2000 AD Prog Slog

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Prog 982 08/03/96

For old school Squaxx like me, there is early Judge Dredd epics against which all successors get compared. For example, Oz is okay but it’s no Judge Child Quest, Judgement Day was good but, really, it’s nothing compared to The Day The Law Died, Wilderlands is fine but you really should read The Cursed Earth. These early sagas hold a special place in our hearts so that even strong recent contenders, such a Necropolis, have a hard job standing up against them. However, there is The Pit.

In The Pit, which reaches part thirteen this prog, Dredd is tasked with sorting out the judiciary in sector 301. Also referred to as The Pit, 301 has been the dumping ground for every misfit and lowlife judge for years. Now that policy is at an end. New Chief Judge Volt wants the sector cleaned up and the normally street preferring Dredd has agreed to lead the mission.

Judge Dredd proved long ago that it has the scope to accommodate a wide variety of genre styles but with The Pit it demonstrates that the thrill has developed great substance as well. For it, John Wagner has created a whole new cast of strong characters and sets of dynamics. The Pit also states definitively that the character of Dredd has evolved. In those classic epics he was an inflexible borderline-fascist, but he’s had to learn tolerance and to give the benefit of the doubt to get a more complicated job done. Perhaps Wagner did this to maintain his interest in the thrill or to keep it relevant to political changes in the real world. Whatever the reason, the result is a significantly more rounded and interesting character.

If 2000 AD has to age (albeit slowly) with its readership, then this is the quality of story that it should aspire to. Concise dialogue, tight plotting, strong cast, great art (provided mainly, so far, by the on form Carlos Ezquerra). Not required; big fanfare, huge body count and supernatural villain. The Pit is probably the best epic since The Apocalypse War, as far as I am concerned.

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  • The Pit for all its magnificence also holds a first most people forget. Prog 984 marks Alex Ronald's first 2000ad art. At this stage his art hasn't matured to the levels it'll reach. He's far from a universally popular artist as well. For all that he is one of my favourite artists to have worked on the comic, by the time he's doing 'Missionary Man' he's just amazing.

    A small first to look out for.

    By Blogger Colin, at 6:45 pm  

  • I was already saying these things about THE JUDGE CHILD QUEST or THE APOCALYPSE WAR. "It's okay, but it's no THE CURSED EARTH".

    By Blogger Mark, at 6:55 pm  

  • It's a great story, probably the best attempt to do an Ed McBain novel in comic form ever, with Alan Moore's Top 10 in close second place.

    I'd love to know whether this was Wagner's direct influence or if he was just indirectly influenced by the many tv shows McBain's many excellent crime novels inspired, such as Homicide, Hill street Blues and even The Bill.

    By Blogger Tam, at 10:10 pm  

  • Alex Ronald! He was one of the worst artists on this and in 2000ad at the time. No character opened his mouth to talk and they all looked like they were straining after a particularly hot curry!

    For me the Pit was ruined by awful colouring (Alan Craddock grr), patchy art and an ending that just seems to wrap things up really quickly. This should have been a JD seriesthat ran for a whole year and took in loads of sub tales

    By Blogger Victor Resistor, at 11:38 pm  

  • Also, on the subject of Dredd epics... It's interesting how they're all actually pretty short in terms of pagecount compared to US comics, let alone Japanese ones although the plot density, (a result of telling the stories in 6 page chapters) makes them every bit as satisfying and worthy of the title.

    By Blogger Tam, at 9:12 am  

  • Tam, I quite agree. The 6-page format really tightens storytelling and makes these stories feel so full.

    In the later years of 2000ad I was disappointed when an aepisode of a strip would just be a few explosions and a conclusion. I can understand why this would happen as the writer wants to save ideas and not shoot them all off in one go. And when these stories were reprinted in books or read in a slog style run they semed fine. but having to wait a week to see what was going to happen to JD or Maniac 5 and then getting 5 pages of 'BLAM' and 'KABOOM' was always pretty disappointing.

    I seem to remember there were a lot of miller/Ezquerra stories that had multiple full page explosion spalshes on them.

    By Blogger Victor Resistor, at 10:34 am  

  • Colin, Alex Reynolds is a new name to me but form what I've seen so far, he looks okay.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:32 pm  

  • Mark, The Child Child Quest was my personal peak :-)

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:32 pm  

  • Tam, The Pit looks to me influenced by Hill Street Blues at least, which is cool. Yes, Dredd epics are short in comparison to Manga sagas but they feel epic just the same.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:35 pm  

  • Victor, there are few Dredd stories that feel puffed out with blow-ups, some by Millar, some by Morrison and even one or two by Grant.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:38 pm  

  • What's interesting is that the some of the stories appear to have become even more condensed. Origins and now Tour of Duty are a return to the long format of days gone by but for a long time even the Dredd "epics" were only weighing in at around a dozen episodes.

    It's simply amazing, then, that Total War (the pick of the recent bunch for me) easily stands comparison with the Apocalypse War. There is so much plot, action, character and goregeous art packed into 72 pages (or 3 issues of Captain Underpants) that you feel the collected edition is going to weigh more than it does when you to take it off the shelf.

    By Blogger Peter, at 12:54 pm  

  • My hope Peter, once I finbish The Slog, is to catch up on the 2000 AD I like, eg Dredd, via the colections. I might leave it for a while to rest my brain, and I won't be blogging it. I read Total War just before starting The Slog and it is very strong.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:01 pm  

  • Mandroid is another very strong saga from recent years, I think it came in 2 8 part stories.

    By Blogger Derek, at 12:49 pm  

  • I haven't read Mandroid but it's on the list as post Slog read. Near the bottom admittedly.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:46 pm  

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