5 out of 5
When it comes to anthologies, I’m a sucker for a well-executed theme, and rather cognizant of the large role an editor plays in making sure the bits and pieces of the mag hang together well. 2000 AD, in its long (and still growing strongly!) lifespan, already has the general theme in place – stories mostly focusing around its various sci-fi worlds, and topically related one-offs – and under editor Matt Smith’s handling, has had a very firm editorial hand keeping things in line. The yearly specials are, cynically, just an excuse to get a book on the racks, but when the books are as enjoyable as 2000 ADs tend to be, I’m less cynical about that and happier to have an opportunity to read some standalone tales that are removed from the weekly / monthly continuities. And then when this book that I already like has an extra special theme – celebrating 20 years with their current publisher, Rebellion (which, given the book’s troubled history prior to Rebellion, as well as how genuine Rebellion’s owners seem to be in wanting the mag to remain true to its roots – is important) – and when that theme is funneled through Smith’s oversight… well, I’m sold before I’ve even read the book.
Still, even with that pretty hefty bias up front, if the content wasn’t quality, I’d qualify my praise along those lines: “The stories kinda suck, but it sure does read well!” Thankfully, though, that’s not the case.
Representing the Rebellion tribute by pairing pre-Rebellion characters against post-Rebellion ones, we get some fantastic (and hilarious, and inspired) matches between Zombo and Dredd, or Kingdom and Shako, broken up by an interview with Jason Kingsley of Rebellion (which, see above regarding the publisher’s respect for the mag – is actually interesting), Karl Stock’s pick of 20 top tales from the past years, and then Tharg / Smith-introduced highlighted reprints, which are spoken of with a kind of passion and honesty that lets you know how much the people crafting this book are legitimately into the material.
So, yes, it’s another book on the racks, and another “milestone” that’s being celebrated alongside several from the past couple years, but it’s another excellent book on the racks, and probably one of the best specials the 2000 AD crew have put out, great for seasoned readers and new ones as well.