The beloved British anthology comic 2000 AD has been published weekly since February 1977. Prog 2022 (15 March 2017) of “the galaxy’s greatest comic” features Judge Dredd, Sinister Dexter, Kingmaker, The Order, and Kingdom, with cover artwork by Ben Willsher.
Arthur Wyatt and Tom Foster restore some levity to Judge Dredd with their stand-alone tale of hillbilly self-hostage-takers, ‘The Grundy Bunch’. As “notorious members of the breakaway sect ‘The Church of Grud and Guns’,” the Grundy family is led by the eccentric, old-style patriarch Bobo. When the family forcibly occupies the Bob Ross Wildlife Dome and subsequently announces their “legal claim on the Dome” – based on obscure tenets of Luna-City Law – along with their right to “[bear] arms to resist ‘government tyranny’,” Dredd masterminds an unapologetically underhanded raid on the Dome with the help of Judge Serota and some robotic wildlife. A moderately wacky strip exploring the interstices of the authoritarian city-state and ‘cuckoo notions’ of individual sovereignty, with an old school and suitably cringe-worthy punch line. Annie Parkhouse letters as only she can.
The jocularity continues with Sinister Dexter in ‘Better the Devil’, an economical and off beat episode written by Dan Abnett, illustrated by Steve Yeowell and John Charles, and featuring the letters of Simon Bowland. Usually the unrivalled masters of the passage-at-arms, in this instance – popping out around dinner time in order to pursue a hit for “two-fifty large on the one, the only, Banjo Tigershark” – Dowlode’s two most prolific gun-sharks have a devil of time getting the job done (seemingly lending credence to that motherfunting gun-shark maxim: “big payday … big risk”). However, it’s not so much the fact that Banjo is “up ta his growler in quality goons” that sees Finnigan and Ramone dining on “crap salad”, but a lone shark of rakish demeanor and with a love of murder, not money. An appropriately sinister conclusion to Sinister Dexter’s recent run.
The Nine Kingdoms find their potential saviour from the Thorn in the unlikely form of the foul-mouthed ork, Crixus, in the conclusion to Book One of Ian Edginton’s Kingmaker. This singularly strange saga of dryads and dragons, alien Shrike troopers and an ork, Ichnar the Wraith King and the cantankerous wizard Ablard has successfully blended sorcery and science fiction in a manner that is complex (but not tortuously so) and consistently compelling; its frequent highly kinetic action sequences scintillatingly realised by Leigh Gallagher, the vibrant artwork complemented by the discreet lettering of Ellie De Ville. Kingmaker is precisely the kind of rich fantasy-meets-sci-fi comic that 2000 AD should be nurturing.
In stark contrast, the unnecessarily labyrinthine ‘Wyrm War’ sequence of The Order flails and flops to its unremarkable demise like some abominable Wyrm from another dimension blown to smithereens by a robotic knight wielding a steampunk-equivalent Minigun (for example) or blasted by the fearless motorcycle-riding Queen of New Atlantis (again, just an example). Unfortunately, the seed of Kek-W’s otherwise good idea grew into a colossally convoluted script – bloated to the point of bursting with its rag-tag of ‘historical heroes’ and narrative overly-tangled to the point of being downright baffling – that could not be saved even by the gallant artistic efforts of the masterful John Burns, whose refined ‘retro-elegance’ was arguably the highlight of ‘Wyrm War’.
Part Twelve of Dan Abnett’s ‘As It Is In Heaven’ arc of Kingdom sees genetically modified dog-soldier Gene the Hackman running loose, well and truly off his chain: weaponised-tick-Leezee killed, weapons factory destroyed, kill-codes in hand (or paw), spunky Leezee Sower (yes, the non-tick version) intact, shuttle liberated, and hybrid feline ‘aux’ reject (and terrorist) Pause along for the Earthside ride back to the Kingdom. There’s even time for some recreational eye-gouging and head-ripping-off-ness on the way to the shuttle bay – after all, this is Kingdom, and it’s precisely this kind of ferocious, amoral, animalistic violence for control and dominance, and sometimes the sake of survival, that readers have come to relish. Illustrated by Richard Elson and lettered by Ellie De Ville.
Title: 2000 AD Prog 2022
Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Reviewer: Paul Hardacre