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Judge Dredd “The Booth Conspiracy” Part 1 by T.C Eglington, Staz Johnson, Abigail Bulmer and Annie Parkhouse.

The Sons of Booth make a return to the fore in this week’s Dredd. For all that Eglington has given them some inventive tactics, there’s something about the group that isn’t convincing. Should a Justice Department weapons facility really be that easy for a tinpot militia to break into? It could be an intelligent comment from Eglington, mirroring real-world concerns about the influence of far-right groups. There’s definitely a MAGA feel to the Sons but, somehow, they lack the threat of a Total War. The faintly ridiculous manner of their heist doesn’t exactly enhance their menace either.

For a relatively unemotional character, Dredd hates anyone getting the better of him. He may act like it’s about the preservation of order and respect for the law. You can see that it rankles with him to have someone seem to get away with something. He’s subtly irritated throughout this episode, in a manner that shows how well Eglington understands the man.

Artistically, there’s nothing too much to shout about. The Boing-suit chase across the city is innovative but not spectacular. With the return of an old classic weapon at an end, Johnson’s overall feel for an oldschool MC1 is affirmed. His Booth characters are not slick professionals, however, making the likelihood that they would give Justice Department this many problems even less credible.

On a side note, Johnson’s cover sets the tone well with the inclusion of some old Chopper/Phantom graffiti. It’s a subtly effective preparation of the reader for another nod to the classics.

The Order “The New World” Part 9 by Kek-W, John Burns and Annie Parkhouse.

It’s an emotional affair in this week’s Order. Clara unsurprisingly freaks out at the discovery of herself inhabiting Gideon. Finding her own corpse hardly helps her mantal state but surprisingly it’s Anna who talks her down. It’s a surprising turnaround from Frau Kohl who seems to have finally discovered an affinity with her companions. As soon as Anna’s on board, the group instantly gains cohesion. This lightening in her attitude is welcome, as enjoyable as badass Anna was, because it allows Kek-W to show his talent for emotion. While he may be a master of tentacled things and zombie judges, his skill at showing characters going through a process of loss and loneliness is arguably more impressive. It’s a far rarer thing to see in comics and Anna’s comment that “Every day feels like winter now” tugs at the heartstrings.


Burns’ artwork is, as expected, excellent this week. His mixture of painted and drawn characters, sometime in the same panel, adds another layer of depth and complexity to the story. His portraits allow us to focus on the emotion experienced by a character from panic, grief and resolve.

The Order has found their feet this week, as have their creative team.

Tharg’s 3rillers “Appetite” Part 3 by James Peaty, Andrea Mutti, Eva de la Cruz and Ellie de Ville.

The concluding part of Appetite unfortunately doesn’t take us anywhere new. If you were hoping for a third act that gave you a surprise, you will be a little disappointed. The final outcome is pretty much what you could have expected from the very first episode so it all feels a little predictable.


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That said, despite the destination, the journey there is pretty fun. The artwork in particular does a fine job of evoking a hellish, sweaty run from the implacable pursuers. De la Cruz’ red-tinged scenes mix a contemporary feel of alarm with a pursuit through the underworld. Mutti’s reflective glasses, rather than masking empathy as in previous episodes, give a feeling of blindness in Mr Jones’ panic. It’s an overall effect that, along with Peaty’s perfect pacing, makes up for the long-foreseen ending.

Mechastopheles “True Faith” Part 4 by Gordon Rennie, James rennie, Karl Richardson and Simon Bowland.

Mechastopheles hits his stride this week in good style. Team Rennie expands the cast of characters with the introduction of the citizens of a quasi-Medieval walled city under perpetual demon siege. The artist Chiaroscuro takes Mechastopheles as his muse, inspired by the awesome sight of of his assault on the demon army. Rennie skilfully builds our understanding of this world by adding another layer in the dialogue with the Church Militant High Council. The addition of Cardinal-Commander Cesare, a medieval Darth Vader, allows a hint at the problems within the city and its rulers.

Richardson goes to town with Mechastopheles’ attack on the demons, making it easy to see why Chiaroscuro is overawed by him. It’s a display of brutal power almost matched by the comparitively genteel Game of Thrones being played by the city rulers. In contrast to the hellish wasteland, Richardson shows them clad in ermine and lace with even Cesare’s armour being ornate and bejewelled. This is in contrast to the ugliness of their persons, giving us a hint at their character beneath the finery. This is one strip that is exceeding expectations.

Grey Area “Objectives” Part 1 by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison and Ellie de Ville

The highlight of Abnett’s Grey Area this prog comes on the first page as Candy goes by the book to subdue a disgruntled exo. It’s a moment of humour thatis characteristic of the series and works well with the team, particularly Bulleitt’s response. It’s also the start of a sequence of events that should end with a meeting between the squad and their erstwhile not-dead ex-colleagues.

The meshing of the parallel stories is handled elegantly. Both agencies have broadly similar goals but vastly differing methods. This ties in well with the theme of the roles of civilian versus military entities Abnett has already established. Peacekeeping can mean widely divergent things depending on where you’re standing. Unfortunately for Bitch and Kymn, they’re standing in the wrong place. Using people trafficking as the investigation allows Abnett to continue to explore very contemporary themes. We already see victims of trafficking being treated as criminals in the real world. Imagine what Grell’s ICE allegory team will do…

The special forces storyline unfortunately doesn’t ring true. The notion of forcing kidnapped conscripts to carry out such specialist work seems implausible. Yes, comics deal with implausible scenarios all the time and Grey Area is no exception. With the world established around the characters, this is a scenario that doesn’t quite fit in, particularly the dissent displayed in the briefing scene.

Harrison’s art is, as ever, top quality. He neatly differentiates between the sprawling, messy exo zone and the sterile, secret bunker within. He uses natural colours, open panels and wide shots with plenty of background activity out in the exo, whereas the bunker is tight, controlled and artificial. It’s a sense of place that works perfectly, enhancing our sense of Bitch and Kymn’s isolation.

 

It’s a prog that shines more artistically than in writing. Abnett’s grasp on immigration issues in Grey Area is meaty food for thought.

Really Enjoyed It.7
It’s a prog that shines more artistically than in writing. Abnett’s grasp on immigration issues in Grey Area is meaty food for thought.
7
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