2000 AD (progs #2090 – 2099) – Various

3 out of 5

Quality Dredds, the return of Grey Area, and an exciting debut ongoing for Mechastopheles (continuing from a 3riller, which I don’t if that’s a first or not) are dragged down by the forcefully confusing continuation of The Order.

Both Rory McConville’s A Better Class of Criminal and T.C. Eglinton’s conclusion of his Booth storyline hit readable grooves.  McConville is my boy, but his Dredd outing is pretty typical – JD versus a superpowered gang, inevitably finding a way to slam ’em back to reality – and maybe tonally confused by Leonardo Manco’s dark, moody art.  The Booth stuff, which had sort of dragged on to me, comes out ahead of the pack, with a really solid and satisfyingly ending, including a pretty bloody great gag for how Dredd defeats the Boothers.

The Order drags on.  I’m not even going to try to summarize the weird-ass history /s sci-fi mash-up Kek-W is doing here, except that I wish rewriting history as a war between timeline-righting time travelers and evil cosmic worms who pretend to be historical figures was as awesome as it sounded.  Instead, it’s a fucking mess: artist John Burns has zero sense of eye direction or framing, dropping characters in and out of scenes confusingly, which isn’t helped by Kek’s inability to stay on one dialogue path for more than a panel or so.  I loathe reading this strip.

The Fall of Deadworld wraps another arc (more Kek stuff, and I commented on it with the last batch), leaving more room for some entries I was really excited for – Grey Area and Mechastopheles.

Grey Area, once artist Mark Harrison took it on with writer Abnett, had a visual learning curve due to Mark’s unique way of framing focus that’s a mix of extreme closeup and then crowded middlegrounds.  It looks really gross at first, but has become part and parcel with the world of GA, vibing with the crowded feeling of the so-named Grey Area pen into which offworld visitors are stuffed while visiting our planet.  And once Abnett had his chance to work his characterization magic on the squad of regulars we follow who police the Area, the strip became a personal favorite.  This run of strips has a ton of promise – two members of the squad are killed, and we follow the aftermath – but it unfortunately ends right in the middle of the story, and has to stick to some downbeats prior to that to sell the tragedy.  So it’s a bit underwhelming, and will probably read better in trade.

The same is true – that it will probably read better in trade – for Mechastopheles, which, like its 3riller prologue, is just so overstuffed with ideas that you’re not sure how to get into it.  Gordon and Lawrence Rennie introduce a batshit fascinating world overrun by demons in which a surviving pack of humans are inside an, um, demon-powered mecha, and in True Faith, said mecha has to stop at an outpost for repairs whilst shit outside hits the fan.  Karl Richardson’s grim and gritty art is a great match, and you can definitely follow along, but damn there is just so much going on.  It’s something I do want to reread, though, but preferably when it feels like we’ve arrived at some type of stopping point in the narrative (which doesn’t occur here) to get a sense of where it’s going or what to expect.

Lastly, and bestly – assuming you like AND LOVE Survival Geeks, the Geeks visit a world completely stocked by horror tropes in SLACK N’ HASH, and – my god – is it as fan-winky of a good time as the Doctor Who riff of the recent arc.  If only it could’ve gone on longer… but the in-and-out style of the stories is, by now, part of what makes these things so deftly entertaining.