2000 Progs of Thrill Power
Tripwire sent its Contributing Writer Tim Hayes with his lawmaster and his berserker rage to cast his experienced eye over this week’s milestone of British comics, 2000AD Prog 2000…
2000AD Prog 2000
Writers & Artists: Various
2000AD hits its fortieth anniversary in February 2017, a milestone achievement which will be the moment to consider its history, impact and influence. But first, another major landmark arrives: this week the comic reaches its 2000th issue – an impressive feat in itself, given the huge changes that have played out in the comics market in the meantime, not to mention the short lifespans of most British adventure comics (although the part-reprint but otherwise immortal Commando marches ever onwards on a shelf nearby.)
Landmark issues usually look both forwards and back, and prog 2000 sticks to this tradition by calling on the services of Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon and Dave Gibbons to summon up the comic’s early artistic heritage immediately. Each draws only one page of a framing story in which editor Tharg brushes up his self-esteem with just a tiny hint of self-analysis about the nature of endless war stories, although Bolland’s clean lines look fresh all over again now that his interior art is seen so rarely. But from the classic contingent it’s McMahon’s hectic mayhem, all limbs and feathered blacks in the artist’s modern style, that carries the biggest punch. The framing story smartly moves up the comic’s artistic timeline, ending with Boo Cook (plus reclusive associate “Maurice Aitken”) and his distinctly modern tangling of bodies.
In the main stories, Judge Dredd teams up again with Strontium Dog Johnny Alpha and wisely ignores the several questions of continuity this raises in favour of working out who would put a bounty on the lawman from 82 years in his future. Any excuse for Carlos Ezquerra to draw two of his signature characters is welcome, although the story makes no concessions to any new reader wandering in to see what all the noise is about. Alan Grant and David Roach’s Anderson: Psi Division story works better on that score, setting up one of the strip’s habitual nocturnal moods as well as requiring Anderson to change clothes, and so playing to both artist’s and writer’s skills at once. There are new faces too: Counterfeit Girl by Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo is shaping up to be a story of individual vs. corporation that will make the most of Dayglo’s spiky neon artwork.
But the real grit in the oyster is a return appearance of Nemesis The Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill, which spins free of all narrative constraints and most of the commercial ones as well, instead aggressively stirring its own self-contained pot of drastic caricature and severe moral enquiry. The question of whether 2000AD is still able to rattle the establishment and scare the squares will come up again next February, but in the meantime here’s six pages of high-contrast anti-religious aggro to close the loop back to its earlier strident nature, and act like most of the intervening period never even happened.