The Weekly 2000 AD – Prog 2135 Previewed: If You Go Down To The Woods Today…You Might Not Come Back

by Richard Bruton

The Weekly 2000 AD, the look at the very best of Brit Sci-Fi comics. This week, underneath a beautiful looking cover from Simon Davis, we have the start of the all-new folk horror series, written by TC Eglington… welcome to Thistlebone.

Also in the Prog, we’ve a new done-in-one Judge Dredd tale riffing off the recent Wagner re-introduction of the robo-judges, we have the continuing Martian chronicles found in Scarlet Traces and we have the conclusion to the rather crackingly good fantasy Kingmaker.

But, in truth, it’s Thistlebone that’s the absolute highlight of this Prog, a brilliant, dark start to what is going to be, hopefully, one of those 2000 AD series remembered for many years to come.

Prog 2135 comes out on digital and in UK comic shops on 12 June.

JUDGE DREDD: TECHNOPHOBE – Rory McConville, Inaki Miranda, colors Eva De La Cruz, letters Annie Parkhouse

Rory McConville’s become something of the go-to writer for these done in one Dredds, long the staple of the series, the sorts of things that are more about the world of Dredd than the man himself.

Here, alongside some striking artwork from Miranda, he tells of an underground movement, Rage Against The Machine, a tiny group of self-deluded poor things against what they see as the ever-increasing robotic influence in MC-1, only made worse since the latest round of Robo-Judges came online.

Yep, completely tech-free life in MC-1 is their plan. Difficult stuff, especially when it comes to getting about to a resident’s meeting by foot… only a couple of days walk away. But although it starts well, you sense this one could have used at least one more episode to play out and the ending just feels all too flat, not the sort of thing I was expecting from McConville.

SCARLET TRACES: HOME FRONT – Part 9 – Ian Edginton and D’Israeli, letters Ellie De Ville

The underground interlude continues, with the mysterious Mrs Hemming not so mysterious now, as we find out more of her tale, her trip to Mars as a journalist, unprepared for the nightmare she found there, with the answers for why so few humans ever came back after their rotation was over and just how dangerous the Martians were there.

It was mentioned last episode, the idea of our solar system being not just one of Venusians, Humans, and Martians, but here we really get an idea of just what to expect from that… and it’s a big way to open up the idea of Scarlet Traces.

And yes, D’Israeli’s artwork is an absolute joy, as always, as is completely obvious from the art right here…

THISTLEBONE – PART 1 – TC Eglington, Simon Davis, letters by Annie Parkhouse

Cult survivor Avril Eason and journalist Seema Chaudry venture back to the village of Harrowvale to investigate the mystery of the horrors in the woods. Years before, the cult escaped the present day and devoted itself to the worship the deity known as Thistlebone.

Led by Jasper Hillman, your standard charismatic cult leader, things came to a head as their devotions to Thistlebone grew so wild that there were plans for human sacrifice. That was Avril’s intended role, but she escaped her captivity and made her way back to civilisation.

It’s an unusual strip, in a way, for 2000 AD, set firmly in the present, telling a very now sort of folk horror tale, but wonderful to see something like that in here. Eglington’s script hits all the right ominous beats, establishing an air of foreboding and creeping horror, as Avril recounts the psychological nightmare she went through in her eight days held by the cult.

And as for the art, it has to be some of the best artwork Davis has ever produced. If you thought his work on Slaine was amazing, then this really is a step up from that.

Thistlebone always looked like it might be an incredible strip, just from the little pre-publication teases. Here, in a double-sized first episode, it goes far beyond that. It’s got a wonderful sense of true horror, captured exquisitely in all the terrifying details from Davis.

KINGMAKER: OUROBOROS – PART 12 – Ian Edginton and Leigh Gallagher, letters by Ellie De Ville

Crixus the Orc is going against the grain, planning to unite the races to strike back against the Thorn is a most un-orc way. His new-found magical powers seem to come so naturally, the Ebora flowing through him. But it’s also changing how he deals with things, gone is the orc’s typical rush to rage and, instead, he’s turned into a true leader of the combined forces against the Thorn.

But, in true to be continued fashion, the last page blows everything away and makes us question Crixus’ most loyal friend once more.

Edginton and Gallagher’s Kingmaker could so easily have been a Lord of the Rings knock-off, yet both writer and artist have gone above and beyond to give us so much more than that. I’m expectantly looking forward to seeing what becomes of this world in book 3, Falls The Shadow.

Now, as for next Prog… well, there’s the return of a grumpy, irascible, bad-tempered old man… and Absalom’s back as well…

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