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Author Topic: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)  (Read 2763 times)

Fungus

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #60 on: 25 June, 2019, 11:14:35 pm »
Ah, Hicklenton. Really looking forward to his contribution to Nemesis, that's next up in my UC reading. And yet I didn't care for his sloppy, odd art back then. Weird! It nudges my elderly brain in all the right places. I was wrong  :o

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #61 on: 26 June, 2019, 12:11:57 pm »
Progs 586 - 625 (August 88 - May 89)

I must start this next instalment with one huge omission I made from my last one - the third Bad Company book, the Krool Heart. How could I leave that out? A great run for the Company, and one which rivals the first book. It also feels like a completion to the story, which in my view is best summarised as the metamorphosis of Danny Franks. The first book took him from fresh-faced recruit to grizzled war veteran, and this one ends with him merging with the enemy itself and becoming one with the Krool. This really feels like a full stop, there's no real dangling plot lines, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Milligan and Ewins considered leaving things there. In any case, it was the end for me, as book 4 wouldn't appear until prog 828, nearly five years later and two years after I stopped getting the prog.

In this era of huge changes to the comic, losing one of your two post-prog 500 big hitters seemed a big blow. Bad Company and Zenith had both been holding the fort to some extent, while the former old faithfuls like Rogue Trooper and Strontium Dog were getting a bit ragged round the edges, and some of the other new stories were failing to gain traction.

Anyway, prog 586 furnishes us with two new stories - Nemesis Book 9 and Milligan's Tribal Memories, the later of which deserved to be longer and would have been an excellent fit for the soon-to-be-released Crisis. We are presented with a future where everyone has been injecting themselves with personality implants, to the extent where only one person remains in the world with their original personality still intact - an African tribesman-warrior. A man called Mo Robinson is tasked with extracting his personality, but Mo - who is also black, comes to befriend him, and all sort of issues regarding race and identity are explored. Or they would've been if this hadn't been just bloody four episodes long. Instead we get some intriguing ideas, and a pat ending. Art droid "Riot" lives up to epithet with an art style that, like McMahon's and Ian Gibson's, is initially scruffy and unappealing but soon gets under your skin and grows on you massively. All in all, a wasted opportunity, particularly considering dross like Moonrunners ran to over 20 episodes.

Nemesis Book 9 sees the welcome (well, for me at least) return of artist John Hicklenton, and this continues where Book 7 left off with Nemesis pursuing Torquemada though time. And where does Torque end up hiding? Only Britain in the late 80s! - what are the chances? Only this isn't quite the 80s Britain we remember, as time waste from the Termite era has polluted it, causing all manner of horrors to manifest themselves in our era, turning the UK into a dour police state with no-go areas where time pollution is leaking through. It also has a very buoyant goth scene, and old Torquemada, rather tragically, starts to hang outside the local sixth form, trying to have his way with a goth girl doing her A-levels who reminds him of Candida. But what about all that stuff in book 8 with Purity? Well even though her memory got wiped, she's starting to suspect Nemesis is not quite the alien she wants him to be - and shock horror! - ends up siding with Torquemada. Surely this is just a ruse? Well, as of writing this, I don't bloody know because it stops for a break in 593, and doesn't come back until prog 605, for the final 4 episodes. (Update: yes it was a ruse, but she still breaks away from Nemesis.)

Nemesis taking a mid-book break is certainly nothing new, but in this era there's a lot of times series just stop and go missing for a month (or three) only to come back with a handful of concluding episodes, and it's one reason that I found this batch of progs a bit of a slog. One thing I learnt that goes on behind the scenes is that most artists actually take longer than a week to produce the 5 or 6 pages for a single episode, so the editor has to do a lot of juggling to lessen the impact this has on the readers, such as accruing episodes before they are published, or rotating artists on particular strips. This whole process seems to be handled a lot worse than before, probably due to a combination of new artists and a new editorial team.

One thing that has improved, production-wise though, is the improvements to the comic from prog 589. A glossy cover, no less, and 4 extra pages - all colour! The glossy cover really finishes off the prog 555 revamp, as now the 2000 AD font in the logo is a clean white, instead of a dirty grey, and the comic feels physically more sturdy and higher quality. There are now 6 colour pages inside, usually always Judge Dredd (although Dredd will soon get ousted by Bisley's Slaine the Horned God). There's a very endearing Wizard of Oz parody to usher in the era of full-colour Dredd.

