Insurrection TPB – Dan Abnett

5 out of 5

I’ve read a lot of 2000 AD and Dreddverse stuff by this point, and… I love a lot of it. There are some blazingly original writers working within Rebellion’s walls, and, just like most established writers in comicdom, they each develop their own styles, and likely genres in which those styles seem to work best. Dan Abnett is not only an incredibly busy writer, with his output across books and comics quite staggering, but he’s also quite flexible: for example, I love his more creator-owned stuff, but when he shifts toward capes and tights at DC and Marvel, I can’t get down with it. Few writers are “strong” enough to draw those types of lines for me: I’m usually all or nothing, but Abnett’s work is clearly so tailored for whichever platform that I’m comfortable being selective with his works. So I go back to that creator-owned tag, and the thing I tend to like about 2000 AD is that it allows for a lot of creator-owned flavor, even while playing in the larger Dredd sandbox. That’s why so many talents have been able to drift in and out and leaving lasting stamps on that world, because it all counts, and with its Cursed Earth and muties and aliens, there’s limitless potential as to what’s possible. You don’t have to toss an Elseworlds or Black Label note on it: you can have comedy and tragedy and horror and F-bombs and youth-friendly strips all with the same characters, and all canon, and yet all particular to whoever’s at the words and art boards.

Giving Abnett and artist Colin MacNeil the room to make something so brilliant as Insurrection, a black and white story that’s firmly within the Dreddverse, but twists all of its usual I Am The Lawness backwards, highlighting the cynicism that John Wagner helped to instill early on and giving it a voice that’s not kicked in the teeth by Joe. On an outland territory that’s been assaulted by the alien Zhind, Marshal Luther gets permission to include the local uplifts, mutants, and robots into the citizenship, and thus into the territory’s fighting force. And they win the war. And then, because I Am The Law, the judges tell the Marshals that all of those folks who helped the fight can now go back to being non-citizens. Luther refuses. The town of Liberty is born, and they prepare to fight off the squad of SJS coming their way, as they’ve now been tagged as insurrectionists.

I’m quite familiar with Colin MacNeil from his more current 2000 AD stuff, but Insurrection, by dint of its heavy, Germanic lines and angles, feels far from that work… and it’s one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen. Comparing more recent stuff to this, though, I can certainly see the similarities in the figurework, but it’s testament to how much difference a skilled artist can impart through camera angles and inking. Paired with Dan’s excellent characterizations of all of our principles, summing them up within panels as root-for-’em underdogs, but making sure to underline the difficulty of their situation, and the doubts these once-judges the Marshals have to deal with – not to mention the various other species’ questioning if they belong in this renewed fight or not – Insurrection just reads like no other Dredd strip. It’s weighty, and powerful, while also giving us all the widescreen, badass action we could want, and – perhaps most importantly – it plays by the rules. This goes back to Dan’s strengths, in which he’s always mindful of what book he’s writing, and at the end of the day, Mega City One still has to exist. And he navigates Insurrection’s first two arcs down thrilling plotty alleyways, delivering us on the doorstep of a killer cliffhanger.

The trade collection does right with extras as well, stuffing in a lot of Wilson’s initial sketches, and Dan’s pitch for the story, which really shows off the passion both had for this… but also how much things evolved (for the better) when the strips came together.