The Weekly 2000 AD – Prog 2129 Previewed: Uncle Dredd Wants To Tell You A Story

by Richard Bruton

Uncle Dredd sits in the big chair and reads us a tale from the Book of the Law as we enter another week of the Galaxy’s greatest… it’s the Weekly 2000 AD at Comicon, it’s Prog 2129, fancy a look around?

David Millgate’s cover is a great looking thing, the sort of art I, usually, don’t like for strips, but when it’s such a strong idea, executed this well, it works as a particularly striking cover.

Inside the Prog, it’s all as last week, we get the final part of Dredd – The Long Game, and continuations of Scarlet Traces, Max Normal, and Kingmaker. And this week’s Future Shock is a special, coming from a new writer and artist who won the annual 2000 AD talent search at the Thought Bubble comics festival – Billy Higgins and Tony Allcock with ‘They shoot monsters, don’t they?’

Prog 2129 comes out on digital and in UK comic shops on 1 May. Anywhere else? Ask at your local comic shop for the best UK sci-fi comic around!

JUDGE DREDD: THE LONG GAME – PART 4 – FINAL PART – Michael Carroll and Mark Sexton, colours John Charles, letters Annie Parkhouse.

So, that’s the tale of Sage and the revelation of his connection to Dredd. Unexpectedly short, but wrapped up neatly with a couple of gorgeous pages of action from Mark Sexton showing his skills off so well.

Obviously, after the ending here, Carroll’s got more plans for Sage, the Parliament, the Kindred, and the whole underbelly of organised crime in MC-1. And I can’t wait, the whole thing came off as some Bond-esque thing, slow to build, tense, very Dredd-lite. Heck, there was even a nice torture homage to Bond in this final part. I almost expected the lines “You expect me to talk?”, “No, Mr Sage, I expect you to die”. Missed opportunity there!

SCARLET TRACES: HOME FRONT – Part 4 – Ian Edginton and D’Israeli, letters Ellie De Ville

More phenomenal artwork from D’Israeli here, those lush oranges, the unusual tones, the sheer otherworldly look of a destroyed London as the Martians do their devastating worst, it’s all quite glorious.

In the devastation, we get to see more of the mysterious Mrs Hemming, go a little deeper into why she’s doing what she’s doing and see how resourceful she could be. Everything is building so nicely, with Edginton keeping everything tight, we’re seeing this from ground-level now, after the first couple of episodes where we took a global view. Here, down on the destroyed streets, there’s a sense of just how powerful and unstoppable the Martians are, just through the actions of one lone killing machine. Tight, clever storytelling.

MAX NORMAL: HOW MAX GOT HIS STRIPES – PART 6 – Guy Adams and Dan Cornwell, colours Jim Boswell, letters Simon Bowland

More flashbacks from the time the pinstriped freak was just a poor little street kid, as Max recounts his origin tale to an increasingly incredulous Vito. When last we left him, young Max to be was staring down the barrel of his mentor’s gun…

Adams is managing to tell Max’s tale with just the right combination of action, wit, and not a little melancholy about a life gone by. But it’s Cornwell who’s really impressed here. His art cleverly switching styles; the young Max a cartoon-like figure who’d be perfectly in place in a 70s kids comic, the older Max showing every line on his weathered face, the weight of years weighing heavily on him.

FUTURE SHOCKS: THEY SHOOT MONSTERS, DON’T THEY? – Billy Higgins and Tony Allcock, letters Annie Parkhouse

Every year, 2000 AD and the Thought Bubble Festival hold a talent search, with the winners getting their shot at their first published Future Shock together. In 2018, those winners were Billy Higgins and Tony Allcock, and They Shoot Monsters, Don’t They? is their Future Shock.

Obviously, from the title, you’re getting echoes of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? the dance marathon book/film focusing hard on the desperation of the competitors manipulated into carrying on. And so it is here, of sorts, albeit on a more fantastical scale, where the monsters of the title are a menagerie of fighting beasts, trained, managed, and forced into violence.

So it is with Equis, the giant horse with the blazing hooves who, like her owner, has too many years behind her. He hasn’t won in a decade, she’s been losing too often, he sees his own bitterness, weariness, and mortality as he sees her fail, growing older. The inevitable brutality comes, of course, first from him, and then in the final twist. Neatly done, all relying on the visual cues and a beautifully realised one line from a tired, old man.

Artistically, it’s a strip that’s better on a second, closer look. The definition of main characters and background, with Allcock cleverly changing the detailing, is something that takes a while to enjoy, but the more I see it, the more I like it. It’s almost as though he’s deliberately leaving elements sketchy, particularly in that first page of Equis versus Starcat. And those are two beautifully designed monsters, harking back to a Nemesis sort of grotesquery.

You can see why both won the contest. It might be a little rough, lacking a little polish, but that should come. Both Higgins and Allcock show with this that they’ve got a potentially good future.

KINGMAKER: OUROBOROS – PART 6 – Ian Edginton and Leigh Gallagher, letters by Ellie De Ville

Crixus the Ork, Ablard the Wizard, and Yarrow, the Dryad Princess, together with the rmaining forces of Crixus’ dear old daddy are on one side, the Horde raiding party, headed by Yarrow’s own father, are on the other.

It doesn’t look good. It’s going to get worse. Much worse. And then, on the final page… decidedly weird. But, weird is good, and Kingmaker is very, very good indeed. Edginton’s writing the fantasy/hard sci-fi mash-up so well, balancing very delicately triple threads of comedy, action, and character building so well. And Gallagher’s artwork continually impresses, whether it’s the exquisite character detail or the kinetic sequencing of the battles, there’s beauty on these pages.

Scarlet Traces, Max Normal, and Kingmaker all continue in two weeks, with Prog 2131. And that’s all because of a very special Prog 2030… a 48-page all-ages spectacular seeing the return of 2000 AD Regened

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