Prog 2015 is a love letter from 2000 AD to 2000 AD, and it is a beauty. Prog 2015 is the last issue of the year for the 2000 AD Sci-Fi comic anthology, and it contains one-hundred pages spanning nine stories (ten if you count the short comic on the first page). For the 2000 AD faithful, it also contains a one-hundred question quiz about unsettlingly specific characters and details from Progs throughout the years. The absolute best thing about Prog 2015 is that every single story in the book is either a one-shot or part one of a story to come, meaning that anybody can pick up this issue.
The story that is probably the toughest going in the anthology is “Dark Justice,” but that's hardly a criticism. Greg Staples is immensely talented and he makes every single sequence look like a fine art interpretation of an action movie. The only reason this story is difficult is because I think it requires the most background knowledge to enjoy; but again, that's not saying much. Once the wheels get turning, I bet this is going to be one hell of a story: the “Dark Judges” are really fucking cool.
This Prog also contains a new story that is gracing the pages of 2000 AD for the first time: The Order. Written by Kek-W, what first appears to be a fantasy story takes a quick turn towards pulp and then just dives right into "what-the-fuck" land. But I'm on board for several reasons. First, the pacing of the comic is great, always a good first sign for an episode that only gets to introduce an entire comic world in five pages. Second, the no-nonsense female protagonist who shows her brains and her brawn is a great reason to jump onto any title, as far as I'm concerned. The third reason is, of course, that artwork. Does it look a little old school? That's because it is. John Burns has been drawing comics for fifty years; you can almost smell the yellowed pages of his published portfolio when you look at his art, but it flows in a way that is just so smooth and modern. I'm looking forward to more of this one.
And how can I ignore the return of Ulysses Sweet? He first came back to the pages of the Progs in last year's end-of-the year soiree after being away for over twenty years. Originally created by Grant Morrison, you can guess the kind of character he is: he only meets the expectation of being completely ridiculous. This Ulysses Sweet story is so outrageous on every level that you will probably feel like you're missing something and have to catch up on years of backstory. But, I promise, it's just that ridiculous. Just let it happen. Let the laughter cut through your confusion.
Something that makes Prog 2015 special is that it fills out the Judge Dredd universe in a way that a lot of Progs can't do on account of the variety of stories they have to cram into an issue that is one-third as long. Low Life takes us to the world of undercover Judges like Dirty Frank. With killer art (as usual) by D'Israeli, it manages to shine just as bright as the first part of the “Dark Judge” story. Max Normal is anything but, with yet more killer art and a story of two old partners reminiscing, breaking and entering, and then rediscovering their pasts through their timeless love of comics.
My favorite story in Prog 2015 is the Judge Dredd story that closes out the issue, the one-shot "The Ghost of Christmas Presents." If you thought the issue was missing enough things relevant to Christmas, now you have no room left to complain. Imagine the age old tale of A Christmas Carol told through the eyes of a man who has lived his life as a professional criminal with decades of blood on his hands. That's a really neat idea, and it's executed to perfection.
Placing a story like this in the pages of Judge Dredd really added something special to the mix. A constant theme through the Dredd world is the fact that justice will always be served; one way, or another. But the justice that comes to fruition in this story is of a brand that even the Judges themselves cannot escape: the weight of our pasts. Surely there are some cold people out there who can spend their lives without ever having to shoulder the burden-- one way or another-- of the things they've done. But even in the calculated violence integral to life in the Mega City, the most battle-hardened criminal mind can still succumb to the ghosts of his past.
There aren't enough nice things I could say about Prog 2015, so I'm going to shut up. I'm not exaggerating when I say that if you like Sci-Fi or even just Judge Dredd that this is a must-buy. There is maybe one not-so-well-executed story in the bunch (The Visible Man), and it's still a treat to run your eyes over. It will be something like three months before you can jump onto the Progs for a fresh set of stories. Take the leap!
Writers: Various Artists: Various Publisher: 2000 AD Price: £4.50 (UK) *DIGITAL PRICE ISN’T UP YET* Release Date: 12/17/14