Thursday, August 20, 2009

108. A Night 2 Remember

I think we've reached a little landmark, of sorts. Shortly before I decided to follow in Paul's footsteps and start a 2000 AD readin' blog, I did a LiveJournal post celebrating the comic's 30th anniversary. This served as the "pilot" for the blog that you're reading today. Well, the reread has now brought us to prog 1280, the 25th anniversary, which was published in February 2002. It has this nice, funny cover by Kevin Walker and a lineup of just three stories.

First is a double-length Judge Dredd episode by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. It's called "Leaving Rowdy" and sees Dredd passing the torch, and his old apartment in Rowdy Yates Conapt, to his clone-brother Rico. It's a quiet and reflective anniversary moment, even though it ends in a hail of gunfire, as these things do. It's a really terrific story, showing that Dredd still has twinges of guilt about the death of Judge Lopez some twenty years previously, in the "Judge Child" epic. Even though Rico had been introduced already, to my mind, this story really seems to establish the tone and the feel of the many interlocking stories and subplots about Dredd and his "family" that would come over the next five years.

Bringing up the rear this issue is Nikolai Dante by Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser. This episode, part one of a storyline called "The Romanov Job," is pretty close to a one-off. It allows new readers a quick introduction to Nikolai, his current partner-in-crime the Countessa, and his current status as the most wanted man in the Empire. It's really great, and I'll be revisiting "The Romanov Job" in a couple of weeks.

These two stories are the best things in the comic, but it's what's between them that bears a little investigation. It's "A Night 2 Remember," the 25th anniversary "story."

The loose plot of the story, if it can even be called that, is that Tharg, his creator droids, and as many characters as can be drawn, have all gathered at London's fashionable "Ministry of Sound" nightclub for a great big party with a concert by the British techno-metal band Pitchshifter. This mirrored the real-world anniversary bash held at the club that same week. Each of the story's ten pages is handled by a different writer-artist team, and so you just have to take it on faith that there's a plot there at all. Still, the whole indulgent, smug affair is nevertheless incredibly fun, even as it teeters from nostalgic to self-reverential and all the way over to downright mean-spirited.

It starts out with Pat Mills' return to the comic, after stepping away following his disagreements with the former editor. Here, he stacks the deck in his favor by coming aboard with artist Kevin O'Neill and special guest star Marshal Law, who makes his first and thus-far only 2000 AD appearance here, beating the hell out of original 2000 AD star MACH One. The superhero-hunting Marshal has a few words with Judge Dredd before setting his sights on Zenith. Presumably, Law and Zenith settle their differences off-panel, because Zenith and his agent Eddie later have a page by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell where they contemplate their relevance in the current market, and Eddie considers taking on the dragon from Chronos Carnival as a new client.

Elsewhere, John Tomlinson and Kev Walker detail an incident in the gents' between Tor Cyan and the Balls Brothers, Mike Carey and Anthony Williams have Tharg mediate a misunderstanding between Waldo "D.R." Dobbs and Carver Hale, Robbie Morrison and Ian Gibson send Nikolai Dante on the dance floor with Halo Jones, Alan Grant and Trevor Hairsine give Hoagy from Robo-Hunter a book on "how to pick up babes" and watch him try it out on Feek the Freak while the Stix Brothers let the Helltrekkers know that they're not welcome at the party.

Meanwhile, Dan Abnett and Simon Davis have Sinister and Dexter deal with Torquemada and a very drunk Judge Death and consider Durham Red's assets (this page was my son's favorite), and Andy Diggle and Jock dispatch Anderson and Dredd - at least we think it's Dredd - to chase Pitchshifter off the stage, and make a point about editorial staff being commissioned to write their own characters.

That brings me to the most infamous pages of "A Night 2 Remember." Just as prog 500's "Tharg's Head Revisited" featured a page or two that sailed really close to the wind, Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving really raised some eyebrows with a page in which Tharg and Mek-Quake send a number of unloved fictional characters into a supernova, and then toss a couple of unloved creator droids into Mek-Quake's grinders. It's delightfully mean-spirited, and really, you can't say that the author of "The Golden Fox Rebellion" didn't have it coming.

But the one that everybody loves and remembers - and spoiling the jokes with scans would neither do them justice or be fair to you - is Garth Ennis's closing page, beautifully drawn by Dave Gibbons. In it, Tharg starts to take the opportunity to white out certain characters from 2000 AD's history in the 1970s that he's embarrassed by, only to have Ro-Jaws gleefully remind him that Tharg has a lot more to be humiliated about, a lot more recently. There are pointed digs at artists who can't meet deadlines, and writers who are all "twelve years old."

Ennis, who has always expressed public dissatisfaction with his work on the comic, skewers the heck out of himself - the Ennis creator droid rolls in and is shown to be a teeny little tractor about the size of your foot with a pint of Guinness atop it. Neither John Smith nor Mark Millar escape intact, and frankly, I've not been able to see Millar's name in print for the last seven years without hearing his little droid's deeply unflattering dialogue from this page. In the end, Tharg kicks the early 1990s to Mek-Quake and tells Bill Savage that all is forgiven, unwittingly setting the stage for Savage's return to the comic in a couple of year's time.

It's the sort of wild affair which can't happen very often, but reading it with a good knowledge of the comic's history and a playful love for its characters is a pretty darn satisfying little read. It's not very likely to be reprinted, so keep an eye out at eBay and your local thrill-merchant for a copy of this prog. Although, having said that, the forthcoming Marshal Law omnibus collection from Top Shelf will be incomplete without this one page, so hopefully Rebellion will let 'em do it. Bookmark my Reprint This! blog and I'll let you know.

Next time, Alan Barnes takes over editorial duties at the Megazine, David Bishop begins the Thrill-Power Overload feature, and the ABC Warriors return to your bookshelf, so I have a short review of the recent graphic novel collection. See you in seven!


Drhoz said...

here ya go :)

David page said...

me and gwant klik....