Simply put, not enough of you abroad know the glory of 2000 AD and it’s time to change that. Thankfully, this Best of 2000 AD is just the tool for the job.
(Cover by Erica Henderson)
Described as the ultimate 2000 AD mix-tape, these volumes of cuts from both modern and classic 2000 AD are, by all accounts, proving very successful in getting the word out, something we/I at Comicon have been trying to do for many years. Each volume comes at you bookended with a couple of Dredds, one modern, one gem from the vault, then a modern classic either in part or in full, a perfect pallette-cleansing one-page DR & Quinch, and finally a complete graphic novel-length story. All in all, something rather special.
Personally, when I first saw the line-up for it, I figured I’d be spending most of my time banging on about Ian Edginton and D’Israeli‘s epic seafaring mystery Leviathan (and I will) but what surprised me was just how much the other, perhaps lesser-known (at least by me) stuff grabbed me – and most definitely will be grabbing you.
Now, I’ve covered it already as a preview, so go there for more images and full pages. Here, I’m going to zoom into just three of the five strips.
Now, that’s not to say that the endpiece one-page DR & Quinch by Alan Davies, Jamie Delano, and Mark Farmer isn’t great. Of course it’s bloody great. DR & Quinch is always great when it has an Alan in the credits. But obviously it’s just a one-page end to the whole book.
Likewise, the opening Judge Dredd: Ghosts by Michael Carroll and Mark Sexton is such a worthy opener. Originally published in 2016 (Progs 1963 to 1968), it showcases just perfectly how great the modern-day group of Dredd writers and artists are. The story of children being taken from under the noses of the Justice Department and trained up to be a secret army of ghosts, inserted as sleeper agents in the ranks of the Judges, is a really strong Dredd, full of conspiracy paranoia, great action, and one that captures the sheer futility of what Dredd’s doing, ending with a perfectly downbeat ending.
However, I don’t think anyone involved with Ghosts will mind too much if I point out that they’re on a hiding to nothing compared to the sheer majesty of the other Dredd strip in here, the absolute quiet classic that is The Graveyard Shift.
(Page 1 of The Graveyard Shift and Ron Smith showing us all how it’s done)
Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant (as TB Grover), and drawn by Ron Smith, surely one of the most underrated of Dredd artists, or if not underrated then certainly overlooked amongst the legends of Bolland, McMahon, Ezquerra et. al., The Graveyard Shift‘s plot is simple as simple can be. It’s just following Dredd on a normal night shift in the city.
That’s it. Nothing more than that. There’s no mega-epic here, no nasty villain, no Apocalypse War, No rogue Judge, nothing more than one night’s work for Dredd. And it’s one of the greatest Dredds there’s ever been.
Just seven parts long, featuring in 1983’s Progs 335-341, The Graveyard Shift is simply a masterclass in doing it right. Wagner and Grant were bedded in on Dredd at this point and doing just such amazing work. We’d just come out of the brilliance of Block Mania and The Apocalypse War, but this was something totally different, a dialled-back story that just tracked Dredd through the night. The everyday, or every night, events of the Judges’ standard patrols had never been covered like this before, not in the minute detail you find here. It might begin slowly but it ends up in full-scale Block War.
Throughout it all there’s just an overwhelming intensity on the pages, the sense of the Judges doing this night after night, barely containing the criminality of MC-1, fighting that losing battle but continuing nonetheless.
(More from Judge Dredd: The Graveyard Shift)
And it’s all that that makes The Graveyard Shift an exercise in quiet genius.
Well, that and the art of Ron Smith. He’s an artist rarely mentioned when fans are asked to name the best 2000 AD artists. Like I said already, his name will usually follow the likes of Bolland, McMahon et. al. But from that very first page of that overlaid image of Dredd parked up in the watching bay with the blocks of the city in the background, each of them with their own Judges watching and waiting for the call to respond that marks the start of a long night, Smith fills in page after page with stunning MC-1 details. Because of the nature of the storytelling this was one that required more street scenes and more background work than a usual Dredd strip, and it was something Smith absolutely nailed. It’s page after page of spectacular artwork through each and every chapter of this one.
Sure, there are more epic Dredds that always dominate the best of lists, but there’s just something perfect about The Graveyard List and the way it documents the hour-by-hour grind of a city and its Judges struggling to maintain law and order. Its extraordinariness comes from the ordinary, where we, and Dredd, get to experience the reality of The Graveyard Shift, one perp at a time.
(Just look at that cityscape… brilliance)
If The Graveyard Shift is an example of a truly classic understated masterpiece of Judge Dredd, Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving’s Storming Heaven is one of those hidden gems of 2000 AD, overlooked and forgotten, a problem child no doubt yet absolutely worthy of greater appreciation.
