Archive for February, 2012


Prog 1772 – A medical review

Special guest reviewer- Eamonn Clarke

Spoiler alert! Possible spoilers for the Judge Dredd story from Prog 1772 ahead. You have been warned.

The Judge Dredd story Day of Chaos continues and the tension and pace are unrelenting. This is part 8 of the Eve of Destruction, written by John Wagner, art by Ben Wilsher, colours by Chris Blythe, and lettered by Annie Parkhouse.

Dredd and his fellow Judges are struggling to prevent the East-Meg agents from delivering the Chaos organism and infecting the inhabitants of Mega-City one. However they have captured Borisenko, the leader of the rogue Sov-Judges and they are interrogating him for information about a possible antidote.

There’s no further details about the organism in this prog so let’s talk about airways management. Borisenko tries to commit suicide by swallowing his own tongue and asphyxiating himself. (This is also how Hannibal Lector supposedly persuades Multiple Miggs to kill himself in The Silence of the Lambs). In this scene the medics struggle to establish an airway in order to keep Borisenko alive for further questioning. Meanwhile Dredd is interrogating another suspect.

The tongue is a huge muscle, the part we can see in our mouths is only the tip of the iceberg as it were. Contrary to popular belief it is not possible to “swallow your tongue”, and certainly you can’t consciously decide to do this. What can happen is that if you are unconscious the thick muscle can flop backwards and over the top of the trachea or windpipe. That is how people who are drugged or drunk can die from a blocked airway. You can see the problem in this cross-section diagram.

However this only happens to people who are unconscious. You can’t consciously do this, the tongue muscle won’t let you. Borisenko seems to be conscious because, although he is restrained, he is resisting the medics’ attempts to open his mouth. Using something to “prise his jaws open” as the Judges are trying in the above panel is a good way to damage teeth and gums but it won’t establish a safe airway. Presumably the medics here are not too bothered about damaging Borisenko’s mouth, they just want him alive. Prying someones’ teeth apart is also a good way to get yourself bitten but I suppose the Mega-City Judges are wearing fairly hefty looking gloves.

After failing to insert a Naso-Pharyngeal airway the medics resort to an emergency Tracheostomy. The anatomy and technique shown here by Ben Wilsher is fairly accurate, and a tracheostomy is a reliable method of  establishing an emergency airway if all else fails. One of the Judges notes that Borsisenko is breathing again although it appears the breathing tube is hooked up to a ventilator in which case the machine is breathing for him.

Interestingly, there are already versions of tracheostomy tubes which allow the patient to speak. I assume they will be perfected by 2132, or thereabouts, when this story is set.

There is some confusion about airways management in this Prog, however the Mega-City medics save themselves and their patient by establishing a successful and accurate tracheostomy so I’m going to give this a medical rating of 3.5 out of a possible 5 medic-droids.

Insurrection

(Before I start the review, just a quick note to address a certain point.  A lot has been said about Insurrection feeling closer to a Warhammer strip, than a strip set in the Judge Dredd universe. As I know absolutely nothing about Warhammer I shall not be mentioning it again in the review.)

The Justice Department of Dredd’s world has always been a shade of grey, they are supposed to be the heroes of any given strip they appear in, but often we are made to feel sympathy for the supposed lawbreakers due to the almost fascistic tendencies of the Judicial system. With that in mind it’s amazing that it took quite this long for anybody to write a strip that portrays the Judges as out and out bad guys.  The strip in question is Dan Abnett’s recent Megazine series Insurrection, and for the most part it is a strip that succeeds on almost every level.

The Mega City One mining colony K-Alpha 61 has just come out of a long and bitter war with the alien Zhind. In order to win the war, the marshals of K-Alpha 61 decided to grant citizen status to their slave workers (i.e. robots, mutants and uplifted apes) to fight in the absence of any help from Mega City One. After winning the war the colony receives a message from Mega City One demanding that they now revoke the citizenships they had granted the workers immediately. Not surprisingly the Chief Marshal of K-Alpha 61, Luther, rejects this demand, instead renaming the colony Liberty and openly revolting against the Justice Department.

