The Great Judge Dredd Megazine Catch Up, Part 4: The Graphic Novel Reprints

Well, we’re here at last. In this final entry for the series – and longest entry in the blog by far – I’ll be going through every damn floppy in my possession that comes bagged with all copies of the Megazine these days. Interestingly enough, I discovered that they’ve included these reprints for quite some time after buying a limited printing copy of Megazine 211 recently. The difference then was that the reprints would be inside the Megazine itself, doubling its length from the 64 pages it comes in today. The advantage of that method was that it would be printed in the same large size, whereas these floppies are slightly smaller, condensed versions of strips. The paper stock’s also thinner, meaning there’s much more noticeable bleeding of inks from the other side of a page.

It’s great that they’re included though, and they’re just a fantastic idea in general I think, giving readers a look at strips that they may have missed, particularly since the majority of these will probably never see the light of day in a proper collection, since there’s not exactly any demand for them.

Before I go, note that I’ve listed all of these in alphabetical order, instead of by their accompanied Megazine number, to make for easier reading. What issue of the Meg they were released with is still there though, as are the respective areas of first publication, hopefully letting those of you looking to pick a particular one up find the copy of the Megazine or 2000AD you’re looking for. Also note that, once again, the pictures aren’t mine, but property of their respective owners whom I’ve always linked.

So enjoy the post, and I’ll see you when I get back from my holiday.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Great Judge Dredd Megazine Catch Up, Part 3: The Long Series’

If you’re looking at the list after the break and wondering where Insurrection is, I point you to my review of the entire series here. My thoughts on every other significant long-running series is in this post, so do enjoy, and please note once more that all images used are the property of their respective owners.

Continue reading

The Great Judge Dredd Megazine Catch Up, Part 1: Introduction and Favourite Covers

Hello, hello.

The last time I had the Megazine in the title of an entry on this blog, it was a very long review of no. 332, an issue released all the way back in February of last year. My intentions had been to go through each and every issue following that until I caught up with the recently released Megazine 347. But as I was writing my review of no. 333, the latest that I only just finished as I write these first several paragraphs, I realised that that might be a little boring, not to mention time consuming as all hell. [Also: issue 348 arrived on my doorstep as I was catching up (this message not brought to you from the past, but the day I finally upload this first post, May 22nd).] So I thought that I might do something that will take far less of my time, and would also be a little more interesting to read instead.

Here then is the new plan: keeping this first post brief, like an introduction, I’m just going to list my favourite covers in catching up to Megazine 347 348 with short reasons why. In the next of these posts I’ll then be picking my favourite one-off / two or three part stories; and in the one after that my thoughts on the more longer series’, such as the second book of American Reaper and Ordinary (the latter of which I’ll be covering twice on the blog when I get back from holiday to find the Titan comics edition, along with a signed print, awaiting me). To finish things off, a whole post – the longest by far – will be reserved for the floppies, including those I bought separately from the Megazine’s. Unfortunately I won’t be covering any of the interviews or articles, as I see very little point in doing so, although I may mention them here and there.

The single exception to all of this is the third and last book of Dan Abnett and Colin MacNeil’s Insurrection, a story which I’ll be giving I’ve given its own post alongside the first two series’. My trade paperback collecting the first two books recently arrived, so I need to read and review those first, but once that’s done, I figure that it’s best to give the finale its own post, being the highly praised series that it is. Worry not about me ruining it for myself though, as I’m not so stupid as to spoil it for myself by attempting to read everything else as I go along but it. No, before I read Megazine 334 in which the third book begins, I’ll be reading the first two beforehand. In fact, the review of those will probably be uploaded before you see this post and the rest of the series. As very few of the prose fiction was any good, I’ve left it out too, seeing little point in the one or two stories I may have picked as good ‘un’s taking up space.

Indeed, I am writing to you from the past, this blog entry having been started on the 3rd of May after I’d finished reading issue 333, it and the entries listed above saved as drafts, the intention being to add more to them as a I go along. That’s another thing that should be handy about these entries, despite the different approach: they’ll all still be in order, which should make for easy reading. On that note, I’ll see you in the future!

Continue reading

Insurrection Review

Published in Judge Dredd Megazine’s #279 – 284, 305 – 310 and 334 – 342, Dan Abnett and Colin MacNeil’s Insurrection trilogy has the reputation of being quite the fan favourite, one of the more consistently well received series’ since its first publication.

It has an interesting premise. A distant mining colony in space, led by Senior Judge Marshall Karel Luther, comes under attack from an alien race called the Zhind prior to the beginning of the story and, though he repeatedly asks for help from Mega City One, none is given, leaving him and the few other Judges to fend for themselves. But they’re small in number – not enough to hold off such a large attack – so what they do is grant full citizenship to the mutants, droids and uplifts (genetically altered gorillas that can speak) sharing the colony with them, giving them this in exchange for their part in helping fight back. United like this, they win;  but upon doing so find themselves being told to revoke the citizenship they granted immediately, which is the final straw it takes for Luther to tell the Big Meg to go fuck themselves, declaring that Mining Colony K-Alpha 61 is now called Liberty and will henceforth be independent. Needless to say, the fascists Judges back home disagree and a fleet of the SJS is sent to wipe the colony out, in turn declaring them to be rebels.

What a brilliant idea.

