4 out of 5
A music-themed issue, which would tend to make me cringe a bit – these things are generally struggling to find a sweet spot between showing off, trying to hew too hard to the concept, or just being flailing despite the intended thread – the 48-page sci-fi issue is one of 2000 AD’s best recent specials, thanks to, wouldn’t ya’ know, just having fun with it.
The key, here, would seem to be to allow the music to inspire, not necessarily guide, and I’m sure it helps having an editor like Matt Smith at the helm to keep things focused. So almost every story manages to not get cute, creatives (presumably) choosing something they wanted to choose, which definitely means a fair amount of 80s (Alphaville, Kate Bush), but not always, and rarely taking that in a predictable direction. ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun,’ for example, finds Abnett and Antonio Fuso in fine form, taking the subject matter completely on the nose, which is perfect for SinDex; From Her to Eternity gets a wild but fitting application via Karl Stock and Warren Pleece – more ongoing strips from Stock, please; eager to see him break out from one-offs – to Fiend of the Eastern Front, twist-turned into ‘Fiends of West Berlin.’
The hiccups are few. Paul Cornell and Emma Vieceli try to go a bit more literal with their Suspended in Gadda use in an Anderson tale, bringing in lyrics via Cass’s dream explorations, it’s just a bit too open-ended for an effective story. And David Baillie’s / V.V. Glass’ mapping of Rockin’ in the Free World to a concert ‘bodyguarded’ by Middenface McNulty is fun, but bites off more than it can chew visually, a mix between Glass not having enough space to nail the needed physical pacing jokes, and Baillie maybe thinking a bit too filmic-ly for the medium.
But even these two inclusions are not bad, and certainly far from the violations such music comics usually perpetrate, making the Sci-Fi special quite a page turner, with unexpected influences (handily labeled with each story) giving us a wild grab bag of tones and topics.