2000AD has defied the odds. In 1977 the date it was named after seemed so far away it was never imagined that the title would still be in circulation on that fateful date, let alone fifteen years after. Myself, I have read every single issue since the first, and remember throwing my free 'Space Spinner' and putting bionic stickers on my arm to be like John probe, also known as M.A.C.H 1 (don't ask).
Every so often, an anthology comic like 2000AD likes to have an issue that contains the first episodes of stories, so that a new or lapsed reader can pick it up without being thrown in at a confusing half way point. Well, theoretically. Issue (or 'prog') 1924, on sale now at all good earth newsagents is the latest jumping on issue, with five stories presenting their first episode. Also contained are introductory pages to the characters which will hopefully explain to brand new readers what the hootin' heck is going on. The only potential problem is that all the stories contain characters who have been about in the magazine for quite a while, with the most recent being 'Grey Area', which debuted three years ago.
So this is more suited to lapsed rather than new readers, but this is always going to be the case with characters that have been in and out of the mag for over thirty years, as all the other strips have. Pride of place at the beginning of each issue is fan fave Judge Dredd, with a story that harks back to a revolt on the penal colony of Titan (where the bad Judges are sent), and a mysterious ship that arrives in mega City airspace. Whilst issue 1924 sets up the story, 1925 deepens the mystery and provides more questions than answers. Although co-creator and God on earth John Wagner has taken a writing break the strip is well served by Rob Williams, with Henry Flint providing his usual gritty and effective art.
Strip 2 is 'Orlock: Agent Of East Meg 1', an occasional character who arrived back in the Seventies and refuses to be killed. In this, a quick follow up to his last solo story, Arthur Wyatt send the assassin down under for a story that screams 'retro', helped by the very old school art of Jake Lynch. Unfortunately it's not very exciting at all, and Lynch's sometimes muddy art doesn't elicit any of the thrills 2000AD is known for.
Earth Mother loving barbarian Slaine has been knocking around for donkeys years, with creator Pat Mills bouncing him through time to basically kick shit out of various magical knobheads. His latest jaunt is Book 2 of 'The Brutania Chronicles', and teh first two episodes are basically him having a scrap with a magical knobhead, both parties talking bollocks throughout. Although Simon Davies art is always welcome, reading Mills can sometimes be like wading through mental treacle, and this is one of those times, UWhilct I enjoyed his recent 'Savage' story, and many of the Slaine chronicles of the past, this is a yawn a minute and only worth a look for the exciting visuals.
Next strip 'Grey Area' (that's 'Gray Area' if you're American) has always been a treat to read, with a good mix of humour and action, set in Earth's quarantine zone for alien refugees. In a clever twist, some of earth's Grey Area personnel have been bounced through a dimensional portal and landed in a parallel alien Grey Area. It's an idea with legs, involving planet eating monstrosities and silly alien names (Resting Bitch Face, anyone?), but I hope that things will return to normal soon. Artist Mark Harrison has always been a bit of a Marmite man, but he certainly does a good job here, being both clear and creative.
Finally, it's another return for 'Strontium Dog' a mutant bounty hunter who is second only to Dredd in popularity (probably). Titular character Johnny Alpha has been battered, bruised and even killed, but this strip sees John Wagner bring in a semblance of old school storytelling, using the strip to mock North Korea in the most unsubtle way and give Alpha what looks like a traditional get the bad guys and save the hostage type of story. Veteran artist Carlos Ezquerra is possibly the most infallible doodler the magazine has ever had, and as ever he doesn't put a foot wrong with colourful visuals full of movement.
With an anthology, it's impossible to please all of the people all of the time, and 2000AD knows this. There's no doubting the talent of all the people involved, and I know that even as I am unthrilled by Orlok and Slaine, there will be plenty of others out there who devour their exploits like a Klegg who has been on hunger strike. As ever, though, it's a testimony to the enduring appetite for thrill power of the fans who have stuck with it for so many years, plus all the noobs that have joined the party after 1977. If you stopped reading a while back, even years back, do yourself a favour and pick it up again. If you've never tried it, you really do have nothing to lose and everything to gain.