A new jumping-on point – 2000AD Prog 1900

2000AD likes to have fairly regular jumping-on points, issues where newcomers can pick up the magazine and be able to follow every story from the start. Prog 1900, out this Wednesday, is one such example of this – and it’s a good one, albeit with a reduced number of stories this week (three instead of the regular five) in order to make room for bumper-length introductory episodes and a lovely retrospective on 2000AD itself.

What a brilliant cover by Greg Staples.

What a brilliant cover by Greg Staples.

John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, the co-creators of Judge Dredd, return to the self-styled “Galaxy’s Greatest Comic” for a new Judge Dredd multi-part story, Block Judge. When reading this opening episode, I was reminded of The Pit, one of Wagner and Ezquerra’s finest on Dredd.

This is solid writing with a lot of action but it’s paced well and doesn’t lose itself in all the shifts of perspective. Wagner is not only setting a new scene for the ongoing story but also introducing a large set of new characters, so this could easily have turned into a mess. Thankfully he knows what he’s doing and the script flows very nicely. I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops.

Ezquerra’s artwork is always a pleasure to see but when he’s drawing the dirt and decay of Mega-City One, he is in his element. It’s always good to see Dredd in his alternate, black uniform; it really fits with the dark, grimy look Ezquerra brings to Dredd.

I’ve said before that strips by Ian Edginton are something you either love or hate so I’m always wary of when one of his stories turns up. This week we have the first of a new series of Stickleback, with Edginton writing and art provided by D’Israeli. I’m happy to say that it opens rather well.

It’s dialogue-heavy and fairly slow moving, as per usual with Edginton, but the characters don’t waffle on in a boring manner and the story feels like it’s going somewhere, so that’s all good. I don’t often say this (in fact I may never have said it) but I’m actually looking forward to seeing where Stickleback is going.

D’Israeli’s art is wonderfully grotesque, which fits perfectly with the horrible, dirty locale of Victorian era London on display here. I’m at a loss to pin down which art school is on display here in the buildings but there seem to be mixtures of art deco and the long, slightly curved buildings of old 50’s and 60’s animation. It’s a delight to look at, even if it does get a little crowded here and there.

The three-page retrospective, The Noble 1900, by Tharg the Mighty himself (the alien editor of 2000AD, for those who aren’t yet followers of his “Mighty Organ”, the comic) is a nice little trip down memory lane for those who have been reading the comic for a long time.

I personally only started reading 2000AD in the nineties, after the Stallone version of Judge Dredd came out in the cinemas (I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I thought it was pretty good at the time!) and while I’ve read Judge Dredd: The Mega-History more times than I care to mention, getting this nice behind-the-scenes look at the comic as a whole is rather nice.

The Noble 1900 raises the point that Prog 2000 is coming up in the autumn of 2016 but it doesn’t mention that since 1999, each of the end-of-year comics has been called Prog 20XX (the final comic for this year will be Prog 2015, for example) so we have already had an issue called “Prog 2000”. Will those end-of-year issues be ignored in the numbering sequence? I suppose we will have to wait and see.

Finally, we come to the opening of a new story for Kingdom, by Dan Abnett with line art by Richard Elson and colours by Abigail Ryder. As is typical of Abnett’s tales, Kingdom begins with a monologue from a guy who’s big enough to go toe-to-toe with the Incredible Hulk and then go on to debate with the finest orators in the land.

Here we are treated to a steady stream of future-slang that’s comprehensible enough to not slow the story down while you try to translate but still different enough to help set the scene. There’s not a lot of story here, it’s mostly a couple of short action sequences plus a set-up for a bigger action sequence in part two. Standard Abnett fare, but good with it nevertheless.

The artwork is lovely, especially the depiction of the cobbled-together biplane. The colours are bright but not too intense, which gives the pages a wonderfully old fashioned action comic feel which, despite the far future setting, really works. The characters have a wonderful sense of realness to them, with expertly drawn emotion. It’s a real winner.

In short, 2000AD Prog 1900 is another excellent instalment for the long-running comic, which continues a year-long run of great issues. I’m really looking forward to next week’s episode, which sees two more stories starting up. If you’re new to 2000AD, this is the time to give it a try when it comes out in UK newsagents & online on Wednesday (oversees readers will get the print edition next month but then can get it digitally from Wednesday, too), I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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