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Best of 2000 AD Volume 5 Opens The Door To New Readers
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Best of 2000 AD Volume 5 Opens The Door To New Readers

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For four volumes, Best of 2000 AD collections have been introducing the 45+ year history of 2000 AD to new eyes. These trade paperbacks have highlighted classic strips, hidden gems, and works by some of the most celebrated British creators. With the release of the fifth volume, this collection series is ready to do it all again with a selection of tales that blends genres, spotlights new ways of doing science fiction, and gives readers an entry point into the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic.

As I’ve done previously, I’ve invited someone who hasn’t read any 2000 AD before to read Best of 2000 AD Volume 5 with me. This time, I have Muraktama Rodrigues (who has written for this site a bunch of times) joining along for the ride. Have I converted another person? You’ll have to read to find out.

Best of 2000 AD Volume 5 cover by Annie Wu. Judge Dredd fighting a criminal bingo lady.
Best of 2000 AD Volume 5 cover by Annie Wu.

Trevor: Hi Muraktama, thanks for joining me. Before we jump into this collection, what’s your experience with 2000 AD?

Muraktama: Hi Trevor, thank you. I only know 2000 AD by fame. Of course, I know Judge Dredd as its most notorious character and a little about how the magazine launched the careers of many notorious British writers and illustrators. Before now I haven’t actually read anything 2000 AD, so, it’s really nice to finally get to experience this important piece of comics history.

Trevor: Let’s jump into it!

Judge Dredd: Elevator Pitch page by Rob Williams, Chris Weston, Chris Blythe, and Annie Parkhouse.
Judge Dredd: Elevator Pitch page by Rob Williams, Chris Weston, Chris Blythe, and Annie Parkhouse.

Judge Dredd: Elevator Pitch

Written by Rob Williams. Art by Chris Weston. Coloured by Chris Blythe. Lettered by Annie Parkhouse.

Trevor: First up we have a rather bombastic Judge Dredd tale. What did you think of this one and did it align with your perception of the character?

Muraktama: This was an interesting first contact with Dredd. So far I mostly knew the character from the ridiculous 1995 movie and the amazing 2012 adaptation. I enjoyed that Dredd here sounds like Robocop and seems to only care whether what someone is doing is lawful or not regardless of the morality of his or anybody else’s acts. That does align very well with my perception of the character. However, I think the story loses itself in too many class struggle metaphors and seems to have an overall message that doesn’t land well with me. Undermining the class struggle it makes fun of along with the abominable lifestyle of the wealthy. In that sense the latter Dredd story in this issue lands much better for me.

Trevor: Robocop is a good comparison for Judge Dredd. He’s very black and white when it comes to his interpretation of the law. Everything is by the book and there’s no faltering from that – even if the laws might not be just.

I can see what you mean about the metaphor usage. I think in the quest to make the story bombastic that maybe some of the metaphors didn’t land as intended, perhaps.

Muraktama: It is quite entertaining to see that in his villainous dedication to the law Dredd will prioritize catching the criminals over saving their victims adding to the body count.

I think it’s hard to find that sweet spot of exaggerated satire without stepping too far, and it seems like that is the bread and butter of 2000 AD. Bombastic is right, the story does not try to be subtle at all with words like the “Poshtube” and the TV presenter saying his show is about arrogantly nagging their audience. Maybe that kind of ‘in your face’ satire caught me off guard even as I was expecting, but I definitely want to look into more Judge Dredd stories.

Tribal Memories page by Peter Milligan, Riot!, and Jack Potter.
Tribal Memories page by Peter Milligan, Riot!, and Jack Potter.

Tribal Memories

Written by Peter Milligan. Art by Tony Wright (credited as Riot!). Lettered by Jack Potter.

Trevor: Next up is Tribal Memories. This is the headline strip of the collection, receiving a critical essay by Kambole Campbell. Unlike the other stories, I wasn’t familiar with this one. I have a feeling that it’s a deep cut in the 2000 AD library that hasn’t been reprinted many times due to its short length.

Where do you want to start with this one?

Muraktama: Interesting, this one does seem to stand out from the overall aesthetics of the other stories like the satirical jabs of the Dredd story. I always enjoy how the sci-fi pulpy genre is used to mirror, exaggerate and bring into light the more shameful and grotesque sides of society. It is refreshing to read a story depicting an African tribal man who isn’t an intellectually limited savage, but rather someone articulate and determined to live his life on his own terms. This tale stretches into the future the seemingly endless exploitation of land and societies that thrived while being left alone, but perished when touched by western exploitation. It takes its characters right back to the roots of that relationship, once again humans are turned into capital, with the addition that, besides their body and labor, now their very memories and experiences are commodified.

Trevor: It’s definitely a story steeped in anti-colonialism. (Context for readers, Tribal Memories was originally published in 1988, where the public consciousness of South African apartheid was at its highest.) I agree, the trading of memories and personalities as the next step of commoditising humans is an interesting concept. Like previous forms, it’s very much treated as a status symbol, with the rich clamoring to get tribal man’s memories.

