Friday, 3 November 2017

SECTOR 13 #2: THE SOPHOMORE RELEASE

But surely it doesn't rain in Mega-City One where
Weather Control is in place, no?

Back in August I was able to chat to a select few of the talented individuals behind new 2000AD fanzine Sector 13 and it turned into a 3-part interview right here on the blog.  Passionate about everything 2000AD and Judge Dredd, they'd produced a fantastic premiere issue which I rightly praised in a write-up at the time.  Now, six months after #1's original release date the second issue has appeared, today being its official launch date.  But how does it compare to its older brother?  Judging (no pun intended) by the cover all is good so far, with a powerful CGI-enhanced photo of a Belfast cosplayer as Judge McBride, but what about the all-important strips?

First up, just like last time we've got a photo story revolving around the Judges of Sector 13 in 23:50, the synopsis of which is that it's a tale of a typical twenty-three hours and fifty minutes in their lives.  Written again by Laurence McKenna, with the photos and enhanced effects coming from both he and Simon McKnight it's certainly a good idea.  Having just finished volume seven of the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files which contained classic story The Graveyard Shift, a story chronicling a whole shift for the aforementioned character, I can see what they were going for.  However, The Graveyard Shift took up several issues of 2000AD and each issue dealt with one (more or less) particular crime for Joe Dredd, whereas here we've several squeezed into eight pages, sometimes more than one per page:

Caffe Nero, another survivor of the apocalypse

While I can't fault their ambition and it's clear they've had a blast doing this, it feels more like a collection of photos which have been taken before the script was written, the story fitting around them rather than the other way around.  After the intriguing, well-paced and polished photo story from #1, 23:50 is a little bit disappointing in comparison but it's quite funny and should certainly be entertaining for Belfast natives spotting the locales doubling for Mega-City One.

The second strip is Humane Options and comes from writer W. D. McQuiad who contributed to the previous issue too.  Bad language aside (I'll get to that later) it's an interesting take on Terminator-esque time travel and the ending is particularly harsh.  The art from Patrick Brown is quite rough, with loose pen scribbles evident for shadowing which can give it a rushed look at times, but overall it suits the quick, dramatic and rather dark story very well so maybe that was the intention.

TWO-PAGE MASTERPIECE

My favourite strip from the whole issue is actually only two pages in length!  Stone Man is both written and drawn by Simon (cover star of #1) McKnight and it's a beautifully crafted piece.  It's got a classic Future Shock style, the set up being completely flipped on its head on the second page. With such a short tale I can't really say anything other than that without giving anything away and spoiling it for you.  With gorgeous artwork which must have taken him an age and the ability to tell a compelling story in such a short space I look forward to more from Simon in future issues:

Simon's Stone Man is the highlight of the issue for me

Before interviewing some of the team a few months ago we were also joined by artist (and weightlifter) Jawine Westland who was working on her drawings for this next strip right there in the pub with us.  Fascinating to talk to, Jawine was absolutely lovely and her artwork looked fantastic.  Here, reproduced on full, glossy A4 paper it just looks great.  While we sat talking that evening she'd casually work away at a panel or two of the strip as if she was just doodling, but in fact she was producing some lovely stuff for Peter Duncan's story, Ragnarok:

No, nothing to do with Chris Hemsworth

At seven pages it builds its far-out scenario carefully and I guarantee you won't see the ending coming so kudos to Peter for this script.  Jawine's artwork is a lovely freehand style and her shading adds a touch of atmosphere to this space station-based tale.  In particular when the twist starts to unravel you'll feel the claustrophobia of floating alone in space.  Very nicely done indeed.

PERFECT POSTERS

In the middle pages are three pin-ups from Hal Laren (who has just had his cover for #75 of IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles published), Richard Harrison and Adam Brown (whose colouring work can be seen in Justice League).  After the success of the previous issue's mini-posters we've one more to savour this time and all three would make for excellent 2000AD covers.  The Nemesis the Warlock double-page poster from Adam in particular is spectacular and it amazes me this is in a small press fanzine comic and not Rebellion's newsstand title!  Below is just a small portion of it, as I don't want to ruin the awe when you see the full image, plus a scan (or in this case a photo) just wouldn't do the whole piece justice anyway:

A small section of this gorgeous piece of art

The final main strip is once again written by W. D. McQuaid, illustrated by Paul Malone, and it's a very enjoyable 4-page romp with a mix of character dialogue and inner monologue telling the story.  It feels very much like traditional Strontium Dog storytelling, the kind you could easily find yourself reading in the pages of the Prog, with it's mixture of action and contemporary commentary.  The population of an Earth colony are suffering from exposure to rads from their dying sun, while also being the destination for refugees from a nearby moon colony.

