I have always had an on-again-off-again relationship with 2000AD’s comics. Some I really enjoy and some… not so much. I love all of the classics; Strontium Dog, Nemesis the Warlock and the book that 2000AD is most famous for, the behelmeted and grim faced personification of justice himself, Judge Dredd. So when I found out that 2000AD had recently started delving into stories about the Brit-Cit (re: England’s version of Mega City One) region of Dredd’s post-apocalyptic world, I was suitably intrigued to see how our fair Albion was treated in the pages of this hallowed publication.
Brit-Cit Noir is a new trade paperback from 2000AD that collects two story lines; “Strange and Darke-New Blood” and “Storm Warning-The Relic” into 114 pages of Dredd universe goodness. Both of these arcs share the pulpy sci-fi themes that 2000AD is well known for but with an occult twist.
The first story “Strange and Darke-New Blood” introduces two new characters to the mix in the guise of Detective Inspector Jericho Strange and Psi Judge Bekky Darke. The latter has a vestigial psychic mouth on her neck that repeats people’s thoughts ad nauseam. The former is the head of the endangered species squad and has a sheep’s skull for a head.
What ensues is a pretty good detective story involving cryptids, corrupt officials and an awful lot of graphically depicted sex. Take that as a warning – this isn’t a book for kids. The material is mature and the book is unapologetic in its handling of it. Strange and Darke really embraces the noir aesthetic with great use of shadow and presents its panels at odd angles which adds to the unease that is present throughout the story. The lettering is sharp and well-placed, not cluttering the page allowing for the depictions of the foggy welsh countryside that is the story’s main setting to really ooze off the page.Overall Strange and Darke is great. Its conclusion is satisfying as a standalone story but at the same time leaves me wanting to see more of its characters and grim setting.
The second chapter in Brit-Cit Noir, Storm Warning is a more traditional Dredd universe story. If you have read any of the Judge Anderson books you will be right at home here. Storm Warning follows the story of Psi Judge Lillian Storm (great name) as she investigates the disappearance of two fellow judges. The plot is engaging, however Judge Storm just isn’t likable as a character. Maybe it’s because I really enjoyed Strange and Darke in the previous story, but I felt that the writer just didn’t do enough with her interesting backstory.Storm Warning has a glossier look to it than Strange and Darke that is more reminiscent of the current Dredd run. Where the previous story relies on its atmospheric presentation to tell the story, Storm Warning has long expositional speech bubbles that clutter some of the smaller panels.
Brit-Cit Noir is a great showcase for this part of the Dredd universe. In Strange and Darke it provides a great and compelling story that really embraces the noir aesthetic and makes me want to delve deeper into the setting. The other storyline is a more traditional 2000AD fare which isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.
Personally, I just preferred Strange and Darke. I’m guess I’m a sucker for a dynamic duo.