Archive for January, 2012


Prog 1767 – The Big Smoke

Cover:

What a fantastic cover by Tiernen Trevallion. His distinctive black and white style is eye catching enough, but the fire effect makes this cover extra special (the fire actually looks like its spreading over the cover). This surely has to be an early contender for cover of the year.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction – Part 3:

This is the best installment of the Day of Chaos arc so far. Mega City One is put under lock down as the judges desperatly try to prevent the outbreak of the Sov virus. What’s been really interesting about this arc so far, is that the Judges have been well aware that a disaster is imminent, but have been pretty powerless to stop it, which is a change from them usually being taken by suprise. Its been a long time since Dredd has been quite as unmissable as it is right now.

Grey Area – Feel the Noise – Part 1:

I was suprised to see Grey Area begin a new story this prog, but unfortunatly i’m still finding it difficult to care. It really isn’t bad, but it just feels so underwhelming compared to the other four strips in the prog right now. Any other line up of strips, then I feel I would probably be rating this more highly.

Nikolai Dante – The Wedding of Jena Makarov – Part 5:

Dante manages to escape, and Jena heads ever closer to her fate. Next prog I expect to see the fireworks start proper to bring Dante to a close. Its testament to Robbie Morrison’s writing that in his final story, he kept Dante imprisoned for five whole parts without it getting boring. Once again this was a great read and I say that as someone who has never really been that fond of Dante before.

Absalom – Ghosts of London – Part 3:

A bit of the folklore of London added to the mix in this installment of Absalom. The great thing about this strip is that I genuinly have no idea where its going at any point, so week in week out I am being suprised when reading it. Theres yet to be an installment of Absalom that is less than great, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Strontium Dog – The Project – Part 5:

I know we’re only at part five, but I’ll be really sad when this is over as (like Dredd) this is unmissable right now. Theres so many plot threads going on at once, all of which would make a great strip on their own right, but together they are making this into something of a classic.

Overall:

2000AD is going through something of a golden age right now, and this prog perfectly encapsulates why. Three of the most popular strips of all time are all involved in mega epic storylines, while a fairly new strip continues to impress every week. The fact that Grey Area is the weakest thing here just goes to show how strong the current line up is, as Grey Area is far from awful.

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd (although Strontium Dog, and Absalom where both equally thrilling).

 

 

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The Simping Detective can best be described in three words – Mega City Noir. Yes, I know thats the description that 2000AD used to describe Low Life, but it is far more fitting in relation to The Simping Detective.

Jack Point is an undercover “wally squad” judge, posing as a Private Investigator in one of Mega-City One’s most scuzzy districts, Angeltown. Going undercover is a dangerous business in the big meg, and to this end Point disguises himself as a Simp, dressed literally as a clown, in order to better fit in. Jack Point is a fascinating character, being a judge but one whos just on the edge of being a lawbreaker. He likes his drink, he likes his tobacco, and he likes his women (although they don’t always like him in return). With a crooked Judge as his sector chief and a Raptaur as a pet, Point’s life is anything but straightforward.

Unlike many comic strips, The Simping Detective is incredibly wordy. Theres the standard speech bubbles for characters dialogue of course, but there are also seperate panels for Point’s inner monologue. This was a fantastic idea, as its helps the reader to get inside Point’s head, and get to know the character better, as well as adding to the Noir style of the story. I could just imagine the inner monologue being delivered straight to camera, while some jazz music plays in the background. This idea is really taken to the extreme for the final story in this trade, which is just pages of text with a piece of art every other page. Simon Spurrier hasn’t always been the most popular of writers on 2000AD, having written the unpopular comedy strip Bec & Kawl, but here is writing must be commended as it is nothing short of consistently top drawer.

Frazer Irving does an incredible jon on art duties. His stylish black and white art with the occasional splash of colour is exactly what was needed to fit a story like The Simping Detective. In the wrongs hands the art could have killed the strip, but in Irvings hands every page oozes atmosphere, perfectly evoking the feeling of a 1920’s hardboiled detective yarn, with a Mega-City twist.