Prog 589 also ushers in the 3 episode "Slaine The Mini-Series", and Zenith Book 2, no less. Fabry's art on Slaine is peak Fabry as Slaine finally kills all the nasty trolls that have taken over his tribal lands (Famorians?). Shame it was over so quickly, particularly as Slaine doesn't seem that pleased with his victory as he's already eyeing up the sacred relics of neighbouring tribes, and - foreshadowing The Horned God - hatches a plan to unite the tribes, if only to nick their bling.

Zenith Book 2's antagonist is three parts Richard Branson to one part Noel Edmonds, who is always seen wearing a Red Nose Day jumper. I have to say, this feels a bit of a comedown compared the Lovecraftian deities he battled in the first book. Yowell's artwork remains incredibly crisp, evocative and hasn't dated a jot in the intervening 30 years, although some of his action scenes can be a little hard to follow. There's one episode where Zenith is having to battle a cyborg version of his dad, and it was a baffling series of close-ups of what may have been robot and human body-parts and limbs. It almost gave Metalzoic a run for its money.

The new 6 pages of colour are rather bizarrely arranged in that you get 2 pages of Dredd, then another story in black-and-white, followed by the remainder of Dredd in colour. Weird. Even weirder when the interrupting story is, more often than not, Moonrunners. Ah, Moonrunners: one of 2000 AD's highest profile follies of the era: a bizarre idea poorly executed.
What was Moonrunners trying to be? A comic adaptation of derided 80's BBC soap Triangle staring Kate O'Mara? A serious Ace Trucking Co? An attempt to broaden the readership by appealing to a female audience? It wants to be a tale of mercantile adventure, with imposingly beautiful female entrepreneurs having their way with their dashing captains, in short a space opera. But the actual plot is so, well, odd and Belardinelli's art - great to see him have a regular gig again in the comic - but his strengths are ill-suited to this story. The story contains all sorts of weird arbitrary rules to motivate the plot, like women are not allowed on board the ships (even though they own them) and if someone who isn't trained tries to pilot a ship then everyone hallucinates. What the f***? At least the hallucinations give Belardinelli the excuse to get out his A-game, because drawing people, in my opinion, wasn't his forte. All his women look the same, and if we wants them to look attractive, he just only draws their nostrils, but omits the outline of the nose. Apparently all attractive women have child-like button noses. But hideous monsters drawn from your subconscious? He's your man.

The "WFT?" nature of Moonrunners though is eclipsed by the sheer incomprehension of the Tyranny Rex 5-parter Soft Bodies. I tried to read the first 3 episodes twice, so try and make head or tail of it, and maybe I got a little closer, but I'm still way off. I might give it one more try, and add some more later when I've done that. This is the same time Crisis launched, so as well as writing this, John Smith was also doing The New Statemen in 2000 AD's new sister organ. And I don't understand much of what is going on in that, either. I have a tendency to think overly highly of things I don't quite understand, and often when I do take the time to get to the bottom of it, I find it wasn't really worth the effort after all. Narratives should only be convoluted if it somehow enhances the overall story. The film Memento is good example of that, as seeing the story out of sequence approximates to the amnesia issues of the protagonist. Do John Smith's stories have a similar reason? The editors must've thought very highly of him to let him write half of their new adult comic. I'll bet the scripts he handed over to the artists were very impressive and probably more elucidating than what we ended up with. The jury's out for me. (Update: I've read a lot more John Smith since writing these words, and the jury's no longer out - he's brilliant)

In prog 594 we get a 4-episode Chopper story, where Chopper finally takes on Jug again, and actually beats him this time. It's all right, nothing special. Post Oz, Judge Dredd was initially looking to be promising in that there was a bit of story-arc stuff forshadowing The Dead Man and Necropolis. We learn Dredd is starting to feel old, and that the Judges have kept his Judda clone, Judge Kraken, and may possibly be plotting to replace Dredd with Kraken. How intriguing! But then we just go back to standalone stories for ages (e.g. circus comes to town, Dredd arrests them all for various violations, and circus has to close) and no discernible story arc development whatsoever. Sigh.