I really enjoyed the art. It has a very European vibe to it. It’s akin to a lot of the Spanish artists that were working in the 70s and 80s, with thick flowing linework, hatching, and blocks of black.

Muraktama: The art is great indeed! The black and white lends itself well to the clash between an old civilization and the brand new world shown in the story. What you said about the status symbol of the rich wanting to have the tribal memories made me think of how even now in countries like South Africa people can take part in slum tours, commodifying the misery of locals to give tourists an exotic experience. It’s not surprising that in the story the Maasai finds himself more at home with other alien creatures rather than with the humans resisting the idea of becoming an attraction to them.

Trevor: Overall, I thought Tribal Memories was a great read. While it’s not always subtle, it’s a compelling and rich story.

Zombo page by Al Ewing, Henry Flint, and Simon Bowland.
Zombo page by Al Ewing, Henry Flint, and Simon Bowland.

Zombo

Written by Al Ewing. Art by Henry Flint. Lettered by Simon Bowland.

Trevor: Zombo is next up. It’s another bombastic story and one that’s likely to interest Marvel readers as it’s penned by Al Ewing.

Muraktama: How can you throw in so many sci fi and horror concepts in a blender and get away with it? There is government paranoia, a spaceship crashing in a killer planet, people cloned by teleportation, zombies and even a murderous hillbilly incestuous family. Somehow Al Ewing managed to juggle all of those and made it work with a really thrilling and entertaining outcome. It blew me away.

Trevor: It’s the kind of idea that could have easily been a mess in that Garth Ennis over-the-top kind of way. However, it sticks the landing by knowing when to restrain itself and when to go wild. There are these spikes of gore and ultraviolence, with bodies exploding or flesh stripped off the bone. They shock and surprise, but don’t feel excessive as the survival horror element is established early in the piece.

I particularly enjoyed Zombo himself. There’s something appealing about a polite zombie whose catchphrase is “can I eat you, please?”. 

Muraktama: Zombo is really scary that way. You know as the reader he has a mind of his own and you know he is only one order away from eating someone while at the same being the one thing that can keep them safe on that planet. The planet itself reminded me a lot of the recent animated series Scavengers Reign where a few people get stuck on an equally bizarre and hostile planet. It also made me think of the movie Annihilation. In all of these works of fiction you have the absolute terror of having not one supernatural thing after you, but rather every single thing around you no matter how harmless it may look at first glance.

Trevor: Annihilation is a great comparison.

Interestingly, Ewing and Flint move away from the survival horror aspect in future stories, opting for some more bonkers science fiction ideas instead.

I wrote about Zombo a few years ago for those who are interested in knowing more about it.

Judge Dredd: The Art of Kenny Who? page by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Cam Kennedy, and Tom Frame.
Judge Dredd: The Art of Kenny Who? page by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Cam Kennedy, and Tom Frame.

Judge Dredd: The Art of Kenny Who?

Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant. Art by Cam Kennedy. Lettered by Tom Frame.

Trevor: Like the other Best of 2000 AD collections, there’s another Judge Dredd story. This 1986 tale is all about a guy who comes to Mega-City One to make it big as an artist. However, things don’t go to plan, with many hoops and obstacles in his way. It’s also a story that’s a little more close to home for the creative team, with it inspired by their frustrating experience trying to pitch a series to DC Comics.

Muraktama: I didn’t know about that backstory, it makes a lot of sense. I couldn’t believe how much the story echoed one of the biggest challenges artists are going through in 2024: competition from machines threatening to take their work away from them. Modern AIs are capable of copying an artist’s specific style and spitting out something that resembles their work, not unlike what happens to poor Kenny Who in this story. While trying to make a case for the machine generated pictures they even use similar arguments used to defend modern day AIs: “Artists have been copying each other’s works for ages”. 

Sadly, even before AIs lots of artists have already seen their work becoming obscenely lucrative without seeing a penny for it, Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, and Bill FInger come to mind. The whole creation of Image Comics spawns from artists trying to have ownership over their work.

Trevor: Totally agree. I was thinking the same thing while I was reading this story. It’s one of those rare instances where the science fiction element made to be a metaphor has become the reality.

How great is Cam Kennedy’s art? The inking is so crisp, with great use of spot blacks to create form. There’s also a great comedic energy in the character’s expressions and movement that elevate this ridiculous story.

Muraktama: Oh yeah, that’s a great point! I didn’t notice it before, but It really enhances the more comedic aspect of Dredd with his almost cartoonish style.

Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood page by John Smith, Sean Phillips, and Steve Potter.
Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood page by John Smith, Sean Phillips, and Steve Potter.

Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood

Written by John Smith. Art by Sean Phillips. Lettered by Steve Potter.

