Archive for May, 2012


Since I started Brit Cit Reviews back in November of last year, I have been amazed by the success it has achieved, to the point where the blog is now recieving around one thousand views every month. In that time I have tried to post more than one article each week, be it for the Prog, a trade collection, or a Forgotten Thrill. However, I am currently training to be an English teacher and unfortunatly I simply can not find the time to read and review quite as frequently as before.

This is most certainly not the end of the blog however, far from it, but I do need to prioritise and obviously I can’t put the blog first. I promise that the Prog review will still be posted every week, but be prepared for a period where the Prog may be the only thing getting reviewed. I will still try and get the occasional trade review and Forgotten Thrill posted on the blog, but they will be far less frequent.

Thank you everyone for reading all my ramblings that have been posted thus far, and I hope that you will continue to follow the blog. Of course if you would like to write a review for the blog then now really is the perfect time. If you have a review you wish to be published on Brit Cit Reviews simply email it too britcitreviews@gmail.com and it will get posted asap.

Prog 1784 – Rex On Fire!

Cover:

Its not great is it? Technically its not a bad cover as there is nothing wrong with the art, but its just to static and not particularly interesting to look at. This sort of cover isn’t likely to pull in any new readers, and it took me a while to find it on the shelves of WHSmiths. Not terrible then, but a pretty uninspired effort.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction – Part 20:

Wow…when was the last time we saw a Part 20 in the Prog? Needless to say Dredd continues to be a masterclass in comics, as we draw to within just a few hours of the Day of Chaos. This week we get to see two elements of the DoC come together, as Dredd has to battle both rioting Cits, as well as trying to prevent further outbreak of the Chaos Virus. I was pleased to see the virus return to the strip, as I feel it was getting overlooked when the Dark Judges were around. Still this is as good as its possible for a comic strip to be. Perfection in six pages!

Flesh – Midnight Cowboys – Part 11:

In total contrast to Dredd, Flesh is perhaps as bad as its possible for a comic strip to be. I really can’t be bothered with this utter rubbish anymore, in fact I’m so fed up with it that I’m even finding it difficult to muster up the will to hate it now. I still feel six blank pages would be more interesting than this has been. The end can’t come soon enough.

The Zaucer of Zilk – Part 10 (Final Part):

Now this has been an absolute joy to read from start to finish. Zaucer of Zilk has proven to be something of a suprise hit during its ten week run, and I’m happy to say that it gets an appropriatly happy ending. I hate to use the word cosy when referring to anything in 2000AD, but the ending to ZoZ was cosy, with those final two pages being sure to raise a smile from any reader. The ending does leave it open for a possible return, and while I think Zaucer of Zilk would perhaps be better served by being a one off, I would be only too glad to see it return to the Prog in the future. Well done to all involved.

Terror Tales – Kitsuneland:

Terror Tales are my personal favourite of the various types of one off strips, so I’m always pleased to see one appear in the Prog. This one was a pretty complicated story with the reader really needing to know something of Japanese folklore in order to fully appreciate it. Still I really enjoyed it, and felt that the atmosphere it managed to achieve was admirable given the strips four page limitation. Mark Harrison’s art looks absolutly stunning throughout, meaning this is three one off strips in a row which have benefited from great artwork. I can see why some people wouldn’t enjoy this, but it gets a thumbs up from me.

Cadet Anderson – Algol – Part 5:

The current Cadet Anderson strip is ok, but unfortunatly it just screams of filler material. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for this to be a young Anderson story, as we’re not learning anything new about the characters early days. Instead thus far its been a pretty bog standard run around as the two young Judges and their mentor track down the rogue Psi. Its not bad by any means, but there isn’t really a lot to get excited about either.

Overall:

The overall standard of the Prog remains very good, but the current line up is starting to look a little over tired. Fortunaly new series of Durham Red and Grey Area begin next week, which i’m hopeful will give the Prog the shot in the arm which it needs right now. Its not a bad prog this week though, with Dredd and Zaucer of Zilk towering over the rest.

Quote of the Week: “No more eternal youth, I’m Mister Grow-Old now.” – Zaucer of Zilk

Thrill of the Week: Zaucer of Zilk

If theres one thing lacking in the 2000AD line up right now, its a future war story. The future war story is something which the Galaxy’s Greatest has always done extremely well, from the battle scarred lands of Nu Earth in Rogue Trooper to (in this case) the outer space conflicts of The V.C.s. Originally printed during the early days of 2000AD, The V.C.s was dusted off for a 21st century revival, this time with Dan Abnett on writing duties. If like me you’re not familiar with the strips original run then never fear, Abnett does an admirable job of reintroducing The V.C.s universe, allowing new readers to jump on board without being weighed down by continuity.

