10:47am PT by Graeme McMillan
10 Collections to Help Catch Up On '2000 AD's' First 2,000 Issues
British anthology 2000 AD publishes its 2000th issue this week, marking almost 40 years of "Thrill-Power" — but for U.S. audiences, that might mean little beyond being the comic that gave the world Judge Dredd and Alan Moore. With four decades of material to look back on, it's possible that the series seems just too daunting to jump into… which is where Heat Vision comes in.
Below are ten collected editions — all available digitally in the U.S. — that provide an idea of just what 2000 AD has to offer, drawn from material published across the series' long history. From superheroes to streampunk, killing machines to ill-tempered robots and barbarians to demonic aliens, there's something for almost everyone here. Especially for those looking for smart, politically aware, funny comic books.
A.B.C. Warriors: The Mek Files Vol. 1
An invention of Pat Mills, one of the men responsible for the creation of 2000 AD as a whole, A.B.C. Warriors speaks to the wonderfully high concept nature of the anthology's early years: it's essentially The Magnificent Seven, but with robots dealing with situations too deadly for humans to deal with, such as Atomic, Bacterial and Chemical warfare… hence the "A.B.C." of the title. Artists in this collection include Watchmen's Dave Gibbons and Mad Max: Fury Road designer Brendan McCarthy.
The Ballad of Halo Jones
Alan Moore's grand unfinished magnum opus for 2000 AD got a third of the way through its planned run before Moore fell out with the then-publishers and disappeared to America to create Watchmen. What's left is a wonderful exploration of the early life of its eponymous heroine as she goes from kitchen-sink sci-fi in the first series through embittered soldier by the third and final run. Quietly feminist — an oddity in comics during the 1980s when it was published — and featuring lovely art by Ian Gibson, this is science fiction of a flavor still, sadly, rarely seen.
Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds
A more recent creation in the anthology, Brass Sun's name suggests the steampunk nature of the series, but although writer Ian Edginton's story about the slow death of a mechanical solar system — and the young girl who just might have the ability to stop it — is compelling, the real star of the show is artist I.N.J. Culbard, whose work manages to be clear, concise, filled with personality and breathtakingly epic at the same time.
Judge Dredd: America
Unsurprisingly, given the fact that it's been continually published for almost 40 years, there are countless Judge Dredd stories that could act as entry points into the mythology. America, which actually comes from the spin-off publication Judge Dredd Megazine, might be the most powerful, however, with character co-creator John Wagner writing something that manages to combine the humor, political satire and darkness of the concept into a stand-alone story perfect for newcomers, furnished with lush painted artwork from Colin MacNeil.
The Complete Nemesis The Warlock Vol. 1
Trying to explain Nemesis is a complicated task, but here goes: the titular character is a demonic alien fighting against a fascistic religious human leader — who is the reincarnation of both Tomás de Torquemada and Adolf Hitler — intent on a puritan genocide of all non-human life in the universe. Part-political broadside, part-fantasy parable, part-sci-fi monster movie, Pat Mills' series won over readers with its over-the-top mercilessness, helped to a great extent by art from Marshall Law and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's Kevin O'Neill.
Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth Vol. 1
Perhaps the ultimate "Future War" strip from 2000 AD, the Rogue Trooper of the title is a nameless "genetic infantryman" — an artificially created soldier — searching for the hidden traitor in his own ranks responsible for a massacre that slaughtered all the other G.I.s shortly after their deployment on an inhospitable alien planet. He's assisted in this by three A.I.-assisted pieces of equipment, each possessing the personality of one of his fallen comrades. Co-created and initially illustrated by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, it's a high concept that lends itself to all kinds of stories, both new- and old-school, as this first collection proves.
Sláine: The Horned God
Forget Conan, Cerebus or Groo; Sláine is comics' greatest barbarian, possessing not only the pre-requisite ill-temper, pride and stupidity necessary for brawl-filled stories, but also a dwarf sidekick, tendency to transform into a monstrous entity at ill-opportune times and occasional ability to travel through time. Pat Mills' fantasy protagonist is one of 2000 AD's longest running strips, and The Horned God — a three volume storyline with artist Simon Bisley — is one of the series' high points, an epic story informed by genuine celtic myth that looks like a Frank Frazetta painting come to life.
Strontium Dog: Search and Destroy Agency Files Vol. 1
While Marvel's mutants are feared and hated by a world they've sworn to protect, 2000 AD's mutants are much more bitter — and forced to work as time-traveling bounty hunters, because humanity refuses to allow them to have any other job. The work of Judge Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, Strontium Dog is a much looser, funnier series that allows for both high drama — Johnny Alpha, the lead character, ends up in Hell during one mission — and high comedy as necessary… such as the story in this collection where Alpha ends up tasked with bringing Adolf Hitler in for trial — alive.
Zenith: Phase Three
Yes, it's the third volume of a four-volume series, which might seem like an odd choice as an entry point for new readers. But the third series of Grant Morrison's Zenith isn't just the best of the series, it's some of the best superhero comics, period — at once a parody and celebration of crossover "event" storylines that has all the drama a fan could want, while also slyly undermining some of the sillier tropes of such comics. Add to this the amazingly atmospheric art of Steve Yeowell, and it remains a highpoint of the genre decades after it was initially released.
Zombo: You Smell of Crime and I'm The Deodorant
Again, Crime is actually the second Zombo collection, but it's so unrelentingly fun that anyone can enjoy it, whether or not they're familiar with the titular unstoppable killing machine constructed by the U.S. military out of the corpse of a male stripper — a plot point that actually becomes important in this volume, perhaps pointing to the tone of the book. If that's not enough of a tease, perhaps promising parodies of Voltron and Marvel's Fantastic Four would do it — or revealing that, back in 2012, this series foresaw President Donald Trump (and luxuriated in making fun of the possibility). Al Ewing and Henry Flint are the men responsible for one of the funniest comics of recent years.