The summer might have been a bit of a dead loss this year thanks to a mix of bad weather and Covid restrictions but for comic readers summer specials can make everything better. 2000AD have been publishing their sci-fi specials on and off since 1978. This year Rebellion carry on the tradition by changing the format, giving us one interconnected story featuring characters from the world of Dredd including Anderson, Chopper, Armitage and Old Stony Face himself. Does this changing of a classic formula give us something new and exciting or is it the comics version of New Coke?
Price: £3.99 digital edition and £4.99 print edition
Shared universe cross-overs are nothing new. DC Comics did this all the way back in 1940 with the first appearance of the Justice Society of America. Cross-overs are less common in 2000AD but they do happen occasionally. Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog have worked together in the past as have Nemesis the Warlock and The ABC Warriors. Whereas John Wagner was the sole writer on the Dredd/Dogg team-up and Pat Mills brought together the warlock and the warriors, the sci-fi special is the work of five different writers, each producing a different strip/chapter with two of them (Mike Carroll and Maura McHugh) joining forces to produce the concluding chapter. They are joined by David Baillie, Liam Johnson and Karl Stock in telling a tale about what happens when the living embodiment of nature, the Earth Animus, finally has enough of humanity’s polluting ways. If you imagine Mother Nature and Swamp thing having a particularly grumpy child then you get the idea.
As with all anthologies, the art styles vary with some particularly impressive work on show from Neil Googe, Tom Foster and Anna Morozova. For long time readers of the prog it’s a real treat to see Robin Smith on boards too, an artist with over 40 years experience drawing for the Galaxy’s Greatest. Each chapter stars a well-known character or setting from the Dreddverse (Judge Anderson, Armitage, Chopper, Hondo City and of course Dredd himself). There’s also guest appearances from Devlin Waugh and Cursed Earth Koburn (a re-imagining of Dredd co-creator Carlos Ezquerra’s Major Easy). It’s an inventive structure that works well and enables the reader to see the scale of attacks, taking place all across the world.
Considering the amount of the number of voices at play here the narrative tone is very consistent. As most readers will be consuming this in one sitting this makes sense and could be seen as a real strength. On the other hand, this is what lets the book down a little too. Whereas previous specials have given us a mix of comedy, horror and sci-fi, this one gives us variations on a single theme. The message that runs through the main story is an important one, one that’s also at the heart of Ram V’s stellar run on the afore-mentioned Swamp Thing and Paul Goodenough’s Extinction 2040 in The ’77, and most readers would I’m sure agree that pollution from multi-national corporations is a very bad thing indeed. Seeing the same events (Earth god possess people and forces them to murder corporate executives) from different perspective is an interesting idea but it also seems like a bit of a missed opportunity when you have a range of such diverse characters that could have been utilised, perhaps responding to a range of different events.
Without spoiling too much, the story ends on a hopeful note and it’s certainly an enjoyable read. Carroll and co. know how to spin a good yarn and it’s a lot of fun seeing all the disparate elements of Dredd’s world come together. With the end of the summer in sight, it might be time to hand your galactic groats over to your local Brit-Cit newsagent and pick up a copy of the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special!