Buy This Book: 2000 AD #1900 Hopes To Lure In New Readers With ‘Great Stories’ Gimmick
The way I've always understood anthology series is that you never want every story to end at the same time, because the idea is that by chaining everything together, the reader never has a chance to jump off. That might sound mercenary, but really, it's just simple economics: If everything you're into ends all at once, then you've got a lot less incentive to come back for the next issue. Right? Right.
Well, it seems that last week's issue of 2000 AD went against that little bit of conventional wisdom by capping off every story that they had going so that they could set up this week's offering: Their 1900th issue, which celebrates the milestone by launching three new stories, and provides a perfect jumping-on point. If you haven't been reading 2000 AD and want to see what all the fuss is about, this is the issue to get -- and you should definitely get it, because all three stories are pretty awesome.
The biggest draw in this issue -- or this "prog," if you're hip to the future language of Tharg, the alien editor who came from space to bestow us with a weekly gift of thrillpower -- is, of course, Judge Dredd. That's how it is for me, anyway. As much as I've enjoyed other 2000 AD stories that I've read, like Brass Sun, it's Dredd that got its hooks into me and made me want to give the weekly comic a try -- and considering that it's his stony face on the cover in the form of a pretty beautiful photorealistic painting from Greg Staples, I'm going to guess that's the case for most readers.
To that end, this issue sees the launch of "Block Judge," from Dredd's original creators, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, and judging by this first chapter, it's going to be pretty great.
Here's the high concept: While Dredd is normally a Street Judge who rides around the city on a future motorcycle meting out swift and occasionally explosive justice to whatever lawbreakers he finds, there are also Judges dedicated entirely to policing the massive, towering Mega-City blocks. When a particularly problematic block's Judge is killed on the job, Dredd and a team are brought in to get things in shape.
It's a very simple idea, but that's the brilliant thing about it. The editors of 2000 AD are obviously banking on the anniversary issue and its "jumping on point" gimmick to bring in new readers, and Wagner and Ezquerra are making their story as accessible as possible. If you don't read the comics, then anything you know about Judge Dredd probably comes from 2012's (awesome) Dredd film. Putting the focus on a single block gives it a similar setting to the movie, while also allowing them to approach a new idea in a way that feels true to the comic, and also furthers the ongoing story that Wagner's been telling (off and on) for about 37 years.
What's really great about it, though, is how much they manage to accomplish in an extremely limited space. Aside from the inherently uneven quality of storytelling that you're almost always going to get from multiple creators doing multiple stories, my biggest problem with anthologies is that even the best ideas in them only have a few pages to work with. The first chapter of "Block Judge," for instance, is only six pages, but it feels like it's at least twice that long just by virtue of how much they get done. They cram this thing with ten and twelve-panel pages, and the effect isn't just that there's a lot of story going on here, it's that the structure on the page reinforces just how much Dredd has to deal with as a Block Judge.
It's a great way to open a Dredd story and a great way to open a comic, and it pretty much goes without saying that Dredd rarely looks better or more frowny than when Ezquerra is drawing him. It's easily my favorite part of the issue, but that's not a surprise. Like I said, Dredd's how they got their hooks into me in the first place.
That said, the other two stories, both of which clock in at ten pages each, did a whole heck of a lot to get me interested too.
The second is Ian Edginton and D'Israeli's Stickleback: The Thru'penny Opera, and it's pretty hard not to be intrigued by, if only because of D'Israeli's eye-catching high-contrast art. It's almost like you're looking at a film negative as you read it, with the linework in white against a murky black background.
The story feels distinctly like a '90s Vertigo book in the best way -- which isn't too surprising given where most of the people responsible for that particular aesthetic got their start. It's set in London in the early 1900s, featuring a resurrected mastermind that the summary on the title page calls "The Pope Of Crime," who's targeted by a hitman who specializes in murdering forgotten gods over and over and over again until their worshippers finally get the message, and while all that's going on, there's also a Jack the Ripper-esque killer stalking the streets and building a complicated sculpture out of bones and corpses as a gift for God.
As you may have noticed, "there's a lot going on in this story" is a recurring theme of 2000 AD #1900. But here, there's so much, done with such an incredible, hauntingly creepy style that reading it once almost demands that you keep going to find out what's happening.
The final story, Dan Abnett, Richard Elson and Abigail Ryder's Kingdom: Aux Drift, feels by far the most superheroic, largely because it's set in a post-apocalyptic future where genetically modified soldiers with groan-worthy pun names are battling against giant insects.
Of all the stories, this one feels like it has the most tongue-in-cheek comedy by far. The main character is a dog soldier named "Gene the Hackman," and the giant insects are referred to as "Thems," but the whole thing is presented with a high level of seriousness, and the action that we get is incredible. There's a biplane battling it out with airplane-sized mosquitoes and a giant spider-monster that gets beaten to death by a seven-foot tall dog man, so really, it's all the fun you want.
All together, they're three solid stories with cliffhanger endings that are begging you to keep on reading. It's the perfect jumping on point, and it's well worth checking out -- just keep in mind that you're probably going to end up reading 2000 AD every week from now on, and schedule your life accordingly.