The great thing is that Abnett really explores Luther and co.’s reasons for disobeying orders in-depth. Not only do you immediately get a very real sense of the friendship between all the inhabitants of the colony, that would be broken if they were to suddenly turn on them as the Justice Department commands, but the characters actually take the time to justify their actions among themselves, one of the biggest themes of the whole series being to stand up for your principles, which is a particularly interesting thing coming from the perspective of Luther and the other colonial marshals, people who have gone through the same exhaustive training that makes the Judges they find themselves defending Liberty against brutally fight them without question to their superiors.

But Abnett surprisingly has even that covered, for when we get to the third story arc, we actually find ourselves reading the first several episodes from the perspective of a colonial marshal on a completely different colony, who has a strong hatred for Luther and the other so-called rebels for the war they’ve ignited. This shift in perspective was one that I actually greatly appreciated, having read the reproduced copy of Abnett’s original proposal for the series that he sent to Matt Smith – this being found at the end of the trade paperback collecting the first two story arcs – in which he specifically said that he wanted the series to be murky when it came to the morals of the insurrectionists and Judges alike, the reader not easily picking a side. This isn’t honestly the case in the first two books – you’re on the side of the rebels all along. Their whole cause is certainly questionable, don’t get me wrong; but the Judges press their foot down so hard on Liberty that they end up killing a significant part of its citizen population at one point and know it, the kind of thing that makes them impossible to sympathise with.

So, though it may have only been for a brief amount of time before returning to pointing pitchforks at the Judges, I did like that Abnett managed to show another side to them within the series, evening our favour as readers. Whether he could have pulled off the idea of a morally grey series or not, I did actually find myself enjoying that he went the way of, what he calls in his proposal, a “true to Wagner” depiction of the Judges, even if it means making their two main leaders, Kulotte and Laud, a couple of cliche’s.

In fact, the series as a whole has a few things about it that you’d think would mean you’d direct harsh criticism towards it. In the second story arc (which is cleverly, and logically, moved to a new colony by the way) for instance, there’s a plot point that comes around about a computer chip that, if activated by Luther (the abrupt ending of the second book as he has a moment of doubt is genius, I might add), will cripple all those back home in Mega City One somehow. And you know, that’s something you really ought to be at least raising an eyebrow at, which I’m sure many readers did, but I certainly didn’t to an extent that I felt I wasn’t enjoying the story any more, nor did I frown as harshly as I might otherwise would at these two long sections of the first two books where a character explains a plan of attack, something which almost reads as telling instead of showing, a usually unforgivable literary mistake.

Why I think Abnett gets away with it is because every other idea in the entire series, from droids that have found faith in God to the recurring nightmares of a mind-controlled character in the third book, are really solid. Perhaps not wholly original – Abnett’s actually quite well known for his work on the Warhammer 40K series to which this draws some hefty comparisons, from the large, bulky character design of the SJS troops to the inclusion of religion (though the droid’s aren’t seen speaking of God by the last story arc, perhaps because in the Dredd-verse it should be “Grud”? Bit strange how that seemed to disappear) – but they make a great deal of sense within the story, and are just as fantastic as the premise itself, extra layers on top of an already interesting story, one which comes to a rather brilliant end.

A perfect end? That I’m not so sure of, as it ends the way uprisings of any sort against the Judges always do, and I felt particularly dismayed when the penultimate episode ended with a plot twist that I feared would happen, though then again – perhaps that’s proof of how invested I found myself in this series, and true testament to how great it is.

Of course, with this being the comics medium, it takes good art to make a series such as this really successful, but with Colin MacNeil as your artist, this should be no worry at all and isn’t. The art of the first two story arcs is some of his best that I’ve ever seen, easily fitting in alongside the fully painted artwork of Judge Dredd: America and Chopper: Song of the Surfer, despite the fact that it’s in black and white with gray toning. It is very often jaw droppingly beautiful, one of the staples of all three books being to end each episode with a full splash page. Incredibly gorgeous stuff with a ridiculous amount of attention to detail. The biggest compliment I can pay it is to point out that it was so amazing that I spent ages pouring over it all, meaning the short trade paperback took me a while to read through.

Unfortunately, something tragic happens when the second episode of the third book comes around: the art style changes. Fuck, I almost died. Yelled a Darth Vader “Nooooo!” dramatically and everything. The artwork’s still very much solid thankfully (it actually reminds me quite a great deal of his recent work on Mega City Confidential in the Prog, using very heavy blacks to create a much darker atmosphere) and I imagine that the contents of each panel are roughly how they would have appeared anyway – just with much less detail and beauty to them.

However, MacNeil was at least very honest about the change, stating his reasons on the 2000AD forums. Kind of funny how we never take that sort of thing into consideration, isn’t it? He’s a little vague on why he found himself “incapable” of continuing with the same style, but I presume that it’s too much hard work – it certainly looks that way, that’s for sure. Of interest there too is that he’ll be re-drawing the first episode of the third book for its reprint, or a collected edition of all three books, in trade paperback. Obviously the option of changing every episode after the first back to the original style would have been even better, but I really like that he’s making the change less jarring. The difference certainly came as a shock to me after the beautiful looking first episode. But ah well, it gets the job done and still looks great, though now that I think of it, I can’t remember seeing MacNeil artwork that I wasn’t fond of.

Overall then: read this. Wait for it all to be collected if you like, but read it when you can. It may not be total perfection – and I’m sure some people will be less kind on its plot contrivances than I – but it’s bloody good stuff. Action packed – something I neglected to mention in this review entirely – but filled with character, the latter of which is what I believe makes it special and worth your time. Keep an eye out for a new series set in another space colony under Mega City One jurisdiction by Dan Abnett in the near future, Lawless, a western-style story to be illustrated by Phil Winslade in the Megazine. Check out a short preview of it (and some other thrills of the future) here.

