Judge Dredd “The Paradigm Shift” Part 1 by Michael Carroll, Jake Lynch, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse
Dredd starts off with what looks like a McGuffin-hunt but swerves into ancient history this week. Carroll unexpectedly segues into the bad old days with a look at the difficulties of the nascent Judge force. There’s been a few foreshadowings that we’ll be getting more about the beginnings of the Judges in Avalanche. Paradigm Shift is a welcome incursion into that territory.
Both elements of the story are effectively the same. Deacon is essentially Dredd from another time; efficiently hard and brutal in the pursuit of his case. He arguably has a tougher gig, being without the benefit of cloning, technology and Justice Department resources. He’s in the middle of a transition period between what the reader recognises as North American military/policing and the Judge system. It will be interesting if Carroll decides to develop him with some non-Dredd traits. After all, he isn’t a clone immersed and brainwashed from birth. It would be good to see the character deal with personal conflict between the old and new worlds.
Lynch’s artwork for this tale is clean and crisp. His angular citizen Cake and not too muscular Dredd reminiscent of Ian Gibson in style. His take on the original Judges is interesting too. Just enough similarities to see how the uniform would evolve. He overdoes it a bit on Dredd’s chin on the final page but the shift from Dredd to Deacon is seamlessly done. An interesting start to a story that promises to shed some light on the shady past.
It’s good to see Dredd’s sense of natural justice in addressing a wrong that needs to be righted. It’s often subsumed by rigid adherence to the law but on this one he looks like he’s going off-piste.
Skip Tracer “Heavy is the Head” Part 2 by James Peaty, Paul Marshall, Dylan teague and Simon Bowland
More layers are added to the plot in Skip Tracer this week. We get an idea of Nolan’s employers, the rich elite of the Cube and, through his interaction with them, an idea of the power dynamic of the society.
Peaty is opting to ease us in gently, not overloading us with a ton of exposition. He hints at a kidnapped princess; a war which has damaged Nolan; a betrayal by his own side. It’s a subtle approach. Hopefully it won’t make the pacing or plot sag unnecessarily. The authority aversion could feel like a cliché, but he’s vulnerable enough to make it seem less so.
Marshall’s futuristic Cube is in firm Bladerunner territory, allowing Teague to illuminate every scene with a glowing array of neon. It creates an aesthetic that is relatable. The lights feel seedy rather than utopian and the people under them are as recognisable as the downtrodden everywhere. Oddly though, there doesn’t seem to be enough of them. There is a feeling that the biggest sink estate in the galaxy should be somewhat more crowded.
Survival Geeks “Geek-Con” Part 1 by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, Neil Googe, Gary Caldwell and Annie Parkhouse
Survival Geeks is one of those 2000ad stories that divides readers like Marmite. Is it clever, charmingly self-referential and meta? Or is it nonsense that wouldn’t have been out-of-place 20 years ago but now looks like it’s trying too hard? It’s difficult to come down too firmly on either side in this instance.
There’s no shortage of ammunition as the geeks find themselves in a multidimensional comic-con. The Rennie/Beeby combination makes for some zippy dialogue which feels like actual conversation rather than the Tarantino-style speech that is often passed off as conversation.
If nothing else, you can play geek-style “Where’s Wally?” with the crowds as Googe and Caldwell squeeze as many references into 6 pages as they possibly can.
It’s light and whimsical. With the overall strength of the prog it actually fits in well. Particularly as a palate-cleanser before what comes next.
Damned: The Fall of Deadworld Part 2 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall and Ellie de Ville
Jess is fast becoming an inspirational leader in the Deadworld resistance. Kek-W’s development of the character has to be praised. He’s managed to shift the emphasis from the missing Fairfax onto Jess in a manner that feels authentic. She’s been put through the wringer but has discovered an inner strength, humanity and charisma that shines out in every interaction she has with the other characters. It’s a slow burn that has paid off with one of 2000ad’s best characters in years.
This would arguably have been impossible without the artwork of Dave Kendall. The body language of the characters and the way they respond to Jess is belied by the horror of their surroundings. The empathy and vulnerability displayed in her scene with Patti is perfectly observed and a perfect synergy of writing and artwork expressed in only 4 panels.
It’s made even more poignant by the ever-present fact that she’s doomed to lose. Heartbreaking storytelling at it’s best.
Durham Red “Born Bad” Part 1 by Alec Worley, Ben Willsher and Ellie de Ville
Chelsea Blue has to be the worst hiding-out name ever. Even Finnegan Sinister and Lobster Random managed to conceal themselves with a bit more aplomb than that.
We catch up with the erstwhile messiah (everyone seems to have wiped that from their collective memories) working as a bouncer in a dingy bar. As is customary she finds a gap in her schedule which is swiftly filled by a simple-sounding missing persons job. Think mutant vampire Jessica Jones and you’re on the right track.
Worley seems to be setting out to rehabilitate Red. She’s a character with a load of potential who has been disappointingly under-utilised and under-dressed. The criminal Space Girls and Valkyries aside, 2000ad has traditionally shied away from the “babes with big boobs” aesthetic of most comics. Unfortunately they did make an exception to this rule for her over several years.. Worley’s giving her the opportunity to use her head and teeth to make a mark. Willsher has similarly (thankfully) ditched the thong and gauze combination that she was stuck with for something a bit more practical.
It’s too early to be sure but the new-look Red feels like she’s very much on the right track after years of misuse. With Dredd and Skip Tracer treading new ground and Deadworld excelling as usual, the prog is on song.