All Aboard The Thrill Train – it’s 2000AD Prog 1902

Gene eviscerates the enemy in this colourful cover by Richard Elson

Gene eviscerates the enemy in this colourful cover by Richard Elson

After last week’s issue introduced the final couple of new stories, it falls to this issue to really get the ball rolling on the thrill train. Judge Dredd and Kingdom have already shown us how they intend to keep the adrenaline running at full steam but can the other strips match their pace? Let’s take a look and find out.

This week’s Judge Dredd starts comparatively slow then builds quickly as the Justice Department continues its campaign to clean up Gramercy Heights. If you’ve been following the story so far, you know what to expect from this episode and it won’t disappoint.

John Wagner has written a script that continues the story at a brisk pace but shouldn’t leave newcomers too out of their depth with what’s going on. While it’s definitely enjoyable in weekly instalments, it’s clear this is a story that is going to be best enjoyed all in one sitting, so expect a graphic novel collecting the whole thing at some point.

Carlos Ezquerra continues to delight on the art front. Dredd looks suitably lean but menacing, as he always does when Ezquerra is at work – there’s no hulking superman here, just a regular guy who happens to be an ultimate badass. Similarly, all the antagonists in this week’s episode are also regular people. Scruffy, dirty, sweaty people but regular nonetheless. It gives the story a realistic quality that is very refreshing.

This week’s Stickleback is a much different beast. It’s a slow burner, yes, but it’s clear the story is developing at its own steady pace. Now we have meat on the bones that have been laid out of the past fortnight and it’s clear that this is going to be a story worth watching. It’s another one that’s clearly going to be best read in collected form, but Ian Edginton’s script is solid and his characterisation is very good. Roll on next week’s episode!

D’Israeli continues to present a visual treat with his ethereal artwork, full of strange characters; weird angles and so much Victoriana. He’s presenting a very distinct style that makes this strip stand out amongst the others as something very much of it’s own. There’s something inherently disturbing about this artwork and it fits the story so well.

It’s only the second episode so there’s plenty of time to properly get going yet but it seems Greysuit may not be living up to expectations. Pat Mills’ script is full of clunky dialogue and there’s very little by way of plot here. It’s all exposition and what story development we do get feels very much disassociated from what we got last week. Let’s hope this starts to make sense soon because right now it feels rather messy.

John Higgins and Sally Hurst continue to impress with the artwork, however. Higgins’ line art is crisp while his characters’ facial expressions and body language continue to tell the story on their own.

His use of Dutch Angles and claustrophobic locations give this story a compelling look that is complemented expertly by Sally Hurst’s use of cold, eerie colours. This is great stuff that invokes memories of The Prisoner and 60’s spy thrillers.

Moving on to Ichabod Azrael and we see an entirely different affair again. Like Stickleback, Ichabod Azrael has an archaic manner to it; full of old-fashioned wording and archaic turns of phrase. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t work and only serves to make the story seem slower than it actually is.

Nevertheless, Rob Williams’ script moves along at a decent rate and now that Ichabod has arrived somewhere where there are more people, we are getting a good feel of how the story will play out. There’s even humour here during his conversation with his talking horse (a plot point that sticks out like a sore thumb in this otherworldly western tale but that’s the kind of story this is). It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

Michael Dowling’s artwork is allowed to shine now he’s depicting a ghostly frontier town rather than a stark desert with nothing in it. His artwork is a delight and he’s clearly in his element drawing old style buildings and fashions. If there’s one thing to complain about it’s the fact that characters speak without opening their mouths; an annoyance that is becoming more common in 2000AD stories these days.

Finally, we come to the futuristic action spectacle that is Kingdom. This episode begins in typical Dan Abnett style, with an opening caption that sets the scene by introducing the protagonist and filling our heads with future slang. Meanwhile, the opening panel introduces us to the fact that this is most definitely an action tale, because it is filled with humanoids fighting giant insectoid monsters. Lovely!

Story-wise, there’s not a lot here. It’s essentially a fight scene that will lead into the next chapter of the story. New characters are introduced once again while Gene and his army of warriors with pun names cut their way through more enemies with no apparent challenge. So far, so usual.

Art wise, it’s another good showing from Richard Elson and Abigail Ryder. There’s a lot to like here – Elson’s crisp line work and expert ability to choreograph fight scenes is on display on every page. He’s complemented by amazing colouring work from Ryder, who continues to impress with her sharp contrasts between characters and backgrounds. Every page is an absolute delight to look at.

In short, this is another brilliant issue from the self-styled Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. While there are a couple of slow burners and one story that has yet to find it’s feet, the comic is bookended by two expertly-crafted tales and there’s more than enough here to keep any reader’s interest. I’m looking forward to next week’s instalment already!

2000AD Prog 1902 is available internationally via the 2000AD website and in UK stores from Wednesday 08 October, and in print internationally later in the month.

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