Posted on May 25, 2009 by Flames
Comic anthologies are always tricky business, as you are never sure as to what you are going to get. You might pick up a comic because you love one character and want to read more about them, but be disappointed by the rest. Particularly troublesome is when the anthology features stories that are as widely varied as those found in 2000 AD. There are war stories, crime dramas, and even a space opera tale.
2000 AD, which has been in operation since 1977, has provided a look into alternate futures and new universes for more than 30 years. It still publishes classic characters such as Judge Dredd while occasionally publishing new characters as well. Many famous comic writers have worked for 2000 AD, including Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison.
So lets look at what issue 1633 has to offer, shall we?
Judge Dredd, written by John Wagner, features the classic future punk hero dealing with politics in Mega-City One. Mutants are now allowed to live inside the city, but not everyone is happy and the Mutant Act is the major point of the election that’s going on. While this is going on Dredd is trying to solve a criminal conspiracy which attempted to assassinate the conservative candidate Judge Francisco and figure out who wanted to sabotage the election.
The story was clear and enticing, and the artwork captured Dredd perfectly, even despite the fact the character shows little emotion. The story is telling a modern narrative, with politics in the background influencing events at the forefront of the story. While some of the artwork is blurry or not as crisp as it could be, overall it was a fun and engaging story.
Zombo, written by Al Ewing, shows the survivors on the Death Planet of Chronos. The landscape is full of alien visuals and startling scenes of bodies rotting on the trees. As the survivors try to make their way to a research outpost, they lose more of their number to this strange planet and they are being followed by the being known as Zombo, who is revealed at the end to be an enormous brute of a zombie who can speak.
It’s interesting, but as a casual reader I felt lost while reading this story. While I picked up a lot of the plot from the first few panels, I knew nothing about the characters except for gross generalizations (the punk rocker man, the corporate executive guy, etc.) While reading Zombo, I was frustrated by the inability to get close to any of the surviving passengers of the flight and I wanted to know more about them. The story seems like it could pick up though, and may turn into an interesting read if you start at the beginning.
Savage: 1984, written by Pat Mills, is a black and white war piece set in an alternate timeline where the Soviet Union fell and was replaced with the Vulgan Republic. They conquered Britain, and now Bill Savage leads the resistance against the Vulgs. In this story, Bill obtains information to aid an Allied invasion of Britain from a Vulg officer but is forced to fight his way out.
What drew me in to the story was its grim and realistic artwork. The world Bill lives in is harsh and while at first I mistook it for a WW2 comic, it has an intriguing back story to the universe and has an action packed tone. The problem with that the story has is that similar to Zombo, it picks up in the middle of the story and may leave casual readers in the dust. The artwork also zooms in on character faces, obliterating backgrounds in some scenes and while this helps to convey a character’s emotion, it holds back the larger picture of Savage: 1984’s world.
Cradlegrave, written by John Smith, is the only story to start at the beginning in this issue. It follows a young man named Shane who is let out of juvenile detention, and shows him trying to readjust to the outside world. We don’t know how long he has been inside juvie, only that he was locked away for arson and that the experience has changed him. He finds things are much different on the outside and people have changed. Towards the end, there is a hint of the supernatural in the story with a strange figure looking in his bedroom window.
The story possesses a very gritty and down to earth feel to it. The first part of it shows a young man who does not know who he is anymore, and how because of a bad decision he feels lost. The artwork captures a community in decay, with old style houses and cracked sidewalks as the backdrop for Shane having to deal with his life. While the story does not give too many hints on what will come in future issues, it was refreshing and did a good job of establishing the backdrop of the series.
Nikolai Dante, written by Robbie Morrison, has the classic Russian scoundrel in a dystopian futuristic Russia searching for an old Russian military base where he used to live. In this story, he is traveling as a bodyguard to a woman and they are both on the run from the Tsar’s forces, and when they arrive at the now decrepit Winter Palace. When Arkady, a figure from Dante’s past and someone who Dante believes betrayed him reappears, Dante becomes so obsessed with trying to get revenge that he barely notices the real threat lurking around them as clockwork zombies rise from the lands around the palace and threaten them all.
Nikolai seems older in this story, as we see him stands as stoic as he can while he recalls his life. The artwork works very well with the story, and the sweeping backdrops are impressive. The only complaint I have was the story seems rushed and could have benefited from another page to help set up Dante’s anger with Arkady a bit better, or to give the zombies a more menacing appearance other than having them appear then spontaneously surround them.
All in all, the 2000 AD comics are good anthologies which provide different flavors with each purchase. While this might be frustrating to those who want longer stories or who prefer to read their favorites, the other stories are entertaining as well. I went into this comic only interested in Dredd and Dante and I find myself interested in Cradlegrave and Zombo. Even at their weakest the other stories help prop up each other and try to have something for everyone, from pictures of a post apocalyptic future to an outer space adventure.
If you are someone who prefers to read comics that focus on one story at a time, then I would not recommend picking up 2000 AD as these are a series of short stories. If you also are not interested in reading science fiction in some of it’s purest forms, you might be turned off by 2000 AD. But if you want to try something new and you are interested in science fiction, I recommend giving 2000 AD a chance. For those who want to read 2000 AD but don’t like the anthology format of the comic, the company does release collected volumes of comics every so often so that others can enjoy them too.
Review by John D. Kennedy