The two strips collected together in this trade tell the story of the resulting rebellion, both on Liberty and on other Colony worlds too. Abnett as a writer tends to be at his best when writing these sort of grand space operas and in Insurrection he give us both characters and a cause to get behind, as well as an enemy to truly loath. His excellent storytelling is ably supported by Colin Macneil’s stunning black and white artwork, which perfectly evokes a sort of gritty realism that is an excellent fit for this story. What’s particularly interesting about Insurrection (and made even more apparent by Dan Abnett’s original pitch) is that we are by no means guaranteed to see the good guys come out on top. There are further Insurrection strips to be printed in the Megazine and it could well be that the revolution will ultimately fail.

While the story and artwork are of a high quality throughout, there are one or two little niggles. Its always been difficult to imagine that Mega City One is able to support any form of space colonies. They struggle to cope with the resources they have in Mega City One and the Judges are often overwhelmed by not having enough men on the street. It seems strange then to imagine that there are enough Judge’s to be able to fight a full scale war on some distant planet. There are also a few characters and being in Insurrection that seem very unfamiliar from what we are used to seeing in Judge Dredd. The clothing of some of the higher ranking judges seems quite odd, as well as the mannerisms of the Psi Judge who is introduced in the second story. Also the robots that adorn the front cover are an oddity, having (to my knowledge) never been seen before in any Dredd world strip.

Despite these few niggles Insurrection comes highly recommended. The two stories told so far are a great read from start to finish, and the cliffhanger ending to the second story leaves the reader desperate to find out what happens next. We will have to wait until the forthcoming Insurrection III to find out the resolution however, and I sincerely hope that after that there will be many more Insurrection strips to come.

8/10

Prog 1771 – 35 Zarjaz Years

Cover:

#1 – Its been a long time since we last saw a variant cover in 2000AD, but then thirty five years is certainly something worth celebrating. The first cover is a fantastic character montage by Chris Weston. I always like character montages and this is one of the best, standing out on the shelves and featuring pretty much every major character to appear in the prog in recent years. This cover was also included as a free poster allowing us a look at the full image without any of the cover logos. This could well turn out to be the cover of the year.

#2 – Legendary art droid Mick McMahon provides the second variant (and the cover that I ended up getting). Its not a bad cover by any means, but it does seem a little dull compared to the Weston variant. On the plus side its a strong central image of Tharg, and the white background makes it look quite bold on the shelves.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction – Part 7:

Not to much happens this week, though the strip remains as readable as ever. Another Sov agent tries (and apparently fails) to gain entry to the meg, while Dredd begins his interrogation of Borisenko. I can’t help feeling that the whole Day of Chaos arc will read better in one sitting, as it seems to have been running for a long time now, and we still haven’t reached the Day of Chaos yet. Still the slowburn approach is working pretty well and i’m sure there will be a few twists and turns ahead.

What If…? – Rogue Trooper:

What if Gunnar had survived the massacre at the Quartz Zone instead of Rogue? That is the question addressed in this special strip, and it was one I enjoyed immensly. Theres a fair bit of story crammed into its six pages, and the art is absolutly perfect, effectivly evoking the feel of the original Rogue Trooper strips. Needless to say the story doesn’t end well for any of the regular characters, but thats the beauty of this type of strip, allowing the writer to show how badly things could have turned out had events played out slightly differently. As a one off I though this was a 100% success, and a strip i’m sure I will come back to in the future.

Nikolai Dante – The Wedding of Jena Makarov – Part 9:

It seems fitting that the thirty fifth anniversary prog should contain one of the final installments of one of 2000AD’s most popular strips. This story continues to impress with both story and art coming together to continue what is proving to be Dante’s finest hour. Apparently there is one more story to come after this, so I’m expecting a cliffhanger ending anytime now.

Absalom – Ghosts of London – Part 7:

Sadly the current Absalom story comes to its conclusion this week, and I can only hope it returns to the prog asap. Its a bit of an abrupt ending, but one that leaves plenty of plot threads to be picked up in future stories. I’m sure the character of the Guvnor will be making another appearance at some point, hopefully along with the steampunk type figue of Spring Heeled Jack, who provides us with a suitably cheeky final panel to Ghosts of London. Don’t be a stranger Absalom.

