Thursday, August 6, 2009

106. Prog Packs

Welcome back! 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, about one issue an evening, and once each week for the foreseeable future, I'll see what I'm inspired to write.

Well, it's probably Friday for most of my readers in Europe by the time this gets posted, but hello and welcome back to Thrillpowered Thursday anyway. Your humble, newly-unemployed blogger has been a bit crazy-busy, what with a three-thousand mile road trip, shuffling kids from their vacation to summer camp and getting ready for school, cleaning the heck out of this house and, oh yeah, looking for a new job, but the Hipster Son and I have sat down to reread the last couple of comics that the House o' Tharg released in 2001 and figured I'd give you good people something to spend a couple of minutes looking at. So today's focus is "Prog 2002," the year-end edition.

The previous two year-end books contained far more surprises and one-offs than this one. Honestly, it's a huge comedown from those, and doesn't feel anywhere as special as its predecessors. There are two Dredd episodes. One of these is the third "Slick Dickens" story. The previous two established a formula where Dredd, acting incredibly out of character and assisted by some over-the-top narration, comes up against a super-assassin, and it's revealed at the end that everything we've just read was a hack writer's crummy bestseller and the real Dredd is not amused. There's nothing new about this latest addition; John Wagner seems to enjoy writing them for the exercise of playing with the breathless pulp fiction cliches. It's a little amusing, but it's hardly special enough for a year-end prog, really.

Elsewhere, there are double-part opening episodes for the brand new thrills Storming Heaven by Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving and Shakara by Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint, as well as a new run of Nikolai Dante by Morrison and Simon Fraser. Also starting this issue is Bad Company, which had been trailed with a prologue episode a year previously, by the original team of Peter Milligan, Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy. There's a one-off Sinister Dexter by Dan Abnett and Anthony Williams, and a complete twelve-page story called "Memento" written and drawn by Bryan Talbot, and the rest of it is pin-ups and filler material.

No wonder it feels slight; apart from the first lineup of the 2002 strips (Dredd, Dante, Bad Company and the two new thrills), all this comic gives us is an extra Dredd, a Sin Dex and a glorified Future Shock. Compare that to the previous two special progs, and you'll see what I mean.

Actually, I am doing "Memento" a disservice by selling it so short. It is certainly nice to see Talbot's work in 2000 AD after such a long absence - fourteen years since his last Nemesis the Warlock episode. It looks like he was not really prolific in comics in the 1990s, but he did show up in some Vertigo titles and had some deserved acclaim for the series The Tale of One Bad Rat. "Memento" is a dialogue-free story set in an ugly, cramped, underground future and the artwork is quite lovely.

It's interesting to speculate what might have been, had incoming editor Matt Smith found "Memento" to be more successful than he did. Obviously, 2000 AD's fans prefer to see recurring character thrills rather than one-offs, but it might have been neat to have seen an annual story like this, told by creators from outside the normal 2000 AD stable. Established writers and artists probably aren't interested in doing a five-page Future Shock, but something a little longer, like this, might have tempted a few names, and been a nice treat each December. An annual fifteen-page weird SF tale by Moebius or Makoto Yukimura or Zoran Janjetov or the woefully unsung Tim Eldred would certainly have been more interesting than the yearly comedy Sin Dex Christmas gag strip.

In other news, I wanted to follow up on the downbeat previous entry to this pulse-poundin' blog. I had been grumbling about the dimwits running Diamond Distribution, and countrywide complaints that fans' orders for 2000 AD were not being filled. Well, a couple of weeks ago, Diamond did finally ship the first of their polybagged batches of 2000 AD, containing issues 1638-1641. Unless my ears and sources have deceived me, Diamond seems to have shipped it out to every retailer that ordered it. I have not heard anyone report that they didn't get any. Let's hope this puts an end to the problems that have bewitched our ability to read the House of Tharg's releases for the past six months. The next polybagged set, containing the next five issues, should be on shelves in the next week or two.

I also wanted to mention that I found thrillpower in abundance on my recent honeymoon road trip up north. Plenty of shops order 2000 AD for the subscriber or two who asks for it, but you don't often find stores with a good selection of recent issues on the stands. So if you've been stymied by inability to receive your latest progs this year, I'd recommend you look up either Hub Comics or The Million Year Picnic, each in Boston, Massachusetts. I was extremely impressed by both stores and their wonderful staffs. MYP is just wonderful if you love small, busy, low-light bookstores like me, and Hub, which probably edges MYP just a touch with its more comfortable layout, has multiple copies of several recent Rebellion trades, so if you missed out on The VCs or the first Ace Trucking Company collection, drop 'em a line!

Next time, I'll look over the Rennie/Irving collaboration Storming Heaven and get ready for the forthcoming fourth series of Shakara with a short review of the recent graphic novel collection. See you in seven!

(Geez, this fella's been climbing quite a while, hasn't he?)

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