It’s the Free Comic Book Day battle of the Brits, with the galaxy’s greatest comic squaring off against the lord of time. Both are British institutions going back decades, both have a grounding in sci-fi and both are very, very different. One is counter-culture, brimming with attitude, whilst the other plays within the rules but has over fifty years of experience as a franchise.
So how do the two stack up, and which one was worth reading at the end of the day? There’s only one way to find out…
Offering a massive 48 pages of thrill-power from cover to cover (and with a front cover by Mike Allred that’s a lot), 2000AD has consistently been the one comic to pick up on Free Comic Book Day. Offering a mix of story installments and some new tales too, even the fine-print on the title credits page is worth reading for a laugh. Plus it offers downloadable content too after each story, upping the value even further.
With stories like Strontium Dog, Fiends of the Eastern Front, Ratfink and Terror Tales, there’s a lot to get through and almost all of it is enough to whet any reader’s appetite for more. However, it’s the Judge Dredd story which aims its lawgiver crosshairs straight at the readers… and at two other franchises, as a pair of comic book franchise movies featuring a red, white and blue heroic avenger and a super spit-curled alien with heat vision premiere in Mega-City One.
With Dredd brutally arresting their comic book fans for such infringements as unlicensed cosplaying and possession of black-market merchandise, things spiral out of control quickly. As for the actors playing those heroes, it’s made pretty clear that if you want a law-dispensing hero who sticks to his ethics and a hero who has no qualms about killing, then Dredd’s the real deal. Take that, first avenger and man of steel.
As usual, 2000AD is great value. Yet strangely there seems to be something missing this year, although it’s hard to figure out what it is. It’s like it’s missing a beat somehow. It’s still the one to watch out for, and it may just be a case of setting such high standards in the past that it hasn’t quite lived up to its own reputation, but…
Offering four new stories featuring the four most recent incarnations of The Doctor, this gets off to a flying start with the latest having to rescue UNIT scientist Osgood from an attack by Robot. Since Robot made his first appearance in the 1970s, this is definitely one for long-time fans. In fact, that’s the point of the story – legacy, and how times change. The second story featuring the 11th Doctor is a weaker one, but an intriguing character study as we’re reminded of just how sneaky he could be when trying to prove a point.
The 10th Doctor’s tale is more about his companions, as they explore the TARDIS trying to find answers as to just how alive The Doctor’s time machine truly is. There are a couple of nice homages to previous incarnations of the Time Lord, but it’s also a story which has a decent beginning and middle yet a weak ending.
The last story featuring the 9th Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack, however, is one of the most solid stories on offer this Free Comic Book Day. On a visit to the Eye of Orion (a reference to the Fifth Doctor’s classic story The Five Doctors), they encounter the cosmic equivalent of Banksy – a graffiti artist who literally remodels planets into works of art. However, The Doctor isn’t a fan since the artist’s work has resulted in entire populations being killed.
It’s exactly the sort of story you’d expect to see on the TV show, and it’s easy to imagine the original actors saying the dialogue on the page because it fits them so well. Out of the four stories on offer, none of them are bad but this one is clearly the best. Once again, Doctor Who has offered up something special and unique to readers.
It’s fair to say that 2000AD is once again ruling Free Comic Book Day in this battle, but that doesn’t mean that Doctor Who is a loser by any means. With the former you expect greatness as a given, while the latter is still establishing just how great it can be. That fourth story really did stand out as one of the best, and while it may not have had the punk attitude of Judge Dredd it had all the attitude of the 9th Doctor. And that’s a lot.
So here are two very different titles, but both offer flip-sides of the best of British.