Rich takes a break from getting drunk around a Tunisian swimming pool to write a review of the latest Meg. On that note apologies for the lack of website updates in the last few weeks and especially to anyone who has emailed content in. Normal crappy service will be resumed in a day or two
It’s Sunday in Mordor and so here is Orlok with his take on 1875…
2000ad Prog 1876
The revitalisation of 2000ad continues, shifting further and further away from the pre Christmas doldrums that we encountered. 2 issues into another jumping on point and things are looking good. Fantastic cover by Alex Ronald (it should please Burdis, the logo is almost 100% visible). Pity it’s Sinister Dexter, but more on that later. I can understand the necessity of relaunch issues, but I do miss the time when strips would stay in the prog’ until they had run their course. Now they are being written for a potential collected edition in 10-12 episode chunks. Again, I guess this is economic necessity, but I just think it is such a shame.
“Droid Life” is back, though this is more miss than hit. Joke is a bit flat. “Flesh” seems such a great target but this was not that funny – shame as Droid Life is rarely disappointing (I accept I maybe in a minority on this one).
Wagner is back on “Dredd”, always welcome and aided and abetted by the ever capable Colin MacNeil. Wagner explores the insidious and oppressive side of Justice Department as a JD civvy auxillary has a crisis of conscience about her role and goes to the press, this isn’t going to go well. Macneil employs a thicker line, using lots of blacks and shading to reflect the repressive atmosphere of the story. Wagner draws you in with a taut script, Dredd and Justice Department are definitely the baddies here (unless of course authoritarian regimes are your thang). Classic Dredd.
The plot of “Outlier” is hardly original. Survivor of betrayal seeks revenge against his former comrades, bloodily offing them one by one. Eglington keeps the interest up, and takes time out to fill in some of the gaps in the wronged party’s back story. Richardson’s detailed, fine lined and muscular art tells the story well. Not a classic, but good stuff all the same and definitely a grower. I’m liking Eglington’s work more and more.
After my initial scepticism on the news that Simon Davis was the new “Slaine” artist, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. His style is refreshingly different from all the Bisley clones that came before. Clear storytelling, something that has been lacking in “Slaine” over the years. Expressive and bold art work. Mills also seems revitalised, scripting a tale set after the great flood and the woad warrior coming back into conflict with the Drune Lords. Good stuff.
“Sinister Dexter” is back. Again. This plot seems to have been going on for eons, to the point that to me, it has lost purpose, meaning and relevance. In one of the recent ECBT pod casts Flint and Luke worked out that this sequence has its origins in events that started 10 years ago. I think you can get away with that in “Dredd”, but that deviates and you return to it occasionally. The downside is that this becomes confusing for new readers. The upside is that it can be a slow build of tension, sowing seeds for future development. But here this is the same plotline that has been running since the late 1300s (which, yes, makes me a hypocrite considering what I wrote above), I can’t even remember why they are on Generica. Worse still, I don’t care. Dan Abnett is a great writer, but it is time that this was wrapped up, and should spend more time on “Grey Area”. Nor is this Smudge’s greatest work, sketchy and stiff characters, not reflective of the talent seen in “Chiaroscuro” from a few years ago. This has had its’ day.
“Jaegir” by Rennie and Coleby, follows the titular member of the Nordland State Security Police on a mission to save the family of a former colleague who suffers from a genetic abnormality which not only leaves the victim horribly disfigured, but also turns them into a savage murdering maniac. Here, we are introduced to Jaegir’s investigation team. Rennie has a great handle on all things “Rogue Trooper” related and this is no exception. The interesting twist is the Nort perspective,it’s refreshing and reminds me of the war strips of the 70s and 80s which took the German perspective (“Kampfgruppe Falken” being a personal favourite). Simon Coleby was born to draw future war. One to watch.
The prog’ maintains its’ current excellent form, but the clear winner is Dredd.
Review by Eamonn Clarke.
