Judge Dredd “The Booth Conspiracy” Part 3 by T.C Eglington, Staz Johnson, Abigail Bulmer and Annie Parkhouse.
The conspiracy kicks into a higher gear this week and Eglington really brings out the good stuff. Sick of reacting, Dredd decides to act by stepping in with some fake news of his own. The propaganda machine is an underused part of Justice Department. How else would an overtly fascist state maintain control over its subjects? It’s also one of Joe’s underused talents. Sure it’s not as dramatic as hi-ex or daysticks but Dredd wouldn’t be as good as it is without the portrayal of the Judges’ grip on the populace. Think back to the Democracy march. There’s a certain perverse satisfaction to how Dredd systematically that whole movement without a shot fired.
As in the liberal politics then, the story here fits the right-wing movements we see now. Eglington’s satire is perfectly pitched. Not preaching, not overt, but flavouring the whole story in an unmistakeably 2000ad manner. Protests run into counter-protests. Linus’ rally is surprisingly inspiring, he’s gained momentum in the last while and it’s easy to see why the Judges have underestimated him. Like the rise of Trump he’s been seen as a bit of an irrelevant bit player, almost a sideshow distraction. He’s therefore not been taken seriously until too late. This is helped by the character design. Johnson’s made him buffoonish, like an inflated carnival barker. His bulk also gives him a sense of physical threat; look at those massive hands and the way he looms. He’s like a pound-shop Kingpin in the way that Trump’s ludicrous persona is a sideshow distraction form his real danger. Props to Eglington and Johnson for creating him.
Politically it’s not clear what he truly stands for but, whatever it is, he’s gathered a solid base by tapping into a vein of anti-establishment sentiment. His reaction to the footage is deliciously ambiguous. For a moment it’s not clear whether or not he’s happy about the prospect of Booth’s survival. He needs to take a moment to compose himself before responding. Does he believe in the same things as his followers? Or is he using their anger solely as a means to power? Eglington’s keeping us guessing, you can’t believe what you see, fake news is everywhere. Even the suggestion of a man inside Justice Department is ambiguous. Is it part of Dredd’s ploy or is it another mole? Either way, Dredd’s made his move, let’s see how Linus responds next week.
Survival Geeks “Slack and Hash” Part 2 by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, Neil Googe, Gary Caldwell and Ellie de Ville
Rennie and Beeby are having a hoot playing with horror movie tropes and that sense of fun drags the reader along for the ride. Rufus and Simon are stuck outside The Sanctuary, the type of middle-class walled community that the Walking Dead aspires to. They even get to acknowledge a bit oc character development. The Final Girls write them off as one-dimensional bait, which they kind of are. But they’ve definitely grown since their 3riller 5 years ago and are therefore more than a match for a single zombie fireman. Sam, on the other hand, has Final Girl written all over her, just without the need for the boring “good” behaviour. In a dimension that deals with stereotypes, they don’t have the tools to recognise a rounded, female character. This will prove to be their downfall.
Story aside, Googe needs to be praised for his packing of every frame with pop culture references. After reading the story, there’s a lot of enjoyment in just going back and picking over the artwork for the sheer fun of how many you can get. Geeks definitely has the likeability factor and gives the prog some happy variety.
The Order “The New World” Part 11 by Kek-W, John Burns and Annie Parkhouse.
Is The Order something that’s easier to admire than enjoy? Certainly Burns’ artwork is lushly beautiful; a heady combination of paint and pencil that means no two views of any character feel the same. He mixes coloured and uncoloured within single panels in a way that allows clarity of action.
Kek-W’s script is similarly impressive. His ear for dialogue is wonderful, whether it’s the mother to son chat or Anna’s call to arms. There’s even comedy in Clara’s response. Armoured Clara’s “I’ll try my best” is an incongruously far cry from “Annihilate!”
It’s in the pathos that the story excels. The slow build of characters and the subtlety of the relationships we’ve developed with them give their injuries (and worse) a sense of pain and permanence that delivers real emotional impact. That comes as much from the reactions of the other characters to the loss of one of their party. Anna’s crusty exterior breaks down wordlessly in a beautiful final panel by Burns. How much more loss can one woman take?
Mechastopheles “True Faith” Part 6 by Gordon Rennie, James Rennie, Karl Richardson and Simon Bowland.
True Faith moves on with each party working to their own ends. The fact that each party member has differing, but not necessarily conflicting aims and methods gives the story a bit of spice. The Rennies team up the sorcerer and the knight; the heroine and the changeling; Da Vinci and Caravaggio. Odd couples who the writers can bounce off each other with great effect.
It possibly relies a bit too much on coincidence. The library burning just in time to create a distraction. Also, wouldn’t it have made more sense to find the name before burning the library? In any case, the best sequence is the temptation of Beatrici by the changeling. No need for demonic mind-control here, just simple convergence of interests. And she would have got away with it too, if wasn’t for that pesky cardinal.
Richardson has created a gorgeous, Game of Thrones medieval world. Every element feels solidly built and fits perfectly. His cast of ugly bastards are all perfectly cast but it’s the hulk of Mechastopheles that’s the star. He manages to make ominous the glow from within the monster as he comes back to life. Prepare for giant robot carnage next prog!
Grey Area “Evidence” by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison and Ellie de Ville
Not much happens in Grey Area this week but that doesn’t matter, just sit back and savour that dialogue. Abnett’s ear for conversation makes this story a delight to read. It’s almost like sitting in on conversations with much-loved friends. Bitch and Kymn are utterly stuck but score a minor victory in RBF’s attempt at insulting humour. It hits the mark more by accident than design but the treat is in seeing how proud she is of herself in her snappy comeback (not a human god). Never mind how well Harrison shows a riot in a refugee camp. The giant cheesy grin on Bitch’s face at her own joke is charm itself in a couple of simple pencil strokes. Abnett and Harrison have nailed these characters, especially RBF. The situation may be “assholes” but the chat is awesome.
Oh yeah, Bulleitt finally figures out that it’s a bit odd that there’s no trace of his colleagues whatsoever in the wreckage. Well done Bulleitt. Less time moping, more time thinking please. He’s a nice guy but maybe not the sharpest pencil in the box. Still, charm goes a long way.
A great prog, with all the stories hitting their stride perfectly.