Until next time.

Prog 1878 Review

A bit later than I expected with this one, but I’m back with this week’s Prog now that 1879 has been delivered to me from the future. The consistency of the Saturday delivery has actually been quite surprising, for I recall usually waiting until Monday when I was last subscribed. That’s nice, and always lovely to see sitting on the floor below your letterbox as you go downstairs for breakfast because if you’re anything like me, try as you might not to, you accidentally spoil the week’s cover via the comic’s Twitter account before it actually arrives. Blasted social media!

Ach well, at least it wasn’t the case here. The cover’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for: of my favourite ongoing strip, Jaegir, and brought to us by Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady colouring it like the strip itself (I can’t actually remember if Coleby colours any of his own work, come to think of it). It’s quite the piece of brilliance, and I dearly hope we’ll see a post detailing the process behind it over on 2000AD Covers Uncovered as I’d be very interested to know whether there were other ideas before this or not. The reason for my curiosity is that this is a fairly packed image that could have very easily failed. We have Jaegir and Klaur take up the foreground; their air shuttle take up the distant centre along with the forest; Grigoru looming over all in the background; and, further behind him, the castle itself, a full moon behind it. Of course, some of the last is partly obscured by the brand logo, but that’s still a lot going on.

It’s great to see that it really works then. Although Coleby does a perfect job positioning everything and I really love the dramatic poses of the characters, especially Grigoru’s Frankenstein’s monster-like howl, it’s O’Grady’s colouring that really swoops in to save the day in my opinion. The two characters at the bottom are given a sand colour not unpleasing to the eyes and a red tint to their left hand sides, apparently from a fire. The forest behind them is a very light, washed out shade of green, which perfectly leads our eye to the figure of Grigoru, who is given a ghostly blue-grey shade of colour (note the subtle white highlight around him too) from which, alongside the anguished expression, he’s painted as both a terrifying monster and man racked by an illness out of his control. Finally, the castle and its surrounding hills are a dark grey, giving it an appropriately menacing look indeed. A bloody well done cover – someone add a little something extra to these droid’s oil rations fer cryin’ out loud!

Inside Tharg tells us about the forthcoming Free Comic Book Day, previewing what we can expect to see in the Prog. No doubt I’ll give it a pass on the day itself, so small is my patience with long queues (plus, if I enter the nearest comic book store in Glasgow just for the free Prog, guilt shall overcome me and I’d probably go on a spending splurge), but I’ll be keeping an eye out for it on eBay, if only for a Dredd tale illustrated by Chris Burnham, a chap whom I praised to no end for his work on Grant Morrison’s last story arc of Batman. In my mind there is simply no way that can’t look amazing, and I hope that those who pick up the Prog and have never seen his work before will be as impressed with him as I was.

 

We see the end of Mega City Confidential this week, and it concludes as I suppose all these darker Dredd tales do: with no one coming out unscathed, including the Judges. The big revelation of Section 7, as speculated on the forums, though really quite obvious from the art in hindsight (all those visor reflections, though certainly depicting several characters as demonic, was also highly suggestive of camera lenses staring back), is that the Judges have been spying on citizens through hidden devices recently planted in their homes after Day of Chaos. It wouldn’t be a move I’d make following such devastation to people’s everyday lives and, sure enough, the citizens take up arms against their lovely enforcers of the law, resulting in “over a thousand deaths” according to Dredd, of which very few are the Judges themselves. Arrests are large in size too – so big that Hershey suggests they may soon run out of room in the Iso-Blocks – and amongst those characters we’ve seen imprisoned joins Blixen’s partner, Max himself being suspiciously found dead. (That final page with his replacement on the show is great by the way, as it could be interpreted as the Judges actually sending a warning to the citizens of what the price for being a whistleblower is.) Wonder who could’ve possibly been behind that? Ah, the Judges never change…

Of course, as we saw last time, Dredd himself wasn’t particularly pleased with Hershey’s decision – we’re actually given a nice insightful line into how he appreciates his own privacy – so it’ll be interesting to see the ramifications of this latest chapter in his life on the world. It is, as I said last week, one of those short stories that I feel like Wagner writes every so often with the intention of building towards some great event, so that’s what I’d like to see anyway. On the other hand, it could just be that it’s another Dredd tale doing social commentary, quite obviously being based on Edward Snowden’s ongoing leaks about the U.S. government’s snoopiness. In fact, it’s one of those stories that I expect we’ll all look back on years from now as a perfect example of the strip’s excellent commentary on social issues, the message in this case being that no good can come from the breach of people’s personal lives.

Though short, it’s been excellent stuff and I look forward to much more from Wagner in the future no matter what he does next. Really, what a great way to find myself reading the comic again. Hopefully we’ll see more from MacNeil again soon too, especially if it means more of this darker style.

