2000ad Prog 2134
Judge Dredd “Pets” by Rob Williams, Henry Flint, Gary Caldwell and Annie Parkhouse.
Catch yourself on Giant, there’s a time and a place to be talking about your feelings. Admittedly with Dredd, that preferred time is never. Even so, during an attack by crazed robot guard dogs is bad timing in anyone’s book.
Williams gives a nice post-Smiley account of what happened to Dredd’s Scooby gang after the events of the Small House, showing that, even by Judges’ standards, Dredd is unusually thoughtless. His emotional constipation is strangely entertaining to watch. It’s not that he’s uncomfortable with the chat, more that he genuinely doesn’t get Giant’s point. Even Harvey is more emotionally attuned than Joe. But what did Giant expect? He’s known Dredd his whole life so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to him. Not that he’s unappreciative; he just appreciates you in a way that can’t be heard.
Flint’s artwork creates a nice juxtaposition of chaotic action at odds with the touchy-feely conversation. The way Dredd and Giant comport themselves show the almost clinical competence of the Judges. Caldwells splashes of red light and fluid give a strong sense of motion that works with the metallic greys and brittle lines of Flint’s art.
Williams peppers this with some nice touches and “Ahhh” moments. The reference to Giant Senior and Dredd’s self-destruct code will press your nostalgia buttons. The robo-dog tech being called Noakes is a neat one for the older reader.
Scarlet Traces “Home Front” Part 8 by Ian Edginton, D’Israeli and Ellie De Ville.
Edginton gives us an episode that is brimming with pathos in 2000ad Prog 2134. There’s no action but it’s no less compelling as a result. He draws heavily on the refugee experience, particularly the Jewish post-war diaspora. The need to keep a suitcase packed in case they come for you again is scaled up to a community level. What do you do if there’s nowhere to run to? Answer: create somewhere to hide. The realisation that the first thing the aliens did was to create refuge within the city is poignant, especially amidst the kitchen-sink dialogue which gives the situation a chilling normality. They may be Venusians, but the humanity spills out of every page.
D’Israeli’s artwork is, as ever, absorbing. There’s no square-jawed heroes here. Everyone is distinctly average, just people trying to survive. The whole scene is bathed in cool green light, with mellow orange tones from bonfire for relief and shadow. It makes the blue and red of the final half-page pop in a pleasingly vintage sci-fi manner. Everything meshes together beautifully.
Terror Tales “The Quilli Committee” by Laura Bailey, David Hitchcock and Annie Parkhouse.
Back by popular demand? Quilli may become one of those semi-recurring scripts that the prog does so well. The Quilli mythos if you will. Moving on from the last tale, Quilli has become a cult, providing sanctuary for dispossessed children. It’s a sad state of the social work department that it’s outsourcing child welfare services to creepy ventriloquist dolls, but there we go. That’s Tory austerity for you. Bailey sets us up with an investigative journalist infiltrating the shelter for an expose. That goes about as well as you could expect, with lots of creepy turns and moments along the way. She also dispels some of the ambiguity about the end of the previous episode, while setting us up with some new questions. What are the teachings of Quilli? Who is really in control? Is it supernatural in nature or sleight of hand?
Hitchcock’s pencil artwork creates an eerily gloomy atmosphere. Everything is cast in shadow, with a scent of dirt reeking off the page. The devil’s in the details here and are pleasingly easy to miss on face-value reading, giving an added layer to the eventual events.
Kingmaker “Ouroboros” Part 11 by Ian Edginton, Leigh Gallagher and Ellie De Ville.
From Tolkein to Herbert this week in Kingmaker. Edginton strays into Dune territory as we get a glimpse at the machinations of the great houses and corporations of the galaxy. He who controls the aether controls the universe or something like it. Just be thankful that we don’t have Sting in his flying underpants, although Gallagher’s artwork is so crisply excellent that he could probably pull even that off.
It’s an ambitious melange of sci-fi and fantasy which he’s managing to pull off so far. The addition of the chairman this week seems to be another win. He’s sufficiently sinister with the cold, unsentimental ruthlessness of absolute power. Gallagher’s art elevates it above the corporate too. In particular the galactic backgrounds and weirdly gender-fluid slaves give the proceedings a feel of huge authority. Disturbingly, chillingly intriguing. The team are engaging in some massive universe-building here.
Max Normal “How the Max Got His Stripes” Part 10 by Guy Adams, Dan Cornwell, Jim Boswell and Simon Bowland.
So this is how Max ends; not with a bang but a chuckle. Thanks to Adams et al for giving us a MC1 story that wasn’t filled with doom and gloom but rather with linguistic gymnastics; quirky, colourful art and general good cheer.
The physical peril is wrapped up in a belief-defying shuggy extravaganza, comically portrayed in a full-page panel that completes the rehabilitation of Max. Standout star however is Julius’ fantasy of big Joe himself working the table. Although it includes one of the most disturbing frames of Dredd ever put to paper, Cornwell gives Julius a beguiling grin which sums up the tongue firmly in cheek nature of the proceedings. Whatever Thistlebone ends up being next prog, it won’t be Normal.
Good job by everyone this week. 2000ad Prog 2134 is a solid anthology.