2000 AD (#2301 – 2305, 2307 – 2311) – Various

3 out of 5

I really don’t enjoy reading Hope. Guy Adams’ writing style wallows in genre cliches in a fashion that doesn’t work for me, and then he doubles down with try-hard noir dialogue and horror visuals; it is so desperate to be edgy that it’s comical… but not intentionally. Spreading out to another spell-casting character is moderately interesting, giving things a fresh start, but we get lost in that ‘tude soon enough, us artist Jimmy Broxton’s non-stop photo reference for characters, which should / could be a quaint affectation of the noir, but is instead just distracting. I should be able to tell you more about the plot – following up on that cursed movie reel – but my stated disdain for this series surely is a barrier to my caring, though I’d also snip that I don’t think the storytelling actually tells us much story, instead just throwing swears, blood, and celebrities at us. There’s even like a Benny Hill chase which kind of underlines the running-in-circles vibe. 

moderately enjoy reading Hershey, because I like – in concept – the art, and I like our two leads (the ex-chief; ex-Wally Squad Dirty Frank), and I like when Dredd writers iterate on their own narratives, which is what Rob Williams ends up doing here. …Except Fraser’s art maybe isn’t suited for big action – I keep getting lost where we are in those scenes – and there’s something about the tone of this that hasn’t settled for me, being very heavy (you’ve got the legacy of Smiley; Hershey keeping death at bay; the drug addiction plot), but then also functioning in smirking Dreddverse mode and action antics at the same time. Like, I think Williams and Fraser would rather do a character piece, but then assume (or are editorially guided to think that) we need explosions and jokes every few panels. An uneven read. 

…Meanwhile, Williams runs double duty on Dredd, revisiting what Buratino is up to, and Dredd’s suspicions regarding that. Here, that mingling of tone works gangbusters, though maybe it’s because Henry Flint is better at handling the huge tonal shifts, giving the dialogue cinematic flair and the action a proper big stage. …His odd character designs surely help; the new Sov agents introduced just look like threats. I really dug this one; Williams had me guessing how things were going to shake out the whole time, and I did not feel cheated. This is in addition to an amusing Dredd oner from Arthur Wyatt and Dave Taylor, then Wyatt plus Williams (again!) add to the Maitland storyline (her stat-based approached to crime) interestingly, if via a ton of exposition. 2310 and 2311 then bring on Niemand and Steven Austin for the brutal “The Rematch,” which is now bringing forward (to me) an interesting theme in Ken’s Dredd work: morally grey ‘redemptive’ story arcs, given either humorous or serious bents as needed.. The Rematch is about not being able to escape one’s past, which, in MC-1, carries especially hefty penalties. Mixed with terse narration, this is a very solid story

Enemy Earth, from Cavan Scott and Luke Horseman, makes the jump from Regened. I really wanted to enjoy this, as I thought the strip – concerning young Zoe’s survival in a world where mutant plants run rampant – had promise beyond the confines of a young adult book, and Scott is talented at casual narratives that reveal complexities in both story and character naturally along the way, but this is another strip that’s fighting against itself. Firstly in the tone, which can’t quite shake its kid-centric vibe – Zoe’s not quite compelling enough to carry the story in a 2000 AD context – and then also, unfortunately, in the match with Horseman, whose style is just way too busy to be able to parse things. I don’t mind their cartoonish style for dialogue – not at all – but when we’re dealing with inhuman creatures, it’s not good when I can’t differentiate monsters from background and foreground details. I do hope Horseman continues to get work in the progs, as I dig the energy in the look, but better content pairings and time to massage in feedback I’m guessing Luke’s getting fed – directly or indirectly – from readers will help smoothe things out. 

Finally, for the ongoing thrills: Chimpsky’s Law. Niemand, Holden, and Chris Blythe’s perfectly tamed colors. Some psi brats cause havoc in Chimpsky’s block; Chimpsky teaches them a lesson. This is too much fun, and appreciably a bit more straightforward than the last big Chimpsky arc (which was still a joy!), but done so without minimizing the world building, or What Happens Next? tension. 

Chimpsky (via Niemand and Holden) holds the distinction of automatically raising up the status of any issue, or any run of progs.

Throughout this run, we get some Terror Tales / Future Shocks – always appreciated filler, if nothing really standing out (but it’s hard to pick out allstars from those strips until you read several of them together), and an intriguing prologue expansion of Fiends of the Eastern Front to… the Western front: late 1800s “Wilde West.” Warren Pleece is a good fit for this – a rather dry, expository heavy bit from Edginton, but that seems like the right approach for this. Looking forward to seeing it continue in the following year.