Judge Dredd “The Paradigm Shift” Part 3 by Michael Carroll, Jake Lynch, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse
“I did. Just not out loud“. Deacon reinforces his proto-Dredd badass credentials in a well-crafted episode that makes the absolute most of its 6 pages.
More important than how he gets the drop on Sager is her take on the political situation. It’s an interesting exploration. How would people, especially patriots, behave in the face of an unelected, unaccountable military dictatorship? He says he doesn’t care about the politics. Maybe Deacon has that personal luxury but he is a political instrument. Is Deacon naive to think Fargo wouldn’t use nerve gas on an insurgency? It’s certainly the kind of thing the MC1 Judges have been known to do. Under the circumstances Sager’s opposition is understandable. It’s some writing that dwells heavily in the very large grey area inhabited by Dredd.
As far as the man himself, he’s left to do the legwork this week. In fact, it’s Joyce who gets the collar. He’s got a bit of a temper on him. Has he gone too far and scuppered the investigation? It’s neatly written and feels relatably in character. He’s one of the handful of Judges who’s been allowed to develop some distinct traits as a counterpoint to Dredd. It’s almost as if you can feel some succession planning going on behind the scenes of both Justice Department and the Nerve Centre. Hopefully the bullet Joyce takes to his respirator won’t be an issue when they find the gas.
Artwise Lynch is on fine form. The dumbfounded Judges’ reaction to the sniper is an easily overlooked bit of fun. Joyce’s helmet getting rattled looks painful enough to justify his reaction; something other artists could have lost effect with. He handles the two timezones with some style too. Giving sparse background detail to bring out the action then filling the page during the dialogue so as not to shift focus. The gunfire halo around Sager’s head to illustrate her surprise is great work by Charles too. Parkhouse’s lettering during the gunfights add an extra dimension of sturm und drang to the proceedings. As Saul Goodman would say “Teamwork makes the dream work”.
Skip Tracer “Heavy is the Head” Part 4 by James Peaty, Paul Marshall, Dylan Teague and Simon Bowland
After treading water last week, Skip Tracer is back on the move. Peaty gives us a solid bit of private-eye procedural as Nolan starts to put the pieces together. He manages to make the connections without any unreasonable jumps in logic that would stretch credibility. We get a glimpse into his military past and a bit of context of the war. His empathic powers even manage to moonlight as spidey sense that actually makes sense. Peaty’s doing a fine job establishing the rules of his universe and then playing by them.
The darkness of the investigation is offset by some colourful art. More neon than noir. Even the corrupt morgue technician looks like a Muppet. It’s a nice change from the gritty style that most private eye tales are naturally drawn to. Even the conflict has more than a hint of classic VC’s to it in the character design. You’re reading a comic so there’s no harm in it looking like one.
Survival Geeks “Geek-Con” Part 3 by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, Neil Googe, Gary Caldwell and Annie Parkhouse
Shout out to the Geeks for their skewering of the commercial nerd culture. The panel on Women in Interdimensional Travel is one of the best-observed digs at the misogyny of geek culture yet. Beeby and Rennie are pulling out all the stops and it’s a lot of fun. The dialogue feels real; you’ve probably met several of these people before, especially Mr Technically Non-Canon Special.
The group dynamic that’s been established is what everything else hangs on. Simon’s running around trying to prevent causal catastrophe. Everyone else is pursuing their own niche interests oblivious to the plot (yes there is one!). The point is that Investigator Qui couldn’t ensnare Simon without the breakdown in his relationships with the rest of the group (particularly Sam).
Googe gives the whole thing a light, cartoony feel. Every frame is packed with little easter eggs. It’s a bit less Where’s Wally than the previous 2 episodes but that’s not too surprising. Every character wears an expressive grimace. Sam’s simmering rage on the gender panel in particular is worth a thousand words.
The only concern is that all the fun may evaporate once the writers need to move the story along but that’s a bridge to cross next prog.
Damned: The Fall of Deadworld Part 4 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall and Ellie de Ville
Sadly no Jess this week. Instead we focus on the Judges and the internal machinations of their twisted Justice Department. Kek-W brings these grotesque characters to life; elevating them above the one-dimensional “Crime is life” villains of previous stories. Each is a distinct individual with their own agendas and ambitions. The cause is almost secondary to their own ends. For some it’s a convenient excuse to pursue their sick desires. It’s hard to not see parallels with Casey and the WW2 Nazi scientists for whom National Socialism was just the justification they needed for their crimes.
It’s a development that makes the story even richer. Casey at odds with Sister Psiren. Casey courting Phobia and Nausea who have their own concerns that Psiren is compromised. Hints at the true nature of the Sisters and their dead fluids. The sisters’ friction with Sidney and the idea of him being subordinate to them. All these elements raise Deadworld above simple horror to one of the best series of recent years.
Kendall continues to make each shot of each character a ghoulish pleasure. They’re each grey and rotten; their slack skin progressing to the decay of Death and the sisters more advanced state. But their eyes give them a glow of red light which animates them horribly beautifully. The decay is reflected in their surroundings, from the relatively intact Tek interior to the cavern inhabited by the Chief.
All this without even a sniff of our two heroes! You almost don’t even miss them.
Durham Red “Born Bad” Part 3 by Alec Worley, Ben Willsher and Ellie de Ville
Red’s looking for information in an episode that could be a self-contained Tale From The Doghouse. Imagine it with Many-Armed Maeve and it would still play out identically, just with comic horse support.
The artwork in the new Red is a treat. The building site look could be out of this era, giving Red an otherworldly look. This manages to reinforce her outsider status and enhances her protagonist role. Everyone else is shown conventionally but Red is a thing or shadows. Her face is obscured in almost every shot, making her seem dangerously unknowable. The panel with the advancing mob is reminiscent of the pitchforked peasants advancing on another vampire.
Red’s presumably been out the game for a while and maybe she’s a bit rustier than last week suggested. Worley keeps us on our toes with some intelligent shifting. All is not as it seems for the reader as well as Red. He allows more empathy for her position with the surprises. A sucker punch to the head looks exactly like a fist eclipsing all else. You’re not even immediately certain who’s been hit.
Although Red ends up with the upper hand, it’s not an unqualified success. She gets away by the skin of her pointy teeth. Alpha the indestructible would have left them all in the dirt. Red’s fallibility makes her story more relatable . She does get people wrong. A punch in the head does hurt. And you can’t just murder your way through a mob of dodgy builders. Sometimes you need to cut and run after only kicking a wee bit of ass.
A Prog that plays in all the right grey areas. Nothing is simple. It’s a rich and compelling mixture.