The Weekly 2000 AD Prog #2263: Loving The Alien

by Richard Bruton

Time to head out to the land of 2000 AD, the UK’s greatest sci-fi weekly comic, now celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2022

Proteus Vex cover by Cliff Robinson, colours by Dylan Teague

After the 100-page end-of-the-year Xmas Prog, we have three strips onto their second episode; Proteus Vex, The Order, and Kingmaker. Added to that we have the penultimate episode in the spectacular saga that is The OUT, and the start of a brand-new Judge Dredd serial, Working Girl, featuring the return of Kenneth Niemand and Patrick Goddard’s delivery skysurfer Mona Plankhurst.

Right then… 2000 AD Prog 2263 is out on Wednesday 5th January. Why not start the year in the best way with a copy of 2000 AD? It’s never too late to jump onboard!

JUDGE DREDD: WORKING GIRL – PART 1 – Ken Niemand, Patrick Goddard, colours by Dylan Teague, letters by Annie Parkhouse

The return of Mona Plankhurst, sky surfer, sky courier working mom struggling to get by in the Big Meg.

And she’s having a bad, bad week. Which is why she ends up taking on an off-the-books job that she just knows is bad news. She tries to say no…

But hey, 3,000 creds and bills to pay? Way too tempting to turn down. After all, like she says, “How bad could it get?”

Yep, of course.

Here, it’s all about Goddard’s artwork, the skysurfing scenes just lend themselves to action of course, so there’s a lot of that and a lot of opportunities for Goddard to show cool poses of Mona (and child) in the air. But what really drew my eye was the background, the depth and the detail of life going on all around her as she struggles through the week is just stunning to see.

PROTEUS VEX: DESIRE PATHS – PART 2 – Michael Carroll, Jake Lynch, colours by Jim Boswell, letters by Simon Bowland

Last week’s little catch-up with Vex’s former comrade, Midnight Indicating Shame over and done with, it’s time to turn our attention to how Proteus Vex and his new comrade, Navarch Ko, are getting on with their plan to liberate as many flesh-pilots as they can from the quarantine imposed by the Imperium.

So it’s off to some backwater planet where there’s a set of clones looking to make good on the reward on Vex’s head. But, as Imperium rule sixteen points out, ‘Never assume that primitive is synonymous with weak.’

The flesh-pilots are important, channelling a communal memory of something seen, something that’s important to the part of the corrupt Chancellor Baryon that Vex absorbed. So off we go to another strange place, another set of alien beings.

Like I said last week, Proteus Vex works because it’s got that thing that Nemesis had, a sense of complete alienness. Sure, Vex and Ko might be basically humanoid, but the angles and the features are just off enough to make them distinctly other. And everything else in this world we’re exploring is totally alien and wonderful – kudos to both Carroll and especially Cornwell for making it feel just off-kilter and looking like nothing else.

THE ORDER: FANTASTIC VOYAGE – PART 2 – Kek-W, John Burns, Simon Bowland

So, in the saga of The Order, it’s Anna Kohl and the agents of The Order chasing down Francis Bacon, who used to be an Order agent, and is using the robotic head of Ritterstahl, (Anna’s husband in another time/life) to enable communication across his growing Empire.

Kohl and her compatriots are escaping into the Dirac Sea, site of temporal phantoms…

And the alt-reality weirdness keeps coming, sitting somewhere between an old-time adventure from Brit comics of old, something obviously aided by all that delightful John Burns artwork, and something completely left-field, with Kek-W just continuing to throw complexity and confusion in the reader’s way.

KINGMAKER: FALLS THE SHADOW – PART 2 – Ian Edginton, Leigh Gallagher, letters by Jim Campbell

Well, this one’s started as it means to go on, hasn’t it? It might be Lord of the Rings meets hard sci-fi, but you don’t expect to see one of the three main heroes get killed in the first part of the latest adventure – to push the analogy, that would be like having Gandalf pop his clogs in The Two Towers.

But, Edginton and Gallagher are playing things very differently here in Kingmaker and it’s all the better for it.

So, with the Wizard Ablard dead and the spirit of Ichnar the Wraith King on the loose, Crixus the ork and the dryad Princess Yarrow have rather cocked things up.

And with Ichnar in wraith form looking for power, Crixus is right to be looking to the skies to imagine where Ichnar will manifest next.

What’s worse than the threat of the alien Thorn for the planet, stripping all the magicks from the world? That would be Ichnar manifesting through the Thorn ruler, Duke Eschatus. Not good. Not good at all.

THE OUT – BOOK TWO – PART 13 – Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison, letters by Annie Parkhouse.

The penultimate part of The OUT, things suddenly moving as fast as the Tanikar invasion force, all those threads pulling together and Abnett and Harrison just doing everything here so bloody well.

From last week, Cyd’s been rejected by her sentient flatspace bag, with the bag talking of her being contaminated – and that’s left her alone, uncertain, and terrified on the surface of a planet being ripped to pieces by the Tanikar.

That moment as she turns and confronts the Tanikar is so damn powerful, Harrison pulling out everything to make the Tanikar look as threatening and unworldly as they need to be.

But then Abnett takes it further, body horror and realisation of the little seeds planted through this series all coming into your head at once.

This scary and more…

No spoilers from me, this is something you NEED to be reading to experience how good it is, as a couple of pages into the penultimate episode, just as they’ve done time and again, Abnett and Harrison’s Out switches up to another level and makes me wonder just where they’re going to go in the finale next week.

Brilliant just doesn’t cover it.

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