Trevor: We’ve got another survival horror type story in Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood. Although, unlike the bombastic Zombo, this one plays it more straight. What did you think of this one?

Muraktama: I have enjoyed stories about characters being trapped in a place with a horde of monsters since Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, but I’ve never seen this particular variation of it. Vampires in an underwater prison being fought by a snarky James Bond like assassin. I didn’t know Devlin Waugh until now, but he seems to fit really well within the cast of characters in 2000 AD.

Trevor: I was vaguely familiar with the character but this was my first time reading Devlin Waugh. I like how delightfully campy he is. A dandy with a massively muscular frame.

Muraktama: Muscular dandy vampire! It seems like being a vampire became a big part of his personality afterwards. I liked how he somehow maintained his British gentleman bravado even as he craved humans as a meal.

Trevor: Quickly pointing out the art: it’s interesting to see Sean Phillips painting in this. For almost 20 years his work has been steeped in noir or the noir-adjacent. Seeing him do art for a horror series with larger-than-life ideas is a nice curiosity – as nice as the subject matter can be.

Missionary Man: Prologue page by Gordon Rennie, Frank Quietly, and Annie Parkhouse.
Missionary Man: Prologue page by Gordon Rennie, Frank Quietly, and Annie Parkhouse.

Missionary Man: Prologue

Written by Gordon Rennie. Art by Frank Quietly. Lettered by Annie Parkhouse.

Trevor: Missionary Man is up next, a series set in the world of Judge Dredd. What do you want to talk about first, the premise or Frank Quietly’s art?

Muraktama: I loved the art, but I’m itching to talk about the Missionary Man. The idea of a bible wielding gunslinger trying to embody the lord’s vengeance is too good. He also contrasts so well with Dredd being a western clergy version of him. But while Dredd seems to be more amoral, Cain, not unlike many preachers out there, has his very own interpretation of the Bible to guide him. I don’t know whether to hate him due to his moralistic christian views, or like him since he rescues a mutie and preaches equality amongst men. That is a great feeling to have after reading a story. 

Trevor: In some ways he’s just like Dredd. Dredd follows the law unwaveringly down to the letter. For Cain, the Bible is his law and follows it just as strictly until he doesn’t. And the part where he doesn’t follow it is a piece of genius. It highlights how the Bible has been misconstrued to suit people’s advantage and hypocrisy of religion at times. It also makes him an unpredictable character as you don’t know exactly what he’s going to do.

It also can’t go without saying that even though Quitely’s art is already fully-formed as one of his first major works. The linework is distinctly him, with the signature alternation between thick outlines and fine line that forms the exquisite detail. His storytelling abilities are top notch – with the shootout and the sequence where Cain is dragged by the horse being two highlights.

DR & Quinch’s Agony Page

Written by Jamie Delano and Alan Davis. Art by Alan Davis. Inks and colours by Mark Farmer. Lettered by Jack Potter.

Trevor: Finally, there’s a DR & Quinch one-pager. I don’t know if it’s an error in the review PDF but this same strip was also in the previous two Best of 2000 AD volumes. I’ve run out of things to say about it. What did you think?

Muraktama: I thought It was an interesting exaggeration of the second amendment so many US citizens hold so dear. I have to bring Robocop up again because it reminds me of the humor in the tv ads you see throughout the movie. I also noticed that the pamphlet at the end seems reminiscent of the Anarchist Cookbook.

Trevor: That makes a lot of sense. The original, longer-form stories by Alan Moore and Alan Davis have a very chaotic energy to them. (They also prove that Moore can be very funny too.)

Muraktama: I had no idea Moore was previously involved with it. As Olly mentioned in his article, he is not necessarily known for trying to be funny, although his stories have his own brand of humor and this is exactly the kind of sarky counter-culture commentary I would expect him to be making back in the day.

Odds and Ends

Trevor: Best of 2000 AD Volume 6 was recently announced. It’ll include two Judge Dredd in Tempus Fugitive and The Hotdog Run; the wild carnage of Shakara The Avenger; the urban horror of Cradlegrave; and Shako, starring the “only polar bear on the CIA death list”.

The Verdict

Trevor: So, how was your first taste of 2000 AD?

Muraktama: It was great! I really enjoyed getting to know all those weirdos in it. I think this collection is a great pick for anyone who wants to get acquainted with this British style of comics. The variety of writers, artists and storylines keeps it interesting all the way through, from the more tongue-in-cheek satires like Dredd to more serious stories like Tribal Memories. It is also a great chance to get to know characters like Devlin Waugh and the Missionary Man. I’ll certainly look further into them (besides Dredd, of course). I would definitely recommend this one!

Trevor: That’s fantastic! The Best of 2000 AD has converted another reader.

Best of 2000 AD Volume 5 is available at all good comic book shops, online retailers, eBay, Amazon, and the 2000 AD webshop.

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