2000 AD (progs #2174 – 2182) – Various

4 out of 5

Even Skip Tracer can’t hold back this otherwise prime batch of thrills.

Dredd starts out with a team I haven’t generally dug in their own titles – Ian Edginton and D’Israeli – but D’Israeli’s super stylized Joe is just so weird looking that I love it, and their quirky Innerspace-y tale – except with dogs and fleas!, and appropriately titled Hair of the Dog – is equally bonkers and great.  Then the new king of the Dreddverse – Kenneth Niemand, taking his seat alongside Rory McConville – gives us two brilliant one-shots in a row, both with surprisingly emotional backbones, and then goes even further into greatness with “Chimpsky’s Law,” featuring secret justice-maintainer and chimp Noam Chimpskey doing what he can to keep his block safe, and his easily manipulated local judge still employed.  PJ Holden, who’s been popping up in Dreddville quite often lately, applies his lovely chunky style to this, and it’s an amazing juggling act of whipsmart plotting, last minute saves, and bursts of action.

Survival Geeks… concludes!  (For now… since Rennie has brought back “concluded” titles before.)  Survival Geeks is always a make or break thing for readers, since you’re either down with its nerd-lore referencing or you find it obnoxious, but I always find that Rennie and Emma Beeby keep it on the right side of self-awareness to keep it hilarious, and Neil Googe’s art is just so delightfully emotive that you can just sorta giggle at the pictures.  This was a fittingly momentous ending: a Crisis on Infinite Earths / Infinity Wars-style mash-up of all different universe versions of the Geeks, which means it does get a bit confusing keeping them all straight, but that also allows for a willingness to slaughter these alternate Geeks in droves, often in very sudden and funny ways.

Rennie then flips to horrific blood and guts with Patrick Goddard on a new Aquila tale, with the brute trying to bust his way into Hell on his quest to free himself of his curse of immortality.  Something that’s always been impressive about this title is the way that Rennie has managed to somehow maintain a sense of stakes for an unkillable character, and that’s mainly due to keeping him motivated, in some form or another, and then making the roadblocks on his way to his goal the focus.  ‘The Burning Fields’ is no different in that sense, which is a good thing, and tosses in some returning characters and a new, flesh-flayed baddie to continue to keep it interesting.

Rob Williams “resurrects” a character for a well-kept-secret strip.  Ultimately, I… didn’t find the resulting story all that gripping, mostly due to over stylized art (Simon Fraser) getting in the way of pacing, but I still love how this was done; I love that Williams pulled it off as a reveal – I was shocked – and although I do wish I had enjoyed the thrill more, the impact of of Fraser’s bold, cinematic style just looks pretty badass.  Meaning: you feel like you’re reading something cool, even if it’s maybe not all that jam-packed with content.  So overall, I’ll err towards a thumbs up on this one.

And then Skip Tracer.  He mind battles a guy named Nimrod.  I… don’t get how this tale has continued, as lead Nolan Blake has zero personality, and all of the dialogue is plucked from a tuff guy one-liners 101 handbook.  But it has continued, several times over, so whatever ain’t working for me is, apparently, working for other readers.

Prog #2192 features a preview, of sorts, of a forthcoming The Order story, and my opinion – of finding this to be a plodding take on a cool sci-fi / history mash-up concept – is unchanged.  I assume this also means that fans of this will be happy that it has remained the same.  There’s also a Future Shock by some Thought Bubble winners; I’m going to guess writer Liam Johnson is pretty young, as the “AI phone app disobeys its owner” storyline is a little undercooked and youthy in tone, but it’s also well-paced and manages to keep it easy to read throughout, despite the ending being rather predictable.  Artist Robin Henley has an early INJ Culbard simplicity that has more character than I get from Culbard, and so has a fair amount of promise.