Review by Luke Williams
The resurrection of the 2000AD Sci Fi special has been a welcome event, the past few years have seen high quality specials around a specific theme, worthy of the title., lasts year’s celebration of the 20years of ownership by Rebellion and the Carlos Ezquerra tribute the year before that made excellent use of the format warranting rereads and generating genuine excitement.
This year editor Matt Smith wanted to continue with a theme. Shepherded by writers Michael Carroll and Maura McHugh this year’s special is Dreddverse focussed, building an overarching tale of multinational corporations causing ecological disaster and a mysterious power fighting back to protect the planet. It kicks off with Dredd and Cursed earth Koburn, moving to Oz and Chopper, onto Brit Cit featuring Devlin Waugh and Armitage, then Inspector Inaba in Hondo City, before back to MC1 and the Cursed Earth with Anderson and old oppo’ Dredd, full circle.
Best of the art is Tom Foster whose fine inking and intricate detail on “Chopper”, coloured by John Charles would make Cliff Robinson weep. Credit also goes to the ever stylish line work of Ben Willsher on Dredd / Koburn, Neil Googe’s appropriate manga-isms on “Hondo City Justice” aided and abetted by Dylan Teague. Sadly, Robin Smith makes “Devlin Waugh” look like Jason King, though he draws a credible “Armitage”, Matt Soffe provides sympathetic colours.
On “Anderson: Psi Division” Anna Morozova & Pippa Bowland are a good match, but Morozova is perhaps not idiosyncratic enough for a 2000AD droid. James Newell wraps things up with a style that is some way between Trevor Hairsine and Henry Flint, though his figure work is occasionally a wee bit off, the gritty grubby look enhanced by Jim Boswell’s moody hues.
Unfortunately, the package really falls down in the story department. The plot feels forced and a heavy handed. Characters feel shoe horned into situations where they don’t belong, the writers and Tharg seem intent on cramming in as many guest stars in 48 pages as they could. Individual chapters are reasonable enough, but even they have their problems. Michael Carroll is a firmly established and strong Dredd scripter and delivers in the opening sequence. Baillie is the newest go to guy for “Chopper”. Aimless, if not redundant, since” Song of the Surfer”, Baillie’s answer is to turn Marlon Shakespeare into a sky surfing eco warrior. Liam Johnson has a good handle on Armitage, but Waugh is a pale imitation. Karl Stock is competent on “Hondo City Justice”, but he’s hampered by the non entity that is Inaba. McHugh comes up tries to draw more from the dry well that is Anderson, adding new abilities to Psi Division Judges on the way to drum up some interest. Finally, the climax to the saga feels hackneyed and echoes recent epic “End Of Days”.
Battle Action Force tried a similar trick with their licensed characters almost 40 years ago, and did it better. If it hasn’t done anything else, this year’s Sci Fi Special has demonstrated that there are some characters that have had their day, and should be allowed to rest.
Special? Afraid not.