2000 AD (progs #2025 – 2028) – Various

4 out of 5

Hm, my favorite part of the thrills, perhaps?  For the longer thrills – 8 to 12 or more parts – we’re nearing the halfway mark, which is after whatever grand impressions an opening salvo can fool us with but before the story (if it’s so inclined) topples on itself; in other words, this tends to be the best part, when story and characters really breathe.  And for the shorter, 3-6 part thrills, you’re experiencing the bulk of the thrill-power in one go, so it’s a good thing either way.  Which is why the stories I don’t really otherwise care for (Scarlet Traces; Deadworld) are still a lot of fun in these progs.

Dredd’s robo-judge resurgence in Harvey has been pretty damn gripping, as Wagner is really withholding the turn (if there is to be one) when Dredd gets to say ‘I told you so’ about returning the ‘bots to duty.  There’s hints of it in the penultimate chapter, but I suspect the conclusion will still offer some twists.  McCrea has been a pleasant surprise on the strip.  His overblown style is a good match for depicting the massive robo judges, but he’s really reigned in his excesses to keep the tone in the darkly comic realm in which it (for this thrill) belongs.  There’s also a tendency to see McCrea’s art colored with really mawkish digital flats, but colorist Mike Spicer has made his work breathe, while maintaining McCrea’s nervy line work.  It’d be cool to have this art team back.

There’s a roundabout-plotted Future Shock, and then the following week Mills’ new Defoe entry steps in.  Defoe’s period piece zombie approach hasn’t really landed for me prior to this, beyond Leigh Gallagher’s awesomely goopy artwork, but it hasn’t been a boring read at any point.  This new ‘reeks’ return has a nice twist if the populace blaming Defoe for it (since they’re certainly back for him), and Colin MacNeil’s black and white gothic artwork is a great Gallagher sub-in, making it a delight to flip through.  Time will tell how the story goes.

Scarlet Traces continues the Edginton habit of jumping all over the place with his plot and setup.  I’ll give the guy this, though: More than anyone he takes advantage of the serialized format to pack in as much story as possible, and D’Isaraeli’s art is phenomenal on this strip, bountifully colored and detailed.  We’re following the undercover mission to subvert the Martian takeover, and there are some interesting revelations regarding Martian history…. Again, peak thrill-point, so I’m enjoying it thus far, but I know my tolerance for Edginton’s plotting will probably wear thin before we get to the end.

Similarly for Deadworld – this is actually a followable narrative at this point, Fairfax and Jess running to what they hope is shelter, only to be captured by some non-infected locals and involved in their anti-Judge schemes.  Dave Kendall has settled into a more readable art scheme, his painted work more ably capturing a panel-by-panel pace, with the sickly colors believably selling the ruined world (before it just all blended together to my eye, not really telling the story).

And then Abnett gives us another solid and intriguing set of Brink strips, as Bridget’s investigation into the deaths on an under-construction habitat begin to heat up.  Again, Culbard’s streamlined style seems suited to the confines of a space station, even when it opens up into larger settings.  Pretty masterful at quick characterizations, Annett has us (or, uh, me) fully invested in the What’s Going On of this mystery thanks to Bridgett and the interesting new faces he’s added to the cast, even without having shown us much in the way of ‘hauntings’ yet.