Can the Prog keep the momentum going from 1874 and start to compete with the Meg for quality?
Cover is by Karl Richardson and I like it. Dark and creepy. If I saw that on the shelf I’d buy it but I still might be unsure as to which publication this is. At least leave one of the logos clear, Tharg, or has someone already said that?
Judge Dredd: Mega-City Confidential part 2 by John Wagner, Colin MacNeil, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
The plot thickens as Erika goes on the run with whatever piece of evidence she has stolen from the mysterious Section 7. Wagner plays the slow build cards with his usual skill. Tapping away at us with suggestions of what is to come.
MacNeil produces some lovely artistic touches, particularly Dredd reflected in the Section chief’s glasses. The panel layouts, the bike headlights, and the silhouette of Dredd parked on the bridge in the last panel are all great stuff.
Personally I suspect that either the Mega-City Confidential host or the old geezer are going to turn out to be undercover Wallly squad but I’m probably wrong.
Outlier part 2 by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse.
This is excellent. I love a bit of science fiction detective work and this feels like something by the late lamented Iain M Banks. While Wagner keeps his cards hidden Eglington is showing us a lot quite quickly so there must be loads to come as we learn more about the Hurde.
Slaine The Brutania Chronicles part 2 by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
A man walks intro a bar and hears a tall tale and then he’s off on a D&D style quest. I don’t know if Slaine’s stream of consciousness narration had been a feature before but I quite like it here. And the Davis artwork is still lovely to behold.
Sinister Dexter: The Generican Dream part 2 by Dan Abnett, Smudge and Ellie De Ville.
There must be Sinister Dexter fans out there and it’s time for them to do some reviews and tell us what we’re missing. I’ll tell you one thing, I bet S&D end up playing one side off against the other in classic Fistful of Dollars style.
Jaegir: Strigoi part 2 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady and Simon Bowland
The Nazi Fatherland parallel is pushed even further as we learn about a thinly disguised version of Zyklon B which killed Jaegir’s mother. Then she learns more about her mission and teams up with a Human League tribute act.
I’m a bit confused as to when and why the troops need to wear the chem masks, and why some veterans have various physical modifications and other don’t. But the story still has me on board and the art is great.
Another four solid stories and one duffer in this issue. Pick of the Prog is still Dredd but I’m hooked on Outlier and Jaegir as well. The weekly is back in the groove.
Defoe : Queen of Zombies
Pat Mills & Leigh Gallagher
Review by Seth
Volume 2 of the series, collecting “Queen of the Zombies” and “A Murder of Angels”, dropping us right in the middle of an intensifying reek (zombie) war. Titus Defoe and his “Dirty Dozenne” are up against it. On the trail of “Mene Tekel” and the titular “Queen of the Zombies “ La Voison.
La Voison is traced to Nonsuch House, home to the British Secret Service and the headquarters of the Royal Resurrection Company, at a gathering for the gentry and the British Secret Service. With “Damned” Jones in tow, Defoe crashes the party but reckons without the power of La Voison to control the part-reek clockpunk servants of the house. Defoe and crew have a battle on their hands, and not without loss, as one of their number turns reek, and there’s discord and division in the ranks. Soon the action moves to the Tower of London, under siege from an army of Reeks, there is a traitor in our heroes’ midst, heavenly forces take an interest and the identity of Mene Tekel is revealed.
And there’s a massive crocodile.
Leigh Gallagher is the punk rock Bernie Wrightson. Unfashionable with the number of panels per page, dripping in atmosphere, black and white, with an emphasis on the black, shading applied via pepper pot, intricate, gory, grotesque, a master class in cross hatching. Backgrounds, character and weapon design out of the sketch book of Bosch (Hieronymous, not power tools). Mills introduces the concept of “clockpunk” as a precursor to steampunk, which means Gallagher has a whale of a time designing bizarre and outlandish weapons and vehicles. The clockpunks created by Robert Hooke draw inspiration from JF Sebasatian’s android companions in Blade Runner, and in turn Hans Christian Andersen. Unnatural, eerie and sinister. Absolute genius.
