Judge Dredd “Machine Law” Part 4 by John Wagner, Colin MacNeill, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse.
Just when you think some of these other guys are getting good at writing Dredd, along comes Wagner to give everyone a masterclass in how it’s done. If anyone was in any doubt about who Dredd and his world belongs to, look no further. It’s an almost effortless display of sparse, curt writing which transitions one era into another for MC1. In a little over 2 pages, Hershey’s gone after 39 years in the prog and 16 years in the big chair. Whether or not we get to see her planned tour of the other cities (if that is truly what she plans to do) remains to be seen.
The growing unrest at the rising prominence of the Mechanismo Judges is addressed by Wagner off-screen. As Dredd buries himself in the job, the pressure cooker of the city gets ready to blow. Wagner alludes to new actors such as The Human League but wisely keeps them in the background for now. He ends with a confrontation that looks like next prog will examine the boundaries of Dredd’s moral certainties. It’s also a vintage line that takes you right back to a younger Dredd in a more innocent time.
MacNeill gives Hershey a poignant send-off. Shadowed and thoughtful. The vast empty spaces reflect the things unsaid in Dredd and Hershey’s relationship. There’s far too much there to be said in words. Instead they’re worn by time and the city, but Hershey manages an almost wry smile as she arrives. In this scene as in the last, Joe lets his chin do the talking which is emormous, almost monolithic. Harvey’s almost matches it but his is manufactured. Dredd’s is the real deal.
Brink “High Society” Part 19 by Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard and Simon Bowland.
Brink concludes with Abnett (in the guise of Anish Anoor ) expounding on the previously-mentioned “Weird Life” theory. He really rattles on with great pressure of speech so all credit this week to Simon Bowland who must have had his work cut out for him. Like the reader, Bridget and Gita are exhausted by the end of it. Culbard gives them a panel of stunned silence to digest what they’ve heard.
Book 3 is over. Will Book 4 have giant space god-demons or desert varnish? Each sounds as likely as the other. While the demons are more “comic-y”, Brink has never been about being conventional so we end the book with less of an idea of what’s going on than we began. Frustrating? Not at all. Instead it’s a neat sidestep that doesn’t feel forced and gives us plenty to ponder until our heroes return. The sooner the better please!
Skip Tracer “Louder Than Bombs” Part 8 by James Peaty, Paul Marshall, Quinton Winter and Ellie De Ville.
From one end of the spectrum to another, Skip Tracer is sci-fi in a much more conventional mode. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing but, as an unremarkable story, it does suffer by comparison to the other stories in the prog. There are some neat touches, mostly occurring when the art and script synchronise. The fade out/pass out scene merging with Mote’s teleportation as shown from Nolan’s point of view is done well. Particularly as it makes Nolan appear all the more vulnerable. Unfortunately it’s followed by another utterly redundant dream sequence which only serves to fill a page.
Thank God for the palette of Quinton Winter. He manages to bring the Cube to life, making it feel like a living, breathing place. The pervasive green lighting gives everyone a strange pallor which is otherworldly. When Peaty brings us back to The Underneath, it’s a welcome return to the most interesting area we’ve seen in this world so far. Hopefully next week will flesh out the social and political context of what’s occurring.
Grey Area “Whistleblower” Part 1 by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison and Ellie De Ville.
If you’re interested in social and political context, then Grey Area should be your bag. Abnett wastes no time in picking up where he left off with poor Railsback looking like she’s going to pay the price for everyone else. Bulleit’s naivete, Hallard’s weakness and Grell’s ruthlessness converge to put her into a bad position. Thankfully the black ops group decide to send Kym and RBF along to assassinate her, so it predictably goes south. The attempted forcible induction of Kym and RBF is the only thing her that doesn’t ring true. Unless there’s a specific aspect of the foreshadowed “Congruence Op” that only they can achieve?
Believability is key to Grey Area. What makes it work so well is the real-world feel. The conversation between characters flows with such natural charm that sometimes it’s difficult not to read it twice, just because it felt so good. Harrison’s non-verbal interactions through body language, personal space and expression elevate this to excellence. In the midst of this complex-multi-panelled, textured art it would be easy to lose sight of that but, as always, it’s caring about the characters which makes the strip.
Jaegir “Bonegrinder” Part 2 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady and Annie Parkhouse.
Atalia’s not in it much this week as Rennie cuts us a big old slice of future war. Coleby and O’Grady really get to stretch their legs as Bonegrinder digs in against the Souther assault. It’s beautifully paced in an almost cinematic style too. We cut back and forth from the red emergency lighting of the command room to the attack proper. Despite the absence of sound effects you can hear the alarms and the roar of cannons. The conflict quickly descends from the ultra high-tech of orbital batteries and laser shields to humble Sergeant Klaur having the time of his life with a truly massive axe that looks almost home-made.
There’s a brutality to proceedings that makes it look like a miracle that anyone survives. Even after victory there’s an atmosphere breach which inflicts further casualties. O’Grady annihilates those poor souls in a caustic miasma. He fills the remaining panels with poison before Rennie poisons the victory with words and the reality of the Nu Earth conflict. Take a breath. It’s all over until next time.
4 out of 5 hit the mark solidly this week.