Cup of O – 2000 AD Round-Up

Cup of O: 2000AD

Hello – ! Welcome to my second round-up and review of things happening over at 2000AD – the biggest event in the offing is without a doubt last week’s phenomenally ridiculous conclusion of the most recent run of Indigo Prime where (spoiler warning) Cthulhu bursts out of the face of Jesus (becoming Christhulhu naturally).

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The ripples of the entire breathtaking arc are currently being felt (even getting a nod in The Spectator) and after reading “Perfect Day” in one go it’s not hard to feel proud of how 2000AD easily out-does every other comic on the stands in terms of pure outrageous weirdness. For those that don’t know – Indigo Prime is an agency whose headquarters sits in the void between dimensions and their dead agents go around fixing broken realities and cleaning-up after apocalypses. In this latest story a dying ancient Nazi requests a ‘perfect last day’, but his true motives are far less benign… and by the end of the story this already warped world is tipped into pure insanity.

Writer John Smith has been whipping readers into this madgasm of lunacy since 1986 and his ability to unnerve and bombard has not dulled in the least. How this fits in his head is hard to comprehend but we’re lucky he has the ability to syphon it out into reality. There is a clear confidence in “Perfect Day” that makes it particularly irresistible with the astonishingly talented Lee Carter turning out some singularly iconic splash pages and spreads (see above). One particularly memorable page (which would have made an amazing cover in its own right) is described by the quote “ewww! Giant monster sex!

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Lee Carter may be one of the most amazing Droid talents to have emerged in last ten years of prog – and it is only recently (and especially with this story) where his individual streak is really coming through. His stunningly detailed and heavily textured art is mesmerising. You need only glance over his Deviantart to see lone panels from “Perfect Day” that are greater than some artists’ whole runs – although, to be fair, his full technicolour madness seen most recently was locked in stilted monochrome for the dull underworld saga Necrophim for quite a time. He’s out of the box now, Tharg – good luck getting him back in!

In short this Indigo Prime series is 2000AD at its best – it may not please everyone (fans of Christ and the currently sadly un-taxidermied royal family I should imagine) but the gall of it, the pace of it, the look of it is beyond outstanding and it had me sweaty-palmed and bewildered throughout. You’d show it to any regular comic goer and they’d flip out at the breadth of it all. Let’s hope some new folk do as it was the presence of this kind of resolute insanity that started me reading the prog in the first place. More of this sort of thing.

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Other recent 2000 AD news is dead exciting but predominantly plastic based and in the round-up I want to stick to storythings so I will now proceed to review the latest issue of the Galaxy’s Greatest Fanzine ZARJAZ which has been running in its current form for nearly ten years. Not only does it have the longevity of its parent but it also boasts a similarly huge roster of proto-Droid talent – and its stunning collection of wraparound covers have been drawn by bonafide droid legends. The latest (above) is by Patrick Goddard although the colours were added by some git.

 TrueBelieversBlog

Dredd – True Believers (Lee Robson & Paul Williams)

The first story is the stand-out here, with a clever story that gets slightly meta and echoes a darker Kenny Who? The vintage comic opener is super effective as well – with a clever change in lettering adding weight to the two contrasting styles. Paul Williams’ art takes some minor adjusting to at the switch with its heavy use of 3D models but the atmospheric textures and greytones are irresistible and when the action starts rolling in it becomes enormously readable and reminds me in parts of droid Neil Roberts and also harked me back to that Cool Beans Dredd Cover from yonks ago.

Is it Progworthy?

I would say it’s absurdly close – the pacing is good and the story logical and it has a great bleak ending. The vintage comic beginning is classic although I believe that was done recently in the prog (it’s always cool though) – and Williams’ art is distinctive and engaging if a little reliant on the 3D model reference although his recent blog is an eye opener!

ReAssignmentBlog

Low Life – Reassignment (Lizzie Boyle & Brian Rankin)

The second story is less impressive – essentially just going “what if Dirty Frank was a woman” and not really doing anything else although it’s nice to see the splintered Low Life gang back in action and Lizzie Boyle of Disconnected Press manages the Dirty Frank patter well. Artist Brian Rankin has an unsettled fussy kind of style that really isn’t my cup of tea – some panels are spot on but far too many are awkward and badly framed. His long characterful faces are interesting and there’s a nice inky physicality to it all but he needs to work on his relative proportions and layouts – I could definitely see letterer and Zarjaz art editor Bolt struggling with balloon placement (now that’s specific) in some of the panels there.

Is it Progworthy?

Quite a way off unfortunately – whereas Rob Williams always manages a deft mix of humour and palpable threat in even his shortest “Low Life” stories, this feels too straightforward for the pagecount – and Rankin’s wonky style doesn’t help. A fun story but lacking.

TheMega-CityMissingBlog

Judge Dredd – The Mega-City Missing (Shaun Avery & Simon Hayes)

A very smart silent tale here – and Hayes heavily-inked art paired with the lack of dialogue made it seem a great deal like a Bob Byrne story which is no bad thing. A haphazard cit can’t seem to get a break and Dredd deals with a rogue robot – the two storylines weave cleverly together and the whole thing is executed fantastically. Hayes’ sturdy Dredd is a revelation and he manages Kleggs, lawmasters, roadsters and killer robots with ease – he’s a real find!

Is it Progworthy?

Actually this could be – along the lines of Byrne it’s a very effective self-contained story set in the Dreddverse. A Zarjaz gem.

