Best of 2000 AD Vol. 2 Review: A Second Helping of Pure Thrill-Power

Rebellion continues to lure in new readers with some of 2000 AD's defining stories in The Best of 2000 AD Vol 2, which, like its predecessor, boasts an incredible array of talent from across 2000 AD's history, and offers a double dose of Judge Dredd. With Tom Muller's trade dress carrying through, and a stylish and distinctly modern cover by Becky Cloonan, it's a volume that is sure to catch the eye of the 2000 AD curious with contents that will help cement new fans who dipped their toe into this comic book institution's storied catalog with the first volume of this stellar series.

The volume again opens with a modern Judge Dredd story, "Magic Bullets" by Al Ewing and Colin Wilson. These days, Ewing is a star writer for Marvel Comics with runs on titles like Immortal Hulk. "Magic Bullets" offers readers the opportunity to see how he developed his knack for blending real-world issues with big sci-fi ideas, bringing deadly drone-like pieces of technology controlled by the rich to the streets of Mega-City One here. Capably drawn by Wilson, it's a stellar taste of the kinds of Judge Dredd stories one might expect to find in a current issue of 2000 AD.

Next, the volume offers the second half of Brink: Book One from Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard, a recent hit for the magazine. I've previously compared it to The Expanse, and I stick to that. Having read the entirety of the series to date, I can promise that the weirdness in this excerpt is only a taste of what awaits anyone who makes the wise decision to continue reading.

Comics critic Tom Shapira then introduces Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill's Nemesis the Warlock, getting readers up to speed on what makes the character and stories featuring him stand out even among 2000 AD's iconic character roster. While its bronze age stylings may be a barrier to entry for fans who have never experienced comics from the era, these Nemesis the Warlock stories present a revolutionary character with sharper teeth than most modern fictional rebels can muster on their best day. By the end of this offering of early tales, it's clear why Nemesis has achieved such cult-favorite status among the 2000 AD faithful.

Following Nemesis is the ABC Warriors story "Red Planet Blues," by Alan Moore, Steve Dillon, and John Higgins, which is a ludicrous amount of talent in a single creative team. While Dillon's work was always top-tier, I typically associate him with irreverence, perhaps due to how synonymous he became with Garth Ennis and stories like Preacher. But here, it's the opposite, with Higgins' colors giving the line work an added painted gravitas. It pairs incredibly well with Moore's melancholic script, in which—as is his tendency to do—Moore imbues the idea of retired war robots with much more depth and pathos than lesser writers would ever consider doing.

The closing two stories are 2000 AD classics. "The Vampire Effect" is a Judge Dredd story that's pure pulpy sci-fi goodness from writer T.B. Grover but is primarily an opportunity to introduce readers to Mike McMahon, one of the artistic giants of 2000 AD. McMahon wows in this story with his varied two-page spreads and gnarly anatomy. A one-page D.R. & Quinch comic from Jamie Delano and Alan Davis closes the book with 2000 AD's distinct brand of rebellious juvenilia.

Every entry in this volume is praiseworthy. If I have any complaint, it's only in comparison to the first volume, as no individual story in this volume knocked me off of my feet quite the same way as the Judge Anderson story "Shamballa" from the first volume. "Red Planet Blues" comes the closest, but as a single short, it's hardly fair to expect it to leave a comparable mental imprint as the graphic novel-length "Shamballa." But 2000 AD is an anthology, meaning longer stories that are not the norm.

But the first volume set an incredibly high bar, and saying this one comes ever so slightly under it is hardly a meaningful dint against it. Best of 2000 AD Vol. 2 features an incredible array of talent, and every story within is worthwhile, from Nemesis the Warlock's revolutionary exploits to the surprisingly emotional story about ABC Warriors' unfeeling robots. It's a collection of unimpeachable quality that'll further galvanize those new to 2000 AD to further their education in thrill-power.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Published by Rebellion

On January 31, 2023

Written by Various

Art by Various

Colors by Various

Letters by Various

Cover by Becky Cloonan