Judge Dredd “Nans of Anarchy” Part 2 by Alec Worley, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse.
Nans of Anarchy manages to feel like a Dredd script from the early 80’s in almost all of its conventions. Worley gives us bizarre hobbies, Boing, a singalong number and Dredd busting heads like he’s a young man again. The balance is corrected after last week’s pun-heavy first episode which was over-reliant on gags. This week there’s more substance, allowing Dredd to be both the action hero and the uncaring face of bureaucracy.
Worley paces the chase just right as Dredd seeks to disable the gang members in order to get to Crazy Daisy and the loot. While he bucks the recent trend by having Dredd do the hard part, he reassuringly has the main collar off-screen by the other Judges. Dredd has never been a lone gunman and it’s a necessary part of his character to continue to be one cog in a big machine. There’s a definite sense of legacy and succession planning in the strip as Joe’s advancing years start to stretch credibility. Various writers have taken pains to show that the Justice Department machine rumbles on despite what old Stoneyface is up to.
Richardson’s art style is well suited to this tale/ His chunky, blocky characters satisfyingly fill the page and the tank-like bikes deliver crunching impact throughout. He manages a lighter touch too. The images of Daisy first in defeat and then getting a modicum of victory have a great empathy that stops her from being a generic perp.
Sinister Dexter “The Gangbusters” Part 2 by Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse.
The second installment of Gangbusters starts with a bang and quickly heads to the pub. Yeowell lends some classic Commando Comics fire and fury to the first page and to the final sequence. The team have clearly done their research. The look of the old stories is nailed so well in the action of the final page. The captions and panels all look typed and hand-made. Even the pub they retreat to is straight out of Dambusters.
Abnett gives the pair enough charm that the very thin joke underpinning this tale nearly works. The thought bubble gag was done last week and probably didn’t need repeated this prog. Although its worn thin already, there is a part of you that wants to see exactly what upgrades Billi has patched into the game. It could give a bit of a boost to what should hopefully be the final episode next week.
Anderson Psi-Division “Undertow” Part 8 by Emma Beeby, Mike Collins, Cliff Robinson, Jose Villarubia and Simon Bowland.
Undertow concludes this prog and it all just about works out. Almost. On first reading it all feels a bit untidy but, with some consideration, all the threads that matter are tied together. And the others? Well, they’re less important for sure. Some elements ring a bit hollow. The presence of Kazuo and the Hondo Cit Anti-Psi’s feels a bit redundant. The whole story could have progressed perfectly well (arguably better) without them. There is potential in them for the future but Beeby or whoever picks them up will need to fill in the empty space that is Kazuo’s character.
This is about as close to a happy ending as any of the characters could have hoped for. There’s a sense of optimism going forward that is at odds with the parlous status of Psi-Division. with the Big Meg in the state that it is, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even the city in the view from Hershey’s office looks bright and gleaming. More like the MC 1 of old than the post-Chaos slums of recent times.
Collins and Robinson’s art in the chaos of the fights aftermath gives a clarity that ensures we don’t lose track of events. The panels are scattered and irregular, almost non-sequential. It reflects what must be a very real sense of disorientation the characters are experiencing. With a untidier artist the reader would be lost so credit is due to them as well as to Villarubia for some iridescent colouring, particularly in the spirit realm.
Whatever’s next for Anderson and team has potential to be special, particularly if Beeby can continue her development of the lead character.
Future Shocks “The Puppet” by James Peaty, Nick Dyer and Ellie de Ville
Nick Dyer provides us with some standout creepy artwork reminiscent of Dave D’Antiquis in this week’s Future Shock. The decommissioned war droid causing havoc is a tried and tested 2000ad trope (Think back to “Shok!” in the 1981 Dredd annual). You could indeed argue that’s all the ABC warriors are. But it’s one that always manages to entertain and James Peaty’s story this week is no exception. The trick is making it a bit different from the previous versions.
The Puppet inserts a level of ambiguity in the relationship between the droid and the human, giving the reader some doubt as to whom the puppet of the title refers. The operators initial uncertainty is captured perfectly by both artist and writer and there’s a tenuous sense of danger about how he overcomes his initial doubts to become a willing partner of this updated Bonnie and Clyde. Dyer gives the operator a baby-faced look that juxtaposes nicely with the subsequent slaughter.
Peaty gives us a good old-fashioned final blaze of glory and even squeezes in a point of classic 2000ad humour with the “Killing my career” line. All in all, a perfectly constructed nugget of thrillpower that timelessly wouldn’t look out-of-place in any prog since 1977.
Strontium Dog “The Son” Part 8 by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Ellie de Ville.
In the best tradition of RPG’s everywhere; Johnny Alpha’s ignoring the main quest and focusing on the side quests. Kenton seems to be levelling up his tank spec. He’s even respawned with what appears to be full health and a +1 Happy Stick after the boss battle last prog. Come to think of it, a Strontium Dog MMORPG would be pretty awesome. Wonder if 200ad’s publishers know anyone who could make video games?
Wagner gives us a few of the more practical insights into the bountyhunting life. It’s an unsentimental truth that dead is just easier and cheaper than alive. The newish DNA requirement is simpler than Middenface’s mobile Barlinnie from The Big Bust. There was a ghoulish element to a fridge full of miscreants hands that’s been replaced by a clinical scooping up of what’s left after the fight. Wagner even offers a solution to the issue of why Johnny’s not rich. Somebody somewhere must have worked out how much bounty he’s collected over the years. The expenses and overheads though? They must have bitten into his paypacket big time.
It’s a light offering from Wagner this week. Johnny lets his softer side out as he finds out a bit more about Kenton’s background. The more time they spend together you can see that Johnny needs friendship to bring him out of his grim persona. The reader too needs that relationship to lighten what could be a pretty depressing concept. Without the presence of a Wulf/Durham/Middenface it’s just a quiet guy who kills people for not a lot of money. No Country For Old Men told from Javier Bardem’s perspective.
Ezquerra gets to slip the reins a bit more this week and let loose with some real weirdos. The muties and aliens are fleshy and variable enough to immerse the reader in the Mos Eisley cantina feel. His style so far on The Son has been bright and almost cartoonish. Johnny’s clothing in particular has never looked quite so much like a costume before. It all works perfectly, serving the lighter tone of the tale. Johnny’s found a possible route out of darkness. It’s not a gritty mega-epic but the polar opposite. Handled with a deftness of touch, it reminds us of the space western tales that made Strontium Dog one of 2000ad’s best properties.
All told it’s a prog that gives us a lot of old favourites to savour along with a modern twist. 2000ad is still on strong form.