2000 AD (#982, 983, 986, 1032) – Various

3 out of 5

I realize it’s easy to look back and criticize any given era (recognizing, at the same time, how blind we are to whatever oddities while we’re in the midst of them), but for comics, the 90s were – nigh unambiguously – a dark time.  Golden and Silver age books are cheeky, but you can normally still read them as “comics.”  Much of the grunge era output, meanwhile, is bemarked by this notable EXTREME veneer – big muscles, art over story, a rather noxious, overt masculinism – from which even our long running sci-fi brit mag, 2000 AD, wasn’t immune.

Within its pages, this was represented via gritty, sexualized and Image-y art – a lot of Bisely impersonators, many of whom sort of dropped in / dropped out at this time – and an especially snarky version of Tharg who enacts the super cool snide mentality of the time.  And the story content inevitably reflected some of this as well; many strips during this time experienced the same “here and then not” appearances as some of the creators, and the Dredds felt somewhat insubstantial – even losing their opening slot in some progs! – despite Wagner’s long-running The Pit storyline, which features in the progs reviewed here.  …Though it should be said that a lot of these thrills work much better in isolation (i.e. A collected format), but mixed in with the mag’s In Yer Face vibe of the time, it’s easy to lose sight of that.

So.  Overall opinion espoused, I picked up these odds and ends issues for SinDex strips that were missing from the first trade, amd here’s a brief rundown…

The aforementioned Dredd strip The Pit, which finds Joe put in charge of the scurrilous sector 301, picking and choosing judges he can trust to help right the wrongs.  There have been other, similar Dredd strips before and after, and some long-lasting new characters were introduced here, but – at least in these isolated strips – juggled artists, too large a cast, and somewhat vague stakes, prevent it from congealing into a true epic.

Some strips from the “Friday” era of Rogue Trooper, somewhat starring female g.i. Venus, as the Norts and Southers team up against an alien invasion.  Henry Flint’s art of this time is wild – definitely 90s, but evidence of his durability as an artist – but the story doesn’t have much meat beyond some chatter as to whether or not the g.i.s can “evolve” past their programming.  …Which is an interesting concept, it just doesn’t get much actual airtime in these thrills.

Kek-W’s Canon Fodder – which is worth it, if anything, for Chris Weston’s awesome artwork – but the story of a priestly fighting troupe descending into hell to face their fears is pretty fun, and much more straight forward than the messy narratives Kek’s taken to writing currently.

Issue 1032 sees a Slaine entry – with great Steve Tappin art and a fun script from Mills in nigh-full-on silly mode (my preferred Mills), and then some Vector 13 entries – men in black presenting x-files type phenomena, and eventually meta-supplanting Tharg as editors on the book.  These are amusing enough but definitely fleeting; 1032 is notable for being the last bit of this before Tharg wrests control back as editor.

And on to the reasons I picked these up: SinDex.  I complained that the trade excised these issues, and guessed it was because they weren’t necessary to the plotlines.  While that is true, I also have to wonder if the drastic art differences might’ve had something to so with it: Tom Carney handles a couple of these – his only appearances on the title – and Anthony Williams pops up here, but wouldn’t return consistently until much later.  So, sure, visually, these would have stuck out.

Content-wise, only one is a true standalone – an amusing tale of Finny losing his minigun – whereas the others have mentions of Moses or Demi that at least play into what Abnett was building with the surrounding strips.  They’re about on par with the rest of the early SinDex stuff (i.e. half-in / half-out isolated comedy vs half-serious continuity), but also really good examples of Dan’s ability to humorously write huge events down to a couple panels, events that Finny and Ramone shrug off with bullets.

Not required SinDex material, but not without value.  So I maintain it coulda been nice in the trade.