Grey Area – Personal Space – Part 1:

Now this is much more like it from Grey Area. A story that actually looks like its going to contain something in the way of a plot, and art that has convinced me that Lee Carter is the man to draw this strip. There has always been potential for this strip but up untill now we’ve been presented with pretty lazy and uninspiring story lines. Hopefully this will be the one that proves Grey Area can be worth reading.

What If…? – The Visible Man:

I’d never even heard of The Visible Man before reading this, so obviously I didn’t get to much out of it. Even if you were familiar with the character, I can’t help but feel that very little actually happens over the six pages it is given (the polar opposite of the Rogue Trooper story from earlier in the prog). Still there’s nothing to badly wrong with this either, and the art by Henry Flint is up to his usual high standards, including a somewhat frightning full page image to conclude the story.

Strontium Dog – The Project – Part 9:

The presence of the phrase “to be continued”, at the end of this weeks installment would seem to suggest that this is the end of chapter two of the Life and Death of Johnny Alpha. If so then it really ends on a plot point, rather than a major cliffhanger like the first chapter did. Still it sets up whatevers to come very nicely and thankfully manages to avoid being a story about a virus outbreak (which would have been unfortunate given the current Dredd storyline).

Overall:

As an anniversary prog, this weeks prog succedds admirably. Every strip has something to recommend it with even Grey Area stepping up to the mark. The inclusion of the free poster was a nice touch, as was having the choice of two variant covers. The two What If…? strips were an entertaining one off idea, although on the strength of the Rogue Trooper installment I wouldn’t actually mind seeing a couple more. Age of the Wolf returns next week, much to my delight, and we get a nice two page splash of some of the thrills to come in 2012. The 35th anniversary prog succedds in looking to the past, whilst also giving us a glimpse of the future things to come. Heres to the next 35 years.

Quote of the Week: “I want bad crabs”. – Grey Area

Thrill of the Week: What If…? – Rogue Trooper.

Forgotten Thrills – Wynter

Originally published in JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE 2.70.

 

Cover Date: 6th January, 1995.

 

The 1990s was something of a boom for Dredd World spin offs. Some bright spark in the nerve centre had hit upon the idea that if there were other cities aside from Mega City One, then they would all be likely to have their own system of Judges. Thus we saw strips featuring judges from Britain, Japan, Africa, and in this unique case the somewhat less obvious choice of Antarctica.

 

Scripted by Robbie Morrison, Wynter is the tale of a judge who has been exiled from Mega City One, due to being too violent in his treatment of perps. Finding himself sent to the isolated Antarctic City, the eponymous Judge Wynter has to deal with an influenza outbreak amongst the children of the city, who have no immunity against the disease.  When a supply ship carrying an Influenza vaccine from Mega City One crashes out in the snowy wastes of Antarctica, it is down to Judge Wynter to fight off the looters who are attempting to steal it for themselves. Needless to say Wynter takes no prisoners and guns down every last one of the looters, whilst managing to save the vaccine in the process.

 

At just nine pages long there is a surprising amount of story crammed in. In the space of these nine pages Morrison succeeds in giving us some of Judge Wynter’s background, a look at the hardships faced by the people of this frontier city, whilst also managing to tell a decent story. Its testament to the writer that in this single story we manage to get a pretty good feel for both the setting and the main character. Kevin Walker’s somewhat scratchy black and white art serves as a perfect foil for Morrison’s strip, nicely evoking the harshness of the Antarctic climate. Despite having only this single story published, Wynter was actually reprinted twice. Firstly in 2000 in the Best of 2000AD special edition, then again in 2006 in an Extreme Edition. Despite being considered good enough to be included in the best of special, no further Wynter stories would materialise.

 

After reading the single instalment of Wynter then, I have to say that it’s a crying shame that it wasn’t picked up for a full series, especially when vastly inferior Dredd World spin offs such as Shimura were given a chance. With a potentially great main character, and a genuinely intriguing setting (and a part of Dredd’s world that has remained pretty much untapped, with the exception of this story) Wynter has to go down as a missed opportunity.

 

Prog 1770 – Judgement From On High!

