Judge Dredd “Flaws” Part 1 TC Eglington, Staz Johnson, Abigail Bulmer and Annie Parkhouse.
Dredd himself is on pretty light duties this week, but the symbolic presence of him, as a force either of security or oppression, looms nonetheless. Staz Johnson provides a tasty looming effigy with a particularly unsettling grin which looks all kinds of wrong on old stoneyface’s stoney face. Edlington has great fun with his malevolent huckster, stoking up division to his own ends while remaining plausibly clean-handed. Newsman Mo gets well and truly played into creating a potential crisis.
Dredd always excels at showing the murky backroom workings; think of the masterfully cynical destabilising of the Democracy march way back when. This time it’s the Judges who are on the back foot. Hershey, sitting in what looks like the world’s most uncomfortable chair, is manoeuvred into inaction. Johnson manages to capture the seething dissatisfaction in the chief’s office.
Special mention to the vox pop page showing the citizens are just as irrational as ever. Eglington presents people here who could likely appear on Fox News or the BBC talking about Trump, Brexit or any of the other polarising issues of the day. Johnson makes them solidly real world too. Fingers pointing, saliva spraying, a baby crying. These are people we’ve all seen everyday so we know that whatever happens next week, it’s going to end in tears.
Jaegir “In the Realm of Pyrrhus” Part 4 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady and Ellie de Ville.
Jaegir really gets going this week with a spot of light kidnapping. As good as Rennie does action, the delve into propaganda on page 1 is just as satisfying. Who can’t relate to that sinking feeling when the boss calls you out on you padding your achievements?
Once the attack starts the combination of art and writing make this a treat. Dropping to red emergency lighting, not giving the administrator a second to catch her breath as we run through tunnels to the landing pad in an almost first-person perspective. The only break in the dull red is the glow of the faceplates, giving the combatants an almost demonic aspect made alarming by the incomprehensible shouting and the realisation of what is actually happening. By the time the squad starts talking it’s too late and we’re gone almost before we know we’ve been taken.
It’s bewildering right up until C3PO gets booted, the comedy of which shifts us back down a gear to meet the crew. Rennie has breathed new life into Nu Earth and the reader is just on for the ride.
Sinister Dexter “The Devil Don’t Care” Part 2 by Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse.
Finnigan and Ramon lighten the mood, particularly with Ramon’s panicky introductions to Billi and her pal.
The writing is on point here, with a lingering uncertainty of how much of a problem the devil is going to be. Right up to the point where he becomes a big problem.
Yeowell captures exactly how stressed-out, out of breath, confused and agitated every character is, in contrast to the relaxed body language of the devil. It’s easy to overlook the contribution of the colouring, but Charles nails the Miami Vice vibe of Downlode with the bright blockiness of the characters jumping out from the backgrounds. As the drama unfolds you’re left in no doubt that this is the only show in town, everything else fades to grey.
Anderson Psi-Division “Undertow” Part 4 by Emma Beeby, David Roach, Jose Villarubia and Simon Bowland.
Last week we got, “Suddenly dinosaurs!”. This week we get both “Suddenly zombies!” and “Suddenly ninjas!”.
Beeby drip-feeds us some idea of what’s drawing the Scooby gang in before it all goes tits-up, and you don’t need to be a Psi to predict that would happen. The team dynamic is well worked in this episode. Echo is the one who felt what the beasties felt but it’s Anderson who puts it all together. She’s the brains and experience of this outfit and will have to be the glue that keeps it together too.
You can feel Karyn, Echo and Flowers’ confusion and mounting panic expressed in a single line each before they’re all instantly incapacitated in varying ways. Roach nearly knocks Flowers out of the page just after he completely unravels Karyn. We’ve been warned about how dangerous it is to have her in the team and this is skillfully shown in each panel she’s in. She’s always drawn contorted or hunched; uncomfortable in her skin until she warps out. When she changes, she’s in her true state and she doesn’t want anyone’s help.
On a final note, at least the chief is out of that chair but she surely needs to get those shoulder-pads resized? How did she even get them through the door?
Strontium Dog “The Son” Part 4 by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Ellie de Ville.
Kenton gets a chance to redeem himself this week, putting his hitherto-unmentioned mutation to good use tracking down Johnny. Unfortunately he also leads the glazers there too, but wasn’t Johnny looking for them anyway? Either way, a classic Wagner wild west shootout goes badly awry and Kenton may have to step up to salvage the situation.
As well-written as this is, you just can’t feel that Johnny’s in any real danger. He’s been through too much to get polished off by some unknowns. Not every story needs to be an epic though. Maybe we should just sit back and enjoy this one for what it is. A mid-season episode of a classic space western and no less fun for that. Nothing flashy, just telling a story.
Legendary artist Cam Kennedy ends the prog on a bittersweet note with a heartfelt tribute to the late Jim Baikie. We’re all aware of Jim’s talent but Cam gives us a glimpse of his humour, generosity and kindness. If there’s any doubt that this is a community, read this eulogy and you’ll feel the connection these guys had.