2000AD Ends The Year In Style

 

Prog 2014 starts as it means to go on, with an impressive cover by Ben Willsher.

Prog 2014 starts as it means to go on, with an impressive cover by Ben Willsher.

Prog 2014, the final issue of the year for British indie comic 2000AD, is a 100-page bonanza of new stories; as has become the tradition since the turn of the millennium. This year, the offerings are top notch. There’s something here to impress everyone, from the amazing cover by Ben Wilsher and the zany antics of Cat Sullivan’s Droid Life right to the final page of Wagner and Ezquerra’s phenomenal Strontium Dog. It’s impressive stuff!

The comic proper opens with a one-shot Judge Dredd story by Michael Carroll. This is a traditional Christmas morality tale given a Mega City-1 twist and it’s brilliant for it. The ending is obvious from the point that the plot kicks in but when you’re reading it, you won’t mind one bit. The strong writing keeps the story running at a brisk pace and there’s comedy aplenty.

The artwork comes courtesy of Leigh Gallagher (line art) and Chris Blythe (colours). Gallagher has managed to merge the looks of the comic and cinematic Dredd to produce a new look uniform that looks pretty good. His choice of detailing only the inside leg and middle of the front of Dredd’s uniform doesn’t work. It looks a little like a sewn-on stripe, which spoils the effect – taking the detail all around would have worked better. Aside from that, the angular look makes Dredd seem really imposing, which is excellent.

Ulysees Sweet is not a personal favourite. I’m sorry to say but this is the sick man of the line-up. It reads like it wants to be Zombo but it lacks all the charm. The characters are unlikeable, and the jokes don’t save it. I’m hoping writer Guy Adams can pull this back for later episodes but right now it’s the strip that is letting the side down. The art from Paul Marshall (line art) and Chris Blythe (pulling double duty this week with his greyscales here) is good but good art alone isn’t enough.

The finale of The Ten Seconders makes an interesting addition to this issue’s roster. This has been a decent story and the ideas we’ve seen in it have been great. Rob Williams’ scripts have been good and Edmund Baywell’s artwork is very nice. Unfortunately, this epilogue goes nowhere. The whole episode could have been reduced to one or two pages suck on the end of the previous episode and we would not have lost anything. It goes nowhere, which is an unfortunate way to end an enjoyable story.

After two disappointing titles, the epic teamup of Pat Mills and Clint Langley on A.B.C. Warriors brings the issue right back on to top form. Mill’s script is poignant and his theme of an old war hero looking back over past wrongs done to him is moving. This is Mills writing at the top of his game, he’s continuing his brilliant year-long run. I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

On the artwork side, Clint Langley is unstoppable. This is without a doubt the best artwork around right now, by far. You could almost walk right into this, it’s so photorealistic. It’s beautiful.

Dan Abnett writing Sinister Dexter is always something to look forward to. There’s rarely been an episode that disappointsm and this isn’t one of them. The opening is a little ropey – everyone spends the opening page telling everyone else things they already know. As a method of bringing new readers up to speed on the story, it’s clumsy at best. That said, the rest of the story goes along at a swift pace and there’s plenty of action. It’s clear this story isn’t going to disappoint.

The artwork by PJ Holden (line art) and Dylan Teague (colours) is excellent. Holden’s style is instantly recognisable and works really well on a comedy strip. Teague’s colours are suitably muted where needed and vibrant when there’s action. It looks wonderful. It’s not quite suited to the sociopathic violence of Sinister Dexter and at times it jars slightly with the story it’s telling but it’s still excellent art and a pleasure to look at.

Absalom is a strip you will either love or hate, depending on whether you want your heroes to have some heroism about them or to be almost as hideous as the monsters they are fighting. At times it can be difficult to tell who the monsters really are in Absalom but that is really part of its appeal. Tiernen Trevallion’s artwork is especially suited to a story of this type, with heroes who look hideous and villains who look equally hideous. He’s showing us a dirty, messed-up world full of dirty, messed-up people and the result is impressive.

Gordon Rennie’s script flows from action to mystery to tragic in a way that you won’t notice until you sit back and think about what he’s just achieved here. It’s a beautiful way of delivering the final page and it will leave you wanting more. If you want to write comics yourself, study this one because here Rennie is the master at work.

The comic now switches back from greys and browns to the chunky, full-colour spectacle of Patrick Goddard (line art) and Abigail Ryder (colours) for Grey Area. This is a one-shot story with a serious message. Writer Dan Abnett has a message to deliver and he does not fail. If there’s one story in this week’s comic that will make you think, this is it. Abnett is out to rock your world view, and he succeeds perfectly. Goddard and Ryder’s beautiful art supports the script and helps to deliver the bleak reality of migrant life, if you can even call it life, so very, very well.

After two emotionally-charged stories, it’s the job of Tharg The Mighty to liven the spirits and bring the fun back to the proceedings. Artist Anthony Williams teams up with The Mighty One himself to slap you senseless with the mirth stick. Whether they succeed will depend a lot on whether you enjoy inside jokes, because there are plenty of them here for long-time readers to chuckle at. Newcomers will get fewer of the jokes but there’s still enough here to raise a chuckle, and Williams has provided some wonderful artwork (his use of shadow to enhance the visuals and pack more of a punch is wonderful) with some excellent visual gags to boot.

Finally, we come to Strontium Dog. The fun and games, action-adventure with comedy is now long gone from this story. Johnny Alpha came back from the dead a different man and his tale reflects that. Wagner is on form with this dark tale of warfare. Ezquerra is bringing his A game as well, presenting a bleak future of dirt, sweat and grime. This is really, really good stuff and I can’t wait to see more from both of them.

2000AD ends the year with a bang. This has been a superb year-long run from the self-styled “Galaxy’s Greatest” and Prog 2014 does not fall at the final hurdle. If this quality keeps up, 2014 is going to be something special.

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