There have been several collections of 2000AD‘s ‘greatest’ stories over the 40 years that the weekly sci-fi comic has been published, and with thousands to choose from, any modest-sized reprint collection is going to struggle to do its claim any justice. Opinions vary wildly, particularly when you factor in the point at which the collection’s curator first discovered the comic and their own particular cultural baggage.
What’s interesting here is the method of selection. The stories have been chosen by a crop of 2000AD‘s own artists and writers, with each one writing a short introduction about why they chose it. This pulls the collection away from the usual crowd-pleasers and readers’ favourites, and brings it firmly into the inspiring and technically excellent.
It may just be a coincidence but I was surprised at how many stories have originated from annuals and holiday specials – the longer format extra issues, designed to stay stocked on newsagent’s shelves to tempt unwary passers-by during long school holidays. In these books the writers had the space to create longer, self-contained stories, which sometimes left them flabby and under-edited, but also produced a few gems, some of which have been picked here. This serves a secondary benefit for regular purchasers of 2000AD‘s collected editions, because the chances of getting something that’s been reprinted before are slimmer: these standalone stories usually appear outside the standard continuity, so are less likely to have appeared in previous collections.
However, what’s missing as a result are the arguable true classics of the comic. There’s no Alan Moore, no Judge Dredd epic, indeed no representation of the serialised stories that form the comic’s backbone. Key characters are also under-represented. Judge Dredd has the lion’s share of the stories, alongside appearances from Strontium Dog (in a classic story of morality trumping money) and Nemesis the Warlock (artist Kevin O’Neill is also the most frequently represented, with three stories making the collection), but there’s no Rogue Trooper or Slaine. Making the cut in their place is a classic Future Shock from Alan Grant (the first he wrote for the comic) and a brilliant story from Kevin O’Neill that went on to be made into the film Hardware.
On the whole it’s a solid collection. The selection process has thoughtfulness and reason behind it, and the short one or two paragraph introductions provide a fascinating insight into the respectful rivalries that the high overall quality of the comic encourages from its creators.
It’s possibly not the best jumping on point for new readers, who are still best off picking up the weekly comic, though it might provide the momentum for going out and seeking out more work from great artists like O’Neill and the sadly recently deceased Steve Dillon. For the rest of us it’s a nostalgic trip down memory lane, where even the most ardent of fans should find something new or at least long-forgotten.