2000AD Prog 1816 Review
Conflict Creates Drama
The old adage tells us that conflict creates drama. While in some cases that could simply mean two people arguing over a parking space, as far as The Galaxy's Greatest Comic is concerned it means throwing their protagonists in to seemingly unwinnable situations and letting them shoot, punch, and claw their way out of it. Thus times are pretty tumultuous in the land of 2000 AD. All of our lead characters are either neck deep in a scuffle of some sort, or certainly heading towards one. While it's certainly not the first time players like Dredd, Johnny Alpha, and Bill Savage have been caught in the middle of a fire fight, it's fair to say that they've all probably had easier days at the office.
So then, to the battle-stations. And leading the charge is the Justice Department's very own Judge Dredd. Still lost in a swamp of decay after the “Chaos Bug”, Mega City One is now riddled with crimes of necessity rather than passion or greed. One such example is a group of ne'er-do-wells who are roaming the tower blocks on the hunt for food. Told from the perspective of a member of that hungry posse, Michael Carroll pens a story that examines not only the damaged social structure of MC1, but also the deranged personalties that have inhabited the Big Meg since the beginning. His sympathetic take on those struggling to survive, combined with a (slightly) lighter side of Dredd, creates a fresh “one and done” tale that is perfectly satisfying. In addition John Burns' artwork is very pleasing indeed, with a stunning version of the Joe's Lawmaster and some excellent light effects being particular highlights. Like most self contained Dredd episodes this probably won't change your life, but as a serviceable slice of entertainment “Sealed” absolutely accomplishes everything it needs to.
When we last left Savage he was penned in and locked in the sights of a Volg sniper ready to pull the trigger and paint his brains on the wall behind him. So how did our hero escape? Did he perform some kind of amazing feat of acrobatics to avoid the speeding bullet? Did he somehow turn the tables on the Volgs and send those Eastern son of a guns off to meet their makers? Did he tear open his shirt and go on a berserker type rage fuelled path of destruction?
Alas it was none of the above. Instead the Volg sniper gets distracted when one of his comrades half heartedly complains about the gunman eating too much food, and when he finally connects with his shot it hits the unfortunate Spud instead. If you're thinking that sounds like a rather lame cop-out to a cliffhanger ending then, yes, you'd be right. Indeed after what has been a promising start to this new series, part five of Rise Like Lions is in some ways rather baffling. For example, while the supporting characters are shown to be empathetic towards their counterparts, Savage instead lacks any form of compassion when it comes to his enemies. Writer Pat Mill's decision to have Savage defy logic by fighting on the front lines as a way of showcasing the character's bravery and passion is admirable, but his inability to show even the slightest hint of respect towards his foes makes our Bill come across as – well - a bit of jerk if we're honest. Meanwhile the Volgans are so sentimental and inept it's a wonder how they ever managed to invade anything at all. Still, even having said all that Patrick Goddard illustration is fantastic, the combination of light and dark providing a visual punch as explosions and rounds of ammo detonate throughout the panels. And, as far as the plot goes, hopefully this instalment is just a glitch in what has been a rather entertaining strip so far.
In Ampney Crucis Investigates all hell seems to have broken lose. Firstly the Martian ambassador has been shot and possibly killed. Secondly Calliope appears to be involved neck deep in a conspiracy of some sort. And thirdly Ampney and Cromwell are in the midst of a high speed chase of a Babbagist assassin. Armed with a “Von Herder” pistol (Mr. Von Herder was a blind German mechanic who constructed Prof. James Moriarty's air-rifle fact fans) and a can-do attitude, the pairs pursuit of the wretched hatchet man leads to dramatic consequences. Ian Edginton's script is superbly paced, with Simon Davis creating an aesthetic avalanche of kinetic action. Completely absorbing and deftly executed, The Entropy Tango continues to delight.
Ian Edginton's second series currently gracing 2000 AD's pages is of course The Red Seas. In this issue Cpt Jack Dancer and crew are still locked in deadly combat with The Devil himself, and are facing a horde of giant golems intent on turning the rag tag bunch of misfits in to a form of gooey paste. A welcome change from previous runs of The Red Seas, this is a high octane battle against the odds as Dancer and gang are flung from one bloody battle to the next. How much you enjoy this romp probably depends on your prejudices going in, as TRS has often been a divisive title amongst 2000 AD fans. But if you're willing to give it a chance then so far Edginton has concocted a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride in Fire Across The Deep, with Steve Yeowell's artwork providing suitably epic panels of destruction and chaos.
The final word this week goes to Strontium Dog, and things are going from bad to worse for Johnny Alpha and his fellow mutants. While McNulty is being interrogated about the whereabouts of Alpha and his crew, Johnny himself is dragged in to a ground war in Milton Keynes. John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra are two of comic's grand masters, and both are on tremendous form here. Wagner's ear for language and narrative style is unmatched, while Ezquerra's combination of swirling yellows and purples depicting the oncoming storm that is an angry mob of mutants is sensational. So far Strontium Dog has been are sterling example of what happens when two of the best in the business pool their talents, and the result is nothing short of exquisite. The norms may have sterilised Alpha and his friends, but SD remains as potent as ever.
Despite not quite reaching the dizzying heights of the Trifecta story line, and even lacking the cerebral edge of previous issues, Prog 1816 is still an example of 2000 AD at the top of its game. Packed full of nail biting set pieces and countless moments of exhilarating turmoil, it's an enjoyable read from cover to cover. Conflict may very well create drama. But in this Prog's case it also creates a thoroughly entertaining experience.
Two metres high and rising. - Chaos Hour Writer
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