Cover:

A bit of an uninspiring effort but nothing wrong with it techincally. Its a bit unnerving having Dredd’s crotch thrust in your face (surely we could have had a more flattering angle for Dredd, as by the looks of it he certainly needs one). The background colour is effective, making the Prog stand out on the shelves, and the 2000AD logo is clearly visible, which is always good.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction – Part 6:

A change of scenery this week as we move away from the big meg, and find ourselves joining the judges on an assault on the Sov camp. This was certainly an unexpected turn of events for the story, as I wasnt expecting Borisenko or any of the other Sov’s to be captured by Dredd at any point. The change in pace this week meant this was a step up from previous installments, stopping this particular story from perhaps getting stale. The judge informant android in the Sov camp looks suspiciously like he’s been modelled after Dirty Frank. Oh and last week I said we were just hours away from the Day of Chaos…turns out we’re still four days away. Sorry about that.

Grey Area – The Do:

Lee Carter takes over on art this week, lending a sense of freshness to the strip. Its a reasonably enjoyable one off, although very little of note actually happens. I still think that Grey Area really needs a longer story, that actually has more plot, if the strip is going to be a success.

Nikolai Dante – The Wedding of Jena Makarov – Part 8:

Well this is likely to be an installment which will be remembered for years to come. That double splash page is remarkable, although I really can’t say what it is without giving away a major plot point (I presume if your reading this you will probably read the strip anyway). I’ve never been very keen on Dante before but this final story is an absolute cracker, and I genuinly felt like cheering at that final panel. This is the send off the character deserves.

Absalom – Ghosts of London – Part 6:

Im finding it quite hard to say anything new about Absalom, as every week it is absolutly faultless. Theres an interesting turn of events this week however, as for the first time the homunculi  bodyguards are seen to speak, and appear to have a plan of their own. Once again I’m left wishing Absalom could be in the prog every week.

Strontium Dog – The Project – Part 8:

We seem to be nearing the end of this particular story, which I feel sure is going to end on some sort of a cliffhanger. The page where Johnny sits down to talk to a crying child was a really nice character moment, and could perhaps prove significant seeing as he gave the boy his S/D badge. Its still a very enjoyable read, and I for one am glad Johnny Alpha is back in the land of the living.

Overall:

Three strips that are nothing short of perfect, one strip which is very good indeed, and another that was a reasonably enjoyable one off, means that this is a very strong Prog. Roll on next week and the bumper 35th anniversary edition.

Quote of the Week: “Man, I hate stag weekends”. – Grey Area.

Thrill of the Week: Dredd/Dante/Absalom. (I honestly can’t choose between those three.)

Next week will see the publication of the 35th anniversary edition of 2000AD, and so to coincide with that I will begin a new series of posts looking at some strips from 2000AD’s past. Rather than looking at well known strips however I will be looking at some of the less well remembered thrills to have appeared in the pages of the Galaxy’s Greatest, as well as those that have appeared within the Judge Dredd Megazine. You can expect to see some strips which appeared for just one installment and then promptly vanished, as well as some cult classic serials that had just a single run. Hopefully some of the strips will be new to you, and if not then hopefully this series will encourage you to dust out your back issues and give them another chance. Expect the first Forgotten Thrill to be posted within the week.

XTNCT

Out of all the strips ever printed in 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, there has never been anything quite like XTNCT, before or since. In some ways it’s a reverse of Pat Mill’s Flesh strip, in other ways it’s a post-apocalyptic story featuring dinosaurs.  At its heart though, it is an out and out comedy and unlike most other comedy strips it actually manages to be funny. Penned by Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell, and with art by D’israeli I had a feeling I was in for something a little bit different, what I got was something entirely different to anything else I’d ever read.

Set in the far future, XTNCT presents us with a world with just two hundred human beings left alive. These few survivors have all banded into groups and are continually fighting amongst themselves. The weapons of choice for these far future Humans are genetically modified plants and animals, who essentially act as foot soldiers.  When some GM dinosaurs are rejected by their creator and left to die, they decide instead to wipe out what’s left of mankind and take control of the earth for themselves. While the basic premise for the story sounds somewhat oddball, it doesn’t sound as amusing as it actually turns out to be. For this I have to applaud Paul Cornell’s writing, as for the first time ever I actually found myself laughing out loud whilst reading a comic strip. All of Cornell’s characters have little quirks which make them funny, most notably Raptor who only speaks in consonants (hence the title).

