Hey, I finally realised after eight years of looking at Brian (The Guv'nor) Hibbs' Shipping Lists that due to a temporal anomaly which baffles the greatest scientific minds of our times, I am able to tell the The Americas about certain comics well in advance of when they are able to read them! Or it might be because they are British comics and it takes a bit of time for them to get distributed. That's a bit mundane though isn't it? Temporal anomaly it is! So, below the line I give you The Future - NOW! JUDGE DREDD by Marshall, Carroll, Caldwell & Parkhouse
Anyway, this... For those joining us late:
2000AD is a UK anthology comic published weekly which contains usually 5 strips, each of which is given between 5 and 7 pages to strut its sci-fi themed stuff. When 2000AD (or “Tooth” as no one calls it) was first published in 1977 (Year of The Jubilee, Year of Elvis' Death,
Year Zero for Punk: quite the year) this sci-fi aspect was its basic remit, but as the years have passed it has cheerfully incorporated any and all genres. Mostly though it's okay to refer to it as a weekly sci-fi anthology comic published in the UK. I was there in 1977 when it launched but I stopped reading it about 8 years ago.
Now, this wasn't because it was rubbish (I'd have stopped in the '90s if that was a problem) but because I and mine moved across the UK. Due to the speed this had to occur it was reminiscent of a movie where an ailing plane has to gain altitude to clear a mountain range and everyone throws everything out including the seats. That is to say, I had to let a large portion of my comic collection go to charity. Don't..I'll be okay...in a ...minute. Sniff! Since this included my entire run of 2000AD it seemed a good place to stop.
But then I was in the newsagent the other week and I thought why am I in the newsagent I should be in work o God have I been drinking again, no, I thought, hey it's a New Year and I can start it off by telling all those funny foreign folk about a British institution. Fair warning though, I have missed nearly a decade of issues so I might be bit rusty. Still, God loves a trier (and the odd burnt sheep) so, hey ho, let's go!
2000AD Progs #1962 & #1963 Art by Paul Marshall, Mark Sexton, Richard Elson, Clint Langley, John Burns and Carlos Ezquerra Written by Michael Carroll, Dan Abnett, Pat Mills, Kek-W and John Wagner Coloured by Gary Caldwell, Len O'Grady or the artists. Lettered by Annie Parkhouse, Ellie DeVille and Simon Bowland Rebellion, £2.25 each, every Wednesday, (2016)
JUDGE DREDD # 1962 - Street Cred Art by Paul Marshall Script by Michael Carroll Colours by Gary Caldwell Letters by Annie Parkhouse #1963 – Ghosts: 1 Art by Mark Sexton Script by Michael Carroll Colours by Len O'Grady Letters by Annie Parkhouse Judge Dredd created by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra
Judge Dredd remains The Daddy of the comic, I see. The Dan Dare to 2000Ad's Eagle if you will. I was slightly discombobulated by the name Michael Carroll as I have never heard of him. Yet here he is helming the flagship character. Every now and again whoever owns 2000AD realises John Wagner is in fact just mortal and won't be around forever, so they try and groom (not in that sense) a replacement. Dredd's a tough gig and even big names can fail; those of us who suffered through it still bear the mental scars of Grant Morrison and Mark Millar's petulant turd of a run. Anyway, it looks like yer man Carroll's up for anointment this time round so let's see how that goes.
First up, he's got a done-in-one called Street Cred in which a man walks into a bar and tells everyone he's shot Judge Dredd. I'm sure I've read this same story somewhere else, about another hard-ass character who provokes fear in his enemies. Batman or Jericho, whatever. It doesn't matter as there are after all only seven stories, as anyone who has read a Book on Writing by someone no one has ever heard of can tell you. (These being: a man buys a motorbike and has to sell it because he's too old for all that leather and looks a fool, a woman buys Orla Kiely wallpaper and her child spoils it with crayons, Batman kills the Joker, a small animal finds shelter in the snow, a ultra capable female assassin is sad inside because ladies have feelings, and a man walks into a bar and tells the clientele he has shot their hated enemy.) What matters is how well Carroll tells it and he tells it well. Short and to the point, with even a touch of that distinctive dated Dredd punnery (“Roseanne's Bar” indeed.). Next up Carroll goes a bit more long-play with Ghosts which in six pages contains characterisation, pathos and action while also managing to lay out the long term plot with an efficiency that never once sacrifices atmosphere. I was impressed. In both cases Carroll is aided by artists who are talented enough to combine clarity with a distinctive style, with Marshall edging towards the Gibbons end of the spectrum and Sexton clearly dipping a toe into the pool of Darrow. VERY GOOD!
