2000AD, the British anthology comic, announced that their most recent issue – last Wednesday’s prog 2814 – would be an easy jump-on point for anybody. Anyone can pick it up and get an idea of what 2000AD is all about, what the writing style is like, and how the stories work.
So, that came across like a bit of a challenge really.
With only an inch of haste, we gathered many of The Beat’s reviewers into Pentangle Formation and promptly all jumped on. Some of us have been reading 2000AD for years, some have jumped in and out – I myself only have a recent knowledge of it, having started sporadically picking up issues last year. The idea was that we could all jump on – so with that in mind, what did we all jump on to?
Hannah Means-Shannon: New to 2000AD
I’ve never read 2000AD proper before, though I have a couple collections that intrigued me, and many friends who have rooms full of progs. It’s an embarrassment of riches that does make it hard to find a jumping on point, and so, in my case, I kept putting it off. I’m happy with the contents page of Prog 1824 and I think it creates a sense of orientation for the reader. We’ve got Tharg announcing that he’s the editor, and also running through the included story titles and author/artist credits. Then the contents column breaks the stories down a little by providing the classic recap on characters and the original creators of those tales. I noticed that each synopsis there actually gives the time and location setting for the stories, too, all very helpful.
JUDGE DREDD: “Cypher” wasn’t my first experience of Dredd since I’ve been reading the newish IDW series, but would do well to give the reader a sense of who Dredd is in a general sense, as well as the chaotic world that he moves in. The artwork is strong and as well as packing in plenty of dynamic action, we get some apocalyptic long-shots to build atmosphere. I also found the colors very appealing, sharp and rich.
DANDRIDGE: “The Copper Conspiracy” didn’t talk down to the newbie reader, but jumped right into the premises of its universe while dropping instructional detail about Dandridge’s role a as a ghost, the focus on magical objects, and the globe-trotting potential of the storyline. I particularly liked the over-the-top characterization of Dandridge, making him recognizable in any story context.
THARG’S 3RILLERS: “Survival Geeks” sold me on the artwork, but didn’t appeal to me right away, almost certainly because it deals in so many Geek stereotypes. It traced a fine line between funny and predictable, until the entire household of Geeks was introduced, then I found it a little more appealing. I liked the premise that the world could seem “normal” but be vastly altered in another dimension and the way that reality moved quickly into the narrative.
The real shell-shock admiration I felt for Prog 1824 was STICKLEBACK: “Number of the Beast”. Now I get what people were hinting at about his return. The artwork is mind-blowing. I would buy the prog just for this story (which explains why he’s on the cover too). This narrative by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli displayed a lot of the strengths of the other stories but went further. It loaded on the expository detail, crammed in the intricate detail in the panels, and also suggested continuity with past stories that might lead me back to other progs to find out more. The artwork on the library scene alone made me pause for several minutes. I like the moral ambiguity of the Stickleback character and the as of yet unanswered questions posed.
So, how does it all work as a jumping on point? I was fine: no problems understanding the characters or the stories, but I might have found it a little more of a collision of worlds if I hadn’t read the contents page first. Instead, I found myself asking, “How would long-term readers view this? Too obvious and basic for them?” I don’t think so – there’s enough commitment to quality in the storytelling and the engaging artwork to make it worth their while, too.
Todd Allen: 2000AD Veteran
While it may be a jumping on point, 2000AD took another page from Marvel Now and started out a few stories where I wasn’t entirely sure where they were starting from. (Like not having read Avengers Vs. X-Men was a bit of a stumbling point for several of the relaunches.)
Judge Dredd is dealing with political fallout from a previous storyline. Stickleback is resurrected, but I’m a little fuzzy on who/what he’s supposed to be past some sort of boss crook in a supernaturally influenced world. Dandridge did a little better job of setting it up in an interesting way. Survival Geeks starts from the beginning, though.
I thought Dandridge was the pick of the of litter with a clear, whimsical attitude to the strip. I suspect I’d like Stickleback more after a few more pages, once I get a better feel for what it’s supposed to be. Dredd is Dredd, and his own genre. I like Survival Geeks more than I usually like the Tharg’s 3hrillers/Time Twisters/Future Shock material, but that’s not what I usually look to 2000 AD for.
Interestingly, Judge Dredd was the most serious strip this time out, with a low-satire installment, though Dredd will hit all over the spectrum from story to story.
Henry Barajas: New to 2000AD
The story that sold book for me is Dandridge. I really enjoyed the set up and introduction to the outlandish British super spy. My only complaint is that the story wasn’t long enough. The beginning was long winded and I could care less about the premise, but it wasn’t until the last two pages of the story where I felt engaged. With witty dialogue, Alec Worley told a good joke and Warren Pleece’s smooth panel to panel transitions executed the punch line. Dandridge’s a jolly good time, and made good enough bait to hook me for the next issue.
