Judge Dredd “The World According to Chimpsky” by Kenneth Niemand, PJ Holden, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse
PJ Holden’s first page of this one-shot Dredd tells you everything you need to know about MC1. The madness of the citizens’ lives, the regime they live under and how bizarre it all is to the outside observer. All of it filtered through the analytical Chimpsky himself. He’s a charming, superintelligent ape who just wants a bag of nuts. He and Niemand’s storytelling weave their way nimbly between potential robbery and terrorism, almost but not quite touching the violent undercurrent of the Meg. Even his encounter with Dredd, an occasion that usually ends badly for the most innocent of people, is in control. Niemand makes Chimpsky effortlessly sidestep the harsh edges that lesser beings would come a cropper on. It’s a great first impression for 2000AD Prog 2131.
Niemand’s best trick here is Chimpsky’s reduction of all things Meg from their illusion to the reality underneath. Look back to page 1 again. Charles makes the billboards pop out in glorious cel-shaded neon but it’s the content that catches the eye. Similarly, Joe’s interaction with Chimpsky could be his interaction with pretty much anyone since 1977 boiled down to its essence by Chimpsky’s insight.
Who is Chimpsky? A potential vigilante? Or just a guy who wants his synthi-nuts? Hopefully we won’t find out. Some things are best left to the imagination. A Chimpski strip would ruin the charm of an outsider whose insight is not necessarily a good thing in such a mad world.
Scarlet Traces “Home Front” Part 5 by Ian Edginton, Disraeli and Ellie De Ville.
Ooft! D’Israeli’s use of light and shade at the start of this week’s Scarlet Traces is literally breathtaking. You can feel tha hairs in your nose crisp in the heat as our heroes find sanctuary. He plays the same trick as previous weeks when Miss Hemming leads her unnamed friend into comforting cool green space. There’s an urbanity to the whole setting poised in every detail. From the Marmite to the books on the shelves, the refuge oozes stiff-upper-lipped charm. Even the tv testcard evokes a bygone era that permeates Edginton’s script. That said, surely the budget could have sprung for a better sherry? It’s wartime but they’re not savages.
Unfortunately for our heroes, red Mars invades through the telly as chaos unfolds outwith their bolthole. They may be safe for now but they won’t stand idly by and watch the world go to hell. It’s a sentiment evoked in whatshisname’s tale of his father. He could have stayed safe, but he had to do his duty. Edginton et al are producing a poignant, understated masterpiece.
Max Normal “How the Max Got His Stripes” Part 7 by Guy Adams, Dan Cornwell, Jim Boswell and Simon Bowland.
Max recovers from the 2-week cliffhanger with a deus ex machina that kind of almost works. It’s sensibly not passed off by him as anything other than pure fluke. For Adams to pretend Max had planned it would be a cheat of sorts. What happens after is an unclear timeline. Run home, clear Mo out, get a new suit, cut a deal with the judges and frame your mentor all in 3 pages. It’s nice to see Cadet Dredd there, but try not to think about Max’s role as accomplice in a shedload of crimes. The Judges don’t usually play that nice, even for the juves.
It’s a nice touch from Adams to make Bland lose his patter as he loses control. Max steals that as much as he co-opts his style. Didn’t he not want that before the break though? Cornwell’s art makes Bland look slimly elegant, even with a Judge boot on his head. He’s also distinct enough form modern-day Max to feel like his own man. Unfortunately the reveal of young Max dressed to the nines looks slightly ridiculous. Maybe it’s supposed to though, the boy is still to become the man after all. The flashback seems to be concluded, so we can see how Adams is going to conclude things. Hopefully soon, it’s been fairly fun but the tale is possibly just a bit thin to spin out for much longer.
Tharg’s 3Rillers “The Chimera” Part 1 by James Peaty, Brian Corcoran, Matt Soffe and Annie Parkhouse.
Artist Brian Corcoran makes his 2000ad debut in Peaty’s tale of future ennui. Seeking escape from their humdrum lives, a group of friends enter the shock corridor to where exactly?
The 3Riller format is a tricky one. I Future Shocks you’re done in one. 3Rillers have the luxury of having the first 5 pages to establish the who, where and when, leaving the other 2 episodes reserved for the what and why. The trick is making that first episode sufficiently engaging for the reader to care about the other two. Peaty manages it here by way of some sharp dialogue, giving some meat to his characters’ bones. Jinx’s inner voice neatly expresses her disconnect form the real world. Is what she seeks exactly what she finds? It seems to be tailor -made for her. Corcoran gives her destination a video-game aesthetic that should be paradise for many (think sexy Skyrim). That oddness is reinforced by her real-world solidity against the fantasy visuals, right down to her drooling landing.
It’s a strong start for Corcoran. The backgrounds have a level of detail up there with Dillon’s MC1. His characters have a pleasing, classic 2000ad pencil feel with perfect expression, ably lit by Soffe’s glowing colours. Roll on next prog…
Kingmaker “Ouroboros” Part 8 by Ian Edginton, Leigh Gallagher and Ellie De Ville
Kingmaker, Edginton’s second shift in the prog this week is a bit wordier than previous episodes. It was always going to come to a point where he was going to need to sit us down and explain how the world works. And so it is this week with the help of someone who may or may not be Kurt Vonnegut. Possibly last seen in Brass Sun, he could be a connecting thread tying the Edginverse together. Or possibly not, it’s still a bit too vague to tell. The mechanics of Kingmaker and Brass Sun seem very different, so it could all be nothing.
Either way, the quality of his output has earned Edginton a bit of slack to set the scene. He wraps up what’s been hinted at in a handy 5 pages and you have the gorgeous art of Leigh Gallagher to keep you compant. ?Vonnegut looks sufficiently musty and professorial to be at odds with Crixus while remaining in control of the scenario. The setting is beautiful too. The camera out of focus unless serving the story and suffused with light and colour.
2000AD Prog 2131 is strong in all areas with something for everyone, it’s a clever and satisfying entry this week.