ADVANCE REVIEW! 2000 AD Prog 1800 will go on sale Wednesday, September 12, 2012.
Prog 1800 of 2000 AD offers four more stories, starting with a one-and-done Judge Dredd story from writer/artist Chris Weston and also offering us glimpses at a clockwork universe, robot warriors, and an intergalactic crime scene.
If you're new to 2000 AD, it's pretty easy to explain. Run by Tharg, it's a weekly British magazine which features anthology stories. Each week offers four or five short stories, which usually run on for a few weeks at a time, telling a complete adventure in five-or-six-page installments. Typically based in science fiction, the magazine is most famous for hosting Judge Dredd, John Wagner's frowning face of The Law. It was also a launchpad for countless writers and artists, such as Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian Bolland, Peter Milligan, Steve Dillon, Alan Moore…
After 35 years, the magazine is still going strong, recently going day-and-date digital. A new Judge Dredd movie is on the way/out now, and even now the magazine is filled with familiar names such as Dan Abnett, Andy Diggle, Rob Williams and Si Spurrier. Heck, Simon Bisley drew the cover this week! So — having established the outside, what's on the inside of prog 1800?
The largest story is a new serial called Brass Sun from Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard, whose distinctive art you may recognize from The New Deadwardians. This is a showcase for Culbard, mostly, with his unique style informing the tone of the story right from the start. The story itself is a little slow — surprising for 2000 AD, which is normally fast and compressed — but shows a fair bit of promise. The premise is supremely interesting, although how much Edginton can build up an entire world in the shorter space of a serialized comic remains to be seen. Basically, this is a universe run by clockwork, with the sun moving according to the gears of the machine. The planets and lifeforms are real, but the structure is mechanic. Yet the machine appears to be running to a halt and nobody is sure what to do. There looks to be a lot more to this story than we're seeing so far — while there isn't a hook yet beyond the setting, that setting is more than enough for now. And Culbard's art is excellent.
ABC Warriors by Pat Mills and Clint Langley is in conversational mode this week, as the gang of death robots sit in their spaceships and chat/bicker with each other. There's fun dialogue, but most attention here is drawn by Langley's computerized artwork — but more than that, his layouts and storytelling. Here we have a group of robots out for war, but they're all designed brilliantly, without seeming generic in the slightest. There's an immense amount of character in the art, from the faint sound effects through to small touches like the cigarette one of the robots smokes. Whilst the narrative is rushing through exposition, Langley's art at least makes it fun to read through.
Dan Abnett and Lee Carter's Grey Area is also on a skip-week this week, which is a little awkward because it's also the start of a new story. After giving us an opening murder for the main characters to investigate, we then spend the rest of the pages listening in the characters discussing the murder in depth, with nothing much being offered in the pages so far. I understand that this is setting up the premise of the series and the ongoing story in particular, but this was the one story this week which didn't seem to show any promise that the next part would pick up speed. It was slow-paced and grinding, somewhat by-the-numbers. Carter's art is well done, although the coloring does look pretty computerized, giving the impression that you're watching the cut-scene in a computer game. Hopefully things will pick up next week.
The highlight of the issue is Chris Weston's Judge Dredd piece, a quick, action-packed romp which sees the Judge bellowing orders whilst avoiding laser beam attacks on his motorcycle. The art is great, keeping the pace fast while offering some crazy destruction and action sequences for us to enjoy, while Weston manages his story nicely. The payoff is smart and uses every page to pace out the final reveal, keeping things flowing whilst filling each panel with something interesting. It's entertaining, slightly insane sci-fi nonsense, and glorious for it. And the Judge? Doesn't smile once.
In other words, this is a standard issue of 2000 AD. Superior writing and a darker sense of humor than most other comics, each story stands out as something different and interesting. It's always a mixed bag in an anthology, and I'm sure other people will like the stories I didn't, and dislike the ones I liked. But that's part of the fun, really — you don't know what you'll get in an issue until you've read it. Which, if you're interested in doing, I recommend starting with this issue.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.