 

The first thing that sprung to mind after reading this week’s instalment of Outlier was, quite appropriately, how bored I am of it. Last week I was pretty harsh on it, and I’m afraid my mood towards it hasn’t changed, Caul’s little flashback to what the Hurde did being another terrible attempt at making us give a shit about him. The funny thing is, the flashback ends with a shot that the next is a mirror of, something which Jaegir also does this week (they really are quite similar, huh?), the difference being that the latter story does it a lot better, actually serving a greater purpose than telling us something we already know – the Hurde torture people? Really?!? – in addition to not being cheap in its delivery of character development. That’s what I suspect Outlier’s all about here anyway in its depiction of Caul’s girlfriend being skinned alive. It didn’t make me feel any sympathy though – just mild sadness that this is all Eglington seems capable of.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Not only does Carcer actually, you know, get involved a little more in the story this week by confronting Caul at last (though he does get stabbed, which also made me mentally face palm), but we find that he has a good reason not to trust his employer, who is indeed up to no good. We already know this – Carcer spelled it out to us before that she’s hiding something, and it didn’t take a genius to work out that she’s interested in taking Caul alive if possible, to be sold and his Hurde technology analysed. What could be somewhat interesting is a “psychological link” between Caul and Carcer that she mentions, suggestive that all these mirroring words and panels of the two characters is indeed to emphasise a greater bond they share besides being Hurde survivors. I’m still not enjoying this, but maybe, just maybe, Eglington does have some surprise there.

As for Richardson’s art – it’s still not doing it for me, and I think never will. A thought that occurred to me this week is that someone else could do the colouring for him in the future, but that still leaves the excess amount of detail he tries to throw on everything that I noticed a great deal more in this episode, putting me in mind of Tony S. Daniels, an artist I bashed to no end during my read of Grant Morrison’s Batman run. It’s a sort of realistic style, most noticeable when it comes to defining every little thing about a characters appearance (look at how much detail he pours into the structure of Mr. Hain’s face), but I really need find it to be too much, leaving little room for the imagination and more for mistakes.

 

This week’s Slaine wraps up the fight with the gloops from last week, quite hilariously beginning with a our hero narrowly dodging the tail of one that last week’s episode dramatically ended on. Although week to week instalments are reading quite well in the comic’s weekly format, I think it’ll be a lot easier to appreciate this particular series, A Simple Killing, once all of The Brutania Chronicles are collected in trade as again, not much happens here in way of significant plot developments. After the fight, Slaine and Sinead chat for a bit (the former curiously mentions having to go to a party “to say goodbye to someone” – does that mean the Green Man celebration we saw a couple of weeks ago was actually a flash forward or how he was picturing it in his head?), the main highlight of their conversation being Slaine’s refusal to help, as unusual as him choosing not to kill Kark in the second episode.

But that probably won’t last as Sinead looks like she’s either turning into some human-serpent hybrid or, more likely, seeing as the gloops are “sea devils”, some mermaid creature. Indeed, I’d come across a preview of this strip quite recently, with concept art of Slaine fighting a group of mermaid-like creatures (they were much taller), so I suspect that he’ll either be forced to kill Sinead or lose her to these creatures in Prog 1879, giving him the motivation to go to Monadh and face the Drunes there, which I suppose will be the final legs of this particular story arc. Sinead even mentions that they’re intending to raise a powerful new monster, so it could be that it’s that who becomes the villain of the next story arc, should Slaine be too late, something which might make for a good little twist.

The art, as always, is gorgeous. Not as incredible looking as last week, but still very consistent in terms of quality, Davis continuing to position everything in a unique fashion and nailing every panel, from the level of detail (when we first see Sinead’s legs changing you can tell that her veins have become noticeably thicker) to the choice of colour. It’s such bloody good stuff that it pains me to know that it must end sooner or later.

 

On the contrary, what I can’t wait to see end is Sinister Dexter. After last week’s decent episode, the focus is brought back on to the two shitty lead characters again as they shoot stuff, how exciting, blah blah blah. Please, for the love of god, wrap up soon. Please. The art from Smudge is alright, though I still contend that it’d look much better in colour rather than black and white. Although could someone tell me what the hell’s up with the last couple of panels on the first page, where we find Finny being cut loose then smoking in the next, but on the panel at the top of page just after this not smoking at all? Oh, fuck it, who cares? Be done already, I implore you.

 

Thankfully, Jaegir is here to never let the Prog end on a downer with that shite. Although not my favourite of this week’s episodes for a change – that would be the conclusion of Mega City Confidential – this series continues to impress. Like Outlier, it opens with a flashback, but does so with the purpose of making our heroine realise that the strigoi she’s hunting is smarter than she’s given it credit for – a lot better than the other’s strip poor attempt at characterisation. That is to be found here too, but it’s also done to greater effect: the flashback shows a side of Atalia’s father that was proud of her (in contrast to him beating her last week, no less), creepily marking her forehead with the blood of a bear that she didn’t flinch against as apparent symbolism of the future blood of Nordland’s enemies that he expects she’ll drench herself in as a soldier. What’s great is that he says this, and the next panel contrasts the young girl with a scarred woman, the “Madam Kapiten” of a team who investigates the crimes of their own people. Brilliant.

Sadly, it looks like this shall be ending soon, Grigoru launching his attack against Atalia and co. to end this week’s episode, probably meaning they’ll kill him next time, at which point I guess we’ll meet with the crippled old guy again to set us up for the start of another series. And hopefully whenever that series comes along Simon Coleby will still be artist, and Len O’Grady his colourist. Their cover is terrific this week and the art inside as good as always, perfectly suited for such a dark series as this.

 

Overall, another solid Prog. Whatever’s next for Judge Dredd, I hope it can live up to the brilliant Mega City Confidential. The next Prog arrived on Saturday so I’ve seen the fantastic cover, but I highly doubt its old school appearance has anything to do with whatever may be inside. Guess we’ll find out next time. Until then.

