Thursday, October 9, 2008

70. Tour of Books

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.

February 1999: Prog 1032 has a pretty lovely cover by Greg Staples announcing the new Anderson: Psi Division six-parter, even if it's interrupted by a Babylon 5 promotion with some postcards from that year's TV movie. Staples is not the artist for the new story; in fact, I don't believe that he's ever drawn Anderson other than on this cover. It is instead handled by Anderson's semi-regular artist Steve Sampson. It's not quite his swan song, as a one-shot called "Semper Vi" will appear in the spring, and then Anderson will take a lengthy break from the comic. I don't believe that Sampson has worked for 2000 AD since. (It's a little difficult to check, as Sampson does not have a Wikipedia page, although a fellow by the same name who used to coach the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer club does...)

Judge Anderson is, sadly, quite poorly represented in graphic novel form. In the 1980s, Titan did a decent enough job by the standards they'd set for themselves. 64-page collections were pretty common then, and the annual 12-parters that ran in the summers of 1985, 1986 and 1987 were well-suited to that format. But as her series began more sporadic appearances, with one-offs, three-parters or longer adventures, drawn by a variety of artists, the collected editions really fell behind. There was a one-off Dredd in 1988 called "Night of the Brainstem Man," by Alan Grant and Barry Kitson which did not feature Anderson but which served as a prologue to Anderson's 1989 storyline "Helios," which cries out for a reprint, as does "Leviathan's Farewell," a critical one-shot which appeared in the 1989 Sci-Fi Special and whose ramifications are felt in a number of subsequent Anderson adventures.

But as Hamlyn got the rights to 2000 AD material in the 1990s, they released some trades which, haphazardly, just collected work by a single artist, so there's a Kevin Walker Childhood's End book and an Arthur Ranson Satan book, but not a compilation of "Postcards from the Edge," the interesting, episodic adventure with six or seven different artists.

And sadly, Rebellion seems to be following suit. While their graphic novel line is pretty amazing overall, as I will mention in just a moment, their first Anderson collection, Shamballa, is another assortment of Ranson episodes. It's more comprehensive than Hamlyn's Satan was, but it skips so many episodes that it doesn't seem like it could possibly read well, although admittedly I have not picked up my copy. I confess to being annoyed just enough that when four 2000 AD books were in my shop's box last visit and I only had enough cash for three, Shamballa was runt enough to warrant staying behind. It sure looks pretty, at least.

On the other hand, Rebellion's other lines mostly get it emphatically right. I started reading the seventh Nikolai Dante book last week and it's tremendous fun from start to finish. Rebellion have collected all the episodes, in order, and periodically found room for a little supplemental word or two from the creators or their sketchbooks. Plus, of course, the books are printed on gorgeous paper with very nice matte glossy covers and look fantastic. The image here is from the "Tour of Duty" serial, reprinted in the second Dante collection, The Great Game. "Duty" is the fourth of five short serials, written, as always, by Robbie Morrison, in which Nikolai is teamed with one of his half-brothers and sisters on some mission for the Romanovs. Simon Fraser handles art chores on the stories with Andreas and Lulu and Charlie Adlard illustrates the stories with Nastasia and Konstantin. Andy Clarke drew the first one, featuring Viktor.

"Tour of Duty," the adventure with Konstantin, is quite interesting from a production standpoint, as it is actually three separate stories run as a three-part adventure. Actually, I suppose I could get amazingly trainspotterish and tell you that the second Konstantin story was intended as a two-parter - that's the original cliffhanger above - but it was decided to run both parts so that each story would appear as a single chapter, but I think that level of trainspotter detail just makes my readers' eyes roll, so perhaps I shouldn't. Oh, too late.

Anyway, apart from Anderson and Dante, the prog also includes the concluding episode of the Judge Dredd eight-parter "The Scorpion Dance" by John Wagner and John Burns, and the continuing Sinister Dexter epic "Eurocrash" by Dan Abnett and Simon Davis...

...about which, more next week.

Sinister Dexter Bullet Count: Speaking of whom, our heroes each take a couple of wounds in parts three and four of this story. They're both very minor and almost instantly recovered from, but that still makes eight confirmed hits on Finnigan and two on Ramone.

See you in seven days!

(Originally posted October 9, 2008 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

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