornwell; Carlos Ezquerra
Colourists: Len O'Grady; John Charles; Jose Villarrubia; Dylan Teague
Letterers: Annie Parkhouse: Ellie De Ville: Simon Bowland 


2000AD has been on a bit of a downturn lately, with too many stories that failed to deliver. It has raised questions of whether the new golden age has come to an end. Is this the end of 2000AD? Luckily, the anthology format ensures a quick turn around and just as things are starting to look bleak, alien editor Tharg the Mighty delivers yet another top-notch jump-on Prog which proves there’s life in the old dog yet.

 

Anyone who is familiar with the Satires of Roman poet Juvenal, or the Watchmen of Northampton poet Moore, will be familiar with the ancient question “Who Judges the Judges?”.

The Special Judicial Squad do, that’s who! The Justice Department's own internal affairs division, the SJS are the hard as nails men and women who pass judgement on Mega City One’s toughest cops.

Judge Dredd: Fit For Purpose reintroduces two characters from different sides of the SJS coin. Judge Gerhart was previously a foe to Dredd, but saved Dredd’s own life in an incident that left Gerhart with some...noticeable injuries. After working together a few times since, the men have a relationship of professional respect.

SJS Judge Pin, meanwhile, appeared in last years The Fields, a story with a sudden ending which revealed that the diminutive and elderly Pin was actually an insane serial killer.

Artist Chris Weston provides a crazy city with some larger than life characters who are immediately imposing in this uniform-and-equipment heavy episode. The design work in Weston’s vision of the megopolis is outstanding, full of small details that make perfect sense. The SJS customised bike is a highlight - check out those lights! Meanwhile, Rob William’s delicately crafted dialogue gives us overlapping narratives from Dredd and Gerhart as both men consider their own mortality and the need for allies in the cut throat politics of judging. One scene carefully mirrors the mini-epic Titan on a much smaller scale, allowing Dredd to take a moment to reassess his own weakness and how Gerhart had been the stronger man. This is great stuff, and although it features quite a few call-backs, the story would be just as welcoming to new readers.

 

Giant space battles reign supreme in Jaegir: In The Realm Of Pyrrhus. A spin-off from classic Rogue Trooper, which usually focussed on the minutia of a single soldier fighting in skirmishes in the never ending war for Nu-Earth, Jaegir turns everything in the Rogue-universe up to eleven. Bringing character and culture to the previously just evil Nort army, and replacing small scale conflict with space-faring dreadnoughts and orbital minefields. It’s all action this Prog as Kaptan Atalia makes her return to the Nu Earth and the pages of 2000AD after two years away. A breathless story takes us from orbit to ground level explaining little, throwing us headlong into the brutal conflict.

 

How To Make Comics, lesson #267 – its all about movement!  Fill those pages with action, folks. A novel might be able to stop and give the reader twenty pages of monologue about motivations, but the comic is a visual media. There’s no way that a comic that just repeats the same image for five pages could possibly be interesting, right? Give ‘em splashes, and Dutch angles and some of Wally Wood’s 22 panels that always work!

 

Sinister Dexter: the Salad of Bad Cafe might make you disagree with that. As hitmen Finnigan Sinister and Ramone Dexter wait for their latest target, they visit a cafe for a bite to eat. As the pair discuss the murder business, the good old days and the sad little salads that come as garnish, we’re treated to almost the same panel a total of forty one times. A comic that features two guys having a chat shouldn’t work, but the razor sharp dialogue draws the reader in, as two friends laugh and joke their way through a meal and reminisce about the past.  This is a charming introduction to the series, or a quiet recap for fans.

 

The search and destroy agents of Strontium Dog: The Son are also looking to get back to how things once were. With their previously destroyed headquarters back up and running and new bounty hunters signing up, there’s perhaps too many blasts from the past as Johnny Alpha discovers that his old friend Wulf Sternhammer had a son, who plans to follow his dad into the bounty hunting business.

Sternhammer was Johnny Alpha’s loyal companion until Wulf’s shocking death. It was a turning point for Alpha and for the whole strip, with the Alpha falling into a downward spiral which culminated in his own death a few years later. Could the old gang be getting back together, or is this just John wagner’s response to the criticism from some readers for bringing Alpha himself back from the dead? There’s great humour in the friends and work colleagues of the agency coming back together, their constant annoyance at each other, and the comedic lengths they’ll go to for the sake of nostalgia.  Coupled with the iconic art of Carlos Exquerra, whose mutants are filled with character, this is again a great jump-on story. 

 

There's more nostalgia in Judge Fear: Memories Are Made of This. Seperated from his Dark Judge brothers, who were last seen in Judge Dredd Megazine’s Dominion, Judge Fear is in the hands of the Justice Department, who have the naive idea that his powers should be researched. As a Judge forms a psychic link with the Dark Judge, he draws us into his memories of his early years, last seen in the recent Fall of Dead World saga. Art from Dan Cornwell has a completely different feel to Dave Kendall’s incredibly morbid visuals in Dead World, almost adding a slight comedy to the undead monsters who terrorise a gang of raiders. Comedy was the death of the Dark Judges, but this is still very much writer Kek-W’s vision, with dark, gory body horror and sparks of wild inventiveness.

 

The Dark Judge’s old foe Cassandra Anderson also appears this prog, headlining Anderson PSI Division: Undertow. It's a strange Anderson story from writer Emma Beeby, more police procedural than the often wildly supernatural Anderson stories. The experienced psychic reaches outwith the justice department to a range of gifted individuals, to discover the secret of the disturbing vision being passed among the PSI department like a virus. With some fairly dense and fast moving dialogue this is a bit difficult to follow in places, and the final twist throws something completely new into the pot.

 

“He was trapped in a virtual reality prison all along” is such a Future Shock cliché that, if you look at the small print on the inside cover of this week's Prog, you’ll actually see the editing team making fun of it. Writer James Peaty takes the idea and makes it his own in Future Shock: Freedom Wears Two Faces. A con artist seeks entrance to cyber-paradise, only to find its not what he expected. It's a nice idea, and whilst not massively original, it's full of fun and the wonderfully detailed art from Dylan Teague ensures the ending pays off.

2000AD has its ups and downs, but Prog 2073 doesn't put a foot wrong.  It's the perfect Prog to revitalise the comic, and a great jump-on Prog for new readers.

Our Score:

10/10

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