The Prog Christmas issue is here! One of my absolute favorite comics ever, The Order, returns to begin its newest run, as Bad Company comes to a close and Williams and Flint return to put in a holiday Dredd one-shot that will make you emotional if you have a soul. Page one and WHAM! Henry Flint is back drawing Rob Williams' take on Dredd in this holiday one-shot titled "Melt." "Melt" occurs in the aftermath of the Enceladus crisis where hundreds of ice monsters (formerly prisoners exported to Enceladus) descended on the Meg, bringing a torrent of sentient ice/snow-stuff with them. Some of the kids took to making snowmen out of the special living ice from Enceladus and... well, you can see where this is going. Williams reconstructs a classic heartfelt children's holiday story with an unmistakably Dredd-y twist. Flint's art is as stellar as ever, and a fitting mix of fire and ice to match the title of the story. I'm surprised I didn't see the basis for this story coming, given how well it fits with the outstanding "Enceladus: New Life" storyline from this creative team earlier this year.
Simon Davis, the frenetic painter of, most recently, Slaine, puts in work on a Sinister Dexter one-shot. Folks who have been reading the Progs longer than me will be more familiar with Davis' art on this title, but either way (to my knowledge) he hasn't worked on Sinister Dexter in several years. Since my first exposure to Davis' work was Slaine, it was a unique experience seeing his style of jagged, frantic shapes coming together in a beautiful collage of persons and their environment in a context that was more modern and human. Slaine is mythic and beastial, where Sinister Dexter is cold, calculated, filled with humor, and takes place in a modern world far away from the natural landscapes of Slaine. Davis' imbues this title with the same kind of viscerality that is inherent in Slaine, and his blood effects are some of the best you'll see in the art form.
The aforementioned titles were both one-shots, joined by Absalom for one-off special stories that sort of squared the decks of the current status of each series. Bad Company had its closing chapter this issue, and like the rest of the series, it was a lively, halftone filled, vintage romp through this chapter in the Company's story. Despite being one of the muscliest, gun-blastiest, bloodiest titles in the Progs, this run on Bad Company ends with a quote from Aeschylus. This was, after all, a tale about war beyond the combat itself. "First Casualties" was always just as concerned with a much uglier part of war than the bloodshed itself: the lies we tell that lead us down that bloody path.
With the death this year of original Bad Company artist Brett Ewins, the other big theme of this run on the title was its role as a tribute to the late Ewins. Dayglo's art is at all times reminiscent of the kind of stuff you would have seen from Ewins on this title in the late 80's and beyond, while still imbued with a contemporary edge that I've talked about previously. The Progs certainly have enough going on that the title won't leave a gaping hole, but that doesn't mean I won't miss this wonderful tribute to the late Ewins.
Speaking of what the Prog has going on moving into the new year, there are new stories beginning for Kingdom, ABC Warriors, The Order, and Strontium Dog. Of the four, I am familiar with all but ABC Warriors, with Strontium Dog being at title to which I look forward, and The Order being one of my absolute darlings.
When I opened to the first pages of ABC Warriors, I wasn't immediately sold. I sort of recoiled a bit, actually: heavy use of digital effects bugs me sometimes, especially if it's not balanced out by some more detailed, classically designed elements. Maybe that's harsh but more than anything the lighting always bugs me and I think it prevents some artists from doing better work or spending time on the right things for sequential art. Anyway, beyond the initial spread, the first of the Ro-Busters shows up and most of my worries are gone. Artist Clint Langley draws a killer fucking robot, and as long as I get to look at these machines for the rest of this comic's run, I'll get over my weird phobia of digital environments. Mills in the meantime provides the exact kind of morbid, sort of horrifyingly violent humor that I expect from him.
... CAN I TALK ABOUT THE ORDER NOW?!
When The Order premiered earlier this year, I went bonkers for it. Robots comprised of teutonic suits of armor? Check. Awesome female protagonist? Check. Well-composed and beautifully painted artwork that fits the medieval setting and adds further contrast to the juxtaposition of the setting and the anachronistic technologies of the Order? Check. The title contains an annoyingly original story with art that has so much personality that it jumps off the pages even in an anthology with this much great artwork.
So what did I think about the new stuff? Time will tell. I have all the same nice things to say about the artwork, but the story is easing back into its rhythm in order to provide some backstory to the mysterious Order. Much of what made the first run on the story great was the characters, so jumping to another time and location means writer Kek-W has to built these characters up and/or connect some dots to get me back on board.
The Christmas special also contains a special Future Shock which I'll let you enjoy for yourselves. Make sure you have your copy of Prog 371 handy so you understand the reference!
Things look promising for the new year. Not sure what Kingdom is up to just yet, but Strontium Dog is picking up more-or-less where it's last run left off. The prospect of getting to see Ezquerra draw "The Rock" again is exciting.
If you're looking for a Prog to pick up, with art from Flint, Burns, Davis, Dayglo, Ezquerra and more, this is a great place both to jump onto new runs of old titles, and discover some killer artists doing great work in a storytelling pressure cooker.
2000 AD – Prog 1961 Writers: Various Artists: Various Publisher: Rebellion Price: £4.99 Release Date: 12/16/15 Format: Weekly; Print/Digital