Set fifty years after the war between Humanity and the insectoid like Geeks, Back in Action begins with the war veteran Steve Smith being invited to attend the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of peace. As you would expect things quickly take a turn for the worse, when the Geeks launch a suprise attack on Earth, in doing so kicking off the Second Human-Geek war. The assembled veterans prove to still be more than a match for the alien Geeks, and so are appointed commanders of a new breed of soldiers. From that point on we’re very much into traditional space opera territory, which is certainly no bad thing. Throughout the rest of this trade Abnett introduces us to the various characters and personalitys of Steve Smith’s new crew, against the backdrop of some truly cinematic space battles. If your a fan of TV series such as Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda (a personal favourite of mine) or the remake of Battlestar Galactica then I can guarantee that you’ll find something to enjoy in Back in Action.

Dan Abnett was a perfect choice to bring back The V.C.s, being a writer who has a great pedigree of writing space opera strips, such as the reboot of Durham Red, as well as the popular Dredd spin off Insurrection. As revealed in his introduction to this trade Abnett had tried to bring back The V.C.s on several previous occasions, each time being knocked back by whoever happened to be Tharg at the time. His persistance eventually payed off however, and its no great suprise that when given the opportunity to write one of his all time favourite 2000AD strips, he proved to be more than up for the challenge.

I do have one greivance about The V.C.s however, although its nothing to do with the actual strip itself. The Back in Action trade ends on something of a cliffhanger with the inside back cover advertising a forthcoming trade to complete the strips run. I can only assume that the Back in Action trade didn’t sell well enough as unfortunatly the advertisted follow up has yet to materialise. So if you choose to pick up a copy of Back in Action do be aware that you’re not getting the full story, although perhaps if enough people were to buy it we could eventually see the missing trade published. Despite the lack of a conclusion The V.C.s is still an enjoyable and action packed romp through outer space, and one that comes recommended.

7/10

Prog 1783 – A medical review

Special guest reviewer- Eamonn Clarke

Spoiler alert! Mild spoilers for the Judge Dredd story from Prog 1783 ahead. You have been warned!

The Day of Chaos – Eve of Destruction story by John Wagner continues and the situation in Mega-City One just gets worse. The Council of Five meet to try and plan a way out of the approaching catastrophe and they have summoned my favourite Mega-City Microbiologist, Professor Lucas Wyant.

 
Wyant lays out the difficulties they face in trying to control the spread of the deadly Chaos Bug. His calculations of the numbers of people likely to be infected are based on an exponential growth rate with each newly infected victim going on to infect a number of people and so on, and so on. Plugging Wyant’s figures into excel and using an exponential growth trend suggests that the number of Chaos infected citizens on day four will be 147 million. After the Apocalypse war the Mega-City One population is about 400 million so Wyant is correct when he says that Dredd’s suggestion of a quarter of the city is likely to be an underestimate. However Dredd is not far off and this just reinforces the impression that Dredd instinctively knows his city and the challenges facing it. Likewise John Wagner’s attention to detail in this storyline continues to impress me. He certainly seems to have a grasp of public health issues and exponential growth rates.

Turning back a page Judges in bio-hazard suits examine the body of one of the infected agents who brought the Chaos bug into the city. They note that he bled to death and that transfusions just seemed to make the situation worse.

It would seem that along with all the others symptoms the infection also causes a condition called Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation, or DIC for short, which is an extremely serious blood clotting disorder. In DIC multiple tiny clots form within blood vessels and these clots quickly use up all the proteins known as clotting factors. Without these clotting factors there is nothing to stop bleeding and the result is uncontrolled haemorrhage. Giving patients blood or infusing clotting factors may buy some time but can actually make things worse and the only effective treatment is to find what has caused the DIC in the first place, and to reverse that. As Professor Wyant points out, for the victims of the incurable Chaos bug this is impossible. DIC also explains why the infected bleed from every orifice as discussed in Prog 1765.
 
I would be fascinated to know where Wagner gets his medical knowledge. He is certainly on the money again here, even in a single throw-away remark by a Med-Judge that reveals more about the deadly plague which is sweeping the Mega-City. This issue gets a full 5 out of 5 medic-droids for medical accuracy. The new Golden Age of 2000AD continues. If you want to get caught up on what you have been missing then there is a useful recap of the Day of Chaos storyline on the 2000AD site here.

