Thursday, June 09, 2005

radical change of direction

Now that a future without DOCTOR WHO is on the horizon, I've been thinking. What weekly event in my life can I use as impetus to blog regularly? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Uh, I mean 2000AD. So here's the first weekly report on a new issue of "Tooth", prog 1442. It's only got three strips this week, but the good news is they're all crackers.

First off, nice iconic cover of SLAINE, by series regular Clint Langley. His work relies heavily on photo-shopped models, and I must admit I've never really warmed to it, but this image I really like. The peatland background, the overcast sky, the double-page spread overlooking some native forests... it's hard to be Irish, rural, and not be slightly moved by it. If long-time Slaine creator Pat Mills has any sense (tough call), this'll be the last ever episode of this series: Mills has now taken the character through the entire cycle of Irish mythology. That said, he does expertly leave a couple of hints and loose threads to work with. And lets face it, the guy is 2000AD royalty. If he wants to come back to the character, he'll always be welcome.

JUDGE DREDD is simply the most consistent strip in the English language in constant publication today. Nothing in the U.S can compete. CEREBUS went right down the tubes during its last few years. Marvel's X-MEN has been pretty much a dead parrot since Byrne left in the early '80s, despite it's constant high sales. LOVE AND ROCKETS is a comparitive newcomer, and even then Los Bros Hernandez gave up on it for the guts of a decade. Nope, Joe Dredd is alone on this one. He started good in 1976, got great within a couple of years, and has been pretty much the flagship of British comic-book artistry ever since. I'm enjoying the current storyline "Blood Trails", mainly due to the art of Andrew Currie: he's the demonic love child of Steve Pugh and Kyle Baker. What little fame Currie has in the wider (i.e. American) comics fame is just as the inker of the first view issues of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's sales juggernaut The Ultimates. He's a pretty great artist in his own right. He's got tremendous chops at caricature: half the fun with a strip by Currie is spotting who's been inserted into the storyline. Previously, it's been Morgan Freeman and Steve Buscemi (among others), and this time it's George Clooney. For a storyline using characters from the ongoing "Dredd mythos" (his clone Rico, his niece Vienna), this isn't written by the great John Wagner, but by Gordon Rennie. Rennie, as author of many of this decade's high points in 2000AD (Glimmer Rats, Missionary Man, Necronauts, Rain Dogs, Storming Heaven, Caballistics Inc, etc), is a safe pair of hands. Gotta admit, it's a constant sorce of bemusement that DC keep snapping up lesser 2000AD writers and overlook Rennie. Maybe he's a real pain-in-the-ass drunk at conventions, or something. But the cat can write.

Finally, SHAKARA by Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint. There's been some (fair) criticism of this strip that it's been a tribute band cover version of the early NEMESIS strips by Pat Mills and Kev O'Neill. With the second volume, Morrison is starting to flesh out the universe and backstory of Shakara more, so it's starting to seem less like a re-heated TERROR TUBE. What really saves this feature is the work of Flint. One part Carlos Ezquerra to one part Mike McMahon, he's got "classic 2000AD artist" written through him like a stick of rock.