COMIC REVIEW: 2000 AD Prog 2021

The beloved British anthology comic 2000 AD has been published weekly since February 1977. Prog 2021 (08 March 2017) of “the galaxy’s greatest comic” features Judge Dredd, Sinister Dexter, Kingmaker, The Order, and Kingdom, with cover artwork by Patrick Goddard and Gary Caldwell.

Boo Cook manifests a Mega-City One that is wonderfully garish and gritty, illustrating Part Two of T.C. Eglington’s concise police procedural, ‘Thick Skin’. From a sting operation utilising bugged creds, Judge Dredd tracks the perps – linked to the earlier disintegration deaths of two vid chat show hosts – to the Perfect Skin Clinic of Dr. Haph, whose Perfect Skin Solution “… was too good. Once someone was treated with the Perfect Skin Solution their condition was cured permanently. It was fantastic for medicine, but terrible for business.” Dr. Haph eventually realised that the problem was nothing that a little ‘necrotising agent’ engineered into the solution couldn’t fix! Vacuous and inane celebrities, socialites and stars have always acted as a locus for tales centred upon the absurdities of Mega-City One – when said celebrities, socialites and stars disintegrate into a chunky soup of viscera, live on vid, the perfect story premise is born. ‘Thick Skin’ is also notable for the return of the belliwheel, supporting the prodigious gut of celebrity fattie Alfred Mipps, who – with a stomach full of everything from YumFlemm (his own brand of “high-calorie, low-energy synth drink”) to a Louisiana license plate –  gives his heavyweight support to Dredd and co. Letters by Annie Parkhouse.

Those lovably roguish motherfunters Finnigan Sinister and Ramone Dexter get a few jars in at their new local, the Bar None, and take some time getting to know the regular clientele of “low-funts, skeevers, grafters, bullet monkeys, streetpukes, racketballs” – you know, “every kind of scuzzpuck who calls Downlode home.” With a couple of Piston Brokes and Tequila Mockingbirds down the hatch, the “street elites” of Sinister Dexter are in no mood to sit by and watch Gabby Craze and his Funt-Frat try some standover on bar owners Rocky and Wendy, and so deliver an artful, economical – and unquestionably brutal – lesson in violence, demonstrating “total control of the brawlspace.” Dan Abnett is in fine form with this tightly scripted action farce, ‘A Rocky Start’, featuring the art of Steve Yeowell, colours of Gary Caldwell and letters of Simon Bowland.

Kingmaker Part Eleven is light on dialogue and heavy on action, as the aerial battle – or rather, the post-aerial battle death-plummeting – continues. Written by Ian Edginton, with art by Leigh Gallagher and lettering from Ellie De Ville, Kingmaker has emerged as a modest, cross-genre masterpiece and conspicuous highlight of the recent roster of weekly strips. The scripting is wonderfully frugal, the action expansive and the potentially perilous marriage of fantasy with science fiction masterfully realised. And with Ichnar, the Wraith King, seemingly poised to collide against the forces of the Thorn, the question must be asked: how much better can Kingmaker get?

Meanwhile, in ‘Wyrm War’ Part 11 of The Order, the giant robot time-submarine Iron John has plopped into the timewell, taking Intuitor Browne and Ritterstahl along for the ride to get intercepted by – of all things – a Wyrm Golem. Plus, somewhat unsurprisingly, a whole pile of Wyrms keen on ‘infiltration’ and ‘hull compromise’. A kind of steampunk-Pacific Rim battle ensues and the episode concludes with ‘the Drab Man’ Intuitor Browne sternly lecturing a rather large (and apparently baffled) Wyrm about why he should be feared for his “intellect [and] talent for speculative deduction.” Written by Kek-W and featuring the sumptuous art of John Burns with letters courtesy of Annie Parkhouse.

Alongside Edginton’s Kingmaker, Dan Abnett’s Kingdom ‘As It Is In Heaven’ sequence has been a recent standout of weekly 2000 AD progs. All-powerful codes in hand, genetically modified dog-soldier Gene the Hackman has the power to enable victory for the insectile Them, the human Masters or the Masters’ freaky weaponised ticks, depending upon who he elects to deliver the codes to. The Masters don’t do themselves any favours with statements like: “That’s good. You’re a good boy, Gene.” With Them being the arch-nemesis of pretty much all players, no chance there. And with Gene’s spunky companion Leezee Sower being revealed as the clone of some grotesque weaponised tick, Gene comes to the conclusion that it’s about time to tear some limbs off and bathe in blood spray to ensure that “Gene wins. Gene wins!” Artist Richard Elson brings his A-game and Ellie De Ville letters as only she can.

Title: 2000 AD Prog 2021

Publisher: Rebellion Publishing

Rating: 3.5/5

GS Reviewer: Paul Hardacre

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