Simon Jacques reviews 1889.
What an absolute belter! No only, do we get the return of the much lamented droll explicative from the mouth of Dredd, Chris Weston hits all the competition for six, as we are all jubilant in hailing Sensitive Klegg!
You could eat, nay lick, your dinner off Chris’ stunning line work. Cover of the year so far.
Joe’s recent tales have weighed somewhat heavy on the stomach after taking quite a bit of mastication, swallowing and digestion, so it’s great to get some light relief in the large shape of the scourge of Mr Overdrive™ – one Sensitive Klegg. Last issues opener with Dirty Frank and his smiley sausage, was a glorious return from Chris Weston who got it bob on with his depiction of Kleggy and his lonely repatriation to MC1. Williams tears at the heart-strings as we continue to wish our hero naught but acceptance, loving and peace, after all he is a rear-admiral is he not? In the end it is of course Dredd who gets the say, he has to do something in his own strip, and we are left wanting more as the plucky ‘big crocodile’ sets off to find contentment and we cheer his optimism out in the great wide yonder. Hopefully for us, more plucky adventures with this now iconic, warmed to character… oh the Kleggy possibilities!
The saga moves on, with Wren and the gang bodding off to find a substance known as Gaseous Clay (geddit?) when some more crazy shit starts to stir. While I might hold fast that this is far from Edlingtons best work and maintain a duplicitous admiration for the premise and exposition of the story arcs, I’m mindful that his scripting is undeniably effective and mature in it’s delivery. Sometimes 2000AD sends us out of our comfort zones, where we can’t quite engage or relate to the characters and narrative, really just because we are ultimately unaccustomed to their ilk. Brass Sun is one-such, like a “From Grace” or “Ten Seconders” which push the boundaries and perceptions of seemingly familiar ground, perhaps fostering scepticism and mistrust at first, but in time appreciation and fondness for their progressive idiosyncrasy. While I’m clearly not it’s biggest fan, there is something quite assuring about Brass Sun and it’s place in 2000AD lore, something which affirms my faith in the prog’s ability to shape worlds and deliver stories of a difference, that we in a way, should feel rather somewhat grateful as it continues to do so.
THARGS 3RILLERS PRESENT: VOODOO PLANET:
After some of his stints on Dredd, I’ve had a bit of a downer on P.J Holden (totally unsuitable for MC1) and his simplified characterisation in general winds me up, but here his art is much improved. The final page being a case in point with it’s squirmy wormy alien thangs known only as the Loa. The ‘Next prog: ‘ strap line obviously far too tempting to resist, all we need next prog is a cameo by Brucie and his unfeasably large deck of cards. Not sure about the ‘voodoo’ shtick and entirely what the premise is of the tale is going to be, but it looks good and it’s set up for a finale that could go either all out crazy with a twist or just sitting there scratching it’s balls…
THARG’S FUTURE SHOCKS: THE NAME OF THE LAW
Speaking of which, I got it, sorta, but still re-read it to see if I had missed anything glaringly obvious that might become it more to me. Nope, it didn’t give anything more up apart from the main character Cassie, developing a worrying hand job with the facial to match. I do like Nick Dyer’s art, as he reminds me of Cam Kennedy, but I’m afraid that the story here was trying to be something more than it ended up being, which was non too shocking and a bit of a ball scratcher…
Speaking of which, some wise old sage once said ‘if you find yourself in a hole, then stop digging’. This strip would be wise to take heed, as the Stygian hole it has disappeared up, is it’s own rectum. Any credibility it once had, since it’s inception in 1996, has long done a runner, along with the pertinent time to kill off it’s lead characters, when some of the readers actually gave a rats arse. The dialogue is beyond painful and I’m now convinced Dan Abnett is getting his script ideas from sitting in his kecks all day watching Scooby Doo and scratching his balls. Although it was good to see such a blatant set up for a recap (Congo/Amazon?) and I’m glad that someone else needed reminding of ‘the plot’ as this strip lost it many moons ago. I do however hope to see Jake Lynch on a strip suiting his style though as it’s clearly wasted on this pile of poop.
TOP THRILL: ‘Kleggy want in!’… Dredd.
Combo review written by Eamonn Clarke
To read more of Eamonn’s reviews go check out his Thank you for your Attention blog
Cover. Karl Richardson’s Aquila Vs Brian Bolland’s poster image.
Bolland produced many of the iconic covers for 2000AD but for some reason I find this image