Before you crack open the prog this week, sit back, take a moment and admire the gorgeous Anderson cover by Raid71. You deserve it, and it deserves your full attention. When you’re ready turn the page and kick off with…

Judge Dredd “Flaws” Part 2 TC Eglington, Staz Johnson, Abigail Bulmer and Annie Parkhouse.

Eglinton continues to turn the screw in “Flaws”, ramping up the tension for a climax that would feel slightly underwhelming if he didn’t drop a heavy hint that there’s more to come. The Judges post-Chaos have been increasingly struggling and under-resourced. It’s a bit of world building which makes their difficulty dealing with the terrorist cell all the more believable. In days of yore they would have been in an iso-cube last week.

2000ad has always excelled at mirroring contemporary concerns and the exploration here of terrorism being as much about spectacle as body count is timely and perceptive. The Sons of Booth are a different animal from the fanatics of Total War. They’re aware of how favourable the political situation in MC-1 is to them. It’s a tinderbox waiting for a spark and, as their boss says, “If one thing goes wrong, it all goes wrong”. Staz Johnson’s scenes mirror the ugly mood with some ugly looks. All the characters look as if they’ve been caught on camera at a bad moment on a bad day. Everyone is sneering or scowling. Even Booth and the rockcrete Dredd have the same leering grin. “Flaws” is all about the ugly side of human nature and we can see this captured in everybody.

Jaegir “In the Realm of Pyrrhus” Part 5 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady and Ellie de Ville.

The plot thickens in a satisfying installment of Jaegir this week. Atalia’s prisoner is starting to look like a very valuable prize indeed. She may be more slippery than the team are prepared for however. She remains visibly unintimidated by her kidnappers, even throwing in an almost playful promise of revelations to come.

In the midst of this banter the external action as the team is really secondary. The conflict as they attempt to evade Souther pursuit seems less dangerous than the threat posed by the administrator. Like Judge Pin in Dredd, she is physically unimposing compared to the others but still manages to take over intellectually. Throughout this story so far Rennie has made the non-combatants appear much more dangerous than the poor grunts doing the shooting. It’s a common theme we’ve seen many times in British comics from Charley’s war through Halo Jones.

Coleby and O’Grady don’t disappoint in the artwork with smudged and cloudy exteriors giving way to hard-lined interiors. The inhospitable environment shown through smog, death and decay is almost a character in itself. It invades the hopper as soon as the door is cracked, as threatening as gunfire. It’s beautifully lit too. The darkness of Nu Earth night broken only by fire, gunfire and the glow of masks.

Sinister Dexter “The Devil Don’t Care” Part 3 by Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse.

SinDex goes overtly cinematic in this episode, channelling the Terminator with the seemingly-unstoppable Devil. Abnett even gives us a “Come with me if you want to live” moment delivered in true funting Finnegan style. The Devil character has worked well enough up until this point with confusion around him as to his exact nature. It’s not clear whether or not going up against Ray and Finny will spoil that mystery regardless of outcome. Certainly his apparent supernatural explanation makes him feel slightly more vulnerable.

It’s a blistering run nevertheless. Between car and foot chases Abnett doesn’t give the reader a minute to catch their breath. Yeowell gives an energy to the strip which Charles plays off nicely: The pair contrast gunshark threat with madcap cartoonish colouring. This draws the action out of the frame in contrast to the uniform grey of the city behind them. Bystanders and Downlode are invisible behind the fight or flight activities of the protagonists.

Anderson Psi-Division “Undertow” Part 5 by Emma Beeby, Mike Collins, Cliff Robinson, Jose Villarubia and Simon Bowland.

There’s a change of personnel in Anderson this week as Cliff Robinson makes a welcome return to the prog. The artwork has been excellent up until now so you could be forgiven for worrying that a change in personnel would be jarring. Robinson’s sinewy style works perfectly with the emaciated vampires straining to drag away Karyn. The artistic team produce a view of the undercity that is reminiscent of Arthur Ranson’s work on the Anderson classic Shamballa.

Beeby lets Cass show her leadership chops. She assesses Kazuo before marshaling the troops. The psychic conversation is confusing to the onlooker but not for the team. Contrast this with Hershey leading from the rear. She’s been reduced to a slightly malevolent line manager in comparison. Anderson leads from the front, by example, taking the fight into the king’s lair. Hershey is made into an armchair general, losing control of her own forces.

Technology is shown to be inadequate in the face of what are effectively superpowers. It’s interesting to consider how little the Psi and non-Psi populations have in common. There’s an individuality in the Psi’s that isn’t seen in the uniformity of the other judges. The danger they may present to the city is inextricable from that, particularly if the vampire king has anything to do with it!

Strontium Dog “The Son” Part 5 by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Ellie de Ville.

Another fever dream this time brings an old friend to visit Johnny. Wagner may be the master of hard, taciturn men but he manages to pull at our heartstrings this week. This story has given us a peek at the angry man Johnny could have been years ago if not for the relentlessly positive influence of Wulf. The level of grief and loss Johnny displays is tearjerking. It’s truly sad that the most he’s spoken in years is to a ghost. He’s confused and delirious, sure, but he’s honest. Dreams only work as a storytelling device if they tell the dreamer something they already know. Otherwise they’re just cheating. Wagner we can see is no cheat.

Ezquerra’s artwork is the best he’s produced in this story so far. We see the vision of Wulf as almost angelic. A big hairy-arsed Viking angel surrounded by a halo of fever heat, but an angel nevertheless. Johnny shows burning, sweaty suffering in every frame and Wulf is there to care for him, showing him the truth he doesn’t want to face for himself.

The team of Wagner/Ezquerra is as strong here as the team of Alpha/Sternhammer old cucumber. The synergy between artist and writer shows that Johnny has never come to terms with Wulf’s death. Kenton may end up being the means by which he finds some solace. That’s if either of them stays alive long enough…


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