COMIC BOOK REVIEW: 2000AD PROG 2015 / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: REBELLION / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 17TH
It’s been a busy year for 2000AD. As well as the milestone Prog 1900, the first Summer Special in eighteen years was released, followed by a Winter Special a few months later. Now, it’s time for Prog 2015, a 100-page spectacular that’s a cross between a normal issue and the annuals of old. This one’s been much-hyped on social media, teasing fans with the return of the Dark Judges and, while it sports Death’s badge on the cover, anyone hoping to see the four villains in serious action is going to have to be patient. Other than ending somewhat abruptly, new Dredd story Dark Justice is a good, solid start that whets the appetite for what is to come. Each page is brought vividly to life by stunning art from Greg Staples, the perfect accompaniment a script from veteran writer John Wagner, who has lost none of his skill or satirical edge.
The same can be said of Pat Mills, who places The Visible Man into a one-shot haunted house story, where the actions of normal humans are the most terrifying aspect. Art from David Hitchcock adds a dark and brooding atmosphere to a tale that pulls no punches in its commentary on the ills of society; while shocking, it’s ultimately a poignant and moving tale that packs an emotional punch. Mills also kicks off a new Savage arc, The Grinders, proving there’s plenty of mileage left in Bill Savage yet. It’s testament to the character’s appeal that what started as a future invasion story is now an alternate history, and adding in mentions of familiar characters from Ro-Busters and the ABC Warriors gives it an almost mythological aspect.
Two more new thrills begin in this issue. The first is the return of Ulysses Sweet, maniac for hire, seeing the titular character in another chaotic tale. Writer Guy Adams is clearly having great fun with Sweet, and accompanying artwork from Paul Marshall gives it a ‘looney tunes’ edge that is entirely fitting; buckle up, reader, and enjoy the ride. The Order, a medieval tale of knights against werewolves, sees its debut, and while there’s a nostalgic look to this story, a deft twist suggests this is going to be something more than its premise.
The other four stories see a welcome return for Jaegir, which has always been a fascinating insight into the other side of the Rogue Trooper universe. The standard is maintained in this one-off, adding further dimension to an already well-rounded character. Low Life gives readers an opportunity to see that Christmas within the Wally Squad can be both laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly moving, while The Ghosts of Christmas Presents takes Dickens’ best-known Yuletide work, adapting it for the gangster world of Mega-City One. Finally, Max Normal is back in a story that seamlessly weaves past with present, as the dapper informer meets an old friend and the two reminisce about their shared past, revealing another side of events the comic first showed in the late 1970s. It’s a warm mix, one that perfectly epitomises 2000AD itself, the old merging with the new to create something very special.
Prog 2015 is a superb showcase of talent, one that will appeal to older and more recent readers alike (although a quiz that will test even the most avid fan suggests it may be geared more towards the former), proving that while the comic has had to adapt over the years, it has never lost sight of what made it such a success. While some may feel short-changed that the Dark Judges aren’t in full flow just yet, other stories will certainly capture hearts and imaginations, justifying the claim that 2000AD is the galaxy’s greatest comic.
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