Catharsis – 2000AD Prog 1899

It’s all endings this week as 2000AD prepares for its jumping-on point in Prog 1900. If you’re a regular reader, there’s plenty to enjoy in this week’s stories; which provide a range of endings to long-running stories. For newcomers or those interested in starting to read 2000AD on a regular basis, I recommend waiting for next week’s issue. This issue is the culmination of a long run of stories, not something you can simply drop into unprepared.

This week's cover by Paul Marshall and Chris Blythe packs a lot of punch.

This week’s cover by Paul Marshall and Chris Blythe packs a lot of punch.

The finale of Judge Dredd: Cascade is suitably violent and cathartic. Michael Carroll has long since proven he can write an excellent story and here he’s been given six weeks to produce something excellent – he does not disappoint. It’s good to see that he’s dropped his obsession with using time skips to the aftermath of a battle and then telling us through exposition what happened. Here we get to experience things first-hand, as they occur. It’s violent, it’s fast-paced and it’s an excellent read.

Paul Marshall’s artwork is chunky and very visually appealing. He’s got an interesting mixture of old and new school line work here, which works really well. There’s a definite feel of early 2000AD in how he draws Dredd’s face but his renderings of the cleaner, less cross-hatched look of more modern 2000AD artists. Artistically, this serves to make the Law Lords stand out as not of Dredd’s world; which is a lovely visual shorthand for their situation.

The pace slows drastically as we turn the page to Aquila: Carnifex. This tale of Ancient Rome from Gordon Rennie is as well researched as it is fun to read. Although the pace is far slower than in Dredd’s story, the sense of a well-earned finale is still here. Nero’s downfall is full of the twists and turns that readers will have come to expect from this series, as is Locusta’s hideous and very disturbing situation. It’s a brilliant read right up to the final, horribly creepy panel.

Leigh Gallagher provides some wonderfully dirty-looking characters and architecture that really captures the setting. The expert use of shadows in Nero’s palace are superb – they really add to the tension on the page and draw the reader in. This is wonderful stuff.

If there’s one low point in this week’s stories, it’s Brass Sun: Floating Worlds. I know this story has been getting rave reviews in the American markets but I can’t for the life of me understand why. It’s slow, the conversations are stilted and full of exposition in place of characterisation and I’m simply not enjoying it. This is far from Ian Edginton’s best work. Modern-sounding dialogue is mixed in with more stilted, antique ways of speaking, which jars the reader right out of the piece. Above all else, nothing happens in this episode. This whole part of the story feels like it was padded out from a one-page summary in part 11 just so there would be enough pages for the American reprint.

Visually, it’s a nice, workable piece from Inj Culbard. The old-fashioned art style being used, with lots of muted colour and what feels like washes to blend the foreground into the (often plain) background colours is very nice. I just wish the artist was getting more to do than present a set of talking heads with the occasional wide panel to show a bit of movement, because when he finally gets a chance to do something impressive on the final page, he really shines.

Moving on, we have Future Shocks: Personality Crisis. This is really good, possibly the best Future Shock in a long time. Eddie Robson presents us with a tale of copyright over personalities (who owns that part of you that makes you you? Can anyone really own their self?) which caught my interest right away because it’s a topic that isn’t covered as often as perhaps it should be. As with all good law stories, there are twists and turns in the courtroom drama to keep you on your toes, and as is a requirement of Future Shocks, the ending has a twist in the tale – one that I did not see coming! All in all, it’s expertly done.

The art, courtesy of Nick Dyer, is excellent. Nick’s characters seem to be a wide range of ethnicities, which is great to see in what can often become a sea of white faces. He’s able to show a range of poses and camera effects here that really bring the story to life (the fish eye lens effect in the dream sequence looked great!). If there’s one criticism to be had it’s that he does unfortunately have a tendency to give people heads that are a little too short for their bodies at times; which can be a bit jarring.

Finally, we come to Black Shuck by Leah Moore and John Reppion. I’m sorry to say that this is a very difficult episode to review because there’s so little happening here. It’s all clearly payoff for previous episodes but the problem is, we’ve come into this episode in medias res without any explanation or summary. That would be fine if this was collected for a trade (which I expect is the intention) but for a weekly publication, giving the reader a quick reminder of what’s going on would be nice. Dredd started with one this week in the form of a caption. Aquila started with one in the form of the conversation on the hill. Black Shuck starts with a tiny panel about the Jötun’s Ghost returning to his body and then the rest of the story is a giant fight scene with hardly any dialogue. It’s not great.

Because there’s really nothing here of substance to review, I’ll move swiftly onto the art. Steve Yeowell is a master of battle scenes – he got plenty to hone his skills during The Red Seas and he’s showing them off here with flair. His use of muted earth colours mixed with cold blues to distinguish the Jotuns from the humans works really well. Yeowell’s open line art style really works best when he’s able to add colours like this (compare the art on something like The Red Seas, where there’s no colour and you’ll see this is immediately a vast improvement). I can’t fault the art on this, it’s just the story that seems lacking sufficient punch.

2000AD Prog 1889 is, on the whole, an excellent ending to a long series of stories. It packs a lot of punch and while there are a couple of stories that let the side down, there are still three excellent episodes in this anthology piece to keep readers happy. Roll on next week and the start of a whole new run of tales!

2000AD Prog 1889 is available in British newsagents from Wednesday 17 September, as well as digitally from 2000adonline.com. Overseas readers can get their digital editions from Wednesday 17 September like those in the UK, or wait until next month for the print editions.

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