Prog 1877 Review

Another week, another smashing Prog, and yes, I’m using that corny line to open this review with your usual chat about the cover, which in this case is of Dredd smashing through glass on his bike like an utter badass.

It’s brought to us from Ben Willsher, a terrific artist, but not someone that I believe I ever encountered during my collecting of the comic. No, where I discovered him was in the trade paperback collections of Day of Chaos, though I’m to understand that he’s worked on other strips too. The cover itself isn’t one I would have had a lot to say about to tell you the truth, but don’t let that make you think it’s bad. Although it’s not a particularly unusual shot to find Dredd in, the two things that make it more interesting than most are the reflections of whoever Dredd’s shooting at and that the Lawmaster takes up a lot of space instead of the man riding it. Indeed, in my lurking’s of 2000AD’s forums, I’ve noticed quite a number of people associating Willsher with Dredd’s bike and rightfully so because he draws those things like no other.

Over on 2000AD Covers Uncovered, in fact, the author of that blog refers to him as “king of Lawmaster porn”, which is hilarious but also very true. From now on I think I’ll always be leaving a link to the relevant post of that blog each week because the thought process behind these covers makes for interesting reading. In this case, for example, the shot was inspired by Dredd’s first ever appearance and the idea of adding the reflections of a perp that Dredd’s attacking was to give the shot a greater sense of purpose. Excellent stuff in other words. Hopefully we’ll see some interior artwork from Willsher in the near future.

Alright, moving on.

On the contrary to my suggestion last time that this week’s episode of Dredd would give us a good indication of which direction it would be heading in, Tharg announces in his usual column that this week’s instalment of Mega City Confidential is actually the penultimate one, something that came as a bit of a surprise. Being such a slow burner these past three weeks, I expected that now would be the time that something happens to force the pace into a quicker second half, but with only one more episode to go, that isn’t the case at all. Though he makes it safely out of Dredd and Styler’s clutches just before they find out that he has evidence against Section 7, Blixen’s escape isn’t what I would call comparable to Erika’s tense time on the run.

In fact, we see some humour again this week, which I noticed has led some people into believing – this in addition to Dredd’s comment to Styler that he was “never going to keep this under wraps forever” – that the mystery of what Erika found out in the first place may turn out to be quite anti-climatic, possibly quite trivial in nature. Personally I don’t see it that way at all, especially since Dredd’s refusal to do anything else to keep the secret contained suggests to me that it’s something he disapproves of. But that this has only been five parts and is ending with the reveal next week actually leads me into thinking that Wagner has future plans in mind with whatever this may turn out to be, not something that I would say is unusual of him – it’s the sort of build-up that I associate with him being the head writer of Dredd, typically acting as a prologue to a greater, bigger story. Whether I’m right or wrong is something that I suppose we’ll find out next week, or tomorrow in my and other subscriber’s case presuming my Prog reaches me then.

Next up we have Outlier and I’m afraid I’m going to be quite harsh here – or harsher than last time I should say – having read a post on 2000AD’s forum that quite rightly compared the strip to the superior Jaegir, a subject I was also wanting to talk about. Both stories are, as he says, very alike in plot, being centred around the hunt for a former human / semi-human, semi-monster who is the cause of several deaths, but where they differ is in their approach, the former story of which – apparently not a series that’ll continue judging by the fact that it has no subtitle like Jaegir – has been doing a terrible job.

Last week I said that I wouldn’t be getting my hopes up for the story to surprise me, not giving two hoots about the weak attempt at character development through flashback at the time, but now I’m saying that I don’t really care what happens anymore. Unless whatever Caul is about to reveal about the Hurde is completely game changing, I cannot see their being any chance of this redeeming itself. None at all. And that’s having noticed that, like the first episode, there are two panels in which Carcer and Caul’s expressions are mirrored, again suggesting a stronger connection between the two. But who cares if there is when the former character might as well not exist for someone who’s apparently the protagonist, such is how little we see and actually give a shit about him; and the latter, though with the potential of being more interesting, isn’t really, the little we know of him being quite the cliche, this episode seeing him being berated for his past by the people who still bully him, boohoo, etc.?

Cementing its failure, I’m somewhat sad to say, is Karl Richardson’s artwork, which I’ve now grown bored of. If there was an episode for him to shine, this would have been it, but I really didn’t like what I saw. There’s actually an extra page for the strip this week to fit in a double page spread, indicative of this supposedly having meant to be a better looking episode than the last three, but I can’t call myself a fan of it too unfortunately, Caul’s figure looking a bit too stiff for someone running from a stampede, the pages being a little too cluttered such that two of the monkey-like aliens don’t look like they’re correctly in perspective, and the amount of green – and not an easy-on-the-eye shade of it either – is horrible. In general his artwork for the story has just been awfully generic, and though I’m sure that’s partly a fault of Eglington’s script too, couldn’t he have angled the shots of Carcer in his cockpit in this issue and last from another perspective, say from above so that we can see the planet below us, subtly making the world looking a little more lively and interesting?

That’s not been a problem of Jaegir, which continues to flesh out its world and characters week to week, still my favourite of the Prog’s selection thus far. By the time this current series, Strigoi, is over and the next begins, Rennie will have us invested enough in the world for him to do something bigger in scale. Indeed, this is another slow paced episode, but I’ll be damned if I don’t fucking love it.

