Judge Dredd “Machine Law” Part 2 by John Wagner, Colin MacNeill, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse.

Wagner continues doing what he does best in this week’s Dredd; a terse instalment that blends stompy robot action with office politics. In typical Wagner fashion there’s nary a frame wasted. It’s a masterclass in economical storytelling, seamlessly transitioning between scenes, ably conveyed by Colin MacNeill’s art. MacNeill’s city is showing it’s age. Everything is battered and slightly worn around the edges, not least our protagonist. Even the mechs are starting to look affected by their time on the streets

Wagner gives some meat to Dredd’s misgivings in the hulking form of the unfortunately-named Judge Randy. His irreverent failure to recognise the main man for who he is, rather than just a service record raises many issues. Dredd’s concern that a personality algorithm is no replacement for a human seems to have merit. There’s no way a human Judge would have failed to recognise him. As Logan says though “You can’t argue with the stats” and fewer dead Judges has to be a good thing for Justice Department surely? Also, there’s been plenty of human Judges with fallible personalities. Dredd’s objection is more on moral than practical grounds though. There’s been plenty of hints that this could be the hill he’s prepared to die on, metaphorically speaking.

Dredd the philosopher, who’d have thought?

 

Brink “High Society” Part 17 by Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard and Simon Bowland.

To the hopeful delight of all those who complained that Brink was lacing in action, it all goes tits-up for Bridget et al this week. Culbard goes all-out with some truly wonderful, trippy visuals. Images bleed across shaky panels as characters and environments twist and distort in a very unsettling fashion.

The utter weirdness is reinforced by Abnett’s perfect ear for dialogue. In keeping with true psychotic episode, everyone becomes more of who they are. Mrs Sylvie indulges her inner psychopath and it’s triumphant when Bridget snaps her wrist. Bridget herself is a core of duty wrapped in guilt, loss and tragedy. Is it her Nudge-free diet that makes her slightly less susceptible to the gas?



The flip into full-on Lovecraftian horror is paced just right. It all seems to be over by the end of this episode, another week of hallucinations would feel overdone. Next week, the debrief but probably not too many answers. The cult members don’t look like they’ll be capable of doing much talking.

 

Skip Tracer “Louder Than Bombs” Part 6 by James Peaty, Paul Marshall, Quinto Winter and Ellie De Ville.

Easily the weakest of this prog’s offerings, this week’s Skip Tracer promises little and delivers on that. There’s a tantrum, a clichéd cagefight and, well, not much else.

Marshall’s artwork seems overly simple, almost as if he’s going through the motions with the absence of background detail in almost every panel. Nolan seems petulant rather than full of rage over the death of Loden, a character which the reader can’t care about due to the absence of development.

 

Tharg’s 3Rillers “Keeper of Secrets” Part 2 by Robert Murphy, Steven Austin, Pippa Mather and Ellie De Ville.

3Rillers seem to fall into 2 camps. The straight one-off like the previous offering The Scorched Zone which feel like elongated Future Shocks. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view. The other camp appears to be a testing ground for potential new characters (a la Mechastopheles). Adelphi and her talking tattoo in Keeper of Secrets seem to be the latter. Think of a contemporary freelance Brit-Judge Storm and you may be on the right track.

Played with just about the right amount of realism, it has just enough Constantine to feel like a modern-day horror. That said, the character design for Mercury as Cockney wanker in pork pie hat jerks the reader out of the story with its cringe factor. Despite that, Austin makes a solid job of everything else, particularly the pig-man who is far more horrifying than he has any right to be.

 

It’s a patchy prog all round, 2019 isn’t a vintage year yet.

About The Author Euan Darroch

Euan Darroch is a Scottish healthcare professional who has a passion for most genre fiction including fantasy and both hard and pulpy sci fi. He draws the line at adolescent angst and characters with parent issues. He has a near-40 year relationship with 2000ad and loves it for Halo Jones as much as he forgives it for Big Dave. He believes that Johnny Alpha should have stayed dead and that Dredd just gets richer and better with age. He will argue to the death that dream sequences for the purpose of exposition are lazy storytelling. He is in equal parts proud of the degree to which British writers and artists have influenced the comics world and dismayed that they are only deemed to have made it once they go to one of the big US publishers. (But he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder about it.) Outside of comics he loves any sport that involves a good chance of seeing blood. He has been previously published in the British Journal of Cardiac Nursing which he claims to read only for ECG of the week. He lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his wife and weans.