The Simping Detective is one of the best strips and characters to have come out of the Judge Dredd Megazine in recent years. There are rumours that after a few years away Jack Point is set for a return sometime this year, which I sincerly hope turns out to be true. But when strips like Low Life allready exist, it would be easy to wonder if another strip centered around a Wally Squad Judge was really needed. Whats the point, you might ask? Well, “It comes right after the Jack.”

9/10

Prog 1766 – Back In Business

Cover:

Its a stock Alpha cover, but as stock covers go this is a pretty good one (and to be honest anythings better than prog 1765’s ridiculous cover). Its nicely drawn and stands out on the shelf, which is one of the most important things for a cover to do.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction – Part 2:

Only five days to go untill the Day of Chaos itself, and things are moving along pretty nicely. Going by this installment its not just the Sovs that the judges have to worry about, as the terrorist group “Rage Against The Megs” seems to be targetting the Big Meg also. The Day of Chaos story arc is slowly building up the tension effectively, and I have full confidence that once the day itself arrives, we won’t be dissapointed.

Grey Area – Meet & Greet – Part 4:

I’m really not feeling this story at all so far. It’s not really doing anything wrong, but I am finding little to keep me interested while reading. It’s still early days for Grey Area though, so I shall give it a fair chance.

Nikolai Dante – The Wedding of Jena Makarov – Part 4:

Like Dredd, Dante is building up the tension nicely right now. It appears that there is going to be a huge battle to bring Nikolai Dante to a close, and I for one am really enjoying reading it. I can’t help wishing that Dante would hurry up and escape though.

Absalom – Ghosts of London – Part 2:

I was delighted when Absalom returned last prog, and my delight continues this time around. A cracking story coupled with the best art in the prog, means this is one story that is firing on all cylinders.

Strontium Dog – The Project – Part 4:

Concern over Johnny Apha’s wellbeing continues, as we get more hints that something just isn’t right about him since his resurrection. Hearing voices in his head, and calling Middenface “Wulf” this time around is intriguing stuff, and is actually more interesting than the main plot of the contract thats been put out on Johnny. I enjoyed reading Strontium Dog once again, and am thrilled that its back in the prog.

Overall:

Best prog of the year so far, with only Grey Area being less than great.

Thrill of the Week: Absalom.

Stone Island

I picked up Stone Island on something of a whim, having little idea about the story (barring it being “Porridge meets Resident Evil”) and having never seen a single panel from it. The names Ian Edginton and Simon Davis on the front cover was what made me want to read it, as they are amongst my favourite writers and artist respectively.

Set in Longbarrow Maximum Security Prison, Stone Island begins with the character David Sorrell as a new inmate, having been imprisoned for murder. It doesn’t take long however before the Prison comes under attack by a horde of monstrous creatures. After that we’re very much into traditional survival horror territory, with plenty of blood and gore splashed liberally over the pages. This traditional approach to both the plot and the characters is both the strength and weakness of Stone Island. While reading it is an enjoyable experience, there is always the nagging feeling that we have seen this story so many times before. To Edginton’s credit though, he really does try and do something different with Stone Island’s sequel “The Harrowers” which is also included in this trade. The Harrowers whilst still being as violent as its predecessor is more of a Science Fiction type of story, albeit pretty high concept when it comes down to it. Edginton’s writing really does deserve credit here, as both stories flew by. I could quite easily have read the trade in one sitting which I’ve never been able to say about any other trades no matter how good they have been.

Simon Davis is one of my favourite artists working on 2000AD today, and his art is absolutely fantastic throughout. As well as being able to paint gore petty damn well (he even had me squirming with a couple of his panels), his ability to make a series of talking head panels eye catching is what sets him above many other artists. Every panel is worth looking at, which undoubtedly helped with the already impressive pacing of both stories. Although unfortunately I have to point out that there seems to be a lot of male genitals on display throughout the trade. But if you like that kind of thing then I guess you’ve hit the jackpot here.