Talking of "sigh" we get shitey, shitey Rogue Trooper Hit 4, where the only remaining interesting thing about the story - who are the people controlling Rogue and what is there agenda? - is not touched on at all, making for a completely forgettable story. It's been a long, long time since Rogue was firing on all cylinders, and you can see why they were soon to reboot it.

Once Zenith and Nemesis Book 9 conclude, there really is a rather shocking lull in the prog for a few months - a real barren period, with lots of reprint material. An inauspicious time for 2000AD's first female writer, Hilary Robinson, to debut with Zippy Couriers, which is (intentionally) a light, fluffy affair but when the rest of the prog feels so empty, it's completely unwelcome. Consider prog 611, Zippy Courier's second outing: the other stories are Dredd, Night Zero, a Walter the Wobot reprint and a Future Shock. What a shocker of an issue.

Medivac 318 is Robinson's second strip which starts soon after Zippy Couriers and is a more promising idea - a nurse who is waiting to be rescued from a hostile alien planet while caring for a brain-damaged soldier - but the pace is a bit plodding. The only good things about these progs are a David Roach drawn Anderson Psi Division tale called Helios, and Strontium Dog's Final Solution, which I'll have more to say about in the next instalment, as it was published sporadically and disappears for months at a time. Presumably Simon Harrison was a slow artist.

So, sadly early 1989 was a bit of a sorry time for the prog - but things are about to get much better in the prog 625 with Zenith Book 3, Rogue Trooper's late return-to-form Cinnabar story, and the jewel in the crown Slaine the Horned God - huzzah!

Colin YNWA

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #62 on: 26 June, 2019, 12:52:08 pm »
Wow there's just too much good stuff in these post and I don't get time to reflect on it all. A few highlights for me.

Quote
The new 6 pages of colour are rather bizarrely arranged in that you get 2 pages of Dredd, then another story in black-and-white, followed by the remainder of Dredd in colour. Weird

Yeah I've always wondered about the placement of the colour pages at this time. Just seems ... odd. I've always assumed, but never known it related to the printing process somehow?

Quote
Medivac 318 i... a more promising idea - a nurse who is waiting to be rescued from a hostile alien planet while caring for a brain-damaged soldier

One of my all time favourite 2000ad sequences. Its so gloriously un2000ad... which in itself is so 2000ad!

Quote
Tyranny Rex 5-parter Soft Bodies. I tried to read the first 3 episodes twice, so try and make head or tail of it, and maybe I got a little closer, but I'm still way off.

I'm with you. Much as I've never hidden my love for John Smith this one, to this day escapes me. New Statemen however I think is a masterpiece.

On my recent re-read I actually concluded that I like the more down to Earth Phase 2 of Zenith and its a really good way to build the world and build up to events to come. I've no doubt I'll change my mind again next time I do a re-read but for now my fav.

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #63 on: 26 June, 2019, 01:02:09 pm »
Yeah I've always wondered about the placement of the colour pages at this time. Just seems ... odd. I've always assumed, but never known it related to the printing process somehow?

It does. See here.
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MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #64 on: 26 June, 2019, 01:54:09 pm »
Yeah I've always wondered about the placement of the colour pages at this time. Just seems ... odd. I've always assumed, but never known it related to the printing process somehow?

It does. See here.

That's fascinating - I love these kind of details!

broodblik

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #65 on: 26 June, 2019, 02:12:24 pm »
Tyranny Rex was a character I never could get into. I never had a problem with Hicklenton's art on Nemesis, strange macabre and completely different from the rest.

Colin YNWA

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #66 on: 26 June, 2019, 09:42:04 pm »
Yeah I've always wondered about the placement of the colour pages at this time. Just seems ... odd. I've always assumed, but never known it related to the printing process somehow?

It does. See here.

