2000AD in 2003

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I've been quite remiss lately as it's been quite a while since I've posted a 2000AD review. Time to make up for it.

Here's a quick overview on my thoughts on some of the most recent Judge Dredd stories and the rest of the current 2000AD line up:-

Judge Dredd/Aliens - Incubus -

This story started very, very strongly with the Aliens looking far more deadly than they have anywhere else. Diggle and Wagner built up the story and the tension extremely well and managed to find a good balance in the pace of the story as it was being written both for weekly publication in 2000AD and monthly publication (in bigger chunks) by Dark Horse.

We saw Judge Dredd and the rest of the Judiciary battle the Xenomorphs singly with devastating effect, terrible property damage and horrific loss of life. This built up to a conclusion of epic proportions with the Halls of Justice themselves being invaded by hoards upon hoards of the Xenomorphs. The robot Judges came into themselves in the fight back and then...

These are two excellent writers who showed great control over the flow of the story and overall narrative so it would be remiss of me to accuse them of writing themselves into a corner or running out of room to tell the story they originally envisaged. Unfortunately that is how the finale seemed. I think it is more likely that due to the licensing constraints of working with a product such as the Alien they couldn't leave any plot threads dangling at the end of the tale. Thus we couldn't see the Halls of Justice fall nor could we have scores of Judges die leaving policing problems for years to come. Anything like that would have required referencing back to the Alien story which I guess isn't allowed. So Diggle and Wagner showed exactly what they could have done if they'd had the freedom and gave us a view of the full potential of the Aliens. Good old Mega-City One toughness and technology saved the day and Dredd ended up having a 'C'-section.

Great story that didn't have the ending it deserved thus only 3 bullets.

Judge Dredd - The Trial of Orlok -

This was a very odd tale indeed. Orlok the Assassin is one of the few recurring 'bad guys' in the Judge Dredd universe. Whether he was paving the way for East-Meg One's invasion through the Block Mania poisoning, abducting Dredd for a war crimes trial or releasing a virus onboard Sin City, Orlok was always a force to be reckoned with. A well-rounded and fleshed-out character, the Wolf (as he was sometimes known) was far more the 'Anti-Dredd' than Judge Death. He was as deadly, as skilled and as committed to his own personal cause as Dredd himself is.

So why was this bizarre? Despite all the summary executions and beatings we've seen Dredd deal out over the years this whole story seemed wrong (but in the right way if that makes sense). I felt like a voyeur at a perverse public spectacle and the ending left me feeling sickened and empty.

Orlok refused to defend himself at the trial leaving the poor junior Judge charged with his defence crippled from the start. Evidence was discounted, defence arguments were thrown out and ultimately Orlok was taken to his death. We had one last view of Orlok, the deadly assassin fighting for his life in top form but it was useless the ending was preordained. Even now recalling the story I have a bad taste in my mouth, Orlok fighting desperately thrown into his chair, pinned down and then killed. In the context of the Dredd world it was more than just but somehow it was still wrong.

I think the brilliant Mr Wagner has manipulated me, the bastard. I'm no believer in the death penalty anyway but somehow within a Judge Dredd story the death of a mass murderer re-enforced that feeling very strongly.

Ah but the final shot...his body has been sent away to his people. Is this the last we'll see of Orlok? I think so for the moment...

Judge Dredd - Hard Day's Night -

This is absolute classic Dredd. Well not classic in the way that 'The Apocalypse War', 'Cursed Earth' or 'In the Bath' are classics but more a story that's completely in the classical style. I have no real gripes with the first part of this. We've seen much of the disparate parts of the story many times, the dead Judge, the Cadet-Judge, the investigation etc. but its all been put together so well.

We open with a reminder of the harsh nature of a Judge's life 'Not many reach our age' says Dredd of the corpse on the floor and then we then meet a most resourceful Cadet. The Cadet wants to continue his exam but another Judge insists it isn't necessary (Dredd insists that it is). This kind of double standard has been around for some time in the Dredd universe but it has been happening more and more recently. Perhaps this explains why 'not many reach our age'? The art is awesome throughout this story it is great at both the dynamic and the static.

2000AD hasn't been an all-ages comic for a while but there are parts of this story that make it quite clear that this isn't kids stuff any more. Powerful, dramatic and well executed.

Caballistics, Inc -

I've been enjoying this series pretty much from the start. This has followed the classical 2000AD pattern, it was introduced, it came back and due to the reaction to it, it returned for a much longer run, all relatively quickly. I'll be honest this series has had its failings. It hasn't flowed as well as it could have and the whole thing occasionally feels a bit clunky but that's just me. Don't let my criticisms deter you this is a great read an original blend of Hellblazer style horror combined with Dr Who/Quatermass sensibilities. Also it's always nice to see good black and white art like this, 2000AD has vowed that there will always be a home for black and white art in their pages, good for them.

Interceptor -

That's a nasty grade, I'm sorry I think it's really tough to mark out of 5, out of 10 or a percentage would be easier and I wouldn't have to give out scores like this. I'll be honest I like the series but I feel I need to leave it a bit longer before I really pass judgement on it properly. This is an original sci-fi adventure with hints of Men in Black and The Matrix to it. I have a feeling this will pan out into being a great little series, it fits in perfectly with 2000AD's style.

ABC Warriors -

Great black and white art from Carlos Ezquerra help to evoke a feeling of 'classic 2000AD' unfortunately Pat Mill's script has at times seemed a little stuck in that era. The story is solid enough with not so subtle overtones of the American Civil war permeating the whole tale. There's no faulting Mill's story telling skills nor his ability to draw you into a tale and to care about these characters in the same way a Squaxx Dex Thargo (or what ever) does.

I have found that now that we've reached the fourth part of this tale that either Mill's dialogue has become less 'clunky' or that I no longer care as I have been drawn so deeply into the tale. The ABC warriors have always been a part of 2000AD lore and this story should show new reader exactly why the characters are so beloved by fans of old.

Snow/Tiger -

This is a cracking little series that has been the talk of the 2000AD messageboard (well one person complained about racism against Americans and lovey-doviness towards Islamic terrorists, everyone else defended the series (rightly, I believe)). Snow/Tiger is a fast-paced action/adventure series set in the very near future. In many ways this could be a dry run for the writer's (Andy Diggle) up coming DC series The Losers. Diggle shows that he can handle a military series well and boy does he love his tech and weapons!

In a nutshell American Nazi's are developing a biological weapon (which by reading between the lines we can guess has been modified to selectively attack those they see as 'lesser races'). Diggle keeps his foot firmly on the accelerator with the pace of the tale and so far he hasn't missed a beat (which brings to mind his comments at Dreddcon on why 2000AD writers tend to do well in the US, i.e. they learn to deliver punchy stories week by week within a limited page count).

The art is brilliant and perfectly suits the (dare I say it...oh go on then) high octane pace of the story.

If this is a dry run for Diggle then The Losers is definitely going to be one for the pull list.

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