Unlike this week’s Outlier, which sees Caul trapped purely by cocky chance, we get a full episode devoted to Jaegir and co. setting up their ambush for Grigoru at her family castle, learning additional snippets of information about everyone, including the fact that Jaegir and her target once slept together. Though it was already quite easy to feel sorry for the guy before, through the simple display of his physical transformation and the effect this had on him mentally, I like that Rennie poses Jaegir’s ultimate task of eliminating him as something more personal, and thus more difficult to do.

In another short scene – though it’s alluded to through the idea of the castle formerly belonging to an “evil wizard”, something she tells Grigoru’s son (and doesn’t that story itself, made at her own expense when the boy is frightened by her scar, say a lot about her character?) – we learn what exactly her father was like (he was a dick) through a flashback, but not one that felt like the ham-fisted exposition seen in Outlier last week. Instead, the memory that we see of her father through a ghostly apparition-like way is only bluntly brought to the surface like that after the afore-mentioned “evil wizard” dialogue, finding a portrait of him as she wanders the halls with Klaur, and then changing the idea of the castle having been occupied by a bad wizard to that of ghosts unforgotten instead. Absolutely brilliant writing, and terribly atmospheric art and colouring from Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady once again.

The only negative criticism that I have is that it appears to be ending soon! Say it isn’t so, I know. At the end of this fourth part we do find the strigoi making his way to Jaegir’s castle, meaning that its attack will probably be beginning next issue. It’s difficult to tell how long it may be drawn out, especially since I’m quite sure that Rennie will continue to flesh out his characters where he can, but as killing this poor guy is the whole point of this first series, it seems likely that it’ll draw to an end an episode or two after his death. Not sure that it’s going to be a happy ending though.

What will most likely see a happy ending is Sinister Dexter, if only so it can dump more crappy filler stories upon us. As much as I hate this fucking series (is it obvious?), however, I would like to think that I’m fair to one and all, including this, which actually sees a pretty decent episode for a change. Maybe it’s because the two annoying lead characters are missing for most of the five full pages and only get a single line of dialogue each, or maybe it’s because I’ve just started watching Sons of Anarchy with its nasty biker gang recently, but I did enjoy this week’s episode, particularly the focus paid to the two female characters who come to Ray and Finny’s rescue after exposing the traitor we saw last week at the biker’s bar. With the fifth part looking to be the big gunfight that the main characters are caught between, this might go out with a bang after three fairly crap episodes. That’s a thing you have to keep in mind about 2000AD – opinions can quite quickly change if a story is steered in a particular direction or other.

Slaine is the story I’ve saved for last for the simple reason that nothing worth talking about actually happens when it comes to its story. Following last week’s ending and my doubts about Mills’ direction with future instalments, we instead immediately follow that with a fight, as we find that Sinead was followed from Minadh – which she would seem to have genuinely escaped from – by gloops, the lizard-like creatures we’ve seen before. It ends on a dreadful cliffhanger of Slaine turning to find one of their tails indeed flying towards him, which I just find silly, but that’s about it, and no, I’m not complaining. For the reason I saved this for last is that this is easily the best damn art that I’ve ever seen from Simon Davis.

I mean, holy shit.

Yeah, if you thought that the look of this new story arc couldn’t get any better, think again. Honestly, I no longer know what to expect from the guy after seeing these past four episodes because this is bloody ridiculously good looking. The thing is, as I was collecting the comic, I had a bit of an on-off appreciation of his art style, one moment dropping my jaw but the next thinking it looked awfully lazy with its long distance silhouette shots where characters looked like stick men, or its at times awkward colouring of characters.

But this has been incredible each and every week, though I now wonder if it’s possible for him to top these six pages because, seriously, if it weren’t for the lettering and the fact that it isn’t actually the two centre pages of the Prog, I would take that two page spread and frame the damn thing. Stunning artwork and speaking of lettering, I think we should all be very grateful that, for those two pages, we find Slaine’s thought bubbles running along the bottom of the page, underneath their respective panels instead of inside them, letting us enjoy the art all the more, so thank god for Elle De Ville using common sense where others may not have done so. Can’t wait to see what this strip looks like next week.

Or tomorrow morning if my Prog arrives as early as it should. As usual, though, I won’t be writing up a review until it’s actually on sale this Wednesday but, until then, I do intend to begin my catching up of the Megazine, starting at issue 332 and making my way up to the recently arrived 347. Should take me quite a while since I intend to talk about the floppy bagged with each, but more so because I actually have additional copies of those mini-trades that I guess I’ll have to review separately.

There’s other posts coming too. It hasn’t arrived yet but I’ll be writing a review for Insurrection, a Dan Abnett and Colin MacNeil series set in the Dredd universe, once I’ve read it. It recently finished with book three in the Megazine so I wanted to buy this trade paperback collecting the first two in order to really enjoy it. Having blitzed my way through all three volumes of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga series recently, I’ll be doing a write up of my thoughts on that as well. Spoilers: it is fucking amazing and everyone should be reading it. Should also see a more personal post up too quite soon. Alas, I’ll be going on holiday at the end of May so how I intend to do all this, I do not know, but oh well.

Until next time.

Prog 1876 Review

Hello, hello.

Though I won’t be starting with this today, I think that in my next review of 2000AD I’m going to try my hand structuring the post differently. Instead of reviewing everything under different headings, I’ll try creating a better flow from paragraph to paragraph. It would be less noticeable that I have more to say about certain stories than I do others that way, I think, in which case it would probably be the better option in the long run, seeing as 2000AD is an anthology comic and you never quite know how much you’ll have to say about a continuing story each week. The other thing is that there’s simply those series’ that you care for more than others, and will thus have more to talk about. Right now, for instance, I could gush over Simon Davis’ artwork on Slaine for several paragraphs, but would be content with writing “Fuck these guys” and moving on when it comes to Sinister Dexter. So, yeah, I’ll give this approach a shot next time. But for now, let’s just do this traditionally, incidentally starting with a cover depicting the two characters I hate so damn much.

