Judge Dredd “A Better Class of Criminal” Part 2 by Rory McConville, Leonardo Manco, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
The madness of Mega City is the star of the show in Dredd this week. The lives and motivations of the citizens flesh out a story that takes a semi-serious look at gang culture. If you can’t get into a real gang you can start your own, but doing so puts a target on your back. Of course, Dredd is the baddest member of the city’s baddest gang so he’s already well aware.
It’s a week of 3 distinct acts. Dredd’s deadpan, laconic style put to the fore by McConville’s inner voice. Where else would a giant spider attack be nothing more than a bit of a busy day? The light touch and hints of humour raise this above a straight episode of CSI:MC1. Manco’s deft artwork is well suited to this. In these hands, even the giant spider is faintly comical. Not as comical as Judge Hyde’s moustache though. Joe’s grimness only serves to bring out the fun of this absurd case. He may look bored but he’s still one step ahead of the perps, human or arachnid.
The Order “The New World” Part 6 by Kek-W, John Burns and Annie Parkhouse
This book of The Order is one of those stories that should probably be a bit more fun than it actually is. While the characters are all fleshed out and believable, the surrounding events have a flatness that makes it difficult to really care about the wider conflict. The fit into America doesn’t work as well as the previous European settings. It’s a shame, as Anna’s quest for her lost love is somehow more compelling than the wider Wyrm/Human/Shadow conflict.
Burns’ character portraits are part of the success of the character-related elements of this story. The extent to which emotion is displayed by the principals enhances the action, making the slightly unengaging plot less noticeable. The frame of not-Ritterstahl, looming over a defeated Anna is simple, striking and coldly effective.
Mechastopheles “True Faith” Part 1 by Gordon Rennie, Lawrence Rennie, Karl Richardson and Simon Bowland
Say what you like about the Rennie-driven Mechastopheles, it’s an impressive looking spectacle. A group of nomads wandering post-Armageddon wasteland in the innards of a giant protector-demon. Unfortunately, the characters don’t capture the imagination in the same way the landscape does. Most interesting of these is the automaton father figure whose name hasn’t been reiterated in this episode. His role as a robot with the memories and personality of the protagonist’s father looks like it has potential. Along with the manic driver whose devotion to “Lord” Mechastopheles provides comic relief, there is at least potential for drama.
Artistically it’s a bit of a treat. Reminiscent of Mignola’s Hellboy, heat radiates off every surface, etched in burnt orange and ochre. The scorched desert gives a sense of global desolation which feels almost hopeless.
Grey Area “Suspension” by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison and Ellie de Ville
The appeal of Grey Area has always been its squad dynamics. With the loss of Kymn and Bitch, Abnett has the chance to examine what the squad meant to each other. He manages to look not just at the loss of the people but the survivors loss of their role and what that means to them. This varies greatly between members but is impressively and diversely shown here. As each member moves through their process we gain an understanding of their own priorities in life. It’s some sensitive writing, empathetically done with care.
The tone of Harrison’s art is a deft counterpoint to the writing. The characters are vaguely cartoony but highly expressive, particularly the hyper-masculine caricature that is Musk. There’s some touching details of domesticity too. The matching onesies of Musk and Emilea hint at a home life that should be blissful, but he still needs to give up. Kudos to all involved for the poignant work.
Damned: The Fall of Deadworld Part 12 by Kek-W, Dave Kendall and Ellie de Ville
Always leave the public wanting more. Kek-W defies expectations in this finale by doing exactly that. Even Langley’s incredible cover is part of the deception. If you were expecting the resurrection of Death after last week, you’ll need to wait. Instead, as with the whole of Damned to date, we focus on everyone but Sssidney.
Rather than a conclusion, Kek-W leaves us on the edge of anticipation in multiple areas. The true nature of the relationship between Byke and the sisters is fleshed out. The idea of a cosmic conflict with Death and Jess as avatars is a compelling one, particularly as we know how it ends. Sidney prevails, no matter how disappointing Phobia and Nausea find him now. The thrill lies in asking just how he does it. Rescuing Psiren may indicate a shift away from her avatar, or as a recruit to the cause.
Even Jess’ rescue of Fairfax is tinged with ambiguity. His corruption with dead fluids will probably prove to be as problematic as Kendall’s glowingly realised deadheads converging on Fairfax’s cell. Each is filthily undead. Uniform yet with enough distinctiveness to remind you they were human once.
We leave Deadworld poised on the brink of war. Deadworld apocalypse can’t come soon enough. Tharg needs to give these droids a payrise.
Another strong showing from the prog. As Deadworld concludes, let’s hope the replacement next week will match up to the standard set here.