Thursday, August 14, 2008

62. Ezquerra and Fraser

Thrillpowered Thursday is a weekly look at the world of 2000 AD. I'm rereading my collection of 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, one issue an evening, and once each week for the foreseeable future, I'll see what I'm inspired to write.

It's sort of male nature, I suppose, to create best-of lists, or arrange things into definitive orders of favorites. Women tend not to do this. I suppose Pat Mills might consider this as more evidence for the male=order, female=chaos theory. But oddly, I never really thought about who my favorite artists were until about three years ago. As you do, I was filling out a profile on a singles site and was asked who my three favorite artists were. Well, with all due respect to people who are hung in galleries, my mind was on comics and went straight to 2000 AD, and there wasn't any hesitation. My three favorite artists are Carlos Ezquerra, Simon Fraser and Ian Gibson.

I mention this because prog 1101, published in June 1998, is a relaunch issue, and this time around there are double-length opening episodes of Judge Dredd with art by Ezquerra and Nikolai Dante with art by Fraser. They share space with the opening episode of Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson's Mazeworld, and so 80% of this prog is illustrated by two of my three favorite comic artists. How wonderful! And Ranson's no slouch himself, so this is a great looking comic.

"Beyond the Call of Duty" returns Dredd to the northern sectors of the city where he'd previously worked as a sector chief in the remarkable 30-part epic "The Pit." This also, if I remember correctly, resumes some of the subplots about the organized crime world of the Frendz and their leader, Nero Narcos. It also introduces SJS Judge Roffman, a security-obsessed paranoid man who remains an important supporting character to this day. Most critically, as we'll see in a future episode, it brings back the little rich girl-turned-judge, Galen DeMarco, as Dredd's sector chief for the storyline. Wagner keeps the story working through a number of unexpected twists and turns as what looks like routine street judging uncovers something really big in the sector.

"The Great Game," meanwhile, is one of the high points of Nikolai Dante's earlier days. It's a fantastic, epic tale of espionage, high stakes, family secrets and lost love. When it wraps up in prog 1110, nothing will be the same in the series again. Of course, Dante is such a wildly inventive, and re-inventive, series that the status quo gets knocked on its head every three or four years.

Both of these wonderful stories have been reissued in collections. The Dredd story is currently out of print, but it was compiled by Hamlyn in their graphic novel The Scorpion Dance. You can read "The Great Game" in the second Nikolai Dante trade, also called The Great Game. This was released by DC/Rebellion in 2005, and is available from Amazon.

Next time, Slaine is back and so are Sinister Dexter, in a story I judged too intense for the Hipster Daughter to read...

(Originally posted August 14 '08 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

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