Judge Dredd “Fit for Purpose” Part 2 by Rob Williams, Chris Weston, Dylan Teague and Annie Parkhouse.
Prog 2074 draws you in first with Emily Zienner’s beautifully hazy Anderson cover before Rob Williams lays down some Mega City One realpolitik in the second part of his Dredd story “Fit for Justice”, his examination of the deep flaws that exist within Justice Department. Pin gives Gerhardt the rope with which to hang himself, never actually getting to the charges against him but setting in motion a train of thought that gives Gerhardt no option but the choice of the long walk. Dredd, significantly, does or says almost nothing during this episode. His very presence ensures that Gerhardt will fall on his sword for the suggestion of private collusion.
The action here is all internal and covers a lot of ground. When is the last time you saw Dredd ask how he feels about something? And the setup right at the end when Dredd decides, on the glimmer of a smile, to check in on Higbee, makes you suck in a breath. This is Williams at his finest. Showing the experiential intuition of 50+ years on the streets. He knows a wrong’un when he sees one and he sees one in Pin.
If there was ever a character and an artist who were made for each other it’s Weston and Pin. Nobody does old or skinny judges quite like him, capturing wrinkled uniforms that don’t quite fit like they used to. His old man Dredd is impressive but his Pin is in a different class; wizened and cruel to the point that the reader can’t tell her irrelevant gender. She has the potential to be a memorable antagonist for Dredd , even without her extracurricular activities. All in all this is very promising and, played correctly, could have some real legs.
Jaegir “In the realm of Pyrrhus” by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady and Ellie de Ville.
Atalia Jaegir continues her seemingly disgraced return to Nu Earth. Not much happens here to advance the plot with half of this episode consisting of a moderately cozy chat (by Nort standards anyway) between Atalia and her new commander. The other half has the Falstaffian sergeant Klaur showing some new recruits his enormous balls in the face of a Southern assault.
The opening frame here is brilliantly realized. Simon Coleby’s tiny, in distinct figures are almost lost under Len O’Grady’s poison gas wash, nearly leading to a friendly fire incident that would finish this story before it begins. This artistic duo manages to portray both the poisonous wasteland of Nu-Earth and the heavy steel interior that seems to be lifted straight out of the Sulaco hangar from Aliens. There is a rare alchemy of writing, pencils and colouring that gives a real punch to the looming mobile fortress emerging from the fog before being annihilated from above but also manages to convey emotions to men in masks. Let’s see where the Kapiten-Inspector takes it from here…
Sinister Dexter “Night Class” by Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse
Sinister Dexter makes up the weakest story this week, in contrast to the clever wee tale they had the last week. Steve Yeowell’s impish Mr Sinister the teacher has enough charm to carry the first few pages but the inevitable conclusion feels predictable and doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. Why did these guys think they could take a course in being a gun-shark? How does one advertise such a course? And where? And if nobody knows who Sinister and Dexter are now, then why would anyone want to enroll in their course? And where was Ramon hiding? And does this mean that they’ll be carrying garish cartoon guns from now on?
Anderson Psi-Division “Undertow” Part 2 by Emma Beeby, David Roach, Jose Villarubia and Simon Bowland
Emma Beeby’s Anderson shows us some more of the fragmentation of Justice Department. Psi-Judges, always regarded as a bit odd are now openly mistrusted. Flowers and Anderson need to tiptoe around their colleagues their unofficial psi-virus investigation. Beeby really gets Anderson. She has unsurprisingly lost the flippancy of her early years and has evolved into a patient mentor for Flowers who is so uncertain that he’s not even convinced that he’s tall.
Roach and Villarabia transition nicely between the chaotic crash site, the stark psi-vault and the dungeon-like cell of poor Psi-Judge Karyn. Real credit goes to Villarabia’s colouring which makes Anderson’s astral body seem to emit light right out of the page at you. Karyn’s hair, nails and lipstick in the final panel is really on fleek.
One question that is inescapable after seeing the mysterious echo room is: Don’t Judges wear socks? What must their feet smell like?
Strontium Dog “The Son” part 2 by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Ellie de Ville.
Wagner. Ezquerra. Alpha. Sternhammer. You feel as if you should know what you’re getting here but the master somehow manages to give us something fresh for Johnny to do. Bringing order to a planet isn’t something you can do with a number 4 cartridge.
This episode is a delicious meal by Wagner and Ezquerra. First evoking memories of Rage and The Ragnarok Job then moving to rookie-cop drama with Kenton (Johnny nearly seems to say he’s too old for this shit) before adding some comedy in the interaction between the meester and the taciturn, “standard-sized” Alpha before finishing with the deadpan response to the job offer.
Ezquerra draws the SD world with a familiarity that suggests he could do it in his sleep if he wanted. His depiction of Johnny’s sweaty fever dream feels compelling and you get the distinct impression from his waking expression that it isn’t the first time he’s had it. It’s the smaller details he really nails though. The doughy passivity of the Protozans and the big-lad awkwardness of Kenton speak of an artist who remains at the top of his game.
All in all, this is one of the best progs of recent times which sets up several very promising storylines. Roll on next week to see where they go!
Splundig vur thrigg.