Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spoiling the future

I had to stop reading the best 2000ad website on the internet, because I was totally ruining it for myself.

2000adreview.co.uk is an excellent site, offering up regular reviews of the galaxy’s greatest comic, along with some fairly deep synopsis action and the odd brilliant interview. The comic takes 10 weeks to get to this side of the world and for the past five years, I’ve been regularly peeking into the future – seeing what’s up next in Judge Dredd, getting the vibe for established strips that haven’t even started here yet.

But with Nikolai Dante barrelling towards a suitably spectacular and apocalyptic conclusion and the long-term Dredd story taking some fascinating turns, it’s time to step away from the spoilers. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but I’ve managed to last three weeks so far and I only tried to check the website once and it didn’t load so that’s the universe telling me to stay the hell away. That’s not obsessive thinking or anything, right?

Okay, so I tried it a few more times and it was down. It’s back now, but I think I’m safe, even if it’s a little worrying how hard it is to still avoid going to look up a few spoilers.

* * *

The first book when I made the conscious decision not to skip to the last ten pages to see what happens was A Feast Unknown by Phillip Jose Farmer, which I read when I was 17. For years beforehand, I’d routinely skipped ahead to see what happened to the main characters, and might even read the last dozen pages to see how it all worked out.

I was going to do that with Farmer’s Tarzan/Doc Savage, before realising it would actually be enjoyable to read it like the author actually intended. When that turned out to be the case, I made a habit of it, and have never been tempted to skip to the end again.

It took me 17 years to figure this out.

* * *

If I had to make a list of the best ten storytelling twists in adventure-based comic books, 2000ad would account for half of them. Finding out the nature of the universe at the climax of the last Zenith, the Dead Man remembering his name and the McGruder comeback a dozen issues later: no comic has impressed me with its ability to wrong-foot the reader more than the weekly British sci-fi institution.

I can still tell you exactly where and when I was at each of those moments above. In two of them I was reading the comic while walking down the street and I literally had to stop because I couldn’t process the brilliance of the twist and walk at the same time. I just wanted to grab on to the nearest person walking by and talk about how brilliant it was, and almost did.

And for the past five years I’ve been ruining that pleasure by reading the plot synopsis that comes up every week at 2000ad.co.uk I couldn’t help myself, I couldn’t stop myself from reading it. Even though it telegraphed absolutely brilliant moments, like the concluding part of the Amerika story in Nikolai Dante, I kept on doing it.

Because 2000ad is still the best comic ever and I’ve always been interested in what was going on, even when I made the unfortunate decision to step away.

It still throws a massive amount of ideas at the wall and when they stick, they stick hard. It’s a comic that’s not afraid to kill off vital characters, or to drag a story out so far beyond absurdity that it’s almost profound again.

The Dredd strip remains the bedrock of each individual issue, precisely because it’s always a solid and entertaining read. Remarkably, right now it’s as good as it’s ever been. The massive ongoing story – steered by writer John Wagner, who has now been working on the character for more than 30 years - has seen Dredd exiled from his beloved city. While it till manages to get in a few good thrills and laughs, the series is also saying some really interesting things about the nature of prejudice, the corruption of power and the price of stone-cold conviction.

The Dredd story alone is worth the $7.50 the comic costs every week. That ratio might not be as good as when I was paying 33c an issue in the early eighties and the comic was packed with great action comics, but it’s still good enough. There is usually something I genuinely don’t care about – Sinister Dexter has been spinning its wheels for years and weren’t that likable top start with, while more recent stories like Necrophin and Ampney Crucis Investigates have failed to thrill.

But there has also been the odd bit of brilliance in the other stories – new strips like Stickleback and Zombo are getting more impressive, firmly established stories like The Red Seas and Shakara always welcome and Clint Langley’s art on the ABC Warriors remains murkily astonishing.

Along with the latest twists and turns of Nikolai Dante, I’m genuinely excited to pick up a new issue every week and I just haven’t been able to wait to see what happens, even if I know I’m handicapping my own enjoyment.

This time, it’s only taken me another 18 years to realise this.

* * *

It was Dante who sparked the will to resist easy answers - after learning of massive plot developments in the past few issues, which still won’t show up here until next month, I realised I had to stop.

This also means staying away from the main 2000ad website, and other related blogs like the thoroughly excellent 2000ad: That Reminds Me Of This, but I’m managing so far.

It is harder than I thought it would be, but I’ve only got another six issues or so to go, and I’ll be into the stuff I haven’t spoiled for myself. Then there should be some rewards.

I’ll still read the reviews after the issues come out, and I might take a quick peak to see what stories are coming up, but I’ll stay away from the details. Keep the future unknown.

I still often read 2000ad while wandering down a street, because I’ve never been good at waiting out that bit between when I buy it and the point I get to my destination. So I’m looking forward to the next shocking twist, and this time, I don’t think I’ll even try to stop myself from accosting the nearest innocent soul and telling them all about the galaxy’s greatest.

4 comments:

colsmi said...

Thank you for the kind words, Bob. You're welcome over at ThatRemindsMeOfThis anytime, and I hope to see you there again when you've worked through your ND & JD reading.

Bob Temuka said...

Oh, I still read your blog, I just have to skip over the last ten weeks worth of posts to get to the writing about issues I have managed to read. To give an idea of how far behind we are here on the arse end of the world, I just got #1674, which you looked at in February. I take a while, but I get there in the end...

Grant, the Hipster Dad said...

Have you thought about buying them from Clickwheel? I don't know about the exchange rate in Australia, but it's 25% cheaper online than in American stores, and about five weeks ahead of them.

Bob Temuka said...

I did think about it, but I just love getting the actual new object every week too much to get it online. Besides, it feels like it's cheating.

If I had the uncertainty in getting each issue that American readers have had over the years, I would certainly be looking at it. But I haven't missed an issue in two years, (which is actually quite remarkable - you could usually count on a skipped issue every year or so), so I can wait the ten weeks.

Oh, and I'm not in Australia, Grant. I'm a kiwi. We like to think there is a difference.