|Featuring stories by John Wagner, Mike Carroll, Kek-W, Ian Edginton, David Barnett, Dan Abnett.|
Art by Dan Cornwell, Jake Lynch, Lee Carter, Leigh Gallagher, Robin Smith, John Burns, I.N.J. Culbard.
|Released: 23rd February 2022|
Published by Rebellion
A bumper birthday issue that marks the 45th anniversary of Britain’s preeminent science fiction and fantasy comic. Simultaneously looking back on past glories and ahead to the future, this issue has a particularly strong resonance as it commemorates the death of Ian Kennedy, who sadly passed away on 7th February.
Kennedy’s artwork appeared in British comics for decades, including Bunty, Hotspur and Rover. For fans of British action-adventure comics, however, he will be best remembered as the artist behind the stunningly drawn aircraft, both real and imagined, that graced the pages of Commando, Starlord and, of course, 2000AD.
This issue features two new stories, the first being the John Wagner scripted ‘The Citadel,’ a Judge Dredd story that sees an inmate facing execution reveal a secret about Dredd that hints at corruption. What that secret is exactly, we’ll have to wait to find out. Great art by Dan Cornwell brings to mind the simply effective facial expressions that Steve Dillon draws so well. The second new story is ‘Brink: Mercury Retrograde’ by the supremely talented writer and artist team of Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard. Set four years after the final evacuation of Earth and opening with a triple homicide, the action slows to focus attention on investigating journalists Nolan Maslow and his wife Lauren Steers Maslow. The dialogue between the two captures perfectly their respect for one another, making them instantly likable and relatable so that when they get in too deep with their investigation into unions and sects (which, inevitably, they surely will), we’ll be right beside them.
Three of the continuing stories are all well on their way: Mike Carroll’s ‘Proteus Vex: Desire Paths’ and Kek-W’s The Order: Fantastic Voyage’ are both at part nine, and ‘Kingmaker: Falls the Shadow’ by Ian Edginton is at part seven. As a reviewer, I’m arriving late to the party on these stories, but what immediately struck me is how easy it is to differentiate each of the five-page parts from one another. This is down to the stunning artwork by Jake Lynch (Proteus Vex), Leigh Gallagher (Kingmaker), and John Burns (The Order), each as unique as the stories they’re illustrating. The full colour format of 2000AD — with the exception of Tharg the Mighty’s wonderful throwback story ‘Stars on 45’ (more on that later) – allows for the stories to have their own clearly defined segment within the pages, particularly in the Indigo Prime one-shot ‘Whatever Happened to Mickey Challis?’ (the longest story here); Lee Carter’s artwork is awash in Matrix-like greens and fleshy alien purple tones. It’s a cracking story too.
The Proteus Vex story seemed to stand out especially. Reading this chapter, I can see it’s something special; very weird sci-fi, with a depth of imagination that brings to mind Mike Mignola’s work on Hellboy but leaning towards space opera. Stunning line work and colouring by Jake Lynch and Jim Boswell, respectively. The five pages here are coloured in deep oranges as High Commissioner Shrokulin finds himself in the unenviable position of meeting with Tsellest to deliver the news that there are hundreds more races hidden from his clutches. The meeting, as if it needs pointing out, does not go well! I’ll be reading back issues to bring myself up to speed.
This being a 45th anniversary issue, it would have been a crime of Mega City One proportions not to include Tharg’s input beyond his usual welcoming editorial. Written by David Barnett, ‘Stars on 45’ brings together some of 2000AD’s most famous characters to help Tharg cobble together a song to mark the magazine’s birthday. It’s great fun, referencing Red Dwarf, Back to the Future, and above all else, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, as Tharg’s droids Larr-E, Kirl-E and M-O travel across the Thrillverse to kidnap Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd, Judge Anderson (“She didn’t see that coming!”), Zenith, Ace Trucking Co., and Bad Company.
As well as marveling at the breadth of SF and science fantasy that has been a staple of 2000AD over the years, one of the many pleasures to be had is enjoying the humour. Always paying the utmost respect to the SF genre, with stories veering effortlessly from one sub-genre to the next, there’s always been a delightful knowingness and very British outlook on the societal and political shifts that have taken place over the past 45 years. Remember Strontium Dog kidnapping Ronald Reagan? Alan Moore’s works dripping with anti-Thatcherism acid and anarchy via D.R. & Quinch? It’s what makes 2000AD such an important comic, and reading this issue, the energy, devotion, imagination and sly humour are all still present and correct.
Reviewed by Christopher Witty