Preview: ‘2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 2022’ – Thrill Power At 45 RPM
by Richard Bruton
2000 AD goes musical for this year’s 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special with every strip inspired by a favourite song… it’s Comic Rock time…
Out on Wednseday 1th3 July, the 48-page Sci-Fi Special features stories inspired by each writers’ favourite song – including tracks from Alphaville, The Beatles, and Stealer’s Wheels.
So join us for the ongoing 45 years of 2000 AD celebrations as we get 45 Revolutions Per Minute worth of Thrill Power with six very different strips. Inside, Judge Dredd finds himself in the sights of a disillusioned fellow Judge in a new story by Mike Carroll & Stewart K. Moore, Paul Cornell and Emma Vieceli take Psi-Judge Anderson inside the twisted mind of a psychic perp, there’s the return of Downlode’s greatest hitmen, Sinister Dexter, as Dan Abnett and Antonio Fuso tell the tale of a very special gun. There’s also Kek-W & Steven Austin putting Judge Death in the middle of a Block War, Karl Stock & Warren Pleece getting bloody with Fiends of West Berlin, and David Baillie & VV Glass give us an update on Middenface McNulty‘s freelance work.
It’s another themed Sci-Fi Special, something we’ve come to expect over the last few years (2021 was the single Dreddworld tale across multiple strips, 2020 saw a celebration of the Rebellion years, 2019 was a tribute to the legendary Carlos Ezquerra, whilst 2018 saw the first entirely female creative team special).
But this year’s music extravaganza goes back right to the beginnings of 2000 AD, all the back to Prog #167 where Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill brought us Terror Tube, the very first installment of Nemesis the Warlock but one that took inspiration from Going Underground by The Jam.
So, with Spotify and You Tube at the ready… it’s time to have a look at the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special. Are you ready to make beautiful music?
JUDGE DREDD: ASCENSION – Mike Carroll & SK Moore, letters by Annie Parkhouse
– story suggested by Alphaville’s Ascension Day
Absolutely no surprise that Mike Carroll picks an Alphaville song, after all, he’s a HUGE fan, running his own Alphaville fan site, Cosmic Meadows: The Alphaville Encyclopædia, for many, many years.
If your only experience of Alphaville is ‘Big in Japan’ or ‘Forever Young’, the darkness of 1994’s ‘Ascension Day’ might come as a little surprise… but it’s a damn fine song.
We join Dredd in the middle of two rival gangs and an ominous voice-over talking of how ‘everyone’s got an expiry date… and Dredd’s death is the key to my ascension.’
From there it’s an absolute rollercoaster of a strip, Carroll and Moore matching the intense beat of the Alphaville song in their pacing of this, with Moore getting so much into his art (as you’d expect – he’s an absolute devil for the amount of incredible detail that goes into it).
It’s also a really perfect done-in-one Dredd, as the initial shootout between those two gangs evolves into something far more deadly for Dredd, as the narrator is revealed and his plans unfold – with Carroll taking inspiration from both the darkness of the song’s lyrics (‘These are the days of evil perfection, this is the world of torture and fame, this is the age of most vicious infection, these are the times of terror and pain,) and the notion within them of one man’s desire to make some change in the world – well, that’s how I see it anyway, I’ve been wrong before.
SINISTER DEXTER – KILLER SERIAL – Dan Abnett, Antonio Fuso, colours by John Charles, letters by Simon Bowland
– story suggested by The Beatles’ Happiness Is A Warm Gun
An unusual Beatles tune, from The Beatles/The White Album (1968) and written by John Lennon, who took the title from an NRA magazine and the lyrics, according to Lennon, were all about a double meaning of guns and sexuality.
But here in Sinister Dexter, Abnett takes it merely as a suggestion, using it to tell a tale of one gun’s journey through the hands of many different people – from home defence that made the owner sick to his stomach, through a sibling argument over chop-grilling, a bent cop using it to kill crooks, the gun-man who took it from the cop’s body, and onto various gun-sharks in Downlode, before eventually, inevitably, ending up with Finnigan Sinister and Ramone Dexter.
Abnett uses the multiple shootings simply, indicating that something of the killings contaminated the gun, and imbued it with ‘a malevolent lust.’ Very little dialogue here, Abnett letting the captions do the work, giving the whole thing an inevitability, the gun passing from hand to hand, the body count rising, futile, stupid, pointless.
