Prog 1923 ends the current run of stories so we can have a fresh start for the summer, so I thought I’d have a look back at the highlights of the last few months.
JUDGE DREDD – DARK JUSTICE
It’s been a little over ten years since Dredd creator ‘killed’ Judge Death so I suppose it was about time he made a comeback. The other Dark Judges returned recently during Chaos Day and, here in Dark Justice, we find the band reunited. Death’s return isn’t explained but he comes back to free the other Dark Judges from the Serial killer, PJ Maybe, who captured them in the closing chapters of Chaos Day. Much like Death’s return, Maybe’s fate is left unexplained here, so that’s a couple of plot threads to pick up another day.
John Wagner here writes a dark, horror story, avoiding much of the humour that had begun to creep into Death stories – humour, I believe, he himself has admitted detracts from the character. He’s joined on art duties by Greg Staples who has spent two years working on the art. (If I recall correctly the story was advertised to originally appear in 2014, I wonder if this resulted in any changes to avoid continuity issues.)
It’s a while since I read the last Judge Dredd/Batman crossover but I believe it shares a rather similar basic plot: some of the city’s richest citizens are leaving Earth on a ship in search of a new home world in the aftermath of Chaos Day. Death and the other Dark Judges stowaway on board before killing the crew and luring Dredd and Anderson on board to end their decades long rivalry.
Wagner’s writing is as good as always and Staples’ work is pretty impressive, but there are one or two issues. The biggest of these are supporting cast – neither Wagner or Staples spend any time developing the various redshirts that accompany Dredd. (By the end, I was pretty sure that Death, Fire, Fear and Mortis had killed off more Verminators than had actually set out with Dredd and Anderson… maybe some were mutilated first and killed later, but it was a little unclear.) My other major complaint was that the story seemed to end rather abruptly; a lot happens right at the end, an extra part or two would have been nice. It may not be the deepest of Dredd’s recent stories but it was a lot of fun, which may explain why I was a little sad it seemed to finish too soon.
ORLOCK, AGENT OF EAST-MEG ONE – EUROZONED
Orlock has always been one of Dredd’s, and later Anderson’s, most interesting rivals. He caused a lot of trouble over the years but eventually Dredd got his man. And this being Dredd, dead pretty much means dead. So it was nice to see the one-off Orlock story in a recent special. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who liked the return of East-Meg One’s premier assassin. Prog 1913 gives us Orlock’s first series by the same team as the one-off story: writer, Arthur Wyatt, and artist, Jake Lynch. Wyatt has worked on the comic sequels to the Dredd film (released in the rather nice American format that a few recent series have enjoyed.) Lynch is pretty new to 2000AD but I rather like his stuff. Plot-wise, maybe a little convoluted/overly complex but I enjoyed it none the less and I’m glad to see Orlock’s set to return.
UYLSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE – PSYCHO THERAPIST
Created by Grant Morrison many moons ago for a couple of one-part stories, this is a story where the title tells you everything you need to know. Recently brought back by writer, Guy Adams, and artist, Paul Marshall, for a story that I understand divided fans (I was in the middle), this second, shorter series was, I feel, a lot better. The faster pace and smaller cast works well. Ulysses didn’t seem quite as mad or murderous, which also helped, as it’s much easier to like a character if they’re a little more (unintentionally) heroic. But most importantly, I found this story to be a lot funnier than the previous one.
SURVIVAL GEEKS: STEAMPUNK’D
Survival Geeks also returns for its second series, in this case a little longer than the first series. I enjoyed the original 3-parter and, while I was in no rush for a follow-up, it was nice to see it back. Only vaguely recalling the specifics of the original series, I was a little concerned with the first two parts, as we started straight into the action, which for me was a bit of an issue as no-one was reintroduced to the reader. The other initial issue was that the constant barrage of pop culture references was a bit much – many felt forced and a couple already seemed rather dated. Yes they’re geeks, but not even hardcore geeks force a Star Wars or Doctor Who reference into every sentence. Thankfully, a few parts in the characters get a bit more to do individually and we get to see them shine on their own. The jokes become a little less pop culture-y. A personal favourite of mine involved dialogue and sound effects (“WAN-“ ker-boom!) and, by the end, I was chuckling along and finding myself looking forward to the survival geeks return.
Medieval fantasy with a touch of sci-fi, The Order finds a (apparently) young woman searching for her father only to join up with his elderly colleagues to battle some giant worms that threaten, not only the World, but also time and space. The kind of thing 2000AD does with ease, I suspected this might be filler, but was pleased to find it was a rather enjoyable romp helped by artist, the great John Burns, who specialises in this kind of thing. The ending promises a return I’ll be happy to see.
THARG’S 3RILLERS PRESENTS: 1%
A nice short sci-fi story which I enjoyed, largely due to INJ Culbard’s lovely art but, by the end, I think I mostly just wanted more Brass Sun!