2000 AD (progs #2262 – 2269) – Various

4 out of 5

Evidence of how the prog can surprise ya, since, besides Proteus Vex, there weren’t any strips I was absolutely looking forward to in this run – and some I actually wasn’t – but it mostly ended up being really solid.

The Dredd spot was a little uneven due to being a lot of shorter entries, but also a lot of Ken Niemand, which made that tolerable. “Trinity” – merging the Stallone, Karl Urban, and 2000 AD versions of Dredd into one world via multiversal stuff – was cute but, y’know, not much beyond that; “The Dead Chief Judges’ Society also falls into this category, amounting mostly to just a callback to old CJs; “Working Girl” was Ken’s standout, returning to sky surfing courier Mona Plankhurst and tossing her into a rock-and-a-hard-place scenario – can’t wait to see this followed up on. Thereafter, T.C. Eglinton has a one-shot in a very typical, Wagner-y ironic-death-of-a-cit format; and then Arthur Wyatt (with Nicolo Assirelli, now becoming a very welcome sight on art) closes things out really well with ‘5 in the Cubes,’ a cautionary tale for juves that helps to remind us that Dredd isn’t necessarily just a one-beat authoritative cop.

#2262’s oversized bumper prog has some one-shots in it, but otherwise:

The ending to Book Two of The Out. Abnett and Harrison’s breakout sci-fi travelogue rather wandered to me in the first part of this story, but it was an absolutely needed setup for how heavy Dan goes with it in this concluding chapters, very much solidifying this as a modern day Halo Jones epic, though definitely something that will probably be even better in trade, when you can experience the emotional ups and downs closer together.

Kingmaker, from Ian Edginton and Leigh Gallagher, still is proving rather difficult for me to get a handle on. Ian builds up to an epic battle between… things, but if that lack of description is telling, I just cannot grasp the importance of the characters or the world yet. It just seems like people on different sides – our main character being somewhat cast as anti-hero “Good;” an off-world race that’s maybe being misled by some spirit being as “Bad” – fighting, and even Gallagher’s visceral, detailed art feels a little lost in the fantasy elements. I haven’t minded reading it because the individual beats are exciting, but week to week I can’t say I have much idea what’s going on besides, again, one side versus another.

…Not having much idea what’s going on is generally the complaint I’d level at Kek-W’s work, and he gets to double up on me here: The Order returns, and Saphir breaks out from a 3riller. Covering the latter, I actually liked Saphir in its 3-part form, and I suspected it was because the required compression prevented Kek from going too “out there,” and though you can sense some of that happening here – two characters look way too much alike; there’s some alternate dimensional stuff that gets a little lost – it’s still a pretty short followup, at 5 chapters, and so maintains a sense of focus, with Sherlock Holmes type Alphonse Mucha rather hilariously becoming the father to Lady Sofia’s child, despite their not having been any, er, physical cause for that. This all works in Kek’s cracked out logic – it’s like, a spirit child, and is still incorporeal, but needs Mucha to become whole – and there’s of course a battle over preventing this from happening, which involves that other dimensional angle. It’s batshit, but mostly controlled, and pretty fun for it, with great art from David Roach (even if, like Gallagher, the craziness of it sometimes feels a little out of his wheelhouse). The bigger surprise, though, is that The Order also kept me in tow, perhaps also by staying set on a fairly linear story: the team has fallen to some out-of-time dimension, and gets to fight a Lovecraftian tentacle beast. That’s it. I didn’t have to worry much about various time-traveling teams, or figures occupying other bodies, or shifting logic regarding Wurms; it’s just people on a flying train wielding axes and shotguns against an octopus monster. I can deal. The way John Burns’ uses color to differentiate foreground from background still feels wonky to me (foreground gets color, background doesn’t, except when he changes that up completely…), but I’m at least used to it by this point, making it less likely I get kicked out of the story by confusingly focused visuals.

Lastly: Proteus Vex. Uh, maybe these weeks can overall be summarized by my inability to explain what’s happening, because Vex also somewhat falls into that category. Vex is rescuing kidnapped flesh pilots; he’s still trying to figure out the truth behind various long-kept secrets – who caused which wars and why. I guess the reason this hasn’t bothered me much with Vex – why I look forward to it – is that it feels consistent in the way it presents its world, such that I’m confident that when I read it all together, it will click. There’s something very exciting about that, very (Grant) Morrison-y, where you’re swept up in the ride because of how confidently it’s presented, even if the pieces don’t seem to fit altogether at the moment. The character of Vex himself perpetuates this by not really explaining his actions, but I kinda love the device of the narrator annotating scenes to us as though from some future biography on Proteus, drawing a line between the “known” history and the chaos Carroll and Jake Lynch are showing us. Insane alien species keep showing up week to week, with equally well suggested backgrounds and depth. I get a kick out of how bold this strip is in every thrill, and cannot wait to read it collected.