Cover:

Its certainly not a bad cover, but something about it just doesn’t seem to work for me. The robot dog looks good, Anderson also looks good, and the background is nice as it gives a real sense of motion to the piece. I think my problem with it is that its just too soon since the last Anderson cover (Prog 1780) and so lacks any real impact. This is the second Anderson cover in three weeks, where as Zaucer of Zilk for example has had only one cover in eight weeks, so I’m not sure what happened with the cover schedule this time around. So a perfectly good cover, but one which doesn’t do much for me.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction – Part 18:

Well this is as action packed a six pages as its possible to get. Once again its amazing how Wagner manages to cram so much story into such a short amount of space. The Dark Judges are dispatched this week, but I imagine that was allways the intention. It is still only the Eve of Destruction so it’s right to leave the Dark Judges off stage as it were, and give them a chance to plan and scheme for the Day of Chaos itself. Colin Macneil’s art is (literally) on fire right now, with this being perhaps the best ever interpretation I’ve seen of Judge Fire. I’m kind of hoping that with the Dark Judges departing for a while we can get back to the Sov virus plot, as I feel that plot thread has been somewhat overlooked in the last couple of weeks.

Flesh – Midnight Cowboys – Part 9:

You know something? The first page of Flesh this week was actually pretty good. The two archaeologists looking over the fossilised remains of their rat like ancestors showed that this strip could actually have some potential. But oh dear…we then return to the cret period and the atrociously depicted characters and plot. I still think this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen printed in 2000AD and can’t believe it ever got commisioned. Hopefully the return of the A.B.C. Warriors in Prog 1800 will coincide with the return of the real Pat Mills and we can put this horrible mess behind us.

The Zaucer of Zilk – Part 8:

Once again Zaucer is Zaucer, meaning its bright, garish, and a lot of fun (and yes I’m aware I seem to use the word fun when reviewing this strip every week). It’s clear this hasn’t got too long left to run now but its still pretty good stuff and benefits from coming immediatly after Flesh, although to be honest six blank pages would be better than Flesh. The Zaucer himself actually seems to be becoming a more likeable character as the story progresses, as he was a bit of an unlikeable lead character when this all began.

Tharg’s Time Twisters – Contractions:

Well I was wrong about Grey Area returning this week, as we get a four page Time Twister instead, but what a great little story this is. The idea of a character being taken back through their major life experiences isn’t a new one, but this story gives it a new twist with every other character also seemingly aware that he’s travelling back through his own time stream. The pacy story is coupled with some rather brilliant artwork by Lee Carter. While I love his work in black and white, this just goes to show how good an artist he is when working in colour as well, with those first three panels set in the woods looking particularly great. These one offs can sometimes feel like little more than filler material, but when they’re this good they become just as important a feature as the rest of the strips in the line up.

Cadet Anderson – Algol – Part 3:

Anderson continues to be a neat little bookend to the Prog. It’s not a strip which is particularly great or memorable in either art or story, but its perfectly acceptable and is a reasonably enjoyable read still. I felt the art did slip a little this week, with the colouring seeming a lot more bland than in the last couple of parts, and Steve Yeowell’s art doesn’t really lend any sort of sense of scale to Mega City One. Still this isn’t at all bad stuff.

Overall:

The prog is still looking very strong with the one obvious exception. A couple of new strips would help freshen things up a little though, and with the rapidly approaching returns of both Grey Area and Durham Red I’m sure the current run of fine form is set to continue.

Quote of the Week: “Heavens,Montgomery – Raine was right all along! The wands are eager to join together – and become one!” – Zaucer of Zilk

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd (again, although the Time Twister is a very close second this week)

Originally published in Progs 918 – 923

Cover date: 16th December, 1994 – 20th January, 1995

I imagine if you didn’t know the cover dates for The Corps then you could probably manage to guess that it first saw publication during the 1990s. The 90’s were seemingly awash with Dredd world spin off’s, every country seemingly getting its own justice department strip. This was of course the decade which saw the beginning of the Judge Dredd Megazine, which at the time was exclusivly for Dredd world strips, so the quantity of spin offs must come as no great suprise. The Corps however is something of an oddity. Rather than being included in the Megazine, it instead saw its one and only six part run printed in the Prog. It was also different from the other spin off’s, rather than showing another cities judges we got to see Mega City One’s space corps in action instead. The Corps is not well remembered by fans, but maybe, just maybe, it laid the foundations for the much later, and more successful, Judges in space strip Insurrection.