Mills’s script occasionally stalls as he stands on his soapbox, but this is witty, very funny in places. It does tend to jump around a bit but there are ideas a plenty. With each page Mills comes up with something inventive or outlandish, he’s having a ball, more so than any of his other recent work.
There are the usual Mills targets: “the Vizards” the superheroes of the 17th century are treated contemptuously by our hero and the customary class commentary and savaging of the upper classes. He deploys historical figures inventively and creates imaginative alternative technologies . The action doesn’t let up from page 1, with the pulpy feel of a puritan “From Dusk Till Dawn”.
In short, it’s fab’. Buy it.
Review written by Eamonn Clarke
To read more of Eamonn’s reviews go check out his Thank you for your Attention blog
One more of these retro reviews, Prog 211 from May 1981 with a beautiful and iconic Dredd cover by Ron Smith. This is the copy I got signed by Ron at last year’s Free comic book dayevent at Forbidden Planet London.
The cover is obviously influenced by Jim Steranko’s pop art covers for the Nick Fury comics from the 60s and 70s, but I think Smith outdoes Steranko here. It’s a fantastic image and would certainly be in my top five 2000AD covers of all time. I love the colours and the lighting on Dredd’s uniform who was the two gun kid back in the day. And we get some classic Smith punks in the various crimes scenes on the block walls. Probably my favourite version of the logo as well and completely unobscured, there’s no doubting what this comic is called. What a piece of art for a mere 15p earth money.
Strontium Dog by Alan Grant, Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Potter
Part nine of the Portrait of a Mutant story with young Johnny Alpha taking part in the battle of Upminster alongside Middenface McNulty. Six pages of King Carlos art that again really stands out on the newsprint. Several familiar mutant faces and more of 2000AD’s classic anti-authoritarian story telling.
Return to Armageddon by Malcolm Shaw, Jesus Redondo and Bill Nuttall
Here’s one that I don’t remember at all but it’s due to be released in a trade paperbackthis year which I have pre-ordered so will do a full review then. Meanwhile someone called Amtrak, who isn’t a train company in America, is leading a sword wielding babe and a robot sidekick into battle to release some human prisoners from an alien prison. Some comic artists take some time to grow on you. I’m sure my eye would have raced over these images back in 1981 but now I just marvel at Redondo’s line work and background shading. Smashing panels lay outs as well.
In the Nerve Centre Tharg promises the readers a Buck Rogers sticker album while also dealing with questions about Judge Pepper’s bionic leg, and a campaign to wipe out thrill-suckers. £3 for a published letter back then.
Judge Dredd: The Mega-Rackets by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Ron Smith and Tom Frame
Dredd gets the colour centre spread again as a simple bit of littering sets old stony face on the trail of Slik Ike Kolorado. It’s a quick trip to the face changing machine and then Dredd is undercover on a spaceship heading off-world to some alien slavers. Ron Smith’s alarm clock drawing methods are well known but the amount of madcap detail he packs in within those time constraints is remarkable. Wagner, Grant, Smith and Frame are the perfect package from the golden age of the Prog.
Tharg’s Future shocks by Gary Rice, Mike White and Pete Knight
A government scientist uses some sort of time machine to look back at the man who invented civilisation and then work out his living descendent is so they can execute him. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me either. Looks and feels like filler.
Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden, Massimo Belardinelli and Jack Potter
Never really got into Meltdown Man although there is a trade of this as well. Belardinelli does draw some crazy animal headed humanoids though. For some reason they always reminded me of Rupert the Bear and his chums, or what Alan Moore did to them in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Not my favourite story here by a long way but fun to look at.
The back cover has a Meltdown Man pin-up by Dave Gibbons.
Pick of the prog is the Ron Smith cover which is far and away the best thing here, and the Whittle circular panel count is a mere 1.