Curse my worthless memory. Thanks for the insight again Jim

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #67 on: 27 June, 2019, 12:11:15 pm »
Prog 626 - Prog 649 (May - October 89), Sci-fi and Winter specials 1989

After a fairly shocking few months, where the 2000 AD editors apparently ran out of Future Shocks, and we had to endure the likes of Daily Star reprints and old Walter the Wobot scripts, prog 626 finally arrives, and it is so on the money that you could be forgiven for thinking all that stuff before was just a bad dream. And what a classic prog! - we have that iconic Bisley cover for starters, but the inside is just as wonderful. We have to start, of course, with Slaine The Horned God - a real prestige project both for Bisley and 2000 AD as a whole, which (presumably) got some attention with its beautiful paintwork and was like nothing we had seen in the prog hiterto. In the 1989 Winter special there's an interview with Bisley where he's asked about the "earthy tones" he used (if you were less charitable you could say a lot of it looks rather murky*) and he replies that he wasn't really used to using paints and didn't know how to mix them effectively, so he was really learning on the job. I was always thought it was intentional! One other very amusing nugget from that interview is that a lorry turned up at his house full of books on Celtic myths and history Pat Mills thought Bisley should read before he started drawing the strip - poor bugger!

But prog 626 (and the 10 or so progs proceeding) is not all about Slaine - we've also got two other superlative new stories: Zenith Book 3 and John Smith's take on Rogue Trooper, Cinnabar. I've only read the first part of the Zenith story so far, as it's split into two parts, the second part starting in prog 650, but this is shaping up to be the best Zenith so far. After the slightly lackluster book 2, Zenith is back fighting against the Lovecraftian Lloigor, and the story goes full-on mutiverse-tastic, as all the heroes from various alternative realities unite against them, led by an alternative Maximan, the WWII hero who died in our reality. Steve Yowell's artwork was always excellent, but this story with it's huge number of superheroes and depictions of realities already taken over by the Lliogor really kicks it up a notch.

Almost as good as Slaine and Zenith is the Rogue Trooper "Nu-Earth Flashback" Cinnabar. Rogue Trooper had been on the decline since all the way back to prog 400 (in my opinion) so it's refreshing to have a great run for Rogue. Being a flashback, Smith can dispense with the problematic story arc, and take Rogue back to the swamps and choking chem clouds of Nu-Earth. One thing that really hurt recent Rogue Trooper stories is that he's on other planets, or just in rather generic looking enemy basis, where we don't really see outside of the base. I think Rogue's Nu-Earth environment is one of the most essential parts of the story, and I hope Duncan Jones does it justice in the new film. Steve Dillon's artwork on the Hit series was a bit sparse for my liking, but for Cinnabar he's joined by Kevin Walker doing inks and together they really bring to life Cinnabar, which is a kind of Vegas/Sodom and Gomorrah type of place, whose amoral denizens lure Rogue to their city only to place bets on Rogue fighting monsters, and, um, shag him. It's certainly a Rogue Trooper for the more mature reader, and after the WTF? of his Tyranny Rex Soft Bodies story, shows John Smith is able to tell an easy to follow story when he has a mind to.

During this spell we also get a great Judge Dredd instalment, as we revisit the exploits of Mega City One's young psychopath, PJ Maybe and his quest to inherit his uncle fortune though the company of Emphatically Yes, suppliers of trousers to the judges. Only they've just lost their contract to rivals Hoss Bros! - so PJ naturally has to kill them too now. PJ Maybe was always a treat and Liam Sharp's artwork is pure class.

Sadly by 366 all these stories either finish or take a break, but in their wake, Strontium Dog: The Final Solution resumes, and - rather wonderfully - we get Arthur Ransom's first work in 2000 AD with the 10-episode Anderson Psi Division story, Triad. And what an excellent artist this man is. His 90s story Mazeworld, with Alan Grant, looks completely gorgeous and I do mean to check out at some point. But this first Anderson story is very good too. He has a way of making faces seem very expressive that really bring out the characters in the story.

Simon Harrison's work on Strontium Dog works well for Final Solution, as it fits the faux-medieval religious fervour of New Britain (which is thematically a little too close to Torquemada's Termight for my liking) and the extra-dimensional hell-house with winged demons that the mutants are being banished to through a portal at Stonehenge. I was expecting this to the final instalment - but it's not. Alpha ends up in a bad way at the end, maybe blinded, maybe dead, but we don't know for sure, and we have to wait all the way until June 1990 for the story to resume - bloody hell Tharg! If you're going to kill off one of your major characters, then just do it, stop eeking it out for eternity.