The story premise behind The Corps is actually a pretty intriguing one. Mega City One is engaged in a full on space war with the Kleggs, with thousands being slaughtered on both sides. In order to turn the tide of the fighting the Judges decide to send in a Commando style attack on one of the Kleggs major fortifications. The problem with this idea is that the Klegg base is shared with Sino-Cit Judges, and so any attack on the base would mean war between the two Mega Cities. Thus a covert plan is hatched, in which The Corps must take out the base, whilst making it look like the Sino’s and the Klegg’s had fought each other, forcing the two of them into a war against each other. Perhaps not suprisingly things don’t exactly go to plan, and soon its down to the members of The Corps to try and avoid a major international incident. So the story is certainly an interesting one, and one which I think deserves a read from any 2000AD fan. One of the most effective ideas behind the story is the plot device which see’s the action constantly shifting from the battle in space, too the high ranking Mega City One Judges back on Earth pulling the strings. Its a nice tough of almost political drama, added to a full on Sci Fi space war.

While I thought it was an enjoyable read, I can see why others wouldn’t as it is a very flawed story. Firstly I’m not sure we’ve ever seen or heard mention of a war between Mega City One and the Kleggs before. Certainly the Kleggs have made plenty of appearances in Dredd over the years, but I don’t remember there ever being a war. I could be wrong on this though, so if I am please feel free to correct me in the comments box. Sticking with the Kleggs, they look very strange in this story. Usually they have been depicted as crocodillian in appearance but throughout The Corps they take on much more of a Lizard like look. This made it a bit harder for me to accept that they were the same race we had seen previously in the Prog. Judging by the story it seems like The Corps was always intended to be a one off rather than an ongoing series, unfortunatly this is actually one of the major problems at the heart of the strip. As you’d imagine The Corps is intended to be an ensemble piece, telling the tale of a group of soldiers involved in a terrible war. But at just six parts in length we don’t really get to know any of them, so by the end of the story when all but two are dead, the reader has been left untouched by any of the characters death’s. Also of course this is a 90’s strip so we get the obligatory tough guy character who seems to enjoy nothing more than a good fire fight.

I mentioned in the first paragraph that The Corps perhaps paved the way for the later success of Insurrection. Now the two strips are pretty distant in terms of quality, but the foundations were certainly layed here. Think about it, Judges in space fighting a war on some distant world, but one which could have dire consequences for the inhabitants of Mega City One. The uniforms even have a similar chunky appearance to the ones seen in Insurrection. So if you enjoyed Insurrection why not take a look back at The Corps? You might be suprised at just how familiar some of it feels.

Cover:

Well I think that there can be little doubt that this will become one of the most well remembered covers in 2000AD history. Henry Flint has turned in a fantastic effort for this cover, with all three Dark Judges looking nothing short of amazing. None of the Dark Judges dominate in this cover, so the readers eyes are drawn over all three of them with each of their badges being clear to read. This is pretty much guaranteed to entice any lapsed readers into picking up the prog again. If I was being picky I could argue that the grey background is a little uninspired, but really this is a bonafide classic cover.

Judge Dredd – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction – Part 17:

You won’t be suprised to hear that theres one thing dominating this weeks installment of Dredd, and thats the much anticipated return of the Dark Judges. Wagner manages to cram more into six pages than you would think is possible without the story feeling rushed in anyway. Colin Macneil takes over on art duties his week and his art is absolutly stunning, just check out the bottom panel of page five with Judge Fear trying to hide his face. I couldn’t believe the panel which said we’re still two days away from the Day of Chaos…How much worse can things possibly get for Mega City One? John Wagner continues to surpass himself with what is turning out to be his Magnum Opus.

Flesh – Midnight Cowboys – Part 8:

Well I’ll admit that this weeks installment of Flesh didn’t insult me as much as usual, but I think thats more to do with my total lack of interest in this strip. The plot continues to be paper thin, as are all of the characters. I can’t help but feel that if anyone other than Pat Mills had pitched Flesh to Tharg then it would have been rejected immediatly. Sadly it looks like we’re stuck with this for another couple of weeks at least.

