3 out of 5
The FCBDs for 2000 AD – since their recent-ish participation – have been about trying to strike that balance between value-add for fans and interest-stirrer for no readers. For a mag with such a varied content pool and history, that can certainly be a challenge, and so the approach has been to offer a mix of new and classic works, with QR code links to referenced stories, and it’s worked out pretty well.
The 2017 edition essentially takes the same tactic, but several things have raised Rebellion’s public profile lately – news of a Dredd Netflix series; the slew of anniversaries / milestones within the past year wooing non-local creators like David Aja and Erik Powell into the mix – and so there seems to be a slightly more careful approach with the FCBD, not wanting to chase away new readers that might’ve recently come on board. This results in a sort of skewed collection of tales, in which the reprints – Hope, Tales of Deadworld – are super recent and so not of much interest to subscribers, and seem more chosen for their “cool” appeal than that they work as standalone thrills. “Hope” shows that the mag offers more than direct Dredd-y sci-fi, and Deadworld is grim and gritty painted Judge Death, which agreed will be intriguing to many just based on the visuals (despite the story being pretty dull).
The other thrills are much more successful at capturing the mag’s enduring appeal, with the Matt Smith / Phil Winslade JD lead-in a great mini-mystery with worth-a-smile super old school historical Dredd connections. Mills and newcomer Kei Zama (whose interesting if flat work was the sole highlight of Optimus Prime) give us a pretty funny ABC Warriors tie-in, Mills’ snark in full effect, and Abnett and Kordey-esque artist Dani do a rather dumb Anderson thrill, but its ‘dumb’ admittedly captures the cheek of classic Dredd stuff.
Maybe not as effective for old / new readers as previous FCBDs, but still a good bang for your not-spent buck.