Elsewhere, Medivac 318 and Zippy Couriers return and Night Zero gets a sequel with Beyond Zero, each of which are perfectly fine, but don't really wow me. We do have a final instalment of Moonrunners though (and I think Belardinelli's final hurrah for 2000 AD, bar a few future shocks). I like to think there's an alternative reality where Moonrunners grew to be the most popular strip in the comic, and it proudly trumpets "2000 AD Featuring Moonrunners" on its cover. Fortunately, we don't live in that reality.

And the late, great Ron Smith returns to the prog! - not drawing Judge Dredd, of course, which would be far to logical for 2000 AD in 1989. Did you ever wonder what happened to Henry Moon, the man whose brain was transplanted in a leopard in Mean Team? Me neither, but you're going to find out anyway in Survivor! (Spoiler: he gets locked up in a cage, but then manages to escape - phew!)

Finally we get a new thrill! - John Smith's Fervent and Lobe, a pair of psychic cowboys for hire who were first introduced in the incomprehensible Soft Bodies. This is pretty good through, and the episode titles are named after Birthday Party and Sonic Youth songs. Which is nice. I also read the Summer and Winter specials for this year. The Summer special is an all-female character affair, as co-incidentally enough was 2018's summer special, so they're definitely trying to broaden the appeal of the prog at this point. In fact, as I wasn't getting the prog during this period I had to buy some issues from eBay and they had 'Anne Pears' written on the cover. Maybe Anne was a new reader who was enjoying all the Tyranny Rex, Moonrunners, Medivac and Zippy Couriers action? I like to think so, but it could also have been a boy's mum who picked up the prog when she popped in the newsagent for her Woman's Realm.

I bought the Winter Special from eBay, as it has the conclusion of Rogue Trooper's Hit series. It only served to confirm what I'd long suspected: there was no real plan as to where all this way going, so Steve Dillon had 16 pages to wrap it all up - an impossible task to be fair. It is though a rather shockingly abrupt ending to Rogue Mark 1. Of course, the new Friday reboot was about to debut in Prog 650. But that's for next instalment...

*I've since seen reprint material where the colours are a lot more vibrant, so I guess may be due to limitation in the printing process back then.
« Last Edit: 27 June, 2019, 12:14:52 pm by MumboJimbo »

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #68 on: 28 June, 2019, 01:07:02 pm »
Progs 650 - 674 (October 1989 - April 1990)

Welcome to this antepenultimate instalment of my 2000 AD re-read, and what a cracking set of stories we have here! This bunch of progs would be best summed up as the build up to Necropolis, with Necropolis proper being dealt with in my next posting. But holy story-arcs! - we have Judge Dredd with ample foreshadowing for things to come, rather than vaguely satirical short-stories unrelated to anything before or since. I like it! And fully two-fifths of the prog is given over to this foreshadowing as we have not only actual Dredd, but a special "stealth" Dredd strip in The Dead Man!

I wasn't actually getting the prog at this point, although I did borrow a big pile from a friend back in the day, of which I'm sure these progs were included, so I remember The Dead Man, but because I was reading it after the event I always knew the Dead Man was actually Dredd, so I never got to experience the actual thrill of the twist at the end. Although, surely it was obvious it was Dredd all along?

But as well as The Dead Man (ably brought to life by Luke Kirby artist John Ridgeway) there's also lots of Necropolis antecedents in the Judge Dredd strip proper with Dredd questioning his role in MC-1 and also putting Judge Kraken through his paces as a cadet, and then failing him, and in so doing sentencing his younger clone to death by lethal injection. And surprisingly enough, Kraken walks to his with nary a murmur of protect. But he didn't die! - it was just a test by the chief judges. How exciting!

Prog 650 is where 2000 AD goes from having one of its 5 stories in colour, to having 3 of them in colour - a big change indeed. As well as book 2 of The Horned God (more on that later) we have in colour the new Rogue Trooper Friday reboot, which like The Horned God was clearly commissioned first and foremost as a graphic novel. You can tell this as the strip's title is shoe-horned into the upper margin of the page and there's little cliffhanger at the end of each issue's strip, as it's simply 5 pages of a work that was always meant to be enjoyed in a longer format. And its all "mature" with impressionistic art and musings on the futility of war. Sadly, it's also not very good at all. Not having any characters other than Friday certainly doesn't help, so all it really becomes is Friday soliloquising in a rather dull fashion about war in short staccato sentences a la "Running. Always running. To the next target. Obey orders. Never question." You know the sort of thing.