The Zaucer of Zilk – Part 7:

I don’t really have too much to say about this, other than that it continues to be a lot of fun to read. I’m hoping that it manages to wrap things up at ten parts in length, as any longer may mean it outstays its welcome, which would be a shame considering how good its been thus far. Needless to say the art continues to look nothing short of glorious throughout, particularly the technicolour backgrounds. I imagine life inside a pack of Refreshers would look something like The Zaucer of Zilk…and yes that is the strangest thing I’ve ever said on this blog. But hey, its probably the strangest strip I’ve ever had to review.

Age of the Wolf II – She is Legend – Part 10:

Age of the Wolf’s second run come to an end this week and I’m really disapointed with how this strip ended. The first two thirds were excellent, telling a compelling story with great artwork. Unfortunatly both the writing and art have been incredibly inconsistent in the final third, and have sadly ruined the middle installment of the Age of the Wolf trilogy. For example there’s a very strange panel on the third page of this installment, in which Rowan appears to stand on thin air when rescuing the baby. The baby seems to be falling down towards a werewolf, and then in the next panel Rowan has caught the baby without any sign of the Werewolf. This sort of thing has been all too frequent in recent installments of Age of the Wolf and has ultimatly let down what was looking to be a pretty good strip.

Cadet Anderson – Algol – Part 2:

Seems this is going to be the second Cadet Anderson story in a row in which the young Anderson does battle with a rogue psi. Thats ok though as this is looking to be an entirely different affair to Teenage Kyx. The story is still showing signs of promise, and Steve Yeowell’s art still looks better than I’ve ever seen it before. There was some mention over on the 2000AD forum about a continuity error this week regarding Chief Shenker, but I can overlook it if the rest of the story is good, which it is. I look forward to reading more

Overall:

Pretty good Prog this week, with three out of five strips looking very impressive. I’m gonna have to pick Dredd as my strip of the week yet again this week. Its the third week in a row i’ve picked it, but it really is streets ahead of the competition. Looking forward to something new coming into the Prog next week to replace Age of the Wolf, presumably the return of Grey Area.

Quote of the Week: “The Dark Judges are loose!” – Judge Dredd

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd

(Bagged with Judge Dredd Megazine 288)

They’re a very friendly bunch over on the 2000AD forum. During a discussion about what strips we’d like to see released as a supplement with the Megazine, I mentioned the Dredd world spin off Harmony. I’d never read any before but the premise of the story sounded intriguing. I was soon informed that Harmony had allready been released with the Meg and that I had managed to miss it. Within minutes however, the forum member known as Tordelback offered me his copy of the Harmony reprint, and within a few days I was sitting down to read, what was for me at least, a brand new Dredd world strip. So many thanks Tordelback, here as promised is the review.

As I said the premise for Harmony is an intriguing one. Harmony Krieg is a bounty hunter, living and working in Uranium City in the snowy wastes of Alaska. (And for those interested Uranium City is actually a real place in Alaska. Google it!) Now I’ve always had a fondness for any kind of story set against the back drop of a snowy desolate landscape, and given how much I had enjoyed the one off story Wynter, I was very much hopoing for more of the same with Harmony. The story for Blood and Snow is clearly written as an introduction to the character. While attempting to salvage a crashed ship full of diamonds, Harmony and her mutant accomplice find themselves pursued by Harmony’s former lover, who is now a cyborg working for the Uranium City Justice Department. This allows flashbacks too Harmony’s past, explaining to the reader who Harmony is and how her ex lover ended up as a cyborg. Its a fairly straightforward story, although one which does seem to take a little too long in getting to its conclusion. The main characters spend a good few pages trapped within a colony of cannibal nudists, which is an unusual turn of events to say the least. I did find the story to be an enjoyable one however, and it managed to keep me suitably entertained throughout, which is always appreciated.

I wasn’t too impressed by the art however. While black and white is always the way to go when drawing an icy wasteland as far as i’m concerned, Trevor Hairsine’s art never really gives the impression that we’re supposed to be in Alaska for this story. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the characters occasionally referring to how cold they were, I think I would have completly forgotten where Harmony was supposed to be set. I’m not saying the art is bad in any way, which it isn’t, just that I was hoping for something more akin to the art seen in Wynter.

As an introductory story then I think Blood and Snow just about succeeds. It would have been nice to see more of Uranium City rather than the outskirts of it, and I would have loved to have seen what their Judges look like, however I imagine this could well be something which would be seen in later Harmony strips. So apart from that and the art I can recommend you give Harmony a read if you happen to have the reprint lying around somewhere.

7/10

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