Thirty-Seven Years! – 2000AD Prog 1870

Someone's not having a happy birthday. Excellent cover artwork from Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague

Someone’s not having a happy birthday. Excellent cover artwork from Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague

2000AD is older than I am and right now it’s looking an awful lot healthier. This is its birthday issue – the comic was launched in the run-up to Star Wars: A New Hope opening in British cinemas – and to mark the occasion we have the start of an interesting new Judge Dredd tale. The rest of the comic is a continuation of stories that began in previous issues; which, to me, marks a missed opportunity for putting out a real throat-grabbing jumping on issue for new readers.

That said, the Judge Dredd story is decently gripping and may make some new readers decide to stick around and see where it goes from here. Michael Carroll is an excellent writer and the story he’s telling here is a pretty good whodunnit. I’m just hoping he’s gotten over his preference for wrapping things up with a time skip in the final episode, as I’d like to see this story play out properly.

Nick Dyer’s line art is impressive. There’s a nice old school feel to it despite the clear computer line art and  he’s added a decent amount of detail to the background; so there’s plenty to enjoy on the visuals side. Judges’ uniforms seem to have picked up extra leg and padding and another bar on the left shoulder pad under Dyer’s pen; which makes them look odd at first but actually kind of works.

What doesn’t work is Dredd having his holster on his leg. Yes, I know that’s how it would be if he were a real figure but it’s always been in his boot because that makes his gun easier to get to when out riding. There are some things you shouldn’t mess with when it comes to Dredd and his boot holster is one of them.

Chris Blythe enhances the art with an excellent choice of grim earthy tones in the background and bold colours to pick out the foreground characters. It looks lovely and really complements the grimy feel of Mega-City One.

Pat Mills and Clint Langley deliver another visually stunning, fast-paced and interesting episode of The A.B.C. Warriors. I say interesting because this episode starts out like it’s going to be another visually impressive but ultimately going nowhere tale, like several other episodes we’ve seen in this story so far. It’s good to see we are finally going to get some proper robot action here. The inclusion of a hat-tip to the robot from Forbidden Planet is a nice touch, as well.

If there’s one story that’s guaranteed to impress right now, it’s Grey Area. This wacky police/solider/immigration story keeps throwing new and interesting twists at us every week. Dan Abnett’s writing is spot-on with plenty of movement to the story and excellent character development.

The people in this tale have well-rounded personalities and feel real. In addition, Patrick Goddard’s line art is nicely detailed, giving the whole world a worn-in feel to it and endowing the characters with decently individual looks (which is important when they are all wearing bulky armour).  Top this off with wonderfully moody colouring from Abigail Ryder and the result is impressive.

John Burns providing art for a Future Shock means it’s going to be lovely to look at regardless of the quality of the script. His line art and watercolours are always wonderful, especially when given a slightly odd setting to cut loose in, like he has here.

Eddie Robson’s story is full of twists and turns – you’re never quite sure where it’s going until the last page; which is excellent news because for the most part Future Shocks are easy to predict. I’m not overly impressed with the actual resolution of the story but the build up to it was very good, so I hope to see more from Eddie Robson in the future.

Oh my goodness! The ending of Strontium Dog is shocking to say the least. This tale of prejudice, genocide and rebellion has been a very different kind of story to what old school S/D fans are used to but John Wagner’s scripting is tight enough to pull it off. His efforts have been ably assisted by Carlos Ezquerra’s beautiful artwork; and the glorious splashes at the end really show off just how well suited Ezquerra is to action stories like this. It’s beautiful.

2000AD‘s birthday issue may not be the jumping-on point that some will have wanted but the stories it delivers are all immensely impressive. If this is any indication of the level of quality we can expect from the comic’s 38th year, we are in for a treat. Prog 1870 will be available online and in British newsagents from Wednesday 26th February and available in print overseas in March.

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