Judge Dredd “A Better Class of Criminal” Part 1 by Rory McConville, Leonardo Manco, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
There’s a street gang which has gained access to enhanced abilities in Rory McConville’s new Dredd story, A Better Class of Criminal. So far it’s a pretty decent police procedural, opening with a high speed city chase. The judges aren’t used to superpowers and, despite what should be overwhelming force, decidedly come off second best. McConville throws us into the mix with a chase and conflict that is pure adrenaline. When the Judges literally pull out their big gun Blythe’s colours burn right off the page with the concussive sound effects of Annie Parkhouse.
The choice of a bank robbery is the classically default bad guy activity of comics, to be sure. It doesn’t make a ton of sense in the future economy of MC1. Manco’s art gives it a contemporary, gritty feel. The streets and bars are dirty, the bank has Corinthian columns. Even the cars and the Judges’ APC look late-20th century, lending a reassuring solidity to proceedings.
It’s unclear why Hershey is taking such an interest in a couple of street gang robberies, enhancements or not. As a device to allocate Dredd to the case and light a fire under him, she is always welcome though. A decent start to a new thrill.
The Order “The New World” Part 5 by Kek-W, John Burns and Annie Parkhouse
It’s a difficult trick to fit the conflicts of 4 factions into 6 pages. Kek-W tries this and comes close to succeeding. The confusion is lessened by Burns’ lush artwork, giving us distinctive and expressive characters. Perhaps the reader having a working knowledge of the historical figures would help to give a fuller appreciation of the tale in context. Regardless it stands well enough without that.
Despite Anna’s role as our main protagonist, you’re still intrigued by the machinations of the other Order. Has not-Ritterstahl been hoodwinked by the shadow-wyrm? Tune in next week…
Terror Tales “Quilli” by Laura Bailey, David Hitchcock and Simon Bowland
Ventriloquists’ dummies are creepy as all hell. Dummies with the decoration stripped off are doubly so. And so begins Laura Bailey’s Terror Tale; a story of a low-rent ventriloquist with a dire warning.
The artwork is pure pencilled sink estate. There’s an absence of charm to both characters and surroundings that give it a cheapness in keeping with the paucity of the story. You can almost smell the stale sweat and desperation surrounding Jerry.
Terror Tales and Future Shocks rely on their finale and this one is just a bit too open to interpretation to be perfect. Demonic possession or vindictive human? A bit more clarity would maybe have helped, as enjoyable as muddy waters may be.
Grey Area “K.I.A” Part 2 by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison and Ellie de Ville
Life in the Grey Area just took a darker turn and the series looks to be better as a result. It’s always been a solid analogy for current nationalist/migration issues with just enough humour and action to prevent it from being preachy. With the apparent loss of 2 main characters last week, Abnett looks to be raising the stakes. “Apparent” because the lack of a body usually heralds a return. RBF and Kymn look likely to make a miraculous escape. Not dead, just transported to another dimension or somesuch.
The varying characters’ responses to the situation are compelling. Feo is all business, Administrator Lyra is focused on damage limitation, especially as her response wasn’t strictly kosher. Bulleitt rages, initially indiscriminately but then becomes suspicious, allowing some exposition from the director. Real world concerns are mirrored adroitly. Exo is as benevolent a force as possible, looking to treat aliens humanely. Their fear about being replaced by a more martial agency are well placed. Grey Area feels like one of 2000ad’s most timely and relevant stories. The office politics are every bit as dramatic as the alien attacks.
Harrison’s artwork does well to cram a lot onto the page. The chaos of the alien fight and its conclusion is well-realised by his blurry almost half-realised visuals. There are some suspect facial expressions in some of the characters. It may be more realistic to not have everyone in heroically dramatic poses but some of these guys look awkward. Perhaps a halfway-awkward look would work better, although there is a charm to their gawping.
Damned: The Fall of Deadworld Part 11 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall and Ellie de Ville
There’s an initial worry at the start of Deadworld this week that Kek-W may have fallen into an old trap. A campy Death playing chess with his dead father feels like the disrepair the character fell into for several years before Fall of Deadworld rehabilitated him. Thankfully the rest of this week’s story goes some way to disabuse this notion. His comment about removing the black king from the board as part of the long game hints at Death having a deeper knowledge of things to come. Although his conventional physical frailty is exploited by Destyny and then Casey, his more esoteric abilities look like they will be the undoing of his enemies. Although he seems destroyed by Casey’s coup, remember that “You cannot kill what doessss not livvve!”. Expect ghostly shenanigans next week.
Kendall’s artwork is as ghoulishly foul as ever. Death’s chambers are mired in filth. His depiction of the turning of the fight against Destyny is literally heartbreaking. The shock on her face as she realises what has happened to her is awful to behold, as is the glee on the skeletal face of Death as he realises his new talent.
The prog continues its fine run, all the creative talents are firing on all cylinders.