Judge Dredd “New Blood” Part 1 by Rory McConville, Siku and Annie Parkhouse.
Siku makes his return to 2000ad and it’s absolutely beautiful. His shaky, slightly askew characters are perfect for McConville’s tale of an ageing rogue cadet. A particular delight is a 4-panel reminiscence reflected in Dredd’s visor. Siku makes it just misaligned enough to keep each panel distinct and give us a breath in between. With a different artist it could look sloppy. Not the case for 2000ad Prog 2132. With Siku it’s style.
He can tug on the heartstrings too. Witness the terrified toddler, inducted into the harshest school on earth then cast aside as an adolescent. Siku gives him bulging, tearful eyes like undercooked eggs. The harsh indifference of Justice Department is your reminder from McConville that the Judges are really not the good guys.
Expelled after his hotdog run, Cadet Spode (even his name sounds like a failure) is seeking retribution on the judge who failed him. No prizes for guessing who that was. Tales of rogue judicial elements are fairly stacking up, especially with Judge Pin still out there. Maybe the Academy of Law should have some form of aftercare program, if only to save themselves trouble further down the line? There are so many failed cadets out there it’s difficult to remember if this is a new one McConville’s created or one from days of yore. Either way, Dredd goes in to pursue his own brand of diplomacy. That should go well…
Scarlet Traces “Home Front” Part 6 by Ian Edginton, D’Israeli and Ellie De Ville.
As the Pathé newsreel may have it: “Our plucky lads give one in the eye to Johnny Martian!” Although possibly not, as even journalists lose their stiff upper lip in the face of bloodsucking tripods. Edginton shifts focus to some new characters this week as the battle for Earth continues.
In a collected edition, it would be a nice segue from the end of last prog into the catastrophic news report that begins this week’s Traces. It works well on its own too as the bulletin goes to hell onscreen before you turn the page into a now-familiar sight of death. This time it ends differently (well, not for poor Bob) as the fightback begins with a neatly-improvised EMP bomb. Edginton and D’Israeli have a gift for inserting the commonplace into the fantastic. Their Co-op van stacked with Eveready batteries is so recognisable that the reader almost feels they could build one themselves (not advisable). It really brings the strip to life, giving it a period feel that is instantly recognisable and quintessentially English.
Max Normal “How The Max Got His Stripes” Part 8 by Guy Adams, Dan Cornwell, Jim Boswell and Simon Bowland.
Max continues to delight and frustrate in almost equal measures. For each bright moment of banter between Max and Vito, there’s a belief-shattering clanger to counteract it. This week it’s the secret stash of loot that Max only seems to have made a token gesture to access. That’s then counterbalanced by an added item with the loot that neither of our heroes expected. On the back of that we then get the reappearance of the teen gangsters who are more irritating than threatening. There is a hint that there’s more to them than meets the eye this week. Could they be the offspring of Mo Bland? If so, it could add a frisson to their already psychopathic beef with him.
Thankfully there’s enough loose ends here to keep us engaged. Also the Cornwell and Boswell droids are combining to give a nice sense of place to proceedings. The slightly shabby, run-down club fits perfectly with Max’s slightly rumpled suit and slightly too-long moustache. They’ve all seen better days but that’s no reason to stop trying.
Tharg’s 3Rillers “Chimera” Part 2 by James Peaty, Brian Corcoran, Matt Soffe and Annie Parkhouse.
The secret of the shock corridor starts to become clear in the second installment of Chimera. Peaty makes a fine job of allowing the hidden agenda to come out gradually, rather than leading us by the nose. We end up sharing with Jinx the creeping realisation that all is not ok in The Grind.
To be fair though, what did she expect? A crazy-looking scientist with an immersion VR hiding in a basement? There’s no way he wasn’t up to no good. Just look at him! Corcoran couldn’t make him look more mad scientist if he tried. Crazy greasy hair? Check. Creepy location? Check. Filthy labcoat? Check. He’s even got sandals and a Rogue Trooper badge, the bloody geek.
Peaty’s Grind just reeks with gloom. Even the clean, high-tech areas appear soulless in comparison to the nameless dreamworld. Becoming an unwitting Trojan horse almost seems worth it to escape, even briefly. Peaty’s created a world that feels futuristic yet instantly relatable. He’s also arguably done it more successfully than Skip Tracer’s Cube, to which parallels are inevitably drawn.
Kingmaker “Ouroboros” Part 9 by Ian Edginton, Leigh Gallagher and Ellie De Ville.
Crixus’ return from death is unsurprisingly surprising to all involved. Edginton doesn’t give them time to mull it over, however. There’s still a power of fighting to be done. Daddy Dryad recovers well, even implying that the resurrection trick isn’t completely unexpected. It doesn’t help him much, he’s inevitably on the end of an ass-kicking. The Lazarus trick is almost as effective as a swift kick in the balls, even when wearing a suit of armour.
It’s a neat bit of work from Edginton. Just how do the special powers of magic and destiny involved in fantasy worlds tie in with the massive, uncaring universe of sci-fi? It may be cool to raise an army of golems, but if your sun goes supernova, it’s not going to help you much. Therein lies the central pleasure of Kingmaker. You get both the visceral and the cerebral to entertain you.
It’s all beautifully complemented by Gallagher’s artwork. The gloom of the goblin caves lit by magic and lasers alike. He creates some breathtaking action here, the sturm und drang of which is deafening despite the absence of sound effects. A winner on every front.
A cracking prog; quality on almost every page of 2000AD Prog 2132.