 

Cover by Alex Ronald

One of the many fascinating things about 2000AD is that they don’t often do variant covers like other comics. Where DC use these variants to let another artist have a stab at a cover for one of their characters whilst the artist of the strip inside does the standard one, here we almost always have the single cover, and what’s interesting is that they very often have little to do with the story inside, are by a completely different artist to anyone found inside, or are outright unrelated to what’s inside. In this case we have a Sinister Dexter cover from an artist I’ve never heard of, portraying the duo in an action-movie like shot that you won’t find awaiting you in Abnett’s third part of Gun Shy, and the funniest thing is that Finny looks totally different than he does at the moment – as I’ve ever seen him in my collection of the comic actually – with long hair and in a suit, the polar opposite of the punk rock vibe he has going on just now.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a bad cover or anything – it’s a belter as far as I’m concerned, all digital like Clint Langley or not. Like I said though, the artist’s name rings no bells with me, and for good reason. A search of the name on Google and I came back with his blog in which the latest post of his is about this very cover, specifically saying that it’s his second for 2000AD (he would appear to have done more for the Megazine and would seem to have featured within there at least), having last done one only several weeks before I jumped on board with the comic again. That was Prog 1869, for which he drew a cover of a character called Ulysses Sweet, apparently quite an old character that has now recently been revived. Over on the blog 2000AD Covers Uncovered there’s a post about that one in which he steps us through the process of creating it for those of you that may be interested. Thankfully there’s one for this too, though not quite as revealing about his approach unfortunately. But whether you like this more obvious type of digital art or not in your comics, it’s just as complicated as doing it the old fashioned way, and I should know as someone who very briefly did some digital art as part of his games development course.

If I do have one complaint, however, it’s that it would appear to me that there’s quite a lot of aliasing going on here, most noticeably around all the shards of glass, although you can just make it out on Ray’s two guns as well. Can’t imagine what the deal is here because in all of Clint Langley’s art that I’ve seen, jaggies has never been something I’ve noticed, yet it immediately stood out here. Alas, having studied games development in which aliasing is a problem or not (sort of why you have anti-aliasing methods in the options menu of most PC games), I’m no expert on the cause of it and have no idea why we could be seeing it so clearly here. Oh well. Otherwise, it’s a brilliant cover and we’ll hopefully be seeing much more from Mr. Ronald in the future.

 

Droid Life

Wasn’t going to include this as part of the review but what the hell. We’re already at almost 800 words, so why pretend that this will be short? But, yeah, Droid Life’s still kicking around. Never really cared much for this, though I guess it’s nice that it’s there. Plus, it has its own short collection, so I guess some people find it funny. But I never do, so I can live without it in my life. Then again, I can’t imagine it’s easy creating a joke in such a small amount of space. Whatever, I don’t know why I’m still talking about this. In his usual spot of the Prog, Tharg mentions a Sci-Fi Special at the end of May. Not really sure if this is also the Summer Special but he promises to talk about it again soon, and I’m sure I’ll see someone refer to it as the same Special Prog if that’s what it is.

 

Judge Dredd: Mega City Confidential (Part 3)

Quite unsurprisingly, following on from last episode’s ending, we find Erika walking into a trap in which Max Blixen is involved. It could have been a little unnecessary of Wagner to show us Dredd intimidating Blixen into co-operating via flashback, but it works in conjunction with the final page where we get a shot of an awfully sad looking Blixen taking off his glasses. That’s a panel I do love because on the second page it was his turn to get a close up where we can’t see the eyes behind the glasses, already used to paint Dredd and Styler in a non-human light, so it works in contrast to this, making Blixen another victim of the Judges in a way. Indeed, only he, Erika and the now-dead Ramage have been characters we’ve seen below the surface of. Though not exactly a choice when it comes to Dredd, Wagner and MacNeil could easily have decided that Styler should be without glasses if there weren’t a purpose behind it, so I am seeing the distinction between those characters looking so constantly ominous and the others as having eyes and more expressions than a frown on their faces as an intentional choice, and it’s bloody good stuff with that being the case.

Still no word on what this big conspiracy could be and although Blixen now has a data slug containing Erika’s evidence, I don’t think we’ll be finding any answers next time either, which I’m sure will annoy some people. Though there is the possibility that Wagner could pull a fast one on us by having Blixen killed and the secret remaining so, I do believe that we’ll find out what’s worth all this quite soon. But in the next Prog I expect that we’ll see Blixen make a run for it (the Judges will most likely interrogate Erika into revealing that she made copies of whatever the data slug contains) and who knows where we could go then. Maybe Ramage’s senseless death is supposed to be an indication that the Judges are going to rack up a body count in keeping their mysterious secret contained? That could make for a bit of a tragic tale, especially if the secret doesn’t reach the public. Whatever happens next will probably give us a better idea of the story’s direction. Another good episode this week.

 

Outlier (Part 3)

A bit of an unusual week for this story. Taking up the middle three pages this time, we get two featuring a flashback and one of Carcer and his client talking to each other. The latter’s a little silly since there’s no room at all to make it even slightly interesting, with both characters talking via hologram. It is your typically boring full page of exposition, right down to Carcer telling us that she’s lying. Meanwhile, the actual flashback scene would appear to simply be a set up for another one in the future, one in which I expect we’ll see exactly what happened to Caul and the other characters who were left to the mercy of the Hurde. If you care.

