2000 AD Villains Special (2019) – Various

4 out of 5

For FCBD in 2019, 2000 AD went on the attack: last year’s ‘regened’ kid’s special has been moved to a regular 2000 AD issue, leaving room for the free offering to cover their archive characters that were brought into the line in the past year.  But this makes for a kinda-sorta gap: what do you serve up to those fans who were looking forward to some type of one-off special with their favorite characters?  And thus: the budget-priced (but not budget-contented!) ‘Villains Takeover’ special, featuring all stories focusing on notable baddies.

Aaand… it’s generally pretty fun!  Henrik Sahlstrom’s take on Judge Death in a Rob Williams scripted tale is pretty spooky, although the tone maybe isn’t the best match, as Rob takes a darkly humorous angle, putting Death on the psychologist’s couch when he can’t get to sleep.  I’d love to see Henrik back on a longer form, more serious tale; meanwhile, this was such a great idea from Williams that it deserved more room, which may have encouraged him to steer it toward something more affecting.

Kael Ngu illustrates a Brass and Bland tale from Karl Stock, two opportunist characters from the Rogue universe who like to make a buck by dealing back and forth between Norts and Southers.  ‘The Professionals’ gets a little confusing on its final page – it seems like there was a punchier way to wrap this up – but the overall tone of it is great, and Ngu has a unique ability to blend a great sense of motion and humor with painted (looking) art, which is normally more sobering and static.

Pat Mills gives us a Lord Feg vs Slaine battle; I’m always plus / minus on Slaine, but there’s a perfect match had here with Kyle Hotz on art.  Add color to this and you’ve got a team-up that would be capable of delivering some really compelling, fantastic looking thrills.

Chris Weston and Matt Smith bravely take on a Stront tale post Ezquerra’s passing – the first non-Carlos / non-Wagner team to do so since his death, I believe – but offer up a great, funny Stix-centered tale in which we hear / see what a Stix bedtime story sounds like.  Weston also gives us a amazing portrait later on.  Both of these are some of the best work Weston has ever done.

Lastly, a Tharg’s Terror Tale from ‘The Feek’ and Henry Flint.  While Terror Tales are rarely all that effective, The Feek balances the tone out such that there’s a nice building sense of dread… leading to an unexpected punchline.  Flint’s neon-nightmare art packs a similar punch, making this a great way to wrap the special.