This is one of 2000ad’s periodic jumping-on progs, designed to be accessible to new and returning readers. So with 4 new stories and 3 one-offs there’s a lot to take in here.
Judge Dredd “Fit for Purpose” Part 1 by Rob Williams, Chris Weston, Dylan Teague and Annie Parkhouse.
There’s a mass of contradictions running through Dredd this week. The dayglo zaniness of the city and the austere grimness of the judges. The humanity of Gerhardt and the loss of his physical form. These are handled deftly by Williams, but it’s the artwork of Weston and Teague that really gets across the trauma, physical and emotional, that Gerhardt has suffered. The colours show the different scenes beautifully; the bright futuristic city, the sepia flashback and the cold greys of Justice Department. Against the weight of the SJS and the bitter cruelty of Judge Pin poor beleaguered Gerhardt doesn’t stand a chance
Jaegir “In the Realm of Pyrrhus” Part 1 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady and Ellie de Ville.
Jaegir returns with a bang this week, opening with Simon Coleby throwing a Nort dreadnought out of a black hole and straight out the page and into our faces. We’re then treated to a breakneck descent to Nu-Earth with our comrades being slaughtered in every panel along the way. It’s almost a relief to hit the ground to find who else but Sergeant Klaur; the only man on Nu-Earth who could stop and smell the roses. It’s breathtaking stuff and, while lacking in plot development, manages to let us know what Jaegir the strip is all about.
Future Shocks “Freedom Wears Two Faces” by James Peaty, Dylan Teague and Simon Bowland.
James Peaty’s huddled future masses seeking escape to a utopia reserved for the elite are instantly familiar. The grimness of their city beautifully pencilled in a dirty Bladerunner style by Dylan Teague. Although it’s no surprise that the protagonists’ escape plan goes badly awry, the fun is very much in finding out exactly how it falls apart. A trip through a mini-stargate to end up in the Overlook hotel populated by the digital ghosts of the people you just screwed over? Yes please! Add in a glitchy, flawed colour wash showing the messed-up transition to the unreal paradise and you have a neatly tied-up and pleasing tale that manages to be everything that a good Future Shock should be.
Sinister Dexter “The Salad of Bad Cafe” by Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell, John Charles and Ellie de Ville.
Finnigan and Ramone are strangely at their best when they aren’t being pushed along a narrative. But instead are given time to sit and shoot the breeze. That is is exactly what we get here. Dan Abnett and artist Steve Yeowell go for the unconventionally conventional 3×3 panel approach, which works perfectly with the ebb and flow of the conversation.
This layout choice allows Yeowell to capture the personalities with relatively minor changes in expression, posture and body language as they remain crammed into a booth. The reader is almost literally a fly on the wall here but manages to get a taste for the relationship between the two characters as well as squeezing in humour, pathos, an existential crisis and even some exposition for jumping-on purposes.
Anderson Psi-division “Undertow” Part 1 by Emma Beeby, David Roach, Jose Villarubia and Simon Bowland.
Anderson and Flowers are out investigating Psi-Judges gone wild in a tale that teems with foreboding. Street judges lurk in the shadows or stare with suspicion from the back of David Roach’s panels; Judge Hayworth panics and wreaks confused havoc; creepy drawings are pinned to dirty walls predicting awful things. The climax is almost reassuring in its real-world destructiveness. More than anything though, Beeby and Roach show us who Anderson is and why we should care about her.
That she’s an entirely different animal from Dredd is demonstrated through Beeby’s dialogue but her true personality is shown non-verbally. Roach shows her empathy with poor dead Hayworth; the fun of chatting with the child psychics and her patient understanding with the lunatic fringe that she’s nearly been a part of herself a few times over the years. Beeby has here a more mature, considered Anderson than the flaky Debbie Harry of yesteryear and she is arguably a much more rounded, believable character as a result.
Judge Fear “Memories are Made of This” by Kek-W, Dan Cornwall and Annie Parkhouse.
This week’s standout tale gives us a peek at the continued ineptitude of Tek-Division. A division that appear to think that nothing bad can happen if you play with a psychic ghost. Judge Fear has always kind of been the rubbish one of the dark judge. It’s good to see the scope of his powers played out properly; both on overt and covert levels. Dan Cornell gives the scooby-doo psi-team a quirky aesthetic, while Kek-W allows Soren to have the fun touch of a young Anderson while avoiding the annoying traits of Janus. Props indeed to anyone who can make a smoky helmet look just a wee bit smug at the end.
Strontium Dog “The Son” by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Annie Parkhouse.
Wagner and Ezquerra look like they’re on familiar ground but everything is just a bit askew here. The new doghouse boss is a self-confessed stront fanboy and that big guy in the corner is not the Sternhammer you’re looking for. As Johnny says, “You can understand nostalgia.”.
This episode is very much setting the scene, re-establishing us with the new SD agency so there’s not too much in terms of action. It is nice to meet new friends and reconnect with some old favourites and Wagner even manages a training montage so we can afford wait and see where the new team of Alpha and Sternhammer take us.
Ezquerra doesn’t get a chance to blow our minds as this episode mostly consists of people milling around at the doghouse. Hopefully he’ll get back to his spaghetti western best next prog. He does, however, capture Kenton as a big lump of a lad and he does make Johnny’s disdain for Kenton palpable, so it’s not a total waste of his talents.