Judge Dredd “The Long Game” Part 4 by Michael Carroll, Mark Sexton, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse.
So The Long Game started well. A slow-burning Mega-City mob noir with Dredd as a vague presence. He was almost irrelevant to the story right until halfway through this final episode. Then he shifted form being any investigating Judge to some kind of avatar of the law. And that’s when it lost it. Granted, Dredd is the avatar of the law, no arguments there. But part of the whole point of Dredd is that he’s not a lone operator. He functions with the full power of a massive fascist state behind him. In those circumstances there isn’t much sense in a psychic who can sense the presence of one judge because he’s got thousands of similarly-armed colleagues with him.
On consideration, it would make much more sense as a Batman story. In fact, this would make an awesome Batman story. It was a pretty good Dredd story right up to the unnecessary twist when it seemed to miss its own point.
There’s a huge amount to enjoy here though. Sexton’s Matrix vibe to the first page should look a bit dated. It’s riffing on a 20-year old film after all but it is just as cool as it tries to be. Sometimes a punch in the mouth really hurts and Sexton manages just that. The distortion in Sage’s lips with blood, spit and possibly a tooth flying towards the reader is painful. Just as the camera angle plays to the cinematic vibe as Rose covers ground impossibly fast while her colleagues chill confidently. It’s a shame the subsequent interrogation isn’t quite as convincing. The “Torture me all you want” line felt hackneyed although the riposte was neat. The panel with Sage’s confession looks like he’s growing lichen rather than he’s coated in his own blood.
All in all, it’s close but no cigar. The very existence of crime syndicates in MC1 is already being questioned in the Megazine. But The Parliament and The Kindred could have some legs in them played right and without an over reliance on the Dredd-locator.
Scarlet Traces “Home Front” Part 4 by Ian Edginton, D’Israeli and Ellie De Ville.
Our first slice of Edginton this week but let’s focus first on D’israeli and his sublime artwork. Detailed but not fussy. Realistic but stylised. Simple yet somehow ornate. It’s as beautifully realised as a destroyed city can be. His simple lines in the rubble suggest death in the rubble without shoving it in your face. And when the martians get their hands on our poor soldier, he eschews background altogether in favour of impact lines that focus the reader right down into his plight with him. As our heroes retreat, the hot red spectrum gives way to cool, underground (or Underground) greens.
Cool and calming, Edginton then gets the opportunity to slow the pace somewhat with brief reflection. The humanity of his characters is as on point as always. The vulnerability of our two heroes shines with emotional honesty. HG Wells eat your heart out.
Max Normal “How The Max Got His Stripes” Part 6 by Guy Adams, Dan Cornwell, Jim Boswell and Simon Bowland.
Is Max the best story in the prog just now? Well, no but if you like a shaggy dog story with a touch og golden-era nostalgia then it’s actually pretty good. Adams tells the tale with plenty of zip. You may or may not like the verbal acrobatics, but they’r very well put together. In particular the main soliloquy mid-episode gives a better overview of the whole Normal philosophy than we’ve had in the past 40 years. As much as anything else in MC1 it actually makes some sense.
If you don’t get the whole Normal vibe, you can enjoy Cornwell’s riff on some well-known works of art. The Walter Lisa and Call-Me-Kenneth on the Cross are definite favourites. Unfortunately the crestfallen Bland on the penultimate page has more than a hint of Dr Seuss about him but he does draw a very sharp suit even if it is more hipster than slick.
Future Shocks “They Shoot Monsters, Don’t They?” by Billy Higgins, Tony Allcock and Annie Parkhouse.
So Future Shocks are meant to be weird, aren’t they? There’s a fine tradition of it with some notable kings of weirdness honing their skills on them. Grant Morrison and Alan Moore aren’t exactly conventional people. So on this front, this weeks hits the mark. There’s also enough comedy, to stop the future animal UFC being too harsh. Thanks largely to Allcock’s light, deft artwork which makes it more of a Pokemon than a bearbaiting experience. Not too Pokemon though because this is still 2000ad. Put it this way, it’s a story that works best if you don’t dwell too much on the actual mechanics of it all.
Kingmaker “Ouroboros” part 7 by Ian Edginton, Leigh Gallagher and Ellie De Ville.
Dungeons and dragons and aliens and Tolkein with a dash of Westeros. Edginton continues to be one of the prog’s brightest stars. From Leviathan to Scarlet Traces via Helium, Brass Sun and Stickleback, he’s rarely put a foot wrong. (With the exception maybe of Ampney Crucis Investigates). Even Stone Island bears up to a repeat reading if you get the chance (Progs 1500-1507 and 1550-1559 if you’re up for it).
With Kingmaker he’s ambitious. Not creating a whole new world but drawing on familiar worlds and adding his own slant in realistic dialogue and fully realised characters. Even with only a few panels of existence, Edginton manages to make the pride in the Orc king’s response to the appearance of the Ebora plain. That’s not to say that he completely subverts the fantasy genre. He still gives you orcs, elves and wizards cutting a bloody swathe. It’s just that he adds enough extra elements to make it unique and non-derivative.
He’s also embraced the discipline required to drive the plot forward in only 5-7 pages while giving a dash of the ultraviolence necessary to keep us entertained. This would be impossible without the ridiculously crisp, detailed artwork of Leigh Gallagher. Kingmaker is definitely the best-looking story in the prog just now. With grimy goblins battling shiny futuristic armour in a blaze of magic, bright lights and lasers. Are you not entertained? The solid force he gives a troll battering into the front line of the Thorn is a standout moment both narratively and artistically. Magic stuff (pun intended.
We end this week with an apparent death and seeming resurrection. All is never as it seems in the Edginverse and this is a familiar (but not overused) ploy in 2000ad. From Dead Signal to Mazeworld, characters have a habit of dying in one world to awake in another. If Crixus is being recruited to Indigo Prime, however, that may be a bridge too far.
All in all, it’s a wee bit of a patchy prog. Edginton’s stories certainly rise above the rest but there’s nothing weak here. Editorially it plays a blinder with 3 tales going into the fortnight break on cliffhangers. Nicely played Tharg.