Written by Orlok
Cover (Pete Doherty)
This is brilliant. We have a dead Judge rising from the Cursed Earth to prey on the living. The smashed up and bullet scarred helmet looks great and there is an air of undead menace in that eye and teeth. The washed out look to it gives an eerie quality to the art and it is very eye catching. Considering I am terrified of zombies this was a joy to look at and there is something to be said for the old school painted brilliance above the computer rendered finery of today.
Inside, Tharg tells us how Judgement Day will be split between the Progs and the Megs and how to follow the complicated running order. Basically you read two episodes in the Prog before picking up the story in the Meg. Easy. Except he makes it sound like the rules for Fizzbin where if it comes out on Tuesday you have to read three episodes. If it is raining you have to wait five weeks and then read two Megs back to back wearing a green hat before picking up the story in the Prog. If it is raining on a Tuesday, well…then it gets really weird.
Also, Joe Pineapples is done up like a robotic Frank N Furter.
JUDGE DREDD: JUDGEMENT DAY (John Wagner, Garth Ennis and Pete Doherty)
The mega epic that resulted in the deaths of three billion people, the nuking of five cities and the outing of Johnny Alpha (OK, I may have made that up) starts with Sabbat working his mojo and bringing forth the appetiser for the wholesale murder that follows.
Storywise this works well as a nice build with Dredd, Perrier and a load of Cadets (including a couple from Necropolis) being cut off in the Cursed Earth and surrounded by the undead pricks.
I remember thinking at the time that Perrier had only recently re-appeared in the comic having been absent since the Apocalypse War so it comes as little surprise that she was destined to go the way of all redshirts.
There are some gems here that work beautifully in tandem with the art. The death of Cadet Krowe is very grisly and the mining station has a very horror movie feel to it.
My favourite is the Dreddism of “Bullet seems to work” as Joe answers a question from a concerned Cadet about how to stop a walking corpse. All of this delivered with some great Doherty art of the zombie dropping at his unmoving boots.
The moody old school painted art is just gorgeous to look at and that last panel is as creepy as fuck.
This is basically one big advert for the SNES. Remember when the Prog started doing music and game reviews? It was almost as bad as film reviews in the Meg.
KOLA KOMMANDOS (Steve Parkhouse and Anthony Williams)
Oh dear. I had actually wiped this from my memory as it was forgettable stuff and I needed space in my head for other more important stuff such as learning how to drive, how to navigate my way around Doom and the lyrics to Whigfield’s Saturday Night.
The art is ok and it is either very good or very bad that Anthony Williams’ art is fairly consistent over the years. I cannot decide which.
My main point of concern is that the character Hector Doldrum still manages to speak with a fractured jaw, which is quite a trick. It has thus forced me to rethink my diabolical plans for James Corden.
The story (man gets kicking, super hoody arrives to save the day) wasn’t awful, per se, it just wasn’t in any way engaging or interesting. It was sort of like listening to a song by Nickelback, but without the side effects of rage, shame and bloodied fists embedded with the remains of the cd.
FUTURE SHOCK: A FETE WORSE THAN DEATH (Mark Millar and Brian Williamson)
As a man who cannot draw to save his own worthless life, I respect those who can.
However, the art here by Williamson is pretty rotten. I know he can draw as we have seen it previously in the prog so it was a shock to see this and I don’t think he has done any art since in the Galaxy’s Greatest. I could be wrong and it would be a shame if this was his last hurrah artistically.
The script is even more awful than the art. I know Mark Millar is not my favourite writer but even putting that aside, it is fucking atrocious. It is three miserable pages leading to a terrible pun and would certainly not be remotely considered in today’s tightly controlled editorial process.
ROGUE TROOPER: THE APOCALYPSE DREADNOUGHT (Mike Fleischer and Ron Smith)
Mike Fleischer continues to screw the pooch despite many yelps of protest.
In the story, an alien dreadnought is about to destroy Earth until a large golden dildo shows up. Rogue says “Great Suns! The Countdown”. My brain explodes.
I liked the War Machine. It was gritty, had a post Platoon attitude to the nature of warfare and the waste that goes with it and it spoke of the environmental impact of sustained conflict on our own green and blue marble.
In hindsight, the story should have ended there but it was not to be. Tharg wanted more and instead of giving it to a writer who knew the subject like Dave Gibbons or John Smith, he called Mike Fleischer.
Imagine if after Batman Begins Christopher Nolan begrudgingly handed over the keys of the Batman franchise to Michael Bay. Now, Bay is without doubt one of the most talented directors of the modern era because he knows in fine detail how to assemble a cornucopia of shit and present it before an audience who probably couldn’t point to Iraq on a map.
Regardless, this orgy of explosions and cleavage has them clapping like drunken seals and so you cannot deny the box office appeal he has. Tharg probably felt the same way after reading Fleischer’s back catalogue and noting that with such a successful stint on Jonah Hex under his belt, what could go wrong?
Well, lots, actually. Fleischer had just written a strip (the aptly named Junker) in the Prog that bravely defied all attempts at quality and he found himself so far out of his depth with Rogue Trooper that all around him the fish had lights on their noses. When the story was eventually passed to someone else who stood a chance of redeeming it, it was far too late and eventually the whole clusterfuck exploded like a microwaved hamster.
Ron Smith’s art is great but totally unsuited to Rogue Trooper however it is always good to see his colour work since I had only ever really seen his stuff in black and white.
My one quibble is that his alien is quite uninspired looking as it does like a friendly pink stingray. In fact it seems to have been designed purely to piss off Steve Irwin’s descendants.
BUTTON MAN (John Wagner and Arthur Ranson)
This is a slice of fried gold in which our anti hero Harry beats 3 time loser Ringo and (due to the rules of the game) mercilessly drops him on the rail tracks to seal his fate.
There are times when the Prog produces the perfect pairing of art and script and what develops is something of such panel by panel brilliance that you simply cannot imagine anyone else writing or drawing it.
Wagner’s script here is a masterclass in minimalism, devoid of any fat and tightly delivered. Ranson’s art is atmospheric (the gorgeously rendered fog) and powerful (a seemingly incongruous close-up of a child’s wallpaper amid the murder attempts explodes as an axe head comes through).
Stories like this are why I read comics in general and Toothy in particular.
A real mixed bag.
Some chancer is having a go at Judge Perrier for wearing lipstick, even though she will be dead in a few issues and they will probably feel like shit for bringing it up. I find it odd that someone would pull Perrier up on this and yet not one person raises an eyebrow when Chief Judge Francisco painted on Meg Factor’s “Rampant Slut Red” during most of his tenure. It is political correctness gone mad.
Someone else accuses John Smith of plagiarism (they and Stephen King should really check out Mark Millar’s Silo) and Tharg’s defence is full of more holes than both of the Boston bombers. Personally I don’t think that John Smith would steal from anyone as the only people who write anything similar do it with their own excrement on the walls of their padded cells. But then, they are probably the sisterqueens of M’doc having multiple thoughtgasms while surfing the spunk-rifts of Qlor.
In short, so-so retro proggage with Dredd and Button Man being the obvious standouts. Button Man slightly edges it.