They must have had trouble making it, as it goes on a break after only four episodes, and gets replaced by Chopper Song of the Surfer. I've never been a big Chopper fan, but this story is bloody awesome, expertly told by Wagner and drawn by Colin MacNeil, the same duo who are doing the current Dredd story, Machine Law, incidentally. I can't quite put my finger on why this was so good. There's a raising of the stakes compared to previous Supersurf races, as they're now being shot at during the race, as some insane CEO has sponsored it, and made the whole thing a lot more dangerous. So there's a lot more death for starters. And it has a great ending to boot. Probably should've been Chopper's swansong.

With Friday swapped out for Chopper what an run of progs where we have 5 excellent strips - pre-Necropolis Dredd, The Dead Man, Chopper, Slaine Horned God Book 2 and the second part of the Zenith Book 3. We're really cooking here. Slaine The Horned God Book 2 carries on the same excellent quality of the first book in terms of Bisley's art but the story really ramps up as Slaine has to contend with Megrim's treachery while he's trying to unite the Celtic tribes. Zenith book 3 meanwhile, has a great (if sometimes slightly difficult to follow) conclusion, with some good twists and turns including evil Maximan and thinking Zenith gets killed off at the end (although it turns out to be his far nicer alternative reality counterpart Vortex).

The Dead Man is revealed to be Dredd in prog 662, and the strip is replaced by new story Bix Barton, marking the return of duo Milligan and McCarthy, who hadn't been in the prog for a while. It's a comedy strip where Bix is a plummy British throwback, who works for a secret government ministry. I remember enjoying this back in the day, but the first Bix outing - a six episode story called Barton's Beast - didn't grab me for some reason.

Once Zenith and Slaine conclude, we're back with the 2000 AD B-team with the likes of Zippy Couriers, Night Zero, Bradley etc. Rogue Trooper eventually returns (slightly improved) in prog 667, but is still rather opaque. There's even one editorial error where the two pages are flipped, but the lettering isn't meaning the lettering does not fit the panels for two pages, and to be honest I never noticed, until they printed an apology and a corrected version next prog. There's all sorts of weird editing mistakes in this bunch of progs: Nerve Centres printed twice; announcements in the Nerve Centre not matching with what's actually in the prog; adverts for new stories "next prog" that are already in progress. It's very strange, and you wonder who was meant to be checking this stuff. Thankfully, apart from the Rogue Trooper issue, it doesn't affect the strips themselves.

Anyway, a couple of progs before the actual Necropolis story starts, we can a deluge of new strips: Harlem Heroes, Shadows, and Armoured Gideon! But I'll talk more about them on my next Necropolis-centric instalment. Until then!

Greg M.

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #69 on: 28 June, 2019, 07:11:45 pm »
The run that contains the fabled Prog 654 - the greatest (or at least most flawless) prog of all time.

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #70 on: 28 June, 2019, 07:32:34 pm »
Yes, that’s such a fantastic line-starting in the prog. Dredd, Chopper Song of the Surfer, Cinnabar, Dead Man and Zenith Book 3. All thrillers no fillers!

Colin YNWA

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #71 on: 28 June, 2019, 08:05:05 pm »
Yes, that’s such a fantastic line-starting in the prog. Dredd, Chopper Song of the Surfer, Cinnabar, Dead Man and Zenith Book 3. All thrillers no fillers!

That is such a strong line-up. Trouble is this period was so bloody inconsistent.

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #72 on: 28 June, 2019, 09:05:32 pm »
Couldn’t agree more! You’d have a month or two of complete excellence followed by a fallow period. The Richard Burton period was an age of extremes.

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #73 on: 01 July, 2019, 12:05:46 pm »
Progs 675 - 699 (April - Oct 90)

I was going to call this instalment "The Necropolis special", as this sequence of progs does indeed encompass all of that epic Dredd story, but - ooh! - there's a lot more going on than Necropolis. The concluding book to Slaine The Horned God, for starters. And then there's the not inconsiderable matter of the Death of Johnny Alpha. And a fair few new stories to boot. Yes, it's all happening.

