Out: Wednesday 14th December 2016
DANGER: SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW!
The Review: I can’t believe it has been a year since I was feasting my eyes on the Festive issue of 2000AD for 2015 with its beautiful Ian Kennedy cover. And Cliff Robinson’s cover this year is another festive feast for the eyes, although a rather more humorous take on Christmas in the Meg.
And the humour continues with Cat Sullivan’s “Droid Life”, which had me laughing at some of the jokes and is a perfect mix of jolly Christmas japes from the supporting cast with a solid dose of “Bah, Humbug” from our regular droid. And reading it again meant that I have just spotted the Gronk joke and I am giggling once more…
The Judge Dredd story “Boxing Day” is a nice one off from the pen of Rob Williams with some amazing art by Chris Weston. Accountancy has come up with the idea of bribing citizens to stay on the straight and narrow until Boxing Day when the judges will pay them 1,000 credits. It’s a great idea as it will save the city millions a day, but Dredd is unconvinced. However, the quiet period that it creates allows Dredd to visit his niece and it is good to see that Vienna is ageing well considering that she has been around since Prog 116, back in 1979 when she first appeared. There is a great comedy moment when she introduces her boyfriend to Dredd when Rico and Dolman are already there. Dredd gets ready to give the boyfriend the third degree when Dredd’s clone brothers tell him that they have already done the interrogation.
It just goes to show that when it comes to looking after your kids, there is a little bit of Joe Dredd in all of us. However, things rarely run smooth in Mega City One and Rico and Dredd are called to foil the robbery of all the money from this Great Mega City Pay Off.
The next story is a new thrill and that is “Kingmaker“ from the teaming up of Ian Edginton and Leigh Gallagher. This has been billed as a cross between Lord of The Rings and a good old science fiction tale and reading it, it is certainly shaping up as an interesting cross between Sci-Fi and Fantasy. In the first episode, we have the culmination of a war, a bar fight, magic and the discovery that not all the good guys wear white.
I am not the biggest fantasy fan, but the story has enough elements that are intriguing me and I would not find it too much to read Episode Two.
We also see the return of an old favourite for many with the return of “Ace Trucking Co.“, written by Eddie Robson. Now I have a confession here in that this was never one of my favourite stories. I loved the Massimo Belardinelli art of the original and I still do, but for some reason, this was never a story I ever got excited about. (I can already hear the howls of heresy!) However, I try to put that aside and one thing that I do like is that while Nigel Dobbyn‘s art has a recognisable nod towards Massimo’s work it is clearly Nigel’s art with an influence of Massimo, rather than a straight ghosting of his style.
Here Ace, Feek and GBH are up against the shipping giant that is taking over all the business by cutting costs until there is no competition left for them to destroy and then they can begin to raise prices until they are almost unbearable for the customers. I wonder who that could be based on…?
We also have a feature on Misty by Stephen Jewell, described by many as the girls comic equivalent of 2000AD. This article is pure gold for me as it credits artists and writers such as Brian Delaney for his work on “The Four Faces of Eve” and Mario Capaldi for his work on “The Sentinels”, and offers an overview of the stories that featured within it and how Misty has been perceived since its last issue in January 1980.
There’s also a name check for Chris Lillyman and his excellent Misty comic fansite. It is an article for any comic fan that has an interest in the work of 2000AD artists and writers of the 1970s working in the girls’ market.
Continuing the SF/Fantasy cross, we have the third series of “The Order”. Written by Kek-W and illustrated by John M. Burns, we have a group of adventurers facing off against Wurms that are decidedly inimical to life and can apparently traverse their reality to points where it crosses into the reality of our history. I will be honest and say that I have not got a clue where this is going, but when you have John’s art, do you really care?
On the back of the beautifully illustrated but terrifying “Dreams of Deadworld” and “Tainted: The Fall Of Deadworld” storylines, we’re treated an introduction to the third series that creates the society that produces Sidney D’Eath called “Winter Break”. As the malevolence encompasses the world, we find Judge Fairfax, formally a part of the world’s brutal Justice Department, fleeing to a safe harbour with a young girl called Jess under his protection, whose family he failed to save.
I am a serious fan of Dave Kendall’s work and this story does nothing to detract from my admiration of his work. And every time, I read Kek-W’s strips, I am ever more impressed by his story telling abilities.
“Kingmaker” is not the only new thrill in this issue. We also have “Hope… which is reminiscent of the David Brin short When Thor Met Captain America, a tale of necromancy and the evil within the Nazi Empire. This story feels like a sequel to that story but told in the style of Frank Miller’s Hard Boiled. Hope is a dark film noir story set in post-World War Two America where necromancy has been unleashed and was used to defeat the Nazis.
The central character, Mallory Hope is a PI in the style of Sam Spade who has to take on all the cases that is guaranteed to sap a man’s belief in his fellow man, but the case he really wants to take on is the search for his son and wife.
I have been a fan of Judge Dredd for nigh on 40 years, but this story has just shot straight into my favourites list. It’s not beaten Bill Savage or John Probe yet, but it certainly is above “Metalzoic” and “Sinister Dexter” in my affections. I have a feeling that both Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton are going to go on to create a really amazing series together as Jimmy’s art perfectly matches the brooding atmosphere that Guy wanted to create in this wonderful film noir homage.
One thing I have seen in my lifetime as a comics fan is the rise and fall of the text article. From the early 1970s, the text articles all but disappeared, but now they seem to be making a determined return. And the article on the current teaming up of Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill on their book Read Em and Weep: Serial Killer from Stephen Jewell is another good example of this. Not only does this article include an interview with the pair, it also includes an exclusive two page extract from the book. I am sure that everyone will be able to guess that I was a fan of Blitzkreig! when it was out.
We also have another “Aquila” story from the pen of Gordon Rennie with art by Paul Davidson and colours by Gary Caldwell, set centuries after the last story where a collector, Domenico Dandolo sits in his fortress home amidst the plague-ridden populance of 14th Century Venice awaiting a hunter of antiquities to bring him the sword of Aquila. While Dandolo repays the hunter with death, he is unaware that while the plague that ravages the city is deadly, another threat that is even more lethal approaches for the plague leaves some people alive…
The final story in this special issue is a new “Kingdom” story written by Dan Abnett and illustrated by Richard Elson. Gene The Hackman has been put into a virtual reality as the wild breed of dog soldier are no longer trusted. It is decided that in the battle with Them, the insect like aliens, it is better that Gene and the few surviving dog soldiers be put down rather than be trusted to fight again. Lee finds that she cannot let the loyalty of Gene be betrayed so she releases him rather than allow him to be put down.
It is amazing to see how much great work there is still is in 2000AD and it makes me proud that I was reading it from the start. (Oh, and along with the writers and artists on this Prog, I must give a hearty shout out to letterers Annie Parkhouse, Ellie de Ville and Simon Bowland for their sterling work on this Prog!)
This is a stonking issue and great value for the princely sum of £4.99 which makes it cheaper than a pint in London!
• 2000AD Prog 2011 is available from all good newsagents and UK comic shops from today, Wednesday 14th December 2016, and online retailers including Forbidden Planet (using this link helps support downthetubes)