2000 AD (prog #2011, X-Mas bumper issue) – Various

4 out of 5

Holy Santa, this bumper prog feels even more jam-packed than the other recent anniversary / landmark specials.  And that’s even with not feeling too impressed by some of the entries…  No direct knocks intended, but perhaps the breadth of skills on display just made an impact, even if not all the thrills were for me.

The predictable but fun Boxing Day has Rob Williams giving Dredd the gift of perps to punish, doing a fun little dance with some familiar faces.  Chris Weston gives a masterful turn on art.

Ian Edginton gets the new Kingmaker off to an impressive start, setting the groundwork for a monster / wizard battle, but filtering out the fantasy character sheen for more street-level thuggery, which makes for a fun combo.  The story is really carried by Leigh Gallagher’s fantastic art, though.

Eddie Robson gives us what now seems like a staple of the specials: Ace Trucking Company.  Ace takes on some unexpected cargo, building up to a fun punch line upon its return.  Ace’s world hasn’t really stood out too distinctly for me, but it definitely works in these one shots, and this thrill was a good example of that.

Kek-W kicks off another Order thrill and gives us a Fall of Deadworld one-shot.  Kek’s writing on these strips has been rather murky; cool concepts, but the way he knits scenes together tends not to build much momentum.  The Order still suffers from being over-complicated for a strip so young (this is its third arc), but Kek takes it down a fun path with a classic dueling timelines scenario, for now focused on Ritterstahl, who’s definitely the coolest character in the bunch.  And Deadworld, narrowed down to one episode, goes for a zombies-besiege-the-cabin setup which works pretty well, focused as it is.

Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton provide a solid opening to Hollywood + magic alternate history Hope, going for a definite noir flavor with heavily shadowed black and white work.  Not much is told to us here, but it’s definitely a promising start.

Aquila, via Rennie and Paul Davidson, returns for a short and violent (of course) revenge tale, into which Rennie cleverly includes a recap of events.  I’ve warmed to Aquila’s brutal tone, looking forward to where the warrior’s quest will next take him, and similarly warmed to Davidson, whose more comic book style was off-putting compared to Gallagher’s blood and sweat stained take on the world, but he absolutely finds his place in this thrill.

And then what I was most looking forward to, another Kingdom kick-off by Abnett and Elson.  It’s hard to figure the timeline on this at this point, but Gene’s time with the Masters hasn’t proven to be all that great…

Besides the thrills, there were actually some very Meg-like extras here, including the return of the letters page, with a lot of congrats on prog 2000, a full feature on Misty – a 2000 AD 70s / 80s contemporary geared toward girls – and a very Mills-esque excerpt from Pat Mills and Kev O’Neils new novel, to be released in February.

Jam-packed, with a good spread of new starts for progs to come.