Review: 2000AD 1821: Happy Anniversary, Tharg

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Last Wednesday’s issue of 2000AD was special not just because I don’t think any serialised comic has ever had an issue one thousand, eight hundred and twenty-one before, but also because it’s the 36th anniversary for the prog. To celebrate, the issue features some Judge Dredd, a little Strontium Dog, and a new Brian Bolland cover what looks like this:

2000ad 1821 Review: 2000AD 1821: Happy Anniversary, Tharg

With 2000AD now available digitally, more Yanks are able to read it than before – but if you haven’t had a chance to try it yet, I’ll give you a brief explanation of what it’s about. 2000AD is a weekly anthology magazine, which features roughly 4-5 different stories, all of which are around 5-6 pages long at a time. As such, each story is completed over the course of perhaps a month or two, with the more successful strips – Judge Dredd, mainly – then continuing on for the next story immediately afterwards. It’s focused on sci-fi and action, with an emphasis on futuristic dystopias and things getting blown up.

The Bolland cover is one of only two concessions this issue makes to the 36th anniversary for the magazine, with the issue being business as usual. Judge Dredd is the first story – here telling a prologue story setting up what seems to be the next big storyline starting next week – followed by four other strips all midway through their respective stories.

The second concession is a celebratory letters page (what better way to celebrate?) at the end of the prog, which actually tends to be one of my favourite parts of any given issue. 2000AD is edited by an alien called Tharg, who speaks in neologisms and likes to threaten and celebrate the readers simultaneously. It’s, erm… you get used to it.

Of the stories contained in this issue —

Pat Mills and Patrick Goddard’s ‘Savage’ is currently at part 8 of the ongoing storyline, although it seems quite easy to pick up – future dystopia, resistance fighters trying to hit back at the Government, and so on. The most distinguishing part of this story is actually Goddard’s art, which keeps moving from influence to influence in my eyes, whilst remaining something of his own. At times you can see what appears to be aspects of Brian Bolland and Howard Chaykin, mixed with a bit of John Cassaday too. It’s a thoroughly expressive style, and Mills has caught onto it nicely, setting up some character moments for Goddard to excel at.

Ian Edgington and Simon Davis are the artistic team for Ampney Crucis Investigates. Again, I think I can fill out the basic gist of the story, even though we’re currently at part ten. And again, the art somewhat overshadows the story, with Davis offering a surprisingly vivid colouring of his own work which creates a tripped-out vibe to the story, making it feel dreamlike and almost etherial. This is a big fight scene, and the colouring helps push the reader along despite a few moments where the storytelling itself is a little obtuse and hard to follow along.

More confusing is Edginton’s second story in the issue, The Red Seas, with artist Steve Yeowell. This story is also ten parts into the story – and it makes no attempt to hide that. I was rather locked out of this strip, with a storyline which doesn’t explain the circumstances the characters are in, or differenciate the leads. Yeowell’s art is nice, but doesn’t help the reader follow the story – there’s a moment where a rescuer suddenly appears to help the heroes, but Yeowell puts the character in the background, without any distinctive detail on their face to make them recognisable. There are also a few issues with perspective, as far as I can tell. It’s sketchy, and probably best left to people who have read the previous nine parts.

Strontium Dog closes out the issue, a long-running 2000AD character written by John Wagner and drawn by Carlos Ezquerra. Much like in Ampney Crucis, this is a fight issue, with the main character in the middle of some kind of mutant vs humans war. This is classically Wagner in tone and style, with some fun jokes mixed in with a strong sci-fi lean. Lots of violence and warfare, some stirring speeches, and a very quick read indeed. It’s a fun final strip, although it does fly by very quickly.

And finally, a word on Judge Dredd, who opens the issue. This story serves as a prelude to whatever might be coming up over the next few months, and writer Michael Carroll does a good job in setting up something interesting. The impact of the story is due to a very strong last page, which delivers a really interesting cliffhanger for next week’s issue, but Carroll also manages to evoke the style of Judge Dredd whilst throwing in some of his own jokes and ideas. It’s a nice opening piece, drawn entertainly by Andrew Currie, with colours by Chris Blythe.

Annie Parkhouse and Ellie De Ville have been in charge of lettering 2000AD for a long time now, and they both have an excellent grasp on each story, serving the narrative whilst allowing the art to show off the characters and stories. They’re the unsung heroes of 2000AD, so I just wanted to, y’know, sing about them a bit.

2000AD issue 1821 is business as usual for the prog – an entertaining mix of stories and art styles, with a string of high concept ideas and great gags. It’s also amazing how easily most of the stories allow a reader to jump in fresh, without being too confused by what’s going on. I’ve been jumping on at random points for a few months now, to see what’s going on, and every time I find myself enjoying the majority of the stories, no matter where their narrative is or what I’ve missed out on prior. Really, that seems to be the success of 2000AD – after 1821 issues, it’s still offering something for everyone.

 

Steve Morris is… trying out one of these things where you self-promote yourself after an article you wrote. I have a webcomic! It’s called Stardark City. It’s lovely and I hope you might want to read it maybe sometime? You can also shout at me on Twitter, @stevewmorris. 

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