Judge Dredd “The Chosen One” by Rory McConville, Dan Cornwell, Abigail Bulmer and Annie Parkhouse
Dredd has an unusual kidnapping on his hands this week. McConville shows he has a fine understanding of what makes a good Dredd story. He creates some excellent dialogue this week. The bickering kidnappers are worthy of a place in the People’s Front of Judea and their poor victim’s weariness becomes ever more understandable by the end. Dredd’s line about waiving the name-change fees is perfect 2000ad dry humour.
Cornwells’s cast of characters are cleverly recognisable. The kidnappers look like a mishmash of boring office workers who just happen to be hellbent on satanic destruction. The aesthetic of ritual robes over street clothes is a nice garnish to show them as the hopeless amateurs they are. The image of Dredd bursting out of the sewer covered in slime conjures up a vision of Lovecraftian monsters and ticks the awesome box. The moment is only heightened by having the smaller emergent panels superimposed onto it. Abigail Bulmer’s colouring brings a nauseating tone to the image that you can almost smell off the page.
This is a great one-off Dredd that works on every level.
Sinister Dexter “Gangbusters” Part 3 by Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse
Gangbusters comes to an end, probably one prog too late. Abnett makes the best of it with some snazzy upgrades to the duo’s game. You could call it a commentary on loot crates and payable DLC in modern video games if you wanted.
Either way, Yeowell gives the tale some zip with the dogfighting scenes. He manages to show the complexity of movement from the planes. Gunfire, smoke and bullets fly off at every conceivable angle and the fiery explosions have palpable heat from Charles’ vibrant colouring.
It’s been a one joke tale and, on the whole, well-executed, but they played it out for too long. It maybe would have worked better as a two-parter or as a special.
Skip Tracer “Heavy is the Head” Part 1 by James Peaty, Paul Marshall, Dylan Teague and Simon Bowland
Tharg loves his bountyhunters and we get another gun for hire in the new thrill this prog. It starts with an interesting premise; a giant futuristic ghetto. An interesting lead; an empathic bountyhunter. Nolan seems to have enough character to carry off a lead. He’s charming without being smug; tough without seeming superhuman; and doesn’t seem to be afflicted with the cynicism that would make him a boring protagonist.
Five pages isn’t a lot to set up a world but Marshall gives us a taste of the clamour of the Cube. It’s not dissimilar in look and feel to Mega-City 1. The generic “Asian” stylings give it a Bladerunner aesthetic that sets it apart along with the absence of visible law enforcement. The neon lights and lasers are in keeping with the prog’s recent depictions of future. Think Culberd’s Brink but with sufficient distinction to be a 2000ad theme rather than a copy.
It’s ridiculously early days, but Skip Tracer looks like it could hopefully be more Brink than next Zero City.
The Fall of Deadworld “Damned” Part 1 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall and Ellie de Ville
We return to Deadworld in fine style. Kek-W and Kendall pull no punches, opening with a grotesque phantasmagoria flowing from the inside of Jess’ head. The world Kek-W is building seems more and more like our own, finding real-world and Dreddworld parallels all the time. Whether it’s President Boone and his wall, the kindly Angel family or the Judge Child revelation of last book. Each element makes Deadworld feel closer and more grounded and subsequently more terrifyingly familiar.
Kendall’s post-apocalyptic mud and grime are straight out of Cormac McCarthy via The Walking Dead. The misery somehow made more tearjerking by the inclusion of the innocent Arthur and his sweet interaction with “Choklit girl”. The lighting in the final panels is like a Turner seascape. Jess rendered in scrawny determined style, lit with red fire is a shift in direction for the story. She finally has agency and even a glimmer of hope. It’s testament to the writing that we get that hope despite knowing for 30 years the fate of Deadworld.
Strontium Dog “The Son” Part 9 by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Ellie de Ville
Alpha’s stay on planet ends with a fine caper at the expense of the titanic Silverman. Wagner’s had a lot of fun in the latter part of this story. He provides a fine slapstick solution to the impenetrable robot foe. Along with some teamwork with his protégé it’s a lighthearted caper which refreshes the palate after the grim Deadworld.
Ezquerra’s robot creations are typically functional but it’s the facial expressions of the characters that steal the show. The terrorising of the alternately passive and terrified aliens, remind us of the Dredd tale of Precious Leglock. An altogether superior wrestling robot, replete with theme tune. It’s a good rehash and Wagner/Ezquerra can probably be forgiven for a bit of recycling after 40 years. There’s no harm in ending on a bright note every now and then so let’s just have fun with it.
A new thrill with promise, a welcome return to Deadworld, a happy ending for Team Alpha, the completion of a too-long joke and a quality Dredd one-off. The prog is on form, bring on 2082!