2000 AD (progs # 2162 – 2169, 2171 – 2173) – Various

3 out of 5

More interesting than necessarily providing us with great stories, I am excited for future entries of some of these new thrills to see how they develop.

Before touching on the ongoings, some words on the bumper Christmas prog, #2162.

T.C. Eglington and Karl Richardson cause some havoc in a Christmas-themed town.  While this seems to lean in to some German stereotypes, it’s a pretty funny escalation of events, and gives us a good ol’ Dredd zinger to close it out.

One of the biggest surprises here, to me, was another Absalom entry from Gordon Rennie and Tiernan Trevallion.  I’m not sure how well this works as a standalone, but I sort of thought Rennie had concluded things with ol’ Harry, but it’s good to see how the storyline gets to continue with Daniel – now superheroing around and offing ghostly pests, fantastically animated (as usual) by Tiernan.

The Fall of Deadworld (Kek-W, Dave Kendall) lumbers on pointlessly, but I do like the standalones better than the longer-form attempts to extend this story, so this Sidney-focused thrill was actually pretty good and grisly entertainment.

Lastly (besides, again, the start of some new thrills and the continuing Brink), Alec Worley and Ben Willsher revisit Durham Red and… it’s pretty bad.  I’m realizing that this duo’s take on this character just sort of relegates her to 90s-era Image badass, where characters talk in cliches and Red punches and shoots her way out of everything because it’s cool.  I don’t have any history with Durham, but their offerings of her adventures haven’t encouraged me to fix that.

All in all, though, a nice, big ol’ selection of stuff in 2162, and definitely a good way to kick off the year.

As far as the titles that we’d stick with over the next several weeks:

Patrick Niemand is my new writer-to-watch.  His Dredd strips have been fantastic, and his three contributions here – Kill Bloopy, one-shot Cold Case, and The Relic – show some different sides – funny fantasy, dramatic procedural grit, inventive sci-fi – all equally compelling.  And because editor Matt Smith loves me, time between Niemand is filled with my current writerly fave, Rory McConville, who gives us a fun and short time travel-adjacent story.

Brink’s epic Hate Box concludes, and while this arc was lacking in Sect development, its character work and world-building and action was just perfect.  Bridgett essentially has to take a regular copper’s job, and finds herself struggling with the politics, worsened when she senses corruption in the department.  That we still end up backing in to Sect crime makes it all the more satisfying, but just as a standalone procedural / action yarn, it’s aces, and because we’re street-level and bound by corridors, I.J. Culbard’s art stands up.

The Zaucer of Zilk is one I’m a little iffy on.  I definitely enjoyed Al Ewing’s initial take on this – his humor blended with McCarthy’s trippy visuals was a delight – but Hogan’s followup never quite takes off.  His humor (and attempts at meta humor) feel forced, while McCarthy fills in the blanks with visual puns and wonkiness that, it turns out, seem kinda dialed in when they’re not amplified by a script.  The story eventually takes focus, with our lead tracking down the cause of some recent wand issues, but prior to that it reads too much like Hogan was uncertain how straight or silly to pitch things, and so went half-in in both regards.

Proteus Vex, a new tale from Michael Carroll and Henry Flint is bizarre as heck and maybe is a bit too top-heavy for an introductory story, but I really hope we get more of this.  Flint’s art and character design is bizarre and insane as hell, and that top heaviness is as a result of Carroll seemingly designing an entirely new sense of logic to back his story up, which I think will clear up in future installments.  I always enjoyed Proteus, even if I wasn’t always clear what was going on, beyond the lead character hunting down a type of future space-war criminal.  But, uh, there’s much more than that, including some kind of voracious goblin race, and little pilot guys that can hop inside bodies and control them.  I would buy this collected to sift through it in a single shot.

And Abnett and Richard Elson team up again for Feral & Foe, which, similar to Proteus, shows a lot of promise, but seems like it might take some time to warm up.  Unlike Proteus, though, I haven’t gotten the same sort of energetic vibe from the title, which is a fantasy setup where our two leads – a brawler and a magic user – having lost the last monster war, are resigned to hunting down their former compatriots to stay on good terms with the new regime.  I have a lot of faith in Abnett, and to be fair, the sort of humdrum tone effected here is how a lot of his stories begin, before he really feels out the characters.  Because F&F seems ready-built for a stream of lore and a wide cast, I think there can be some great things here, if it’s allowed to carry on.

Skip Tracer starts up again in the last few progs of this set, but I’ll touch on that in the next reviews when it completes.  Fair warning, though: I’ve mostly hated this thrill thus far, and the first few entries haven’t proven to me that it’s not completely generic and faceless.