2000AD Prog 1853 – Hits hard and fast

2000AD-1853-cover

Flesh! A-ah! He’ll eat every one of us!

If there’s one comic on the market right now that you can guarantee will both impress and entertain in equal measure, it’s 2000AD. The comic may be 36 years old and prone to revisiting past glories of late (I’m looking at you, Slaine) but with the latest run of stories, you will be hard pressed to find something that won’t tickle your fancy. The old mixes with the new to create something pretty special.

Judge Dredd continues his adventure into the Undercity in pursuit of the Goblin King, whom we still haven’t seen much of yet. What we see this week has unfortunately come straight out of The Big Boy’s Book Of Evil Villain Moves but that can be forgiven because of the frenetic pace of the action.

It’s good to see Michael Carroll being given time to write a full story rather than having to wrap everything up in three episodes using a time jump and some exposition; as we saw far too many times earlier this year. Now he’s being given the space to work, he isn’t letting us down.

This is a solid Dredd story with excellent artwork by Paul Davidson (even though he still doesn’t have characters make eye contact properly and there’s only one person drawn with their mouth open when they speak) and Chris Blythe.

When you see a story is written by Ian Edginton you know you’re going to get something solid, but not usually from the top table, so it’s a nice surprise when Brass Sun exceeds expectations. This week’s episode is very fast-paced – it feels like you’re reading just 3 pages, rather than the standard 5 – and although the dialogue is still more literary than realistic, it doesn’t grate and doesn’t slow the pace.

Inj Culbard’s Victorian-era art style really makes this 19th century tale work. It’s impressive art that mixes old line work with a modern sense of movement. It’s just a shame there isn’t any real feeling that this story is going anywhere or saying anything.

Flesh is one of 2000AD’s oldest titles and Pat Mills is clearly relishing the chance to continue his run of telling old school stories. 2000AD has always done weird stories very well and Mills does not disappoint in that respect, so if you’re looking for a quality 70’s/80’s comic feel, you won’t be disappointed.

James McKay backs up Mills’ classic-era writing with some equally classic-era artwork. Gorehead the T-Rex looks suitably vicious, and each of the characters has a solid feel to them. Although the art is entirely monochrome, there is no feeling of empty, wasted space; which is an easy trap to fall into with black & white art. These panels are busy, but not overly so. It’s all very much in the classic 2000AD style.

Another classic in the making is Aquila, a relative newcomer to 2000AD‘s roster. Gordon Rennie’s opening pages for this week’s episode invokes a mixture of Sherlock Holmes and CSI to give us some Ancient Roman detective work. This all flows nicely back to our main character and his sidekick, neither of whom seem all too happy to be slumming it in the sewers of antiquity.

Gordon Rennie has clearly done his homework while writing this story. Everything about the Roman setting feels so real and so right. His tight scripting is expertly brought to life by some fantastic artwork by Patrick Goddard and wonderfully warm colouring by Gary Caldwell.

Finally, we have the oddness-fest that is Damnation Station. This week, the gratuitous use of foreign languages reaches new heights as the entire first page of the story is given over to gibberish. Nobody can possibly understand what these alien creatures are saying to one-another and we never hear from these aliens again, yet we have an entire page devoted to watching them talk to one-another.

It’s absolutely ridiculous and if it somehow furthers the plot to leave the audience no choice but to skim over the dialogue bubbles until they finally turn the page and find something they can follow, I have yet to see any indication of it.

Having said that, once we get to people actually speaking English, the story is superb. The characters all sound like real people, with real motivations. The storyline itself is excellent and I’m looking forward to more. Just… you know… as long as I don’t have to put the comic down and break out Google Translate in order to work out what is going on, please?

On the artwork front, you won’t find anything better in the comic than what Mark Harrison is producing here. Gone are the days of Durham Red and Glimmer Rats where dark and murky was the order of the day. This mixture of CGI and traditional hand-drawn characters is a vibrant mix of tones and colours. It looks amazing and I look forward to seeing more.

All in all, 2000AD Prog 1853 does not disappoint. There is something here for every comics fan, be it a supernatural tale set in antiquity, a space opera or something in between. There’s plenty of action, some excellent dialogue and very impressive artwork throughout. Definitely one to watch.

2000AD Prog 1853 is released on Wednesday 09 October 2013 in the UK and online at 2000adonline.com.

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