By Luke Williams
The “Regened” issues of the Prog’, where Tharg takes a back seat to his nephew Joko Jargo to produce a one shot of all ages content seem to roll around faster and faster. They remain controversial with certain elements of Squaxx Dek Thargo who perceive the 4 times a year interruptions to regular service jarring in tone with the ‘Progs usual content. This time around it’s possibly even more irritating as it interrupts a few “regular” Prog stories mid flow.
Nevertheless, Rebellion clearly feel they have the desired effect otherwise they wouldn’t keep publishing them, despite leaving a multitude of Squaxx gnashing their teeth.
This final Regened Prog of 2022 leads off with “Cadet Dredd”. It’s weird that they continue to use Cadet Dredd to introduce the concept to younger readers when you consider that the Prog was aimed at the same age group in the late 70s but used an adult Dredd, especially when you consider the tone is similar to the “Lawman Of The Future” material from the nineties.
Clone brothers Joe and Rico Dredd, the latter the less earnest of the the two and clearly unaware of the doom that is to befall him are assigned to Black Atlantic division under the supervision of a senior Judge and detect a kind of smuggling operation. New script droid Paul Starkey has a good grip on the characters and the art is cartoony, bright with great story telling ideal for the target audience. The story itself feels bit “Judge Scooby Doo”, “if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” etc.
On the face of it “Bladers” has promise – particularly with Leigh Gallagher on art. James “Skip Tracer”Peaty scripts a future sports story, a mysterious benefactor takes over a faded sport team for some mysterious purpose but on the way inspires them to find their mojo again against the odds : much like almost every other 2000AD future sport story. So far this isn’t much different to “Mean Team”, “Mean Arena”, “Harlem Heroes”, “Inferno”, “Second City Blues” etc, but it is early days. 2000AD has these occasional stabs at future sport and they never last long – often makes you wonder why bother? Leigh Gallagher pares back the detail, adopting a looser, less gritty style, but still great art.
“Ulyssses Sweet : Psychobaby” is an unexpected inclusion. Guy Adams and Paul Marshall resurrected the obscure and initially short lived Grant Morrison created “Ulysses Sweet”, a few years ago for two quality runs in the Prog’, since then :nothing seemingly laid to rest. The same creative team – this time with colourist Dylan Teague, reunite to bring the early days of the titular character which comes across as a sci fi homage to the classic humour strip “Sweeney Toddler” but with maternal rejection on the menu as the theme. The result is something that isn’t as anarchic as peak Tom Paterson’s work on its IPC predecessor, but in the same vein and is essentially a Ulysses origin story.
“Future Shocks :The Planet Breakers” by Karl Stock and Karl Richardson follows an Earth mining operation and has a neat twist on the living planet story. Richardsons’ gritty art and moody characters doesn’t fit in with the rest of content of the Prog’. It feels incongrous in this company.
Everyone’s favourite MC1 rebel Marlon “Chopper” Shakespeare returns, continuing from the last Regened ‘Prog. Set before Supersurf 7 but after his scrawling period, Chopper is goaded into breaking a friend out of the cubes. David Barnett and Gary Welsh with colouring by Gary Caldwell break the fourth wall and expand on the Shakespeare family dynamic. The creative team are very talented, but should be allowed to create something fresh, rather than go into the backstory of a Dreddverse character that other writers have already shown has reached his limit of interest.
For all the criticism above, this is a quality package, the problem is that inevitably readers will compare it with the regular Prog – that’s not fair as the material is clearly aimed at a different audience. Gradually some of the “Regened” material is being fed into the regular Prog’ (e.g. Enemy earth – the current run ironically being interrupted for this issue) and a balance may be found somewhere down the line, but considering the variation in tone between these stories and say, “Brink” that seems unlikely.
It could be that 4 all ages editions of 2000AD a year is the price for the survival and expansion of the House of Tharg. Awesome cover though.