2000 AD (progs 1983 – 1987) – Various

5 out of 5

With their trades readily available, a semi-constant flow of US-sized repackages of key stories, and Dredd himself having an ongoing series with IDW, Rebellion and 2000 AD are probably more visible now than they’ve ever been.  And yet, I still feel like I’m discovering some awesome secret whenever I read the progs – noting the oddity of how some now well-known to Marvel and DC-fans writers can put out a wealth of material through the mag which might never be seen by those same fans – and then feel especially gifted when all the stories align to offer a stellar lineup for weeks in a row.  And I recognize this “gift” ain’t free, as I’m plunking down an unfortunate exchange rate for the pleasure, but if i had to whittle my repeat purchases down to a few, the progs and the Meg are things I’d do my best to keep in my budget.

One thing I appreciate most about the prog is its drop-in / drop -out nature of its series.  You discover a lot of new stuff this way, and don’t have to suffer through stuff you don’t like for too long – or it’s generally only one or two stories out of five – and the extended serialization (6 to 12 part stories) sort of forces you to give a chance to enjoy something you might not have given the chance to warm up to otherwise.  Another unique potential result of this format is that a particular series which doesn’t work for you in one context might, surrounded by different stories, suddenly become of interest.

Which is what happened for me this month with Slaine.  Normally Mills’ half-overwrought, half-cheeky tone just doesn’t sit well with me, and Simon Davis’ art – though gorgeous for pinups – is too clunky to allow the story some necessary breathing room.  But it all just aligned this time: Slaine’s recollections of his mother, Macha, are patiently told and eventful, well-played against evil Gododin’s taunting, the information smoothly spliced into Slaine’s escape with Gort and then his prison break mission with Sinead.  Davis beautifully intercuts all of the visuals; Macha is gorgeous, and the representation of Gododin’s mind infiltration is haunting.  It just worked, while still definitely sounding like Mills.  I’ve liked his stuff in fits and spurts, but I haven’t quite “gotten” Slaine yet, and I’m half-wondering / half-hoping if this strip will be my gateway.

While I can’t say I was equally impressed with the Black Shuck followup, Moore, Reppion, and Yeowell returning to show us how the wolfy curse is affecting Shuck’s wife and soon-to-be children, it was a massive improvement on the opener, which had incredible pacing problems to me, and lazy-seeming visuals.  The story feels tighter this time, not having to try to jam an origin in there, and with (so far) less characters to draw, Yeowell seems to be able to focus more and deliver his a better version of his swooping style.  It’s still not my favorite strip, but I didn’t mind reading it this time, and it came no where close to unsettling the overall high rating.

Next up is Grey Area.  I’ve generally been very pleased with Abnett’s original sci-fi (see: Brink in this same set of progs), and Grey Area’s alien refugee police procedural setup has generally gone along with that praise.  Mark Harrison’s art – with its murky, computer backgrounds – has been a plus and minus at different times, but as he’s sharpened up his foreground info in the past few episodes, its really worked for the whole “different world” vibe of the strip.  The ending of the god star arc was a tad anticlimactic, but it was also believable, in context, which was a good balance.  The entire series stalled in the middle of this storyline, so the conclusion featured here does have the added benefit of being a long time coming.

Now the two superstars: Brink and Dredd.  Culbard on Brink is all the hints of goodness he brought to Brass Sun without the detractions that dragged his efforts there down.  Culbard has a great design sense and is wonderful with “snap” characterizations, but I think the scope has to stay small.  Whether or not Abnett is purposefully tapping into that by keeping his space mystery confined to, mostly, tight station corridors I dunno, but within a few short episodes the world building in the strip has been outstanding, Dan upping the ante early on in a really surprising way.  Can’t wait to see where this goes.

Michael Carroll finishes his Brit-Cit Joyce portion of his tale with PJ Holden, then flips back to the returned Dredd and MC1 for the next arc with Colin Macneil.  The twists and turns in this Texas Judges / Brit-Cit / Radlands / Joyce mega-narrative have been intense, and Carroll has been paired with top notch artists the whole way through.  I really feel like I’m experiencing my first Dredd epic as it occurs and I couldn’t be more psyched.

Man, what an anthology mag, where I’m interested to read the next installment of every single entry.  ‘Twas a good month.