Friday 21 December 2018

Incoming! - 2000AD Preview: December 2018

It's the end of the year and Christmas (or whatever holiday your religious denomination affords you) is nearly here which can only mean one thing... 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine Xmas Specials! Rebellion like to spoil us with the last comics of the year, with an extra long prog, obligatory Judge-Dredd-at-Christmas stories, and the usual high standard of artwork and writing. And just like Christmas, it's hard to decide which present to open first! Shall we sneak a peek under the wrapping and see what's waiting for us?

Prog 2111 is on sale now, the 100 page special edition of 2000AD that comes around every year at this time to cover the three week break until the 1st issue of 2019. And we're immediately spoiled with a half page Droid Life (including some lovely colour panels!) and Boo Cook on the extra-long Judge Dredd Christmas story! After the gritty world-shattering thriller that was "The Small House" it's good to get a classic Dredd one-shot with action, humour, ridiculous violence and harsh judgment! The Cook droid's art is flawless as always, with eye-popping colour that is almost psychedelic in places. Great to see BC versions of some classic Dredd characters in there too: How many can you name?

Next up is Caballistics, Inc. by Gordon Rennie, with art by Dom Reardon, returning to the prog after an eleven year absence for a final episode to tie up the series. Caballistics, Inc is a paranormal investigation agency populated by misfits and oddbods, human and demon, sometimes living and dead! The series ran for 4 years and was a fan favourite, but after an aborted new series was prequelled in prog 2008 it disappeared, only to be referenced in spin-off series "Absalom", until now. A full catch up can be found in the Complete Caballistics. Inc graphic novel coming in February, for which this final chapter was scripted. With Rennie's tight scripting and Reardon's stunning stylised black-and-white artwork (bearing some similarities to Mike Mignola's Hellboy art) this is a Rebellion classic not to be missed!

Also in this bumper issue is the ongoing Brink storyline (always excellent, look out for a surprise appearance in this one...) and the start of a new series of Skip Tracer (still by James Peaty but with Paul Marshall back on art duties with Dylan Teague), as well as one-shots for Fall of Deadworld, Slaine and Durham Red. Fall of Deadworld is the story of the rise to power of the Dark Judges on their home world, before they came to Mega-City 1. This has been a very consistent strip so far, held together by the atmospheric dark art of Dave Kendall. The story mirrors events in Dredd's world, with some really clever twists! It can be a little hard to keep up with at times, but quite a classic from the pen of Kek-W! Slaine readers are spoiled with art by the legend that is Chris Weston, and a preview ad for the new series coming next year. And Durham Red? Alec Worley, Ben Willsher, a Christmas story, everyone's favourite sexy vampire bounty hunter... What more could you ask!? Seriously, it's great to have a new run of Red stories, especially as we may not see Johnny Alpha for some time, looking forward to more!

The final strip to mention this week is Fiends of the Western Front (see what they did there?), following on from the excellent Napoleonic setting of the last Eastern Front story. We're propelled back to the skies above the trenches in WW1 for more war-vampire goodness, but this has a BIG twist, which you can see coming if you know a little about British comics... No spoilers, but I want to see more! The artist, Tiernan Trevallion, is one of my favourites of the current crop of regular 2000AD contributors, always a pleasure to see his work in the prog. Wrap things up with a couple of interviews with former editors and a quality John Higgins cover and you have another great value special, good for the fans and recommended for the uninitiated!

Out this week (17th Dec.) is Judge Dredd Megazine #403, easily recognisable by it's Dredd-menacing-robot-Santa cover by Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague! The opening Dredd Crimbo one-shot covers some of the same territory, with Dredd on the case of a rogue Santa and a Christmas party gone wrong. Good stuff from Alex Di Campi, with Patrick Goddard and Matt Soffe on art duties, the festive story always goes down well.

Next up is Lawless, and the citizens of Badrock are still facing up to the forces of Munce Inc. as they try to destroy it and everyone within. Things look bleak for the plucky defenders though, with a building-sized bulldozer mek on the way! Can they find a way to stop this new threat? The great thing is, you have no way of knowing without reading the whole thing! The tension is immense in this story, the interactions between all the inhabitants are expertly played out, and writer Dan Abnett makes no secret of the fact he's not afraid to kill a character. In any story. At any time! I try not to go on about this story, but even in the currently really strong line-up it stands out, a modern comics masterpiece, and I've not even raved about the art yet! Apparently Phil Winslade draws the pages 1:1, rather than on a double size page to be shrunk down in the edit... Mind-blowing.

Elsewhere the other 3 stories begun in Meg #400 continue apace. Storm Warning, Blunt and The Dark Judges: The Torture Garden are high quality comics in their own right, this really is a golden era for the Megazine. The problem for a reviewer is that the same stories can last months, so finding something new to say becomes problematic... Suffice to say, the all original Dredd-world strips make such a strong comic these days it's hard to remember that this title survived on reprints for a long time! It's exciting that these creators can come up with such diverse ideas based on the Judge Dredd theme.

Rounding out this issue are two articles about Four-Colour Classics: Roy of the Rovers and Wildcat comics. Both are ex-IPC titles and have been picked up by Rebellion as part of the "Treasury of British Comics" line, with a Turbo Jones reprint from the pages of Wildcat due for release in January, and a Roy reboot on the way. As I've already said before, I like the way Rebellion are handling these strips, with reprints, reboots, and guest appearances for classic characters. Personally I lost interest in football way before I started reading comics seriously, and sports comics don't really do anything for me. I also have never heard of Wildcat, short lived as it was, but sci-fi stuff from that period always grabs my attention. Either way, both articles are well written as always, and make a good addition to the Meg.

The bagged trade this month is some more of Tharg's 3rillers, effectively 3 part Future Shocks, some of which have since become full fledged series. These are a great way to put short stories in amongst the long term titles while giving them enough time to develop characters and plot. Can't remember reading a bad one yet, and it's good to get to see them again in a collected format.

Looking ahead to the New Year, Rebellion have a raft of new titles in graphic novel format heading your way. As well as the aforementioned Turbo Jones and Caballistics Inc. there are classic 2000AD strips like M.A.C.H.1 and Tharg's Future Shocks Vol.2, stories from other British comics like Fran of the Floods (Jinty), The Leopard from Lime Street ( Buster), and Invasion 1984 (Battle Picture Weekly) and downright legends in the form of Sweeney Toddler and The Steel Commando! In the recent era 2000AD reprints are Brink Vol.3, Chopper : Wandering Spirit, and Dredd in Cold Wars and The Small House (see above!), all top stories worthy of collecting!

Finally, in case you missed it, news has emerged that Rebellion have bought the old Daily Mail building in Oxford and are turning it into a film studio. Obviously the priority is making the Dredd/ Mega City 1 TV series and the Rogue Trooper movie (which should reassure us that these things are going to be a reality!), but the sound stages they are planning will be available to the rest of the British film and television industry, which can only be a good thing! Once this project has started, who knows where it will lead?

Which just leaves one question...

Who do you want to see portraying your favourite 2000AD characters on the big screen?

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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