Judge Dredd “The Small House” Part 6 by Rob Williams, Henry Flint, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse.
Just take a look at the first page of this. Sam stares out, childlike and wide-eyed, over the vista of the city. Flint dplays on his sense of wonder with saucer-like eyes which are almost joyful. Sam’s frame is small compared to the usual hulking judges. He looks vulnerable, engulfed by what’s around him. Let’s hope nothing bad happens to him…
As Sam delves into Smiley’s dealings we get the chance to wonder what it is that Dredd is so angry about. Is Smiley right? The Judges, including Dredd, are unapologetic fascists (not that the word means anything anymore). They have resorted to extremely dodgy political practices and Dredd has often been at the heart of them. He may dress it up in “The Law” but he’s not been averse to changing that to suit his aims either. Is Joe just getting softer and out of touch with Smiley’s realpolitik?
Speaking of Smiley, his retaliation is swift, clinical and clearly planned very far in advance. There’s a tragedy to the final page, sorrow writ large on the character in the end panel. Never mind the why’s and wherefores; Joe’s in a much worse position that 7 days ago. Williams manages to give us genuine doubt that Dredd can handle this. Maybe Smiley was right about that too?
Williams packs a ton of meat into 6 pages. When Blondel Dupre gets a mention, you can reflect on the evolution of his attitudes. From hard line abuse to her release there’s a glacial change in him. It’s not clear how he feels about her death but he’s definitely not happy. And that’s only one panel. This is a story that demands your attention and repeated digestion. Worth the cover price alone.
Skip Tracer “Legion” Part 6 by James Peaty, Colin MacNeil, Dylan Teague and Ellie de Ville.
Skip Tracer has another good week after its very shaky start. This is thanks in large part to the MacNeil/Teague combination and their spectacular pyrotechnics. The psychic assaults of Legion feel credibly like a powerful entity unleashed. If fire and shadowy ectoplasm can be beautiful then this manages it.
The story gains substance to match the art. While “Sinister artefact unleashes horror” isn’t the most original trope, it’s handled here with aplomb. It’s a classic for a reason, from HP Lovecraft to Jumanji via The Thing and Poltergeist. 5 solid pages to set up our antagonist and provide what looks to be a flexing of Nolan’s psychic muscles next week.
Brink “High Society” Part 6 by Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard and Simon Bowland.
Bridget and Gita cannily play on Georg’s misogyny by playing daft and deflecting his suspicions. 2000ad’s got a proud history of working-class heroes and these two are defiantly in that mould. They use their opponents’ sense of privilege to appear as non-threatening as possible. Is that even a bit of flirtation from Gita? Bridget’s having none of it, even after last week’s promise. You admire them for it as much as you admire Abnett’s ability to make Blasco as odious a creep as possible while not being a caricature lech.
Bridget doesn’t get out of the creepiest HR interview with our over-friendly cult leader (think trendy vicar). She does manage to turn it into an information-gathering session, letting him splaff on and on about his pet projects. It’s great writing and artwork combined here. On the face of it the conversation seems so benign but Bridget’s rigid throughout. She’s half playing the part of her cover character and half genuinely uncomfortable. She doesn’t move when he puts his hand on her thigh but you can see her tense up anyway. Her professionalism is admirable, even in the face of having “melencholema” dropped almost casually into the conversation. He’s testing her, but not because he’s directly suspicious. Whatever he wants, you can be sure it’s not good. Rest assured, she’s fit for him.
Fiends of the Eastern Front “1812” Part 6 by Ian Edginton, Dave Taylor and Annie Parkhouse.
Fiends concludes and Edginton ties it all up very nicely. He also manages to inject a whole new element to the Fiends mythology which should be very interesting to see play out.
Taylor’s artwork is delicately poised as it has been throughout the run. There’s some beautiful imagery on play here as Edginton makes full use of myth and folklore. We have to see more of Baba yaga and her ilk please. The visions of her charming the moon and regurgitating an egg to create her thrall are magical in every sense of the word. There’s a very rich resource of Eastern European tales which should be fresh to readers of Western comics and ripe for exploration.
On a purely editorial note; the final line is harmed somewhat by the presence of another “Legion” this week. It’s unfortunate that they run into each other.
Kingdom “Alpha & Omega” Part 6 by Dan Abnett, Richard Elson, Abigail Bulmer and Ellie de Ville.
Abnett sets a clock ticking this week. Canis has 24 hours to sort things out or the masters will take Ripley’s advice from Aliens. “Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” Given that the whole plan has been eavesdropped upon, what’s the betting that Leezee finds a way to mess everything up as usual? She’s the Bran Stark of Kingdom for sure…
Elsewhere Gene is hacking away and he’s glad to be doing it but he’s using the muscles in his head more this week. He’s pretty certain now where his loyalties lie and it’s not with the various groups pressuring him. Who would have thought Kingdom would fall into party politics? Hats off to the Abnett droid for driving us down unfamiliar roads.
Elson and Bulmer create a lush world and manage to give a sense of time passing. Last week it was dusk and this week it’s the dark of night with only the campfire, moon and stars for light. As the story progresses, the sun comes up as symbolically as the dawning of Gene’s resolve. It feels like a natural deadline has been reached and a line has beeen drawn. As usual it’s Gene on one side and everyone else on the other.
The prog continues in its stride of excellent stories. Not a beat missed.