There's a real sense of tension and hatred amongst the ruling government which will ring true to anyone who is paying attention to what's happening either here in the U.K. or in the States at the minute.  But it doesn't preach.  Rather, this is all part of the background to the situation Johnny finds himself in and the mystery he must solve.  When the answer is revealed it's clear the hints were right there at the beginning of the story.  It's a well thought-out script and it's paced superbly over its four pages, accompanied by some bright and vibrant work from Paul:

A fine addition for Strontium Dog fans

There's one more strip I want to show you, a humour strip the likes of which we'd have been treated to on a regular basis within the pages of our action comics in the 80s and 90s, and it's one Oink! fans in particular will love.  But first there's a couple of other extras to cover.

There's the first part of an exclusive interview with 2000AD artist Glenn Fabry, the following parts of which will be published on the team's blog, as well as a one-page text story from Andy Luke.  Set in the present day it tells the tale of a visit by Dark Judge Death to 'John' and his rather unsuccessful attempt at dealing out justice.  At times it's amusing ("I shhhalll find them by Goooooggglingg") but I found it a rather difficult read by the way it's written.  For example, from the start of the story:

"Centuries before the Judges, Death swept our world unrestrained now as to be.  When it encountered John, the thing from Deadworld struck like Mercury.  Yet when the 'criminal' fell, Death felt a familiar queasiness, the stick of freshness as gunk seeping down into its finger-nails (sic)."

It reads like someone trying to overly impress with their word use but just feels convoluted and unnecessary, distracting from the story itself.  I found myself having to read it very quickly to get the gist of what was happening; it was the only way my brain wouldn't get too hung up on the words used and the strange sentence structure.  Andy is a professional writer though, so I can only conclude this was a creative choice for this particular tale.  A strange choice for me personally.

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE (PLEASE)

The only other real gripe I have (apart from maybe the need for a bit more proof-reading for errors) is the bad language in the comic.  The 'f'-word is used on a few occasions in this issue and I don't think it belongs.  I understand they're fans of the 2012 Dredd movie, but even there I wasn't 100% convinced it belonged.  2000AD was originally created for young pre-teen kids, while nowadays it's still suitable for young teens and up into adulthood, the target audience being much wider than it was.  The movie took Dredd and turned it into an adults-only story.  I still thought the film was great as an adult adaptation, but I'm hoping the new Mega-City One TV series will be more true to the source.  It's being produced by Rebellion themselves and the city is more like the comic's setting (and the Stallone movie's setting, the one thing that film got spot on) so hopefully it'll also keep the swearing more in line with the comic, where bad language is outlawed and replaced with new words like "Drokk!".  Hey it worked for Battlestar Galactica which was still a hard-hitting and mature show.

When I interviewed the team members about the fanzine and their group in general they mentioned how they hoped they could reach out to young fans who may not have the confidence to do anything with their drawing skills.  So it's a strange inclusion to have that word used a few times in one strip and then in the Fabry interview too.  It just feels out of place.  Maybe if this was a Dredd movie fanzine, but not a 2000AD one.  Instead of making it more mature it can come across as rather juvenile in the strips.

Shame, as it's not there much and could easily have been left out.

OINK! OINK! OINK!

I thought that'd grab your attention!  As you can see below the humour strip included here is simply titled 'Davy Francis', as this is the special guest contributor to this issue.  Greedy Gorb and Cowpat County (amongst many others) creator Davy has written and drawn a 1-page strip centering around the world of cosplay in the city of the future.  Rather fitting given the hugely talented cosplayers that bring so much to this comic and this strip is genuinely very funny.  Well what else would you expect from an Oink! cartoonist?:

Guaranteed mirth when Davy is about

Sector 13 #2 is a 36-page A4-sized comic printed on high quality, thick and glossy stock, so the page count has increased by 12 since last time.  With the larger amount of content you're bound to find plenty in here to entertain.  Those few niggles I had aside, this is still a great tribute to what makes 2000AD the cherished comic it remains to be over 40 years after its creation.  When it works Sector 13 not only works, it hits the nail on the head!

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You can order #2 (£4.00 plus £2.50 postage) via PayPal at the following address: sector13@boxofrainmag.co.uk

If still available you can also order both issues for the combined price of £11 including postage.

For more information and to check if stock of #1 still remains you can check out the fanzine's Facebook page.

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