Happy 2000th issue to 2000 A.D.! That venerable and always delightful British anthology comic has hit an anniversary issue that few (if any) comics have ever hit, and it’s a thrill to see the comic in such great shape. 2000 A.D. #2000 shows why this comic has survived so long – it combines some iconic characters (Judge Dredd, of course, but also Rogue Trooper and literally hundreds of other characters) with some outstanding storytelling (a veritable encyclopedia of the greatest creators of the last several decades, from Grant Morrison and Dave Gibbons to Al Ewing and Rufus Dayglo.
Of course, this issue, like nearly every one before it, collects a half-dozen stories under one cover. Each one includes a delightful introductory page that gives the reader a nice perspective on the material we’re about to read – a smart way to add context to stories and characters that may be unfamiliar to many readers on either side of the Atlantic.
The great Brian Bolland kicks off the book, with a page of continuity that is as lovely as it is rare. It’s been over a decade since Bolland delivered a page of comic art and not a cover, and as you can see from the panel above, his skills have only increased in that time. He combines a sumptuous eye for detail with an adept sense of human emotions, delivering a delightful intro page. Others who produce intro pages include Dave Gibbons and Simon Bowland. Bowland in particular shows himself a chameleon for art styles, producing pages that adeptly capture the styles of his fellow artists/
Judge Dredd premiered in 2000 A.D. #2 and has appeared in every issue since then, so his appearance was required in this issue. To add to the excitement, the story was created by Dredd’s original creative team, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. Few people have created better Dredd tales than Wagner and Ezquerra, so I hoped for something definitive here.
Instead, unfortunately, I found something confusing. This story depends on the reader knowing much of the character’s back-story, which I did not. Thus when familiar villains show up as clones of each other, and put Dredd on trial in a wild courtroom somewhere in a vast California wasteland, I merely shook my head, confused. The energy of the story was exciting, but I had no context to understand it.
Speaking of energy, next readers receive a story of Nemesis the Warlock by writer Pat Mills and the off-the-hook wild artist Kevin O’Neill. As you can see from the image above, O’Neill is at his psychotronic best here, delivering images that are obsessive in their detail and their strangeness. This is comic art that shocks the reader out of their complacency and demands they face the weird.
Fueled by an equally bold script by Mills, this story does a terrific job of providing a context for the story while also providing a fitting epilogue to the Nemesis saga.
The Rogue Trooper story here goes for a wonderfully fitting trope for a special issue: writer Gordon Rennie and artist Richard Elson deliver a tale that focuses on the legend of the Trooper rather than his reality. Set in a bunker caught in the midst of an endless war, the team smartly evokes the ghosts of World War I in the despair of the characters and their dreams of escape.
For readers who don’t know the character, this story would act as a nice introduction to his world and his importance to ordinary people. The final page image of Rogue Trooper and his nemesis catches the eye and promises more excitement to come.
<2000-6>Four of the six stories this issue are in color. One of the black-and-white stories, starring Anderson, Psi Division, is the most atmospheric and often eerie stories in the comic. Artist David Roach delivers art with gorgeous wash shading that gives the story a deeply shadowy feel. You can feel the menace in the panels above, as Anderson is forced to battle her arch-enemy and tormentor Judge Death while she dreams.
Writer Alan Grant joins with Roach to deliver a spare, emotional story that ends in a moment of great triumph for our heroine. Appropriately for this anniversary issue, she has overcome her greatest pain and grown as a person. No matter how strange the circumstances, we readers empathize with Anderson and feel excitement for her strength.
In fact, perhaps the element that makes 2000 A.D. so powerful for readers is the way it brings real human emotion into settings that would otherwise be outlandish. The Sinister Dexter story here, by writer Dan Abnett and artist Mark Sexton, tells the story of heroes at a transition point. How do things change when nobody remembers you and you need to start your life fresh?
The team does a good job setting up these characters, giving us a sense of their world, their crime-ridden world, and their complex emotions. The key scene of this story is the one above. Though I’d never read any stories before of these characters, I was able to immediately grasp the importance of this confrontation and became intrigued by its implications. An eerie moment on the final page of the story gave a sense of strangeness that intrigued beyond the emotions. Emotions and strangeness equal intrigue for me.
And appropriately for this issue that celebrates the old, we are introduced to something new in the final story. Counterfeit Girl by Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo (with glowing colors by Dom Regan) begins a new serial set in a dystopian, overpopulated city in which personalities are transplanted, violence is always looming, and corporations rule the world.
This is prime Milligan, which is to say the new ideas flow about once a panel but the lead character stays interesting throughout. Dayglo’s art is a little Kirbyeqsue, a little alternative and a lot of seeming improvisation. Imagine Tom Scioli on acid and you will come close to imagining this work.
Congratulations to 2000 A.D. on doing things their own way for so long. This issue shows why this magazine has survived and thrived for so long. It’s a total pleasure.