Tuesday 25 September 2018

Incoming! 2000AD Preview

I've been reading 2000AD now for 30 years, and despite a few ups and downs I still get my regular weekly issue, and the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine. I love the anthology format, there's always something to grab your attention, and where else can you get the cream of British and European comic creators all in one place?

It's a great time to be a fan of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic, what with a Duncan Jones directed Rogue Trooper movie in the pipeline, the Judge Dredd TV series in advanced stages of preparation, and Warlord Games getting their licence off to a flying start with the very impressive Strontium Dog skirmish tabletop game! But what's going on with the comics themselves right now? Let's take a delve into their upcoming release schedule and see if we can't get you excited!

This week (Sept 17th) has seen Prog 2099 hit the news stands with final parts for all the current stories: Judge Dredd in The Booth Conspiracy, Mechastopheles: True Faith, Survival Geeks: Slack n' Hash, and The Order: The New World. Survival Geeks has become a firm favourite with me, great artwork and superbly written comedy sci-fi storylines, with plenty of nerd in-jokes! Comedy strips don't always work, often the joke can fade pretty quickly, but this one keeps getting better! Mechastopheles shows a lot of promise, a giant Demon powered titan robot stalking across a blasted Hell-scape, what's not to like? The Order can be an awkward read at times, but I definitely enjoy it.

This series included a surprise guest appearance from an old favourite (but fairly obscure) character from the dim and distant past, something that's become a semi-regular occurrence in the prog, but one that you never see coming! Add to these another Future Shock (One off sci-fi tales with a twist ending, think Twilight Zone/ The Outer Limits) from brand new creators , and you have a pretty solid comic.

Also out this week is the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine #400! An impressive feat, especially for a title which was really floundering for a while a few years back. It's now going from strength to strength, with a full roster of original, brand new strips (Due to budget restraints much of the Meg was taken up with reprints at times) boasting top creators in every issue! Kicking off this bumper 100-page milestone comic are John Wagner and Henry Flint on Judge Dredd one-shot "The Trouble With Harry". Top drawer!

In case you don't know, Wagner is the creator of Dredd, and Henry Flint is one of the best artists around, most recently seen producing the Dredd movie sequel comics (Search them out!!!). Follow this with Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade's "Lawless", a story about off-world Judge Colonial Marshal Metta Lawson and her one Judge crusade to bring law to the township of Badrock, and you know you're onto a winner! If you ever doubt that black-and-white artwork can compare to full colour art prepare to be amazed.... Winslade's artwork is at times breathtaking, some of the most stunning and detailed artwork ever to grace the big Meg! This has been consistently the best ongoing strip in the comic for a long time, and shows no sign of letting up.

But what's that? Not enough gorgeous artwork and gripping stories for you? Then brace yourself for T.C. Eglington's "Blunt", with spectacular colour-splash art from the one and only Boo Cook! Another Mega City colony world, this one is a dangerous jungle that the colonists are trying to explore and investigate while establishing a home. Their only protection is the half-ape scout/soldier Blunt!

This story begins the second series, definitely worth seeking out the first. Follow this up with the Meg's own paranormal investigator/exorcist/vampire and Bon Vivant Devlin Waugh in a one-off story, the next part in the continuing saga of the Dark Judges, and a double shot of PSI Judgeness in the form of Brit-Cit's own Lillian Storm (Storm Warning) and Anderson, PSI Division in another one shot, and you have one seriously packed comic! Not content with that, they've managed to pack in interviews with comics royalty Alan Hebden and Ian Gibson, and previous Meg editors Steve MacManus, Andy Diggle, David Bishop, Alan Barnes and John Tomlinson for insights into the previous 399 issues! And did I mention the Megazine comes bagged with a free trade paperback containing "First Shot" Judge Dredd stories from the current generation of artists in their first appearance on the strip?