Woo! Necropolis. Finally a proper Dredd epic, and by epic I mean where MegaCity One is reduced to a burnt out shell and mass graves have to be dug for the millions of dead - yay! So already better than Oz, and better than City of the Damned, as this actually happens rather than being set in a potential future that does not come to pass. Truth be told, it starts a little bit slowly, with the initial part of the Phobia and Nausea using a Psi Judge Agee to allow them to pass to our realm. When it get going the heroes of the day are in fact a plucky bunch of cadet judges who team up with Dredd (now looking like a cornflake) and Anderson with her back broken, to take down Death and co. Esquerra does a good job of making MC-1 under the yoke of the Dark Judges look suitably foreboding.

But what other stories does Tharg put with such a prestige event for the Galaxy's Greatest? Slaine? Zenith? Strontium Dog. Er, no. Not initially anyway. It's actually those titans of 2000 AD history: Shadows, Harlem Heroes, Armoured Gideon and Universal Soldier. OK then. Actually I'm being mean - this isn't a bad little line-up really. Milligan's 10-parter Shadows is a thoroughly decent story about a woman in the future who's some kind of internet sleuth and one day gets a little too close to the truth, and then her record is wiped from the computer network rendering her a persona-non-grata: a titular 'Shadow'. This strip also marks the debut of Richard Elson who to this day ploughs his wares in the weekly prog, recently drawing Dan Abnett's long-running Kingdom saga.

On to Armoured Gideon - well, I've always loved Simon Jacob's art style - unlike anything else in the prog - a great sense of 3D where things almost look like pre-rendered 3D graphics (of course they weren't as technology wasn't up to snuff back then). His depictions of people never looked very realistic, but robots he was great at, so this was the perfect strip for his talents. The story I found a bit disappointing though, didn't seem to make a whole heap of sense. So, Gideon is this robot who's a bit mental but his job is to keep daemons in hell, and Frank Weiss is a journo who finds himself in this hell dimension, managed to escape but still has to kill Gideon, for some reason. And he meets a girl who's dad is a priest in some cult that wants to sacrifice her? Couldn't really get to grips with it to be honest. Miles better though than Universal Soldier, which remains, for me, as weak as its first outing a few years ago. How can Alan MacKenzie write this and Summer Magic?

Ah Harlem Heroes. Do you remember when the names Patrice, Deacon, Silver, Trips and Slice meant nothing to you? Of course I'm being facetious. This 26 episode story, launched to great fanfare, with "Rap Sheets" for each character adorning the back page for weeks never amounted to much. Just to be clear, this isn't the Harlem Heroes that was a large fixture of early 2000 AD going back to prog 1. Oh no - this is a completely different story with completely different characters, only very distantly related to the 70s story of the same name. It's drawn by Steve Dillon and Kevin Walker, who were last together for the Cinnabar Rogue Trooper strip, and as you'd expect they do a fine job. On script duties is new guy Michael Fleisher - an American, no less, who had worked for Marvel in the 70s. Must've been quite a coup for 2000 AD at the time to bag a genuine yank comic writer - especially as a lot of their talent was going Stateside. He's not though, I think it's fair to say, a fondly remembered contributor to 2000 AD.

I'll return to Harlem Heroes a bit later as it takes a break after the first 7 or so episodes, and gets replaced by - quaequam blag! - two new stories: 2000 AD was still 36 pages at this point and could accommodate 6 stories a week. The first new debut is Hilary Robinson's third (and final) strip for the prog: Chronos Carnival drawn by Ron Smith. Robinson's thing was "slice of life" stories - the lives of people in future who weren't the archetypal heroes but ambulance drivers, couriers and - in this case - a couple who run a carnival. Unfortunately, 2000 AD already had had a story of this ilk, and one with pretty big shoes to fill: Halo Jones. And Hilary's no Alan Moore. This is my least favourite of her three contributions to the prog; there's nothing really to hang your hat on. The main guy Neil is disabled and is in a wheelchair so I guess there's that. It's just bland and, like Universal Soldier, obviously geared for the younger readers of the prog.