The story itself was perhaps perfectly suited to the monthly instalments it received in the Megazine.  While there is an overall story, all six parts work as individual stories in their own rights, making XTNCT easy to pick up at any point. The length is perhaps the only real negative as the six parts amount to less than fifty pages, and so I read through this in no time at all.

For its short length however there is a lot to recommend XTNCT. It’s a fun read throughout, and as I’ve said actually succeeds in being funny. It’s completely mad and totally unique. The madness of XTNCT can be pretty much summed up in a single sentence from Paul Cornell’s intro:

“I think we made strides towards acceptance for cloned Dinosaur Lesbians.”

If that doesn’t make you want to read it, nothing will.

7/10

Shimura

I’m always intrigued whenever I come across a Dredd world strip that I’ve never read before. These strips can often add to the experience of reading Dredd itself, helping to create a fully formed vision of the future.  When they are done badly however, then they can feel utterly alien to their source material. Unfortunately this was very much the case with Shimura.

The idea to have a strip set in the Japan of Dredd’s world, called Hondo-Cit, was certainly an interesting one, and one which should have explored the cultural differences between Mega City One, and Hondo-Cit. Instead what we get is a tale of a rogue Judge which could really have been set anywhere outside of the Dredd world. This was really disappointing as when reading it I couldn’t help but feel that I wanted to focus more on Hondo-Cit than the story of a judge gone rogue. It would have been forgivable had the story we got been any good, but unfortunately it is rather lacklustre, and really quite dull. The main problem encountered in Shimura is that the reader really doesn’t feel anything towards the character of Shimura himself. When your main character is very one dimensional then you’re never going to empathise with, or take any interest in what he’s doing. After Shimura gains his revenge on certain members of the judicial system who had betrayed him, he essentially becomes a zero dimensional character, with no motivations to drive any of the plots that he is involved in.

The art doesn’t help pull the reader in either. While Colin MacNeil’s black and white art looks fantastic, the bulk of this trade is drawn by Simon Fraser, who’s art at this time was anything but. Similar to his art on the early Nikolai Dante strips, Frazer’s style at this time was very dull and lifeless, and quite frankly boring to look at. I should point out that Simon Frazer’s art has improved 100% since he drew Shimura, but that certainly didn’t help this reader having to slog through pages and pages of it.

It’s not all bad in this trade however, and ironically it’s the non Shimura strips that are by far the best. The handful of Judge Inaba  strips that are collected here, while being nothing spectacular, are at least an enjoyable read, and actually allow us to get to see some of Hondo-Cit. The best strip in the trade however is actually a Judge Dredd strip, featuring a cameo appearance by Shimura, who unfortunately Dredd doesn’t arrest or kill.

These few strips that I enjoyed were not enough to save the Shimura trade from being a complete failure in my eyes. When you combine lacklustre storytelling, with dull artwork, and a main character that is impossible to care about, then you end up with something distinctly uninspiring.

3/10

Prog 1769 – Guided By Voices!

Cover:

I quite like this as a cover, especially as it represents something that actually happens in the strip itself. I can’t quite tell, but it looks to me like the background is actually a photograph that has been blurred, with Johnny and Middenface placed in front of it. Either way, its a good cover.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction – Part 5:

To my suprise the judges actually come close to stopping the Sov virus from spreading this week. Unfortunatly for them the Sov’s have yet another agent in the Meg, whom they are totally unaware of. We’re now very close to the beginning of the Day of Chaos, and as a build up to the Day of Chaos itself the strip is extremely successful.

Grey Area – Feel the Noise – Part 3:

After last weeks improvement this was a massive disappointment. The lack of dialogue meant this weeks installment took all of twenty seconds to read, which surely should not be the way of ending any story. Even Karl Richardson’s usually reliable art seems to be off, with the last page looking particularly sloppy, almost as if he didn’t have time to finish it properly. A new Grey Area story starts next week, and if the strip is to be a success we really need to see a longer running story than the two we’ve had so far.

