2000 AD - issue 19

Here is another ancient issue of 2000 AD to go in the list on my 2000 AD page, where I link to all the issues I have talked about on this site already. Issue 19 of 2000 AD has its first 'super cover' on the front, and it does look good. I always prefer a cover that highlights some action from one of the stories inside that week’s issue, but I can live with a cover like this if it is good. This one is created by Bolland, which means it is his usual combination of a single figure that is lacking in dynamism in front of a simple background, but beautifully and meticulously shaded. It is a crowd-pleasing art style that works so well for covers hat doing covers became a Bolland specialty.

One place where Bolland has gone a little too far, however, is in having actual tears coming from the robot’s eyes. The notion of a robot crying liquid tears is just ridiculous and I'm going to have to deduct a point or two for that alone. Also, the robot itself looks like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, no matter how well it is drawn, but it is apparently intended to be some kind of war robot. I only know this because the robot has Combat Model CPX9 written down the underside of its forearm like a tattoo.

The first story in rotation this week, as usual with 2000 ADs of this very early vintage, is Invasion. It's a war story but also a speculative future story, except the future it is speculating about, 1999, is now long in our past. We know that the Russians (or the Volgans as they are called in this strip) didn’t invade Europe in the 1990s, as shown here, so it us now an alternate history story.

A Message from the Author

I write sci-fi novels that belong to a series called Dark Galaxy, which starts with Galaxy Dog:

What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet brings to light an ancient archeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy.

The entire series is available to buy from Amazon.

This week they take an already grim and gritty strip and they dial the darkness up to 11. On the very first page we see a road being built up the spine of England called the V1 – an echo of the A1, which was new at that time - and the workers are local British people doing slave labor in concentration-camp striped prison uniforms.

Bill Savage - the daring hero resistance leader who is the star of this strip - suffered a huge defeat last week. Half his team were killed and now he has to go with his tail between his legs to a bigger resistance cell to ask for help. It’s a humiliation for him, but typically it has not made him humble. It is decided that Bill and his crew need some training, and Bill predictably only lasts a few days before attacking the sergeant training them, stealing a car and making a getaway. He’s a loose cannon, and he just went rogue.

This takes us back to the road construction we saw at the start of the episode. Bill single-handedly kills a bunch of Volgans and rescues one of the emaciated gangs of forced laborers. Even after such heroics there is a parting of the ways with the bigger, better equipped resistance unit and Savage and his small ragtag cell must carry on journeying the UK bringing gruesome vengeance to the invaders.

Next comes the last installment of Flesh, and it is entertainingly bloodthirsty to the last. The time base has fallen, and we see dinosaurs sleeping after gorging themselves on the flesh of the human operators and the herbivores they were herding. The art, featuring bones, bloated tyrannosaurs, mangled equipment, and even a triceratops head is just beautiful. Then the entire base explodes with no explanation, leaving only one creature standing, Old One Eye the tyrannosaur star of this strip. It’s great writing and a real lesson in how to wrap up a classic run of a legendary strip.

The art is just wonderful, with dinosaurs covered in warty, scaly, knobbly, and folded flesh. They look wonderful and wild, and the jungle they inhabit is savage. In a moving sequence, Old One Eye makes it to the dinosaur graveyard, and finally dies of old age, but the story isn't over yet.

We jump in time to 1983, almost a decade in the future for the writers of this comic book, and Old One Eye’s remains are dug up and she is put in a museum. She is reconstructed by a scientist with the wonderful name of Professor Gizzard, who is understandably confused at the human remains in One Eye's belly. To celebrate the discovery, the scientists have a dinner under the skeleton. At this dinner, one of the scientists mentions his son reading a ‘boy’s paper’ where time travelers killed dinosaurs.

Gizzard calls such stories trash, and you can probably guess that this sort of talk that will seal his fate. Soon he is standing in the jaws of the dinosaur and accidentally knocks away the rod keeping the jaws apart. The dinosaur skeleton’s mouth closes and Old One Eye claims her last victim. It is a bravura ending to a bloodthirsty and fun strip, and I applaud it. Also, one of the scientists mentions dinosaurs evolving into birds here, long before Jurassic Park made this theory popular.

The next story is Harlem Heroes, about a futuristic sports team. It’s livened up by a cyborg assassin among the other team, but it stretches credulity a little that nobody notices his repeated, deadly attacks during a televised sporting event. Next comes the story to go with the cover illustration and it is a work of micro-fiction only three paragraphs in length. It’s not bad, exactly, but certainly doesn't deserve a cover. Then comes Dan Dare which has gone off into Guillermo del Toro realms of body horror and trippiness. But despite this it is still a very generic slice of space opera.

M.A.C.H.1 is next. He's usually a dependable tool of British colonialism but even he balks at what he is being asked to do this issue. A stretch of jungle is being destroyed to allow miming of phosphates to start. These phosphates are destined for the British arms industry. The work comes to a halt because a Japanese soldier is still fighting the war by slicing up racist construction workers.
Mach 1's qualms are undermined a little when he uses the same racist slurs as the construction workers, but it is still an interesting strip.

Dredd this week is drawn by John Cooper, who is able enough but does a ham-fisted job of rendering Dredd’s uniform. It is an atmospheric, A Clockwork Orange style story, and the futuristic cars are nicely imagined, but it is not really a Dredd strip.

On the back of the comic book this issue there is a beautiful advert for period candy where they are running a promotion. You simply collect three wrappers and you get a car. The beautiful thing is the line art of the various cars that can be had through this promotion. I recognize several that I had in my collection at the time. There’s nothing like a jolt of nostalgia to round out an issue of 2000 AD.

To end, just a reminder that the best way to support this blog is to buy one of my books. Simply go over to Amazon, or Kobo and get one.