DescentBlog

Armitage – Descent (Martin Stiff)

A convincingly bleak and relatively rare outing for grumpy Brit-Cit detective Armitage here. A chronologically backwards tale of corporate corruption and paranormal shenaniganary. Stiff manages lettering effectively and its not too jarring a transition from Bolt – and his art style is a very solid mix (to me) between small presser Chris Askham‘s heavy halftone and newdroid Jake Lynch‘s sturdy scenesetting.

Is it Progworthy?

Actually as a standalone, probably not – it doesn’t effectively close the case at the beginning that’s opened at the end. That’s a satisfaction issue with non-linear stories though – as the set-up for a longer series I think it does work.  How suitable you think Stiff is is a matter of taste with regards to the effective but scattershot use of halftone dots – his proportions and framing are spot on and Titan have already got their mitts on him in the form of The AbsenceSo it seems possible he could show up in the prog in the future – and as a calling card “Descent” really works for me.

FantasticVoyageBlog

Fantastic Voyage (Richard McAuliffe & Barry Renshaw)

This is the business. A fully-functioning Dredd one parter with a tantalising concept which is hilariously and bluntly subverted. It has a properly droll final panel as well which is a work of genius. Renshaw’s art is nice and solid but oddly inconsistent – the first page (and panel particular) is an absolute killer but it gradually gets lazier and the second to last page almost looks like it has been drawn by an entirely different artist.

Is it Progworthy?

Yes. This could be in the prog easily – as I said with a bit more consistency from Renshaw (some Blythe coverage would pull this together no problem) this wouldn’t look out of place in the weekly in the least. Brilliant.

DayShiftBlog

Judge Dredd – Day Shift (Mark Pexton & Sam Weller)

Does what it says on the tin and no more than that – a day with Dredd in two pages. Lots of continuity cake but no real story so it just serves mainly as a showcase for Weller’s brilliantly busy artwork. There’s some odd kinks to the Judge uniform (never seen the back of the shoulderpads joined by a chain before…) but its charismatic stuff that I’m rather taken with. Would be nice to see him tackle a narrative.

Is it Progworthy?

Not without a story it ain’t! You could do a Dredd day shifter that actually has a story running through it – and in fact that has been done. For the fanzine its a nice fun bit of indulgence but for anything else it’d probably need more!

HanksTaleBlog

Judge Dredd – Hank’s Tale (Richmond Clements & David Broughton)

A nice story by editor Clements that covers the recent trials and tribulations muties have faced in the Dreddverse and its an effective demonstration about shift of circumstance and what-have-you. What’s particularly aggravating though is that the line that’s repeated throughout is misspelled in the final panel robbing it of its repeated effectiveness. Yeeek. The art by small press goliath David Broughton is solid if a trifle static in places – he’s definitely in his element in black and white though and there’s a nice Carlos/Flint mash-up vibe going on.

Is it Progworthy?

I’d say possibly – if you stuck it in there it’d be a lovely reminder of what’s been going down with mutants – but realistically Chaos Day has swallowed all of that continuity wise so this couldn’t take place without some mention of what went on in the mutie townships during that really. Although an appearance of the likeable mutie lead (in or out of Zarjaz) would be lovely. Knowing the prog they’d want to smother Broughton with Blythe as well – which may be uncomfortable for both of them…

LifeOnTheBlockBlog

City-Def: Life on the Block (Matt Farr & Simon Petersen)

After all the other solid Dreddworld material this lone tale of an anonymous Citi-Def is a bit of a damp squib. It follows a day in the operations of a Citi-Def squad doing various duties. There’s very little actual dialogue – just lots of floating unattributed balloons which makes it hard to grasp who’s saying what or why what’s being said is relevant and Petersen’s art whilst fleshed out with some nice washes is a little clunky.

Is it Progworthy?

Not particularly. It just doesn’t say anything – or have enough character or context to justify itself. I mean – is this post Chaos Day, during the Block War? It’s basically “Day Shift” but without even Dredd or the continuity cake to keep it afloat.

Fear&LoathingBlog Tales of Mega-City One – Fear & Loathing (Santiago Mayaud & Paul Williams)

Another Paul Williams tale and although I love variety in an anthology I love awesome art more and here he’s really firing on both barrels. This brilliant tale with a smart twist is excellently handled and a perfect way to round off the issue.

Is it Progworthy?

For sure – I reckon Williams has nailed it here and the use of the much underrated Special Judicial Squad tips it from fanservice to genuinely interesting. Glorious.

Zarjaz continues strongly and editors Richmond Clements & Dave “Bolt-01” Evans continue to maintain one of the strongest platforms for new talent in the small press.  Their breathless passion for the medium and dedication to 2000 AD’s canon is beyond inspiring. To any fan of 2000 AD Zarjaz is a mustbuy – for the characters you know from the creators you don’t! What can be more exciting than that? You can get ahold of the issue from the FutureQuake Press Web Shop.

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On the subject of talented Squaxx here is the winner of the June art competition over on the 2000 AD forums – Mr Martin Smyth who wins a graphic novel hot from the Nerve Centre. The full results are here including a Droid pick from none other than Glenn Fabry. The new theme for July is up and it is “Wordless Stories” – it promises to be quite a tough one! There are prizes up for grabs as well as the judgement of a bonafide twoothy professional and this month… you are being watched by a former Tharg. If drawing ain’t your bag there’s the Short story competition which is currently in its voting phase (and a random voter wins a graphic novel!)  – go and take a gander at what fanscribes have been doing with 2000 AD characters!



Categories: British Comics, Cup of O, Featured, Reviews

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