A damn good way to do it all, with Abnett making it work as a one-off SinDex tale and a quiet look at the evil guns do, ably assisted with some of Antonio Fuso’s finest work to date.
FIENDS OF WEST BERLIN – Karl Stock, Warren Pleece, letters by Annie Parkhouse
– story suggested by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ From Her To Eternity
It’s Berlin in 1980, many years after the vampire Constanta was last in this part of the world (that was in Fiends: 1963, which ran this year in 2000 AD).
Opening with Konrad, an East Berliner who crosses over to the West every month for work and then returns, loyal to the East.
Not surprisingly, Konrad’s an East German agent meeting his fellow agents, plotting the downfall of the West. But Konrad’s also a little too fond of certain bits of the West… ‘the music, the women,’ and it’s both that lead to his downfall, upstairs in flat 29.
A quiet Fiends this one, switching from Conrad to the girl he meets and looking at both of their paths into servitude of Constanta. Quiet and disturbing, playing nicely into the tune it’s inspired by, with Nick Cave’s song of a man obsessing over the girl in room 29, ‘the one right up top a mine,’ and how he falls in love with her from afar, an obsessive, disturbing love, ‘I hear her crying too, hot tears come splashing down, leaking through the cracks, down upon my face.’
ANDERSON, PSI-DIVISION: HALF OF A HEAVEN – Paul Cornell & Emma Vieceli, colours by Barbara Nosenzo, letters by Jim Cambell
– story suggested by Kate Bush’s Suspended in Gaffa
A visitor from Brit Cit in a padded cell claiming she was a visitor from another world. Just your everyday case for Anderson, called in after the girl had psychically attacked a number of badges.
Inside her head, Anderson finds those badges, seemingly in utopia, telling her that ‘here we can have it all,’ playing off the idea in Bush’s song about having something you desperately desire just out of reach, of seeing it just the once and never getting it again.
Maybe one of the most literal readings of the songs on show here in the Sci-Fi Special, but it’s a simple, heartfelt Anderson tale nonetheless. As for the art, well, I’ve enjoyed Emma Vieceli’s work for many, many years now and it’s everything I want here, lush imagery, gorgeous linework that adds so much to Cornwell’s script
MIDDENFACE MCNULTY: OPENING NIGHT AT THE OMEGABOWL – David Baillie, VV Glass, letters by Simon Bowland
– story suggested by Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World
Former Stront Middenface McNulty is getting freelance work and is, bizarrely, at the opening concert of the Milton Keynes Omegabowl… a floating supervenue hovering over the former mutant ghetto known as Milton Keynes.
He’s been hired on as one of a number of ex-Strontium Dogs to provide security for the Hot Murder concert. They’re the biggest mutant band in the world and right now, Blaze Dahlia, lead singer, is having a bit of a problem with Middenface being shit-faced instead of doing his job. But what do you know, he’s actually pretty good at his job, even when he’s four sheets to the wind…
And when one of the Norm-Power idiots manages to shoot a hole through the lead guitarist’s hand, have a wild guess who ends up on stage?
Yep, this idiot…
Compared to the rest of the Sci-Fi Special, this one’s a comedy, but then again, with Middenface McNulty it’s difficult to go anywhere else really. But Baillie and Glass make it a load of fun to keep rockin’
JUDGE DEATH: COMMON ENEMY – Kek-W & Steven Austin, colours by Jim Boswell, letters by Jim Campbell
– story suggested by Stealer’s Wheel’s Stuck In The Middle With You
We’re way, way back in Judge Death’s history here, somewhere after the classic Prog #427 where Anderson banished him into that empty universe. Suddenly, something has called Death back from the blankness he finds himself imprisoned in, and his spirit is being pulled back to the city once more.
Death tracks down Judge Dredd, only to unleash a Block War between Bob Pennywise Block and Jared Leto Block… and yes, you can see this one coming so far off, can’t you? (Well, assuming you’ve currently got ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ running through your heads anyway…)
Yep, Kek-W goes there…
It’s a deliberately tongue-in-cheek thing, Kek-W playing with the lyrics from the song rather than any meaning from the song but that’s no problem. It’s all about the sheer madness of the situation and the lengths Kek-W goes to set up the gag. And while he’s doing that, Austin gets a chance to deliver some more great Dredd artwork.
Oh, and as for 2000 AD and music having a long and rich collaborative past… well try some of these for size…
And we’ll end with the sadly-missed Lemmy from Prog 281…. never stop rocking 2000 AD.