Maybe the first Sci-Fi Special in 18 years was meant to act as a gateway drug to 2000 AD (and the Megazine) but unfortunately for The Mighty Tharg, it seems that this time around the Thrill-circuits rather short-circuited.
From Judge Dredd to Rogue Trooper to Durham Red, the Sci-Fi Special focuses on the bigger names of 2000 AD, with only Orlok standing out as a lesser-known feature.
Apart from the sci-fi theme, there’s another special attraction: all the art and stories are by newcomers to the 2000 AD field, and I certainly didn’t recognise any of the names, although they all wear their influences pretty obviously on their sleeves. Let’s tackle the features in order of publication.
First up – of course – is Judge Dredd. Emma Beeby’s humorous story is played with a straight face, befitting the Dredd world, but Joe trying to get a cursed statue to a precinct house while the curse tries to murder him through an ‘accident’ is both cliched and well… not funny.
Artist Edin Coveney’s art is stiff and resembles too much the style of Cliff Robinson, who himself is an adept of the Brian Bolland school of drawing. However, Coveney needs to work on body posturing and facial expressions, because the already lacklustre story is not helped by the potboiler art.
Robo Hunter by Alec Worley and Mark Simmons is up next, and is a perfectly fine story of droids running amok, including the typical hardboiled narration the strip is famous for. Art droid Simmons delivers a good job, with some slightly cartoony art, although I didn’t really care for his robot designs.
In the end, though, it’s an entertaining but not particular good story for the special, as it doesn’t highlight what sets Robo Hunter apart from your standard wise-cracking bounty hunter as a concept.
You can’t have a sci-fi-themed magazine without a Future Shock, and writer Jody Leheup’s tale of robotic consciousness starts off rather intriguing. However, a Future Shock stands or falls on its ending, and the resolution put forth here is an old chestnut of sci-fi that will have many fans rolling their eyes, I suspect. The minimalistic, design-inspired art by Jefte Palo is promising though, and I would like to see him on a feature with a bit more meat.
Robert Murphy and Duane Redhead tackle vampire bounty hunter Durham Red, and together they produce ‘The Calling’ – the second-best story in the Special. It spotlights all the necessary elements that make Durham Red stand out, in a pretty vicious tale of survival of the fittest among bounty hunters. Redhead’s art is rather classical, and his backgrounds could sure use some extra work, but he gets the job done and the story comes across rather nicely.
Probably new to many readers is Sov spy Orlok, resident in Brit Cit and intent on sabotaging the Judges’ efforts for peace.
Jake Lynch’s art immediately stands out in a good classic 2000 AD way, with lots of cross-hatching and dynamic layouts. He seems to work in a style made popular by Jock, but adds lots more details, and the way he fits the panelling to the page is a good fit for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic.
Arthur Wyatt’s tale of espionage and sabotage reflects our evil protagonist pretty well, with great dialogue and inner monologues. If only all stories in the Special could have been like this one! Splundig vur thrigg!
Rogue Trooper closes out the special in a completely forgettable war-is-hell story by Guy Adams, who fails to grasp the attraction of both the Trooper’s inner core and the type of stories he’s involved in, with their humanist undertones.
Granted, it’s a difficult feature to get right, as 2000 AD can testify: no incarnation has ever surpassed the popularity of the original Gerry Finley-Day version. Rogue Trooper works best in combination with the realistic type of art typically found in war comics, so it’s difficult to judge painter Darren Douglas’s art by the story he illustrates.
His art is far too cartoony for the Trooper, but one can see that it plays to one particular strength of his: technology. So while the art is a mismatch for the story, Douglas certainly tries his best and the work is rather good!
To sum it all up, the Sci-Fi Special is a disappointing entry into the world of 2000 AD, especially if you take into account that there hasn’t been one since 1996.
With only two features out of six able to tap into the potential of their core characters, I get the feeling that the newbie creators should have been pushed much harder by The Mighty Tharg to deliver the goods.
Various (W), various (A) • 2000 AD, £3.50. May 28, 2014