Monday, May 2, 2011

31 Days of Comics #2

2000ad Prog 2011
By the Galaxy’s Greatest Creators, minus one significant name

2000ad finishes every year with a big 100-page special, and it is always one of the highlights of the comic’s year.

It’s a great place to launch new series, or bring back favourite creators on favourite creations, or just tell a little one-off story that actually gets some room to breathe. In the past, it has seen Morrison and Yeowell return to Zenith and Dave Gibbons doing Rogue Trooper again.

In most cases, the best story in each edition is, unsurprisingly, a John Wagner Dredd, with the co-creator of the character consistently producing funny and thoughtful stories for each annual edition.

The Judge Dredd story is the best thing in Prog 2011, with Al Ewing and Paul Marshall producing the wonderful ‘The Chief Judge’s Speech’. (See Colin Smith for the usual insightful analysis of this terrific story.) And there is Clint Langley’s last Slaine story, the unexpected return of writer Gerry Finley-Day and some Alan Grant Psi-Judge Anderson, but Prog 2011 is also full of perfectly average stories, and the notable absence of Wagner.

This is the first of these annual issues not to feature something by Wagner, and his absence is notable. It is also the first time there hasn’t been a Nikolai Dante comic, and while the character is on his way back soon, he is also missed in this celebratory issue.

Instead, there are things like Kingdom and Shakara and Ampney Crucis Investigates… and Necrophim – all decent enough stories, but nothing truly classic. Kingdom is getting interesting as Gene The Hackman’s world is finally explained and there is always some fun in the grotesque aliens Henry Flint comes up with for Shakara, but Ampney Crucis doesn’t really have much of a hook (and Simon Davis’ art is as stilted as ever), while it’s hard to give a shit about Necorphim. A story about the political games in Hell shouldn’t be this dully serious, and the endless and tedious backstabbing and betrayals are a poor substitute for actual plot developments.

I still look forward to every new issue of 2000ad every week, but it’s going through one of those periods where I’m not that wild about anything. But it will come around again. It always does.

It’s just a shame that Prog 2011 is a little disappointing, and raises some concerns that a post-Wagner 2000ad will be far poorer than already expected. The writer shows little sign of actually giving up on the Dredd for good, but nothing lasts forever.

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