Judge Dredd “Nans of Anarchy” Part 1 by Alec Worley, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse.
After taking a back seat to the Sons of Booth in recent weeks, Dredd is back out busting perps this week. Or not so much busting perps as serving eviction notices to grannies. As is often the case, the antagonists are where the story is. Dredd is there mostly as the rock against which they break. It is implied that he’s been after the biker gang for years. That’s more Worley injecting a bit of personal animosity into the story to give Dredd even more of an excuse to growl than usual. He opens particularly well, with an especially craggy Dredd looming over the reader with a stern warning.
There’s a recurrent theme of late in which not only Dredd is ageing but the perps too. The Apocalypse squad story of last year and this week’s McMahon cover acknowledge that the city and the readers have been about for a long while.
The nostalgia for stories of old is nearly recreated in a tale of Mega-City oddballs. Nearly but not quite. The Sons of Anarchy pastiche feels somewhat forced and the deaf old lady gags went stale with Mrs Gunderson. Not content with knitting bikers, Worley lays it on even thicker with biker-chic hipsters, complete with slang that sounds like what an older guy thinks is how the young’uns talk.
Richardson gleefully victimises the hipsters, catching them in all their skinny-jeaned, waxed beard glory. As the chase begins, cold-brew coffee and “Breakfast in a Suitcase” go flying to capture the maniacal feel of the proceedings. Crazy Daisy has almost as much of a chin as Dredd himself, with an added Rosie the Riveter vibe. It almost makes you wish old Joe really had been chasing her for years. They could have been 2000ad’s equivalent of Batman and Catwoman.
Sinister Dexter “The Gangbusters” Part 1 by Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse.
Sinister Dexter pay homage to the old Battle and Action comics of yesteryear in their new story. It’s clear that Abnett has a lot of fun with this and pulls out as many of his tricks as he can. He dishes out the fourth-wall breaking thought balloons we know exactly what road he’s going down. It helps that SinDex has always been nearly aware of being a comic. The hook of this story just allows them to acknowledge being in a different comic from usual. It’s not a particularly new idea; even Garth Ennis took The Boys to DC Thomson-land. But the old jokes of noticing thought bubbles, “Who’s Roger?” etc are treated lightly enough that it doesn’t grate.
Yeowell nails the brittle, simple style of the Commando stories. His normally static style aided by the liberal application of the movement lines so beloved of the genre. The immersion is completed as Annie Parkhouse gets in on the action with some typeset comment boxes for Abnett’s script commentary.
As cleverly constructed as the concept is, the reader probably doesn’t enjoy it quite as much as the creative team. It’s a fun joke but, if it isn’t wrapped up by next prog, it’s one that will wear a bit thin.
Anderson Psi-Division “Undertow” Part 7 by Emma Beeby, Mike Collins, Cliff Robinson, Jose Villarubia and Simon Bowland.
Emma Beeby continues Anderson’s tribulations as Undertow picks up the pace. 6 pages cover a lot of action-heavy ground and there’s a fine symbiosis of art and writing used to carry it off. A conventional panel structure gives way to a more fragmented layout as the chaos of the conflict ensues. Robinson makes Anderson’s astral body take advantage of Flowers’ distraction to slip almost off the page entirely. The use of these panels makes the subsequent fight feel as uneven and unstable as the fragile alliance between Flowers and the oddly one-dimensional Kazuo. His simplistic “Psi’s bad” take feels at odd with Beeby’s more nuanced treatment of Karyn et al.
There’s also a thematic development of physical fragility versus power of other forms. We’ve seen it recently with Jaegir and Judge Pin. The value of Echo’s abilities haven’t been fully explored yet. Last week she was effectively neutralised. This week Robinson ragdolls her right across the page in sickening fashion, like a puppet with its strings cut. Of all the team she is the one with the greatest appearance of vulnerability. Beeby and Robinson make her verbally and physically passive, with ingenue looks and some expressions of painfully painful pain.
Artistically Robinson and Villarubia go to town with Karyn. They ramp up her increasingly grotesque appearance in every picture, then giving a pathos to her inner fragility on the final page. Beeby accelerates the chaos up to this point then stops it dead in an almost serene finish. A fine return to form after a slightly ropey episode last prog.
Future Shocks “An Inconvenient Tooth” by Martin Feekins, Joe Palmer and Ellie de Ville
After the conclusion of Jaegir last week we get a disappointingly unsatisfying Future Shock. A few puns aren’t necessarily a bad thing: Sinister Dexter has been churning them out for years. But this story misses the mark by seeming to try to build the tale entirely out of the title.
An assassin with a bizarre motif goes up against an agent with a bizarre gift, culminating in a twisty ending. It ticks the boxes for a good, old-school Future Shock. It even has a “Thargnote”. Unfortunately none of the elements feel believable, even for a sci-fi comic strip. It even feels as if it’s been done before but better in a Moore-era Shock.
Fortunately the cartoonish style of Joe Palmer helps the reader to engage. He gives the story an 1960’s Man From UNCLE / Team Fortress 2 aesthetic which is a lot of fun. His geometric lines and repeating patterns are clean and crisp. He then despoils this with some gorily organic spillage just in case you’ve forgotten it’s 2000ad you’re reading.
Strontium Dog “The Son” Part 7 by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Ellie de Ville.
Wagner creates a masterful bit of tension this prog with Johnny struggling to get to Kenton as he goes solo against the Glazers. (It’s been suggested that this is a Manchester United reference but isn’t Wagner a Greenock Morton fan?)
Ezquerra drops the fight into complete darkness, managing to create near-invisible action that confuses the reader as much as the combatants. Interspersed with the brightness of the panels containing Alpha, we are effectively immersed in the characters’ shared experience.
As the dust settles, Wagner brings the tale back round from bountyhunting to Johnny’s feeling of culpability over Wulf’s death. Johnny’s responsibility for how this finishes is debatable but irrelevant. He’s going to torture himself far more than Max Bubba ever did.
While there are individually good stories this week, the prog falls down in comparison to previous. 2000ad has thrived on having both light and dark pieces but that success is reliant on balance. This prog falls far too far on the humorous side. Whatever editorial decision was made to have 3 whimsical stories out of 5 has thrown the style out of sync. Hopefully next week will be back on form.