While Stone Island is far from perfect, and perhaps a tad clichéd in places, I still enjoyed it enormously. Its not to everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy horror strips then this ones for you.

7/10

At the time of its publication, The Pit must have seemed quite radical. At thirty parts in length, this was a very different type of Dredd epic than had ever been seen before. Mega City One was not in danger of imminent destruction, Dredd wasn’t on some quest to chase a master criminal or alien fiends from another dimension. No, with The Pit it was decided that Dredd would be put in charge of a sector house, for a series of linked police procedural type stories. The resultant stories can only be seen as a massive success.

Although The Pit never seems to be mentioned when it comes to game changing Dredd strips (The Apocalypse Wars, Necropolis etc), it completly changed the face of Dredd forever. For the first time we get stories that overlap with each other, giving us a sense of a real living breathing city (something which I feel Judge Dredd has excelled at ever since). We also see the assembling of a regular cast of characters, who are as integral to the plot as Dredd himself, perhaps even more so. Galen DeMarco, Judge Guthrie and Judge Buell all make their debuts here, with each of them going on to become important characters in the world of Dredd. Its not just criminals that Dredd has been sent to The Pit to help combat though. The Judicial system in The Pit is riddled with corruption, but in some cases their corruption seems perfectly reasonable, for example in the case of Demarco. When Dredd has to crack down on them, it really helps to push the anti-hero angle of his character  (again this is something that we continue to see in the strip to this day).

Most importantly The Pit is a damn good read. We get to really feel for all of the characters, meaning its very easy to become thoroughly absorbed in the story telling. I probably read this thirty part story quicker than I’ve read some far shorter efforts. If I did have to find one complaint then it would be in the art department. Now none of the art is bad (far from it), but for some reason we frequently see a change in artist in the middle of a story. I don’t know if this was standard practice at the time of The Pit’s publication, but it can be pretty distracting, as it is immediatly noticeable.

Despite its fairly bland title, and rather unassuming front cover, I have to say that The Pit is one of the finest Judge Dredd stories that I have ever read. In fact this would make a perfect introduction to Dredd for anyone who had never read the strip before. If you’ve yet to read The Pit then I suggest you do yourself a favour, and get a hold of a copy immediatly. You won’t be dissapointed.

9/10

Special Guest Reviewer – Eamonn Clarke.

WARNING – REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

A new year and a new 2000AD prog to review. Abalom is back which is great, and Judge Dredd begins a new story arc in the build up to the Day of Chaos. This is part one of Eve of Destruction and the tension is really building up. In the aftermath of the raid on the Sov-Judges’ research bunker Dredd meets with the Mega-City’s chief microbiologist to discuss the likely nature of the bio-weapon that is heading their way.

They begin with some fairly graphic descriptions of the effects that the Chaos organism had on its victim. All quite gruesome stuff that sounds like the rage virus from 28 Days Later. Dr Wyant points out that the super-bug is similar to Toxoplasma Gondii as discussed in my previous blog entry, but gives the writers a get out clause by noting that this is “not the same beast at all”.

Unfortunately the confusion between a virus and a protozoa continues. Anti-virals are not going to be of any use against even a mutated form of Toxoplasma. Once again the doctor mentions his own speciality of Phage therapy which may offer the best hope for Mega-City One, and is more realistic.

And then there is a computer screen image of the victim’s blood. Henry Flint gets the shape of red blood cells right, and although T.Gondii isn’t a spiky beastie as shown here it does have a curved crescent moon shape so this picture is not bad as a portrayal of a mutated killer protozoa. Maybe they looked at an image of T.Gondii parasites like this one.