It's great to see the Megazine reaching it's potential: 7 original stories, all Dredd universe, all written, drawn and lettered by top class creators. In previous years we've had re-prints and non-Dreddworld strips, as well as unconneceted articles making up the space around one or two Meg themed stories. This is a bold step, and hopefully a statement of intent for future issues!

As if a bumper Megazine wasn't enough, next week (24th September) you can get your hands on the 52 page "jumping on" special that is Prog 2100. Milestone progs these days are usually geared towards new readers, with all new stories and often re-caps on ongoing storylines and background info on the strips. These showcase comics are always a treat, and 2100 is no exception! The headline Dredd Strip is The Small House, once again featuring art by the very awesome Henry Flint, and written by Rob Williams. Williams has become one of the top Dredd writers of the last few years, to the point where he is the man named when the script for the Dredd TV series pilot was handed in... According to the article after the strip, The Small House could mean big events in Dredd's world. Watch this space!

A big bonus for me this issue is that my current favourite comics writer has not one but THREE stories included! Step forward Mister Dan Abnett! Pun-fueled Gun Sharkery for future hitmen Sinister Dexter with Steve Yeowell, the return of post-apocalypse fantasy monster-bug mashing epic Kingdom with Richard Elson, and sci-fi noir detective goings-on in the very excellent Brink with INJ Culbard. Three totally diferent settings/styles, but all equally compelling reading, I expect nothing less from the hardest working man in comics!

Rounding out this Prog we have three more stories featuring top British talent. Judge Anderson's second complete story of the month is penned by the one and only Alan Grant, with beautiful black and white art from Jake Lynch. (Hang on, isn't that Judge Death...?) Fiends of the Eastern Front began life many years ago as a story about encounters with a Romanian Captain and his platoon of Vampires fighting against the Russians in 1941. Out of the blue we have a brand new tale, but this one is set in 1812...

Great looking atmospheric artwork from Dave Taylor and scripted by Ian Edgington, this promises to be a monster in every sense! The first series of brand new strip Skip Tracer, about a tracker-for-hire in a futuristic floating space city didn't really float my boat. It felt a little rushed, and I couldn't really engage with the characters. So how do you grab my interest in the second series? Get comics art GODS Colin MacNeil and Dylan Teague on art duties!!!! Let's hope writer James Peatty can live up to this standard, because it looks gorgeous.

Rebellion also have a number of graphic novels in the pipeline, some 2000AD reprints, others from their golden age of British comics acquisitions. The latter include the third volume of the Best Of supernatural comic Misty, The Thirteenth Floor from the pages of Scream, and bats 'n' biplanes classic The Black Max from Lion and Thunder comics. It's great to see these old favourites getting a new lease of life, there's a real treasure trove being re-released here.

From the 2000AD stable there is the third (and concluding) part of Alan Moore and Ian Gibson's The Ballad of Halo Jones, in colour for the first time, Dark Justice: Dominion, carrying the Dark Judges path of destruction out to far flung colonies, and supernatural Hollywood noir Hope, but my pick for this month has to be a collectors edition of Alan Grant and Arthur Ransom's Mazeworld. A hanged man wakes up from the gallows in a strange world of mazes and labyrinths, strange creatures and warriors, unable to remove his hood. A superb mystery thriller, well worth investing some time and money in this superb looking updated edition!

If you're a lapsed fan, or a total stranger to the world of 2000AD, I would heartily recommend Prog 2100 or Megazine 400 as a starting point, you won't be disappointed! As I said at the start, it's a great time to be a Dredd head!

By day, David Mustill is a Human Workhorse for a chemical company. Naturally, every possible moment away from this existence is spent gaming and painting miniatures.

A steady diet of rock, metal, punk, comics, gaming, miniatures and genre movies has moulded David into a renaissance geek, for whom no gaming company or genre is too obscure, and no graphic novel is unreadable.

He is currently the Chairman of Milton Hundred Wargames Club, which affords him the privilege of running the Broadside Games Show. He will not let you down. Unless you're after selfies. He is rubbish at selfies...

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