Judge Dredd “The Small House” Part 5 by Rob Williams, Henry Flint, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse

Things are getting serious as Dredd takes the fight to Smiley this week. Part declaration of intent, part information-gathering it seems on the surface as if it pays off too. To continue Williams chess analogy, Smiley loses a castle and a few pawns. Team Dredd comes off relatively unscathed on the face of it but who knows what the loss of a certain someone will mean to the long game.
It’s a fun piece of action and you can see it’s where Dredd is more comfortable. He gets to release some of his rage rather than the cold-blooded sparring he’s had to endure. Flint certainly doesn’t make it look like he’s enjoying himself but he does give him a confidence in his actions that let us see he’s on solid ground.

It’s away from the action that the significant stuff happens. Abnett has a talent for slipping the important stuff in between the breathing spaces. He cranks up Dredd’s suspicions of Frank with the discovery fo meetings between him and Kazan. Elsewhere, Hershey has her own alarm bells to deal with. She’s back on duty after her McGruder worries of last week. Once she gets wind of it,she isn’t going to let a clandestine war go unpunished. Flint is probably the artist who does the definitive modern Hershey. She’s lost the generic “female Judge” look without being altered too much. Flint gives her authority, ruthlessness and caged anger in only 2 panels.

Brink “High Society” Part 5 by Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard and Simon Bowland.

Brink remains deeply satisfying in a way that almost defies description. Abnett’s script illustrates just how deep the class divisions on the habitat go. Bridget is appalled but not shocked about just how differently the rich behave, to the detriment of all others. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. It’s an interesting note that the thing that disturbs her the most is the waste of the most valuable commodity: Space. Abnett’s created a whole society with its own specific taboos but still relatable on a fundamental level.
As with everything in Brink, there are secrets within secrets. Cheekily, Abnett acknowledges via Gita that this has been an illustration of social division. Then we see the secret space within the secret space. It’s hidden in plain sight in a place that nobody (or at least nobody who matters) knows about. Given what they’ve already seen, the stuff that’s locked away must be some really bad shit.
Culbard’s art has a hushed, silence that adds to the tension. Watch Bridget’s posture as she makes her way gingerly down the fire escape, radiating silence and caution. It’s as subtle as Bowland’s slightly diminished letters which only revert to normal size as Bridget expresses her outrage at the super-rich storage. It’s all great stuff, drink it in and savour it. Just don’t ask how Gita knows the best spot for a dry hump after only 9 days. That’s her private business.

Fiends of the Eastern Front “1812” Part 5 by Ian Edginton, Dave Taylor and Annie Parkhouse.
It all becomes clear for poor D’Hubert. His exposure to the magical world he never knew existed and the physical and emotional privations of the journey lead him to make a decision this week. Up until now he’s had little choice in what happens. Now he sees an almost kindred spirit in Constanta and his endless need for conflict. He has no particular axe to grind with Baba Yaga but she’s there and she’s all the fight he’s going to get. There’s a fatalism that infects him but he now recognises and accepts it. It’s a fine piece of writing which Edgington has employed over 5 weeks to bring us there along with D’Hubert.
Taylor’s Baba Yaga is perfectly realised. She spins and circles in her mortar. Her claim as the embodiment of Mother Russia gives depth to her dismay as Constanta symbolically bisects a bear. That’s not just the loss of a wight, but a living thing; a child of Russia. The breath Taylor gives her testifies that she is a living being unlike the vampire she opposes. The landscape itself is the star of the show, however. The chill radiates off the page, figures become indistinct as the sink into the snow. The greys and blues of the world relieved only by red blood and a shining bird whose beauty belies its threat.

Skip Tracer “Legion” Part 5 by James Peaty, Colin MacNeill, Dylan Teague and Ellie de Ville.
Despite a lacklustre start, Skip Tracer has the best episode of its current run this week. Nolan meets the entity that’s been inhabiting his brother. The family reunion looks to have gone as badly as expected, as does the Consociation’s plan. Peaty rightly chooses not to have a lengthy exposition about the nature of Legion, choosing instead to nudge us down the familiar pathways of possession. Whether demonic or alien, we’ve all seen enough of this to know it’s going to go very badly for people who think they have it all in hand.
Macneill’s artwork fits hand in glove with Teague’s colouring, giving proceedings a shifting, dreamlike quality. We may have lost the neon lights of the Cube but the effect as the colour bleeds from Kennan’s mind to the real world perfectly portrays the evil entity seeping through barriers.

Kingdom “Alpha and Omega” Part 5 by Dan Abnett, Richard Nelson, Abigail Bulmer and Ellie de Ville.
It’s a new world order in Kingdom and, to be fair, Skinner does a pretty good job selling it. Abnett has done a great job so far of puttingn us in Gene’s shoes with this story. As we see it arising, so too does Gene, right up until he hs a choice right at the end. Of course, Leezee is still out there and we know Gene has a blind spot when it comes to her. That combined with his antipathy towards the ticks means that he still looks unlikely to comply. For a pack animal, he’s got form for not being a team player.
The artistic team do a fine job of creating a lush landscape. Nelson creates an intricately detailed environment that Bulmer fleshes out in beautiful twilight. The auxes are threatening but in control. It’s the masters who have lost control. Physically as well as strategically, they’re flailing. Abnett’s set everyone up and the story is perfectly poised to move to the next act.

A great prog with every story developing well.

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Former All-Comic.com Contributor

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