Sunday, 4 October 2015

Review: 2000ad prog 1950.

Now I realise I'm a little late to the party here, over half way between this prog and the next, but the combination of four 13 hour shifts in a row and my ten week old son delayed me slightly. There's also the fact that I had the last chapter of The Alienist to finish from prog 1949, I realise this wouldn't of affected my understanding of this prog, but hey I'm a bit of a stickler when it comes to reading.

1950 is replete with four new stories, all at their nascent, so that readers can dive straight in, a status quo reset of sorts. After a fashion I'm approaching this prog as a semi-lapsed reader, my first memories of 2000ad are as a forbidden fruit at my grandmother's house. My uncle had an extensive collection of annuals, which were on the 'big' shelf until I was old enough. However that didn't stop me climbing the desk underneath the shelf to reach the summit and immerse my self in the amazing world hidden in the pages; Strontium Dog, Judge Dredd and Dan Dare singing to me from the pages in a harmony of unknown excitement. Sadly though over the years I lost touch, until recently in the last couple of months. I happened across the submissions page of 2000ad inviting writers to submit their future shocks s
ideas (my attempts at this are another story all together) and instantly my memories came back and I rushed out to the newsagents and picked up the most recent copy and have purchased it weekly since, almost religiously. So this prog, for me, comes at a time when I'm rediscovering the different worlds that this stellar publication had to offer. Which brings me to the point of this little diatribe, that it doesn't matter if you're a lapsed reader, consistent obsessive reader, part time delver or completely new reader, this is a fantastic prog to jump into. 

Now my standard prog reading habit is to read through the pages in a flurry of excitement, be disappointed that I've finished so swiftly when I reach the back cover, then begin again and pore over each page in detail; and these pages have detail in abundance. Starting with the cover by Chris Burnham, I'm a Burnham fan so when I heard he was doing the cover art I was excited to say the least. It doesn't disappoint, it's kinetic, detailed and captures ol' stoney face dispensing some harsh justice, which is what we all want right? Nathan Fairburn's vivid colours help the cover stand out amongst the shelves and add an extra nuance to overall appeal.
Of the four new stories we open with Judge Dredd, probably the publications recognisable character so there's no surprise there. 
Serial Serial (script by John Wagner, art by Colin MacNeil, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Annie Parkhouse) reads like a crime thriller. There isn't much in the way of action in this first chapter, but the script is well written and the story flows smoothly, layering up the suspense and intrigue nicely, which is unsurprising as the script is from one of Dredd's 'parents' John Wagner. It's also no surprise that Wagner draws on Dredd's rich history to add to initial mystery, bringing PJ Maybe back to the fold. Now in the wake of events like chaos day and Enceladus, showing the stress that Mega-City is under and a stretched thin justice department struggling to grasp control. Ghost Town in the previous two progs expanded on that idea and showed exactly how draconian and ruthless a Judge can be. So a part of me was hoping that the stories would continue in this vein, taking time to really examine justice as an idea. However this murder mystery is a nice change of pace I'm excited to see how it pans out. MacNeil's art and Blythe's colours render a world with a subtle element of the cartoon but the pages look gorgeous and the panels translation smoothly across the page in a way that makes reading so easy and enjoyable. This is the work of professionals who know what they're doing and do it superbly. 

Defoe is a new venture for me, as I previously missed it out in my hiatus. The London Hanged (script by Pat Mills, art by Leigh Gallgher, letters by Annie Parkhouse) is a pleasing introduction to the world. The script is spot on, easy to read and paced well. The characters have their own individual voices which are distinct and give you a sense of the cadence with which they speak, Defoe comes off as suitably surly. The black and white art is a suitable companion to this dark, moody tale, creating a grim miasma that suits a story centred around the undead. The panel layout is a little formulaic but that is not bad thing when each panel is superbly detailed; the title splash page is a wonderful spectacle to behold. Defoe was created by Mills and Gallagher and the pair seem to be having fun returning to this world, you can't help but be absorbed back into it. 

Brass Sun: Motor Head (script by Ian Edginton, art by INJ Culbard, letters by Ellie de Ville) is a clever work of science fiction. Edginton's script is well written, interesting and keeps your curiousity piqued, with a lovely twist to keep you wanting more until next weeks prog. Culbards's art is explosive, literally, the two page spread is filled with glorious details that knock your eyes back into your head a little and promptly weep that your drawing will never be quite that good. 

Bad Company, as I understand, is a celebrated series not seen since 2003. For me this is again my first experience of this futuristic war story, but it was again a pleasing introduction to the world. First Casualties (script by Peter Milligan, art by R.Dayglo & J.McCarthy, letters by Simon Bowland) is set ten years after the war with the Krool. Bad company, what's left of them, are growing old and frail in a veterans compound, drugged to the maximum to keep their nightmares suppressed. The script does a good job of exposing the veterans vulnerability and you can almost feel the post traumatic stress in each panel. The art is dark, detailed and, especially in panels showcasing the compound, makes you feel enclosed and trapped. The two combine to pan out a tale that begins to build toward intrigue and conspiracy. There's also a nice little reference to Brett Ewins that even I managed to understand. 

So in summary this is a fantastic prog and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, three times. However on a slight negative note there is sometimes a little assumed history. Parts of each story that the writers take for given that the reader will understand, for a prog that is offered as a jumping  on point it is a little downer. It is inevitable though, as 2000ad has such a rich tapestry of characters and stories in it's illustrious history that you cannot expect not to draw on it for influence. It's all about how you perceive this assumption, I for one was happy to greet the stories as something to be discovered, something for me to research in the next few weeks. This prog is rife with creators, writers, artists, colourists and letterers at the top of their game and it is a shining example of just how good comics can be. Despite the minor assumptions, I really can't give it less than a full 10/10. 

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