The latest issue of 2000AD – Prog 1496 – is something of a milestone. The comic rumbles on as per usual, marking time before another landmark prog (and to be fair, 1500 issues is pretty amazing for a British comic in the current market) with fill-in stories. But – one of the fill-in stories is by my brother!* Go-Machine is a violent tale of cyborg boxing, corruption and redemption. I’ve not read 2000AD regularly for ages so I don’t know how well it racks up against other recent thrills but it’s well and tightly told, pacy, exciting and I want to go back for more next week. When I think about some of the cack that new ‘script robots’ used to produce back when I was reading the mag (Dry Run or Dead Meat, anyone?), I’m seriously impressed. Good work Al – everyone else, DON’T ASK JUST BUY.

But – of course there’s a but – I don’t think Go-Machine, very good though it is, has the wit, vigour or demented glee of his small-press stuff – The Destructovore or the Ultimate Future Shock. Those are played for laughs – pastiches of old-skool 2000AD – and Go-Machine has to play its retro cards a little straighter, but I definitely get the sense that Al’s being kept on a leash too much. Of course I’m biased – and when I write music crit I’m surely a lot more under control than I am when I’m just ranting in a pub. Also I don’t think this is Al’s fault – when I have read 2000 lately I’ve been really turned off by how pompous a lot of the writing is – a lame cross between hollywood voiceover narration and embarassing ‘lad’s banter’ dialogue. (Comic aimed at 20-year old men in worse than comic aimed at 10-year old boys SHOCKER). Al to his credit avoids this in Go-Machine but it’s so prevalent in the mag that one suspects a heavy editorial hand with a deep – and un-Thrillpowered – suspicion of fun. Bigger, free-er thrills are surely to come.

*Al has had plenty of stories in 2000, there’s another in this very issue, but they’ve all been one-offs – this is the first time he’s had to pen the sacred words “Next Prog” (assuming a sub-editor doesn’t do it for him).