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Sunday July 12, 2009 4:16 am

BRITISH COMICS: 2000AD Prog 1643: Judge Dredd & Zombies!

1643
Whenever I’m in London, which is where I am this week, I like to check out the local comic books. And I don’t mean the repackaged American comics that Marvel does, or the magazine-sized comic books like Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation that feature quizzes, puzzles and games inbetween a repackaged American comic. (Although the UK Star Trek comic does a very nice job of repackaging IDW’s Star Trek comic with an assortment of photos and features on the new movie.) I’m talking about the stuff the Brits do for themselves, specifically for the newsstand. Stuff like…Judge Dredd.

I’ve been a casual Judge Dredd fan for years. Back in the 90s, I worked my way through the collections from Titan Books with all that great Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon artwork, I read the DC Comics mini-series and I saw the godawful Judge Dredd movie with Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider. So I have some familiarity with the Judge and his colleagues, which led me to pick up 2000 AD, Prog 1643 from July 8, 2009.

The cover is a nice zombie-baby horror from Leigh Gallagher, tying into this issue’s final story.

The lead story is a 6-page full color Judge Dredd adventure by Ian Edginton and Dave Taylor. It’s the fourth and final part of the High Spirits storyline involving spree-killings caused by a mysterious drug. It’s a tidy little wrap-up and it makes me wish I’d read the previous three installments and 18 pages. Edginton is one of my favorite writers to have emerged from the late 80s-early 90s comic book scene. Taylor’s art is suitably grim for Dredd, but I’d like to see him push through a big action scene in his next story.

Bob Byrne’s Twisted Tales is another 6-page story, this time in black and white. A drilling operation gets more than it bargained for when they accidentally harm one of the locals. It’s a wordless tale, and while Byrne’s artwork is rough around the edges, he has great energy.

The third story is Cradlegrave by John Smith and Edmund Bagwell. Unfortunately, it’s part 11 and I’m a bit lost about the plot. There’s a lot of creepy stuff going on and it’s intriguing, but I could’ve used a bit more summary somewhere along the way since I’m picking up the story on what is its 60th page. The art by Bagwell is excellent and it’s aided by the best coloring on any story in the issue.

The fourth story is Sinister Dexter by Dan Abnett and Anthony Williams & Rob Taylor. This is the second installment, and it’s a rollicking tale of two Guy Ritchie-style hitmen, Sinister and Dexter. It contains one of the greatest slices of dialogue I’ve read in a comic in a long time: “We wanna scare ‘im so bad, his sphincter starts winking like a cyclops in a sandstorm.” Well done, Abnett!

The final story is Defoe, about the leader of a team of elite zombie hunters in the year 1669. It’s written by Pat Mills, an old hand from Judge Dredd and other Britcomics, and brilliantly illustrated by Leigh Gallagher whose work here is perfect for its black-and-white presentation. This is a non-stop zombie action thrillfest involving magic, the clergy, zombie babies, axes, swords, flintlock pistols and a flying man with a suit of armor. Great stuff, for which I can only say: Collect this one as early as possible please.

2000 AD is not really known for bringing the funny, but there was one thing in this issue that made me laugh. On the inside front cover, there’s a four-panel Droid Life cartoon by Cat Sullivan that might be called “Robot v. Vending Machine.”

If I lived in the UK, I’d buy 2000AD on a regular basis. It comes out every Wednesday and there’s enough stuff in each issue to make it worthwhile. The exchange rate makes the £1.90 cover price around $3.60US, more or less, which is cheaper than the average Marvel and DC comic these days. Yeah, you can pick these up in the US, too, but it’s more fun to buy them when you’re visiting the UK and antsy for a taste of the British comics industry.

[Artwork: Cover to 2000AD 1643]

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