It’s pure psychedelic superhero stuff, Sgt. Pepper’s with even funnier costumes and trippy superpowers, all done at breakneck speed and with Irving pushing the boundaries of his artwork in every panel.
From 2001/2, the story runs to just 48 pages, part of an editorial mandate of the time that everything had to be fast, fast, fast, running double speed in half the page count. And you can certainly see that all over Storming Heaven. That the story of psychedelic pioneer Professor Adam Laar and his rebirth as Dr Trips, instigator of a new world of psychedelic superheroes, works so well despite this is a tribute to just how solid the concept and execution from Rennie and Irving is.
(Frazer Irving’s psychedelic brilliance from Storming Heaven)
Within a few pages, Trips new ideology takes over California and establishes a new independent country of psychedelic-derived superhumans, all intended to be the next evolutionary step of humanity. It’s all there, racing past your eyes far too fast. Everything gets introduced in breathless fashion, there’s no time to experience it properly, the pace of the storytelling forcing you on and on, when you should be rather luxuriating in the incredible work Irving’s doing on the page. Before you know it, we’ve had utopia established, the great evil introduced, and a battle for the mind, body, and soul of humanity played out.
Oh, this could have been sublime at double or even triple the page count. As it is, it’s a perfect example of potential unfulfilled. It’s really good as it is, excellent concept, Rennie’s excellent storytelling, Irving’s spectacularly trip-inducing artwork a strange delight. One of those “if onlys” of 2000 AD history.
(The end of everything in Storming Heaven)
And now to the highlight of the entire volume for me – Ian Edginton and D’Israeli‘s Leviathan. Well, actually, no. It was the highlight for me when the contents were announced. And then I read The Graveyard Shift.
But it does come a good second, the complete in this volume graphic novel that I first saw when it was released in a gorgeous hardcover back in 2006. It’s been out of print for far, far too long and it’s way past time that it was seen once more and praised on high for how good it is.
(More incredible details, from D’Israeli this time with the opening double-page spread of Leviathan)
Think of it as Titantic in Hell, or at least Limbo, as the Leviathan, a record-breakingly huge ocean liner with 28,000 souls onboard, trapped in strange waters some 20 years after the 1928 maiden voyage set off for New York. This massive ship, the size of a city with all the amenities, has been sailing since then, impossible really, as the fuel to power it should have run out way before now.
On board, there’s a new society developed based on the system of first, second, and steerage (third) class passengers. And whilst the rich settle in and carry on carrying on, albeit having to feast on the flamingos and tapirs of the onboard zoo, the second class struggle to get enough rations to live any semblance of life. As for steerage, well it’s a horror show down there. Crime, violence, the only law being what they came set up themselves through force.
(DS Lament, the copper to investigate the mystery of the Leviathan)
One Detective Sergeant Lament is called on by those running the ship to investigate a series of murders that have befallen first class – because, after all, it only becomes important once it affects the higher-ups.
In investigating the deaths, weird ones where the flesh is flayed from the bones of the passengers, Lament will have to get past the prejudice and societal norms of this floating class system and uncover the secret that lies right at the heart of the Leviathan.
It’s every bit as good a read now as it was when I first saw it, a by the book murder mystery done with class and style. Yes, it’s very much fitting slot A into tab B all the way through, but the execution of it by Edginton and D’Israeli is what makes this one a highlight – although no, not the highlight, we’ve already covered that – sorry Ian, sorry Matt, but I don’t think anyone can really rank above that finest bit of Dredd.
(Leviathan – just what are the engines running on?)
Okay then, there you go. I’ve rattled on quite enough about this one. Simply put, it’s 200 pages of THE best of 2000 AD. And when we’re talking the best of 2000 AD, we’re talking some of the best comics of the last four decades plus.
THE BEST OF 2000 AD Volume 3
Published by 2000 AD/ Rebellion on 9th May 2023
Compiled by Owen Johnson, series editor, and Gemma Sheldrake, designer. Cover art by Erica Henderson, design by Tom Muller
Contains the strips…
JUDGE DREDD: GHOSTS – by Michael Carroll and Mark Sexton, colours by Len O’Grady, letters by Annie Parkhouse
STORMING HEAVEN – by Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving, letters by Ellie De Ville
LEVIATHAN – by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli, letters by Tom Frame
JUDGE DREDD: THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT – by John Wagner, Alan Grant, and Ron Smith, letters by Steve Potter
D.R. & QUINCH’S AGONY PAGE – written by Jamie Delano and Alan Davis, art by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, letters by Steve Potter
Oh, and just in case you couldn’t read the Leviathan pages…
Simply put, not enough of you abroad know the glory of 2000 AD and it’s time to change that. Thankfully,COMICONRead More