Nikolai Dante – The Wedding of Jena Makarov – Part 7:

The final battle begins this week, and if the cliffhanger is anything to go by we could be seeing the deaths of some main characters (although I won’t be suprised if this isn’t the case). Having Dante battle yet another Arbatov brother (like he used to do pretty much every week in the beginning) is a nice touch. I can’t see any end in sight to this story at the minute, but then Dante certainly deserves a long run for his send off.

Absalom – Ghosts of London – Part 5:

Absalom just seems able to do no wrong, and is always sure to be a highlight of any prog. Both the story and the art are first class throughout, and in the shape of Absalom we have a fascinating main character. Why can’t we have this in the Prog every week?

Strontium Dog – The Project – Part 7:

We all knew that Johnny Alpha was hearing a voice in his head, but having the voice able to be heard by other people too was an unexpected twist. Apart from that little happens this week, although I get the feeling that The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha may well continue on after this story. Still im enjoying it every week and I genuinly don’t know where the story is going, which is always a good thing.

Overall:

It seems churlish to complain when four out of the five strips are so damn good right now, but Grey Area was a real black mark on an otherwise faultless prog. I want to give it a fair chance, but unless it improves soon it will continue to tarnish what is otherwise a perfect line up of strips.

Quote of the Week: “I can hide your Werther’s Originals and stop you watching Countdown, and that’s just for starters.” – Absalom.

Thrill of the Week: Absalom.

Back in 1998 Dan Abnett was given the task of rebooting Durham Red, taking her away from being a Strontium Dog and thrusting her into a hostile far future. Waking up from cryogenic freezing one thousand years in the future (in the story The Scarlet Cantos), Durham was to discover that she had become worshipped as a god by mutant kind, who were now locked in a bitter and lengthy war with the Humans. Set five years after the events of The Scarlet Cantos, The Vermin Stars sees Durham attempting to achieve her destiny, by finding an end to the war.

Whereas The Scarlet Cantos was largely concerned with introducing use to this far future universe, The Vermin Stars is much more of a character piece. Durham’s two sidekicks, Godolkin and Harrow, in particular are fleshed out far more this time around. When first introduced they were very much there just to explain to Durham how things had changed since she had been frozen, and to give her some backstory about the war. This time around we discover more about their motivations, and even begin to question just how loyal Godolkin actually is. Meanwhile Durham, who by now is acclimatised to her surroundings, is often seen in her cabin talking to a mysterious voice who is to be revealed towards the end of the story. Abnett succeeds in having the events of these strips change the character of Durham Red. While her actions towards the end of The Vermin Stars are morally questionable, the reader is made to feel sympathy for Durham’s decision and so it doesn’t feel too out of character for her.

The story itself is very much a Space Opera tale on a grand scale. While its nothing ground breaking, or even anything particularly original, it is an immensely enjoyable read. This is due in no small part to the artwork of Mark Harrison. Mixing painted art with computer generated images, the art is a perfect match for Abnett’s epic sci fi tale. The computer generated parts of the art are extremely effective in portraying any of the space scenes and Harrison renders some very visually memorable space ships.  For the most part he manages to blend the painted with the computer generated seamlessly, which had it been done wrong could have ruined the look of the entire strip. My main reaction to Harrisons art though is that it looks extremely filmic, and left me thinking that the trilogy of Durham Red books would actually make a very good movie trilogy. So while the art is never anything less than spectacular, it would be wrong to overlook Dan Abnett’s writing skills. While I did say The Vermin Stars was nothing overly original, Abnett must still be commended for the vivid imagination on display throughout all of his Durham Red strips. The most important thing that a comic strip must do is to never be boring whilst reading, and The Vermin Stars manages this admirably. In fact the whole trade seemed to whizz by in no time at all, so that once I had finished I couldn’t help but feel it was all over rather too quickly.

The cliff hanger ending to the Vermin Stars is an intriguing one and one which sets up the third Durham Red book nicely. While it’s not really necessary to have read The Scarlet Cantos before reading The Vermin Stars, I would still recommend you do so as you will get much more out of both stories. Some purists could argue that Abnett’s reboot took Durham Red too far away from her roots, but if you enjoy grand space opera type sci fi then there is plenty for you to enjoy here.

8/10

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