Once upon a time, 2000 AD could have saved the comic book industry—or at least the ideas behind the series could have. A British anthology comic book series that, in retrospect, almost looked like the UK version of a Weekly Shonen Jump where every week would be a collection of four-to-five different serialized comic stories done by various writers and artists. This was a series that gave way to characters like Judge Dredd and, owing to its punk zine scene roots, told some of the best hard-hitting science fiction and satire of the 1980's.
But now that it's 2016 and 2000 AD is still publishing comics, the format and style doesn’t hold up as sharply as it once did.
Most of this issue’s problems come from the classic 2000 AD format. The series publishes in a slightly-larger-than-single-issue length of 32 pages—meaning each of the five stories in every issue has to tell its chunk of a serialized story in about five-to-six pages.
The restriction of this format has paved the way for some incredibly inventive methods of storytelling but here; most of the stories feel chopped up and squeezed in without a second thought towards if they make for an interesting read on their own.
Judge Dredd is investigating a crime with a suspect who might now look like a woman and, despite this being part three of the current story, I can’t tell if there’s a lick of satire or irony in the story they’re telling. The other stories here that don’t hit the mark have some interesting ideas going for them: an intergalactic version of the Cold War that still takes place in the 1960's or a story about a member of a salvage space ship forced to murder his own crew after being experimented on by aliens.
They’re cool and visually interesting science fiction stories but reading them here felt like picking up a random newspaper to read the Mark Trail strip. There’s a story happening here but it feels too cut up to get anything more than a sense of it.
The two stand-out stories in 2000 AD Prog 1993 are “The Candidate” and “Mindmine.” “The Candidate” follows one of the psychic cops of the Judge Dredd world as she attempts to prevent the assassination of a politician. Politicians in the Judge Dredd universe don’t have particularly long life spans and it is up to Anderson to pick the assassin out of a crowd who all want this politician dead. The story’s tense and sends a strong sense of just what kind of wall this psi-cop is up against. There are moments of shock and the artists here even manage to end the story on a shocking twist all within the five page restriction.
“Mindmine” stands out with its almost Looney Toons style art about the story of an alien civilization as a soldier has to defuse a psychic mine implanted in the consciousness of a random citizen. It's a story that reminds the reader just how weird and jarring 2000 AD is willing to go as the shocked civilian relives the memory of his son’s birthday party as an explosives unit tries to disarm the bomb.
While these stories stand out, they stand out as reminders of the weird political legacy 2000 AD has always had and especially how they managed to convey satisfying and varied experiences within five pages of content. This current book can’t shake the feeling of having been made by a group of people who were once edgy in the 80's but now are just old and the types of stories being told are showing their rust.
The comic anthology willing to push the boundaries of what types of stories are being told still feels like a necessary and exciting prospect. Unfortunately, however, that anthology will more likely come from the legacy left behind by 2000 AD comics rather than 2000 AD itself.
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