This is looking more and more like a straightforward revenge tale, and that’s quite a shame. Even the titular ship that I thought might be of some importance wouldn’t appear to be of any at all, little more than that which Caul was part of the crew of, now only a representation of the people that betrayed him, boohoo, etc. It would be nice if I’m wrong about this strip and it can still surprise me, though I won’t be getting my hopes up, particularly as Karl Richardson’s artwork, I’m afraid to say, continues to be unimpressive. Here we are at a game reserve on another planet and out in space, yet neither have any memorable qualities. Since we’ll still be on the planet in the next Prog, hopefully that means we’ll see a bit more of the jungle and finally something about this world will actually look kinda interesting. At least Caul had gorilla-like arms on the last pages, I suppose.

 

Slaine: A Simple Killing (Part 3)

Well, that was an unexpected two page spread to open this part of our story, wasn’t it? The first three pages of this week’s Prog are pretty good – rather odd certainly, but it’s quite interesting to see Slaine apparently having moved on from his dead wife in such a simple manner some time in the past, the memory perhaps being another indication of Pat Mills taking the character in a new direction, forgetting these things. Or is he? Though last week’s Prog had Slaine choosing not to kill the man who stole from the Goddess’ temple in the opening episode and he again considers leaving his pursuit of that man’s daughter or the sea devils who kidnapped her behind here in this chapter, she turns up anyway, apparently having escaped.

The thing is, last week took quite an unconventional turn by having Slaine meet Kark yet do nothing in the end, changing our perception of this series’ title, which seemed to suggest it’d be a run of the mill “To kill this guy, our hero must first jump through this hoop, and then another, and another after that – irony, folks!” kind of tale. So to see Slaine either being lured into a trap or finding himself in the position of having to help Sinead anyway, might suggest that things are to be on the straight and narrow from next week’s episode onwards. It’s hard to tell at this point obviously, but I do hope that Mills won’t have Slaine caught up in another supposedly epic tale that we’ve seen before and stick to what he’s been doing for these first three episodes because, for me at least, this bare bones approach to the character has been really fun so far and, missing some complicated plot or other, I’m not sure what to be expecting.

Artistically, I don’t know if I need bother for it speaks for itself. Yet again Simon Davis is acing the look of this series and I sincerely hope that he’ll be kept around for future story arcs. This week we get a mixture of lovely colour, starting with a very green opening spread, finding a page full of orange after that, and then some darker pages after that which have a lot of blues and purples. A treat for the eyes, I call it. The only particularly unusual thing about the art this week – and by “unusual”, I don’t mean in a bad way – is on the fourth page, where we see the moon behind Sinead’s head, which two separate panels are cut off with a crescent arc to either side of. There’s no lacking in the imagination of Davis, that’s for sure. Looking forward to more of this next week.

 

Sinister Dexter: Gun Shy (Part 3)

Apart from the slightly humorous Pastor, I pretty much have the same feelings about this as the last few weeks, which is to say I do not care and hope it ends swiftly. Just complete filler until we reach the next big story, and I shudder to think what that may be. It’s funny that this week’s cover of the duo is so exciting, yet the story inside so bland and uninteresting. However, we’re gearing up for the big fight soon (though it would not surprise me if next week’s episode is five pages more of stretching this out) so hopefully that will make it somewhat worthwhile in the end.

The art continues to be alright, but I really do believe that it’d look so much better in colour. Earlier this week I was actually going through some of my collection and came across a Judge Dredd story drawn by Smudge that was coloured and I think a similar look would suit this strip a lot more. Wouldn’t save the story itself from being total crap of course, but I probably wouldn’t let my eyes skim over the artwork compared to the rest of the current line-up.

 

Jaegir: Strigoi (Part 3)

Yep, still my favourite, which is quite strange because very little of importance happens this week, except that we’re given some subtle insight into Jaegir and her team members. What the point of this episode basically is is that, even when she’s given a new task, Jaegir doesn’t put the assignments she was previously working on on hold. Though many of her own people may hate her for it, this is her job and she’s fully committed to it. Where I can honestly say this week surprised me was in the way that she personally only brings her targets in alive, and only then because she needs to interrogate them in order to chase up another lead, but the other three that we see are rather brutally killed by the members of her team. For some reason I expected her to be taking everyone in alive to stand trial but it’s very suitable to see that she neither has the time for this or the means to do so because of their political standing, so has her team members dispatch of them through more discreet means.

Absolutely loving this strip, as dark as it may be. It’s taking its time, which I’m sure is bugging people as much as Dredd may be as well, but it has something to talk about week to week and I can’t wait to read what happens next, and probably after that too. All the while, Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady are still being a brilliant combination. To be honest, I’m actually so comfortable with how well these two are depicting this grim world that I’m having a difficult time imagining who else could possibly be doing the art and colouring for it, drawing a complete blank. When this is over and the second series begins I think it would be great if these two were still on board because they’re doing a great job at bringing Rennie’s story to life.

 

So that’s another fantastic Prog overall, though I am a little concerned that Outlier may not have any tricks up its sleeves after all, and that Slaine could be succumbing to a familiar storytelling pattern next week after these first three surprising episodes. Let’s hope not. Otherwise, Jaegir’s still on top for me, and Dredd is just behind.