I could have done without DREDD. This story is so predictable.
THARG’S 3RILLERS focused too much on the cultural references and lacked any kind of depth.
Laura Sneddon: Vintage 2000 AD Fan
As a trade reader, I’m familiar with the Dredd strips of old and some other titles including The Ballad of Halo Jones and Rogue Trooper and so forth. What I hadn’t previously tried was a weekly edition of the prog (save for my treasured collection of Zenith issues!), so the idea of a good jumping on issue was really appealing to me.
The cover caught my immediate attention as I recognised the work of the wonderful D’Israeli (SVK), but resisted diving straight for that story. Despite being a huge Dredd fan, his story didn’t quite grip me as an opening gambit, though the character of Pax does have me intrigued. Dandridge too was not to my style, though I sense it will be popular. Such is the problem with anthology titles, alas.
Survival Geeks on the other hand won me over immediately, with really relatable characters and genuine freshness. Of course I almost always enjoy Gordon Rennie’s work, and it was a thrill to see a story co-written by Emma Beeby. This strip had an almost Doctor Who type vibe and I’m keen to see where it goes!
My clear winner though was the wonderful Stickleback, and I’ve already ordered the tpbs I need to catch up (not necessary to follow the story as presented here, but required for my brain to purr). Utterly beautiful, this has a classy European vibe and a gloriously unsettling dark edge.
Zainab Akhtar: Trade Reader
2000AD have been advertising this issue as a jumping on point for new readers, and as someone who’s never previously read an issue, I would both heartily agree and recommend doing so. My previous sojourns with the prog have all been in trade format: Stickleback, Mazeworld, Cradlegrave, Leviathan to name a few favourites, so I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was very impressed. I’m wary of anthology formats, but happily, it works fine here, with four stories of about 6 pages each. That means not having to divide my attention between too many strips, and the length is enough to keep you engaged and interested whilst giving an ample chunk of story.
What’s more, all four stories work, too. I’m not a Judge Dredd fan, but we get a rather nifty chase scene and that particular world is quickly established for the unfamiliar. It helps that it’s a pretty straightforward opening with no intricacies. Inaki Miranda’s art and Eva de la Cruz’s art and colours provide the strongest art in the book. Dandridge is entertaining enough, but I’m not really feeling the flamboyant supernatural spy formula. Tharg’s 3rillers on the other hand, I loved: it’s a lot of fun, with some nicely drawn dinosaurs and a bit of inter dimensions/time travelling thrown in, which pretty much guarantees my interest.
But let’s be honest: what I was most excited about here was the return of Stickleback (pick up the trade if you can- it’s excellent). I really like that Edginton’s thrown us for a bit of a loop: I was expecting some quickly explained death escape and back to business, but Stickleback the man? thing? has changed, as has the world around him… It may be a little murky to the new reader, but it’s still accessible, I would think.
A final verdict then: very, very impressed with the issue, and it’s one I’ll be picking up in print and following, for the next installment at the least.
Steve Morris: Knows who Judge Dredd is
It’s a good issue to jump on with,although you are jumping into established characters rather than new pitches from 2000AD. The Dredd strip here is technically exploring the fallout of a previous storyline, for example, and the ramifications it had on Dredd’s world. Out of the four stories, three of them require a little explanation for new readers. The creative teams all handle this easily, though, with Dandridge especially well set up – keeping the main character absent until the end means he can be extravagantly hyped before new readers actually gets to see him, but also acts as a great joke for fans already aware of the character. With each strip only moving five/six pages at a time, Dandridge does a rather fantastic job of using those pages well.
Dredd is a little less efficient, starting off with what seemed like a promising storyline which is promptly interrupted by an action sequence. When firing on all fronts, Dredd is usually able to mix storytelling, satire and action together into a big pulpy stew – here we get an action sequence, which is fun if not a little simple.
Similarly, the first part of Survival Geeks struggled a little with the satire and humour. While the story itself is fun enough, the characters all seem to have wandered in off the set of The Big Bang Theory, with the strip prizing the idea that comic/sci-fi fans can’t function in normal conversation with normal people. The art was really nice though, and I did enjoy some of the one-liners.
Stickleback was perhaps my favourite of the strips, though, nipping a old-fashioned tone with startling artwork and a main character who walks and talks like a Noel Fielding creation. It’s silly and well staged, and I enjoyed it a lot. I’m already onboard for 2000AD, but this issue struck me as a fairly decent launching point for new readers to come on in and try things out.
The Beat Herself
John Constantine doesn’t have quadriceps.