Judge Dredd “The Small House” Part 7 by Rob Williams, Henry Flint, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse.
Public Health Warning: This one is going to hurt. Dredd’s decided for himself whether or not the Chief knew about Smiley’s extrajudicial death squads. Given that they’ve been the major shapers of MC1 foreign and domestic policy for years, it’s not an unreasonable leap. He lets Hershey know his feelings on the matter in the harshest (for him) terms possible and it’s absolutely devastating. Although Williams puts THAT line into Dredd’s mouth, it’s Flint who delivers the impact in the silent moments afterwards. You can hear a pin drop as a lifetime’s relationship is shredded Are her eyes wet with tears? Dredd’s rage is palpable and it takes him a full 4 pages to get it back down to his normal simmering state. The Small House is by far the best Dredd story in years. It’s unfortunate to have lost Kazan so early. He played a strong Karla to Smiley’s, well, Smiley. Knowing the strategic thinking going on here, there must be something he can play from beyond the grave. What is File 2103? Tune in next week…
Skip Tracer “Legion” Part 7 by James Peaty, Colin MacNeil, Dylan Teague and Ellie de Ville.
There’s a much-needed lull in the action in this week’s Skip Tracer. In it Legion shuffles off to do what he/they/it do/does and we get a bit of exposition. As expected, ruthless organisation meddles in things it cannot understand and it predictably goes a bit Pete Tong. Major Merrick asks “How could we resist?” and it’s a fair point. How could you resist a terrifying cave painting which looks suspiciously like Judge Fear? A quick Health and Safety risk assessment would have ended up in the Consociation dumping a ton of concrete on the whole place or nuking it from orbit. (“It’s the only way to be sure”).
It’s another good episode, nicely paced with the Major looking like he’s not got much to lose by telling all. There’s just enough exposition before Legion reappears with a bolstered force, making the preceding conversation feel like a natural pause. Artistically though the strip shines. In contrast to the real-world colours of Dredd, Skip Tracer is a burst of neon and flame. the characters threatening in harsh shadows. Shout out too to the lettering of Ellie de Ville who makes Legion’s voice distinctively otherworldly, particularly in the collective voice in the final panel. It’s some very clever teamwork all round from writer, artist, colourist and letterer to bring us a fine reworking of some classic sci-fi/horror themes.
Brink “High Society” Part 7 by Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard and Simon Bowland.
Brink is getting superbly tense as Bridget decides to push it a bit with creepy Call-me-Joel. He’s a subtly excellent character by Abnett. The kind of guy who doesn’t let knowing how patronising he is stop him from being patronising. Tellingly, it’s not him who suspects Bridget. That falls to Mrs Sylvie, a bit farther down the caste tree. He’s too high to even perceive her as a threat.
Bridget, perhaps thinking of her new time constraint, makes the decision to respond to Joel’s mention of “melencholema”. Culbard’s depiction of his reaction is almost as good as Flint’s depiction of Hershey’s reaction to Dredd. When she mentions Vovek, he practically creams himself. Playing it off as a subconscious meme fits his narrative of her. Whether that’s luck, judgement or a bit of both on Bridget’s part is satisfyingly opaque. It’s a dangerous game but she looks like she’s ahead on points so far.
Tharg’s 3Rillers “Infestinauts are Go!” Part 1 by Arthur Wyatt and Pye Parr.
Wyatt and Parr combine for a fun romp in “Infestinauts are Go!“. It’s a piece that feels very much like an old-school Future Shock given a bit of extra room to breathe. It feels familiar without repetition. The closest thing to compare it to would be Banzai Battalion, scaled down to the microorganism level.
It’s all played for fun which is well-reflected in Parr’s visuals, themselves reminiscent of the cartoony Banzai Battalion. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t get Dave Kendall to do this story. The landscape of a big hairy arse is horrible enough, thanks.
Kingdom “Alpha & Omega” Part 7 by Dan Abnett, Richard Elson, Abigail Bulmer and Ellie de Ville.
The big question in this week’s Kingdom is “What is the point of Leezee?”. She seems to occupy the “be useless and ask stupid questions” role of pointless sidekicks. Everyone else however, is setting out their respective stalls. Abnett shows us multiple competing interests, each functioning in keeping with their own values around roughly common aims. Everyone wants to survive. everyone believes their own way is the only way to proceed. Even Pause, whose goals are shorter-term than say, Skinner’s, is true to his nature. It’s some understated writing which makes Kingdom feel solid and believable. For a story about giant bugs taking over the world, that’s no mean feat.
Elson’s artwork has a dirtier feel to it this week, whether or not that’s intentional is unclear. Particularly in the main characters there are extra lines of texture which were absent in previous episodes. The overall impression is of a film of dust which the reader could almost wipe off the screen. Even the technology looks vaguely derelict and worn at the edges. It’s a strange impression, given how crisp and vibrant Kingdom has looked overall. That said, Bulmer’s dusky colours are a cool blue pleasure, enhanced by greens and orange lights which don’t allow the lush backgrounds to swamp the ongoing drama.
The prog makes a fine mix of styles this week but not sacrificing quality for a moment.