Judge Dredd “Machine Law” Part 5 by John Wagner, Colin MacNeill, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse.
This week’s Dredd is all about respect. Harvey and Logan’s respect for Dredd. Dredd’s respect for Logan, despite disagreeing with his stance on the Mechanismo issue. Respect despite disagreement, isn’t that what friends have? Despite Harvey’s attempt to tug at Dredd’s heartstrings the old man is unwavering, even when Logan drops the bomb about Hershey. This is one area where it respect feels lacking although the argument remains that she’s Wagner’s creation so he can do what he likes. There’s also an argument that when Joe buys the farm it should be at the hands of a random perp in a nothing arrest. It would certainly feel in keeping with his arc being the antithesis of the traditional hero going out in bombastic fashion. Despite this, Hershey’s offscreen illness feels false and more than a little unfair. Yes, that’s the realistic nature of illness but this feels a bit like she’s an inconvenient thread being snipped off. Wagner may have other secret plans but that’s not really his way. Looks like we’re not going to get the Hershey World Tour series that could have been so awesome.
MacNeil gives a powerful, hard-edged portrayal of Dredd and Harvey. The camera circles the pair, making their conversation feel like a duel. More daystick practice than a fight to the death and with no clear victor. Contrast this to the real violence as Dredd goes back to work. That’s direct and linear with decisive movement. Dredd in that form is a silhouette, a badge, a blazing gun, a fist. When the “applied violence” is done he’s a looming hulk in a gorgeous full-page panel. The final scene with Logan is softer and more human, befitting a conversation between peers. Even his chin looks toned down compared to his belligerent confrontation with Harvey.
All that in 6 pages. Wagner et al really know how to give you your money’s worth.
Skip Tracer “Louder Than Bombs” Part 9 by James Peaty, Paul Marshall, Quinton Winter and Ellie De Ville.
Everything’s coming together in Skip Tracer as the questions that Peaty has been posing for 8 progs start to get answers. The dastardly Consociation are responsible for a hatful of governmental conspiracies and coverups. In Louder Than Bombs we have false flag terrorism and suppression of footage of a My Lai type massacre. Peaty makes both of these feel sufficiently credible and threatening. What’s lacking, however, is an understanding of what the consequences would be if the Cube public were to become aware of then. Would there be a wave of public opinion sufficient to destabilise the Consociation? We simply don’t know as that part of the Skip Tracer universe isn’t fleshed out enough. Think back to Mills’ Greysuit. The real-world setting gave us context of what would happen if the dirty laundry was aired. Similarly we have an understanding of the fragile nature of government in Mega City 1. Maybe more worldbuilding and fewer cagefights and car chases would give the strip a bit more impact.
That said, this is a pretty good episode. Jordan Hesh is shaping up to be a really nasty piece of work. Peaty defines his professional nastiness in 3 efficient panels before showing the Consociation’s big play in a 4th. The pervasive green glow that Winter gives proceedings in the upper Cube contrasts nicely with the dirtier, more organic look of The Strip. Hopefully the final act will continue to develop the stronger showing this week.
Grey Area “Rogue” by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison and Ellie De Ville
For members of an elite black-ops death squad, Lang and Zitmund really made an arse of it. No wonder Grell’s so pissed off if this is what he has to work with. Maybe that’s why they had to abduct RBF and Kymn into their program? Mind you, what’s Grell’s response to the potential exposure of his secret program? Indiscriminately shoot giant lasers into a refugee camp in the most-policed area on earth. Yep, that’s got covert written all over it.
That said,none of this feels unrealistic. We’ve seen what a reactionary prick Grell is. This is exactly the type of thing you could expect him to do. Similarly, Railsback’s reaction to seeing her not-dead dead friends will make you go “Yep, that’s Railsback”.
It’s not just Abnett’s believable characters that make Grey Area so good. Harrison’s art is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of colour. You want a Minority Report holographic control room? Check. Widespread panic and slaughter in a refugee camp? Check. A strangely attractive alien with no nose wearing a poncho and sombrero? Check. Now that’s versatility.
Future Shocks “Grave Negotiations” by Rory McConville, Duane Leslie and Simon Bowland.
Rory McConville gives us a Future Shock which has a decidedly old-school vibe this week. A tale of betrayal and warring galactic empires with a comical hint of absurdity, this wouldn’t feel out of place 2000 progs ago. To many 2000ad readers, harking back to a golden age of thrillpower, that would be the highest compliment possible. Oddly enough, the surprise ending manages to be exactly what you expect to happen after 40 years of Future Shocks. this renders it a strange combination of being both satisfied and a bit deflated by getting exactly what you wanted. The Germans probably have a word for that.
Duane Leslie’s intricate penmanship also harks back to those halcyon days of the paper progs. His endless detail reminds you of the late Massimo Belardinelli, right down to the emperor who, in close-up, bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain pointy-headed space trucker. All in all, it’s a neat strip that draws the eye with fascination for repeated viewings despite its size.
Jaegir “Bonegrinder” Part 3 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady and Annie Parkhouse.
After last week’s breathless action, reality hits us. Rennie takes his time here and really lets it sink in, allowing the reader to digest what a shitshow Nu Earth is. Coleby’s opening page of the dead and dying is real “horror of war” stuff. You could be reading Charley’s War and this wouldn’t be out of place.
After this, Rennie adds to the grimness by having the Kommander (oddly still unnamed) explain in sadistic detail exactly how screwed Atalia is, and why. His assertion about Uncle Pietya seems misplaced, however, as Atalia goes to him with the Kommanders warrant. Surely the true betrayer would be whoever gave her that information, not the man who basically booked her transport? Nevertheless it underlines what a toxic nest of betrayal the Nordland elite is for Atalia. Her response is a characteristically bold decision to not lose the game by choosing not to play. How can you not love her? There’s a strong case to say that, as far as tales of Nu Earth go, Jaegir is even better than the original Rogue Trooper.
A strong showing all round, even without Brink, the Prog has strength in depth.