COMIC REVIEW: 2000 AD Prog 2023

The beloved British anthology comic 2000 AD has been published weekly since February 1977. Prog 2023 (22 March 2017) of “the galaxy’s greatest comic” features Judge Dredd, Brink, Future Shocks, Scarlet Traces, and Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld, with cover artwork by Dylan Teague.

Judge Dredd co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra share another masterfully realised fragment of their idiosyncratic vision of life and law in Mega-City One with ‘Get Jerry Sing’. Although Ezquerra’s trademark ‘chainsaw outline’ technique is more subtle than it once was, the lines and the vibrant colour palette – combined with Wagner’s polished pop cultural parody of graffiti-scrawl-gone-viral; the accompanying hysteria and potentially murderous violence barely contained beneath the city’s hyper-urban façade – are strongly reminiscent of 2000 AD’s mid-1980s heyday and stand-alone Dredd tales like ‘John Brown’s Body’ and ‘Crazy R Raiders’ (both featured in the 1986 Judge Dredd Annual, incidentally). Wagner stands as a genuine maestro of the karmic twist ending.

From one prolific master script writer to another … Dan Abnett unveils Brink, a late 21st century sci-fi crime story ripe with ‘big ideas’ and ‘big technology’. With Earth reduced to an uninhabitable wasteland, and the evacuated human population housed in numerous deep-space Habitats, Part 1 of ‘Skeleton Life’ offers parallels to the vast Culture Orbitals of the late Iain M. Banks. With the construction of the Galina Habitat running behind schedule and reports that the Habitat is ‘haunted’ – and with its CEO incommunicado somewhere near Mercury – the Junot Corp (builder of the Habitat) is feeling the pressure from shareholders. Meanwhile, shortly before committing suicide, one of the Galina Habitat workers reports that: “It’s out here in the dark with us and its promises taste like gristle.” And that can’t possibly be good. A solid establishing episode featuring art by INJ (Ian) Culbard and lettering by Simon Bowland.

Winner of the Future Shocks entry in the Thought Bubble script and art competition, ‘The Best Brain in the Galaxy’ is a black and white four-pager written by Andrew Williamson, illustrated by Tilen Javornik and lettered by Ellie De Ville. As contenders battle it out for just two positions – that of Captain + Pilot and Chief Engineer – aboard the Pathfinder spacecraft’s six year mission, a pair of front-runners emerge: the egotistical and entitled Horatio Hornblower and the feisty femme Jemima Smith. From star navigation and battle simulations to hand-to-hand combat they contest until “the best navigating brain” is determined and a suitably shocking conclusion ensues.

A lengthy speech given at an emergency sitting of the League of Nations in Geneva, 1968 – that’s the premise-setting / back-story provision device utilised in Part 1 of Scarlet Traces ‘Cold War: Book 2’. It’s an emergency sitting because the Martians – who, having based themselves on Venus and plotted away since the mid-19th century, waged war on Earth during the 1940s (destroying much of southern England in the process) – are rapidly building an immense gantry between Mercury and the Sun, using a fleet of thousands of construction vessels (each the size of a continent) in order to turn the Sun into an engine of sorts fuelling the assembly of various “artificial environments” that Martians seem quite keen on. Will humanity sit idly by while the solar system is “deconstructed to furnish [the] alien agenda”? Judging by the illustration of the delegate nodding off during the emergency meeting, it seems an each-way bet. Script courtesy of Ian Edginton with art by D’Israeli (Matt Brooker) and letters via Annie Parkhouse.

In a parallel dimension, on the planet that eventually became known as Deadworld, Judge Fairfax and his ward Jess navigate the poisoned landscape on their trusty Lawrider bike, scavenging cigars and chocolate, blowing away honey-trap-dwelling hillbilly cannibals and searching for a safe haven, all the while avoiding the psychic tracking attempts of the new Chief Judge’s dark Psi-Judges. A bleak tale of futuristic survival horror in a genuinely nightmarish setting, Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld Part I is the product of Kek-W and Dave Kendall.

Title: 2000 AD Prog 2023

Publisher: Rebellion Publishing

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Paul Hardacre

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