ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow decides to take a look the ‘Jump-On’ Prog. Al isn’t a ‘lapsed’ reader, in fact he rarely ever reads the Prog, if at all. I thought it would be interesting to throw a new start on point to him and see what he makes of it. Take it away Al…
It’s become more and more common – particularly among publications with decade or more of content – to offer “jumping on” issues to entice potential new readers. It can be intimidating for readers to jump mid-stream into a long-lived series, no matter if it’s an American comic, a manga, or in this case the anthology book 2000AD, which has enjoyed steady publication since 1977.
Numerous writers and artists have been allowed to tell their longer stories under the 2000AD banner in a serialized format. Finding a “safe spot” to offer an issue like Prog 2050 was probably not an easy chore for 2000AD. Did they succeed? That depends on how much you already know (or don’t know) before you turn the first page.
It’d be impossible to pretend I’d never heard of Judge Dredd, of course. T.C. Eglington and Colin Macneil do an admirable job of giving the five people on this planet who haven’t heard of him a good idea of the character with “Icon”. With a statue being erected in his honor, we’re given a portrait of the famous lawman through the eyes of the people he’s helped and harmed along the way, to say nothing of the press that are happy to play to both sides. A mirror of our current society? Sure, but it also succeeds in the book’s goal of grabbing first-time readers and giving them a good accounting of their flagship character. Particularly when that flagship character only appears in a few panels of the actual story.
James Robinson and Leonardo Manco take a similar tact with the Rogue Trooper story “A Soldier’s Duty” by having the characters affected by the protagonist paint a picture of him. A bit more brutal with less concern for social commentary than the Dredd story, it nevertheless offers a great way to introduce a central character without really involving that character. I wouldn’t expect anything less than brilliance out of Robinson, but Manco manages to say more with black and white inks than many artists are able to accomplish with a full regiment of colors and special effects at their disposal. This was easily my favorite story in this issue, and it set a high bar for the rest of it. Case in point:
I’d read snippets of Grey Area here and there and to be honest it has never clicked with me. This new story arc did little to change that situation, and it’s hardly a good place for readers entirely new to the series to be introduced to it. Still, fans of the series will no doubt be happy to see its inclusion here.
I think the people at 2000AD might have thought the same as they wisely followed it with Pat Mills and Simon Davis continuing the Slaine storyline, and while I don’t know if I’d call “Archon” a “jumping on” point (It’s Part One of Book Four of a longer story called The Brutania Chronicles) it was easy enough for me to piece together what was going on and fathom what might have gone before should I be so enticed to go back and pick up the other books in the series. You’re hardly beginning on page one with this story, but with this level of artwork and storytelling, you don’t necessarily need to.
Indigo Prime, like Grey Area, isn’t offering a solid place for new readers to find their footing, but Lee Carter’s artwork forgives a lot. There’s enough to give readers a rough idea of what the overall storyline might be, and perhaps it’ll give them incentive to find back issues and maybe start completely from square one. Still, not a great place to start your exploration of this story.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll own up to being a bit of a Sinister Dexter fan, and Dan Abnett and Steve Yeowell do a great job showing pretty much what the entire series is about with the space they’re given. As with the Rogue Trooper story, Abnett’s “Down in the Dumps” perhaps does the best job of giving new readers the best idea of what the series is about, and from there allowing them to make up their own minds about whether to keep up with it.
Kek-W and Dave Kendall round out the book with “The Fall of Deadworld: Home” which covers the realm of the Dark Judges, which you’d probably need to be up on your Dredd stories to completely understand, and for that you should go back and read the Judge Death stories in Dredd, and…well, okay, look, it isn’t a great starting point, but Kendall’s artwork should be enough to make you want to find out more. And truth be told, if you know enough about Judge Dredd, you likely know enough about the main characters here to be on solid footing.
Does Prog 2050 do its intended job of bringing new readers into the fold? As with any anthology series there’s going to be stories individual readers are going to gravitate toward and others they’re not, and this book isn’t any different. You’ll either “discover” a new favorite, find a series that makes you want to search for the back issues or trade paperbacks, or simply skip over one story to get to the next. Would this book be enough to make a newcomer want to pick up 2051? The greatness far outweighs the blah, so I’d say most definitely.