Judge Dredd “The Paradigm Shift” Part 4 by Michael Carroll, Jake Lynch, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse
Carroll does a cute trick in the two-era Dredd story this week. There’s some dark humour throughout the Dredd/Joyce which puts the reader at ease. There’s some quips, a comic terrorist pairing and Joyce using one of Dredd’s own punchlines with the sentencing. So far so good. When the brutal switch happens in the Deacon timeline, it’s shockingly violent by comparison. The Judges may be the new power in town but the CIA have all the experience of playing dirty. Deacon’s not as cynical as Dredd. You can’t see him getting suckered like that.
Lynch’s MC1 perps are very much in the style of Dredd great Cam Kennedy. There’s more than a passing resemblance to Kenny Who with realistic body styles avoiding the musclebound characters of other artists. It’s a grounded real-world vibe which works well with the tone of the story. His impassive Sager attacking the prone, helpless Deacon is stone cold.
Carroll’s pacing accelerates on the final page as our perp ups the ante. It’s all building up to a fine conclusion next prog!
Skip Tracer “Heavy is the Head” Part 5 by James Peaty, Paul Marshall, Dylan Teague and Simon Bowland
Peaty moves the plot along efficiently after last weeks misfire in Skip Tracer. He’s doing a good job of fleshing out the social structure of the cube. This episode adds in genetic hybrids and the mysterious “Underneath”. Selby’s sufficiently worried about involvement in this to warn him off, giving the reader a hint at a powerful underworld. For all her apparent concern, there’s something about Selby that seems untrustworthy. Nolan sees this as genuine concern though so maybe it’s nothing; he’s the empath after all.
Marshall’s characters have a satisfying solidity to them, especially in the damage they appear to take in a fight. The posing of Nolan and the minotaur is particularly well done, Nolan using body position and his opponent’s mass and momentum against him. It gives a realistic solidity to the sequence which grounds the story well. In his design of Selby too he makes her seem older and more worldly-wise than Nolan; giving credibility to her mentor role.
Unusually for a sci-fi story teleportation is made to look pretty painful. Every other depiction (Star Trek specially springs to mind) makes it look a serene experience. The team here give the idea that having all your particles ripped apart may not be that comfortable. It’s a clever device and, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense. It’s a nice way of reinforcing the solidity of the world and a great panel to boot.
The star of the show is Teague’s colours. He lights the dingy Cube with a dazzling array of neon which scatters and reflects off everything from skin to blood and dirt in immersive fashion. When the jump is made to the reds of the Underneath the reader has no doubt they’re in a whole different world. Nice work. Skip Tracer is starting to get interesting. While it’s no Deadworld it’s thankfully not Zero City either.
Survival Geeks “Geek-Con” Part 4 by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, Neil Googe, Gary Caldwell and Annie Parkhouse
The geeks start moving in earnest this week. There’s a move away from gags into plot which happily doesn’t make the story suffer. All the cosplayers have vanished. Maybe Googe ran out of characters to reference because he certainly crammed them into the previous episodes. The fun is still there in the observational script. Podcasters and Doctor Who companions get rightly but affectionately skewered. It’s important that it’s affectionate too. Geeks could easily be snide or snarky but Rennie and Beeby clearly have a love for the subjects which is almost sweet.
Geeks has been a surprising pleasure and, editorially, just what the reader needs before heading into the next strip…
Damned: The Fall of Deadworld Part 5 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall and Ellie de Ville
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”
Deadworld falls further into chaos. Sister Psiren isn’t paranoid. They really are out to get her. Who should she fear more though? Agatha or the sisters? Her panic is palpable. Kek-W has done a tremendous job to make us empathise with such a twisted character.
The drama plays out on a larger scale too. Bob Booth may have been a Bush parody but there’s only one guy the red-hatted Boone could be. With his Slavic trophy wife and sinister Sov counterpart he meets a (deservedly) brutal end. How did the Dark Judges manage to kill the world? Well, a Sov invasion can only help. A Deadworld Apocalypse War is a mouthwatering proposition…
Kendall’s artwork is gloriously filthy. There’s a consistent sheen of grime over everything and everyone. The dirty surroundings in perfect keeping with the dirty deeds. Melania’s white dress doesn’t escape her actions but in her fury she’s chillingly unconcerned by the gore.
Deadworld has become the standard by which other strips should be measured.
Durham Red “Born Bad” Part 4 by Alec Worley, Ben Willsher and Ellie de Ville
There’s more than a hint at the nature of Red’s mutation running in a seam throughout Born Bad. The thirst is a curse no doubt and without sustenance she’s in trouble. We see the other side of it too. Even the scent of her own blood charges her up to above-human levels. This makes her surviving a fight with a giant mouse(?) believable.
Her near-starvation makes sense in the context of the story too. SHe’s trying to be a better person but drinking blood doesn’t really fit too well with that aspiration. She knows she needs it but she’s not entirely reconciled with the idea either. 2000ad doesn’t do tortured angst in the way you can imagine an equivalent American comic would. It’s a more practical,realistic dissonance. She doesn’t like it but she knows she doesn’t have much choice so she’s just got to get on with it.
Willsher’s art in this episode has a strange stillness to it. Even a charged fight between vampire and mouse-tiger feels like a sequence of freeze-frames. It works well with the near-supernatural feel to her powers. It’s as if the moments in between the frames are almost too quick for the eye to follow.
A zarjaz prog for squaxx of all colours. It’s shaping up to a very satisfying run, even Survival Geeks adds to the quality.