The medical rating drops a bit for the continued confusion about micro-organisms, so this gets 3.5 out of 5 medic-droids. But the almost unbearable sense of expectation and, let’s say it – dread makes for a great storyline. Unlike the surprise attacks of Block Mania and The Apocalypse War this time the Mega-Judges know exactly what is coming but seem almost powerless to stop it. Great stuff for 2012.

Prog 1764 – Customs & Exos

Cover:

Its certainly striking and looks very eye catching on the shelf. Unlikely to be a contender for cover of the year, but still very nice.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: The Assassination List – Part 6:

This maybe suffered from having such a long break (it being four weeks since part 5). However it moves the Day of Chaos arc on considerably with regard to the characters of Wile, and the Hennesy’s. Day of Chaos has been something of a slow burner, but I get the feeling its beginning to pick up pace.

Grey Area – Meet & Greet – Part 2:

Its still to early to really pass judgement on Grey Area. I’m enjoying it so far though, and this part introduced an interesting plot point regarding the character Bulliet. I do wonder whether theres going to be enough storylines for Grey Area to run for a long time, but I’m sure Dan Abnett knows what he’s doing.

Nikolai Dante – The Wedding of Jena Makarov – Part 2:

I’m not the biggest fan of Dante so perhaps i’m not the best person to review this strip. I get the gist of whats going on though, and I imagine if you’ve been reading Dante from the start then this would be a must read.

Past Imperfect – H Battalion:

Jekyll and Hyde meets the First World War. There’s quite a lot crammed into the four pages this one shot strip gets, and its a tremendously enjoyable read. To be honest though, I would probably have taken anything after the abysmal Angel Zero.

Strontium Dog – The Project – Part 2:

Unlike some, I’m delighted that Johnny Alpha has been ressurected, and this strip just adds to the confidence I have in the creative team. There’s clearly something not quite right about Johnny since his return, and the plot regarding the attempt on his life is absolutly gripping. This is shaping up to be a must read.

Overall:

A pretty strong prog to start of the new year. Not quite firing on all cylinders perhaps, but there isn’t a single poor strip here, so things are looking good.

Thrill of the week: Strontium Dog.

 

When approaching Sinister Dexter you know what your going to get.  Lots of guns, lots of jokes, and lots of one shot stories. In that respect Slay Per View is pretty standard Sin/Dex, however there are a couple of factors that raise it above the previous two Sin/Dex trades.

In the 235 pages of this trade there are plenty of traditional one part stories, but mixed in are a couple of longer four or five part stories. These stories are important as they introduce several new characters, who continue to turn up in Sin/Dex to this day. Steampunk Willie, Brutus Putin, and Carrie Hosanna all make their debuts here. For the first time in Sin/Dex we also get returning characters, in the form of “friendly” cops Rocky Rhodes, and Tracy Weld, as well as Demi Octavo’s little sister Billi. What this does, is create a more well rounded world for Sin/Dex. Whereas previously we knew little about the two main characters other than what we saw on the page, this trade begins to give us their backstory as well as giving them (and the reader) other characters to care about. Theres also a few subtle hints at a bigger story arc (a first for Sin/Dex) which would continue into the next trade “Eurocrash”.

While the writing is consistent throughout, the art is anything but, with no fewer than fourteen artists taking a shot at Sin/Dex here. The best of the bunch for me is Simon Davies, whos unique style of art is my personal favourite for Sin/Dex. The only artist who I wasn’t to keen on in this trade was Steve Yeowell. While his art works well when in black and white (in The Red Seas for example), it really looks quite poor as soon as it is coloured, as it is here. For some reason Yeowell insists on drawing Sinister with a goatee, which no other artist does. Why he does this, I have no idea (answers on a postcard please).

While there are hints at a bigger picture developing, Slay Per View is still very much the Sin/Dex we know and love (or loathe, depending on how you feel about it).  Its nothing mind blowing or deep, but if you switch your brain off and enjoy it, then theres a lot of fun to be had reading this trade.

8/10

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