KINGDOM Beast of Eden: Two, & Three Art by Richard Elson Script by Dan Abnett Letters by Ellie De Ville
Kingdom created by Dan Abnett & Richard Elson
KINGDOM had been around a while when I threw in the towel, but the fact is I can barely remember anything about it. I'm having trouble remembering the two parts I just read, so it's consistent if nothing else. Back in the day 2000AD used to, uh, appropriate freely from the pop culture of the time and KINGDOM continues that grand tradition by being, seemingly, Mad Max versus the aliens from Starship Troopers. What helps it stand out is the fact that the characters are all humanoid dogs who communicate using a gruffly truncated vernacular. It's very much an action strip and it does that well enough. Elson gets some energy into all the jalopy jolting, and the scale of the swarm doesn't defeat his gifts. It's not bad, just a little slight as action strips are wont to be. And for something that rips off Mad Max there's nothing as memorable as “Why, he's just a raggedy man!”, and if you're entering the Thunderdome with Mad Max you need to be able to supercede the memory of Tina Turner dressed in ring pulls and cake tins. At the very least. But, in its favour at no point is the strip quite so bland and forgettable as Tom Hardy. He likes dogs though, that Tom Hardy, maybe he'd like KINGDOM more than me. OKAY!
A.B.C. WARRIORS Return To Ro-Busters Parts Two & Three Art by Clint Langley Script by Pat Mills Letters by Annie Parkhouse ABC Warriors created by Pat Mills, Kevin O'Neill, Brendan McCarthy & Mick McMahon
In Ridley Scott's beautiful mess Blade Runner it was posited that eventually robots would become more “human than human”. This led to spiritually troubled creatures with severe issues with their creator. Pat Mills eschews this comforting high mindedness and gives us a more realistic version of “more human than human” i.e. just as dumb, evil, weak, credulous, gifted and unexpectedly magnificent as we are. But able to eat sewage or have a big hammer for a hand. Ro-Busters are a robot rescue squad. That's it. Magnificently simple premise, and one which was elevated primarily by the pungent characterisation of the droids. Ultimately though Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein were the linchpins of the series, with Ro-Jaws being a waist-high chippy oik and Hammerstein his long suffering clenched sphincter good-soldier type pal. (Oh, Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein. You got that, right? Eat Pat Mills' dust, Brian Azzarello.) ABC WARRIORS and RO-BUSTERS remain essentially the same as they ever were because Pat Mills remains essentially the same as he ever was. Herein is the usual ebullient mooning in the face of authority, the effervescently stolid exposition, the giggling wordplay, the blunt appropriation of current affairs and the ever present, ever hopeful, entreaty for the reader to “Begin Thinking. Stop Believing.” And Clint Langley? He honourably upholds the fine tradition of artists who have been called upon to depict the mechanised milieu of ABC WARRIORS in a suitably shabby and rust scored style. ABC WARRIORS same as it ever was, so ABC WARRIORS is VERY GOOD!
THE ORDER In The Court of The Wyrmqueen Parts Two and Three Art by John Burns Script by Kek-W Letters by Ellie De Ville The Order created by Kek-W & John Burns
Going back to knicking from Pop culture we have The Order which reads like it was written by someone whose son plays a lot of Assassin's Creed. The unconvincingly monikered Kek-W gets points for period expletives (“swiving”; always a good one) and his romp pumps merrily along in fine fashion with the gross period detail contrasting nicely with the (purposefully) anachronistic slips. Unfortunately at the sight of a steam punk motorbike my eyes rolled so hard they rattled, so I might not be the audience for this one. Still, I'll keep reading it because the magnificent John Burns is on art duties. Burns is a genius level talent of the Old School, whose flowing linework is abetted by his painterly use of colour. Throughout this strip the main character's hair is depicted as a red blob; a move elegant in its simplicity, as it pinpoints him visually no matter how deep the murk he inhabits. A lot of the strip has a distinctly cloacal hue so old red top sticks out is what I'm saying. GOOD!
STRONTIUM DOG Repo Men Parts Two and Three Art by Carlos Ezquerra Script by John Wagner Letters by Simon Bowland Strontium Dog created by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra
STRONTIUM DOG is the last survivor of 2000AD's short lived companion STARLORD. Second only to Dredd in popularity it's Johnny Alpha who sees us out. Alpha died but came back. I can't recall the details but Garth Ennis/Alan Grant killed him off and John Wagner brought him back. Because everyone missed him, so why not. That's popular. Currently Johnny and his mutated muchachos are engaged in an ambitious, and somewhat convoluted, heist involving a race of beings who have become machines while inner ructions threaten to tear his gang apart. The fun of Strontium Dog is in the characters and their interaction within Wagner's lighthearted but still menacing universe. These days I see Wagner drops in exposition in a form reminiscent of the Hitchiker's Guide, but the affable action still unfolds with all the genially satisfying skill of a Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais sitcom. But, you know, in space. And one guy's head is in his knee. Whether Wagner is Clement or LaFrenais then that makes Ezquerra the other one, because Johnny Alpha wouldn't be the same without Carlos Ezquerra's lumpy magic. VERY GOOD!
A couple of comics that are well worth reading then. Not a bad way to start off 2016. Because after all 2016 (like every year) is the year of – COMICS!!!