Very much on the opposite end of the scale, is debut #2: Smith and Weston's Indigo Prime. As to be expected from the Smith droid, this is a very dense read and something you really have to concentrate on to work out what's going on. If you make the commitment though, it rewards you. Very much a follow-on from Fervent and Lobe (who are also members of Indigo Prime). It's mind boggling and leaves you feeling a bit addled after you've read it. Mostly in a good way. Chris Weston's art does deserve to singled out though, as its excellent: the most detailed and ornate b&w work seen in the prog since Fabry's Slaine the King, in my opinion.

Prog 683 is billed as a "new thrills" prog, but in reality it's more of a case of returning stories as Harlem Heroes, Rogue Trooper come back, and - finally! - Strontium Dog returns with the concluding episodes of The Final Solution, and another jarring change in art direction. Now I love Colin MacNeil, and this isn't the first time he's done Strontium Dog - he subbed for Ezquerra back in 87 on a four-parter called A Sorry Case, and he did a great job copying Carlos' art style. But now he's decided to go for style of his own - much closer to his recent work on Chopper. Colour doesn't suit the future Britain of Strontium Dog - I always imagined it in the dirty white of the newsprint that 2000 AD used to be printed on, but this is altogether too colourful making the dystopia look incongruously lush and verdant. The Milton Keynes mutant ghetto demands a very restricted colour palette. The artistic change and long break (over a year) both conspire to make this feel like a non-canonical ending to the original story, and therefore anticlimactic.

Harlem Heroes comes back, and you know what? - overall it rather endeared me. Good, knockabout fun - nothing too cerebral but certainly diverting. At this time the powers that be wanted 2000 AD to appeal to a very wide demographic from 11 year old kids to adults, and I guess Harlem Heroes is skewed more towards the younger reader, but it makes for a breezy contrast to more dense works like Indigo Prime and Slaine. Speaking of Slaine, we get the final part of the Horned God which is an excellent ending and feeds cleverly into the creation myth of Ireland. Slaine wouldn't return to the prog for a few years, and you can see how hard it would be for Pat to follow this one up.

Hilary Robinson does her last work for 2000 AD - a length Medivac-318 tale and a shorter second stab at Chronos Carnival. The Medivac story is probably her best work for the prog, and shows potential that would unfortunately never be realised as she left, I believe because of copyright disagreements. And finally, we have the conclusion to Rogue Trooper reboot War Machine. The end confrontation with Friday's maker is better than the rest of it, to be fair, but overall still meh. Tellingly, War Machine was never issued as a graphic novel (well, not until the Rebellion era), despite Tharg promising such in the Nerve Centre. Make of that what you will.

Until next time, Splundig Vur Thrigg!

PS Realised I forgot Dry Run from my last update! How could I forget Dry Run? Back in the day, this was always my top pick for the quintessential bad 2000 AD story: crap premise, crap art, shoddy dialogue - just wall-to-wall awfulness. In fact I remember I suspected it had been a hastily translated strip from a foreign comic. I don't know why I thought this, as it's drawn by Kevin Hopgood, who'd done Below and Beyond Zero. I think it was the name of the script writer: Tise Vahimagi (he's Welsh apparently).

What struck me on re-reading it (or to be honest, reading it, as I think back then I took one look at it, and decided "no", and that was that, which shows how opinionated I could be at that age despite not really being that well-informed  :-[) is how weird it is. Rather than a story it's more like a summary of events: strangely disjointed like it's missing every other page. To be fair the story (thin as it is) is followable, but it's in such a hurry to get where it's going. It never pauses for breath, like those stories that little kids write which are one long sentence with all the bits joined together with "and". I've been reading the early progs recently, and they're of a similar ilk, but done with a lot more panache.

The art has a kind of pulp fiction, schlocky rushed quality to it. I'm on the fence as to whether it's by design or not. Certainly the Hopgood droid has done better work. To be fair, I was enjoying it as a weird little curio, until an appalling twist on the last page, that was completely rushed and unnecessary, and left me hating it. Oh well.

broodblik

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #74 on: 01 July, 2019, 03:18:38 pm »
This was for me a very in between period some really great stuff like The Horned God and Necropolis but some real "stinkers" like Dry Run (my brain went in a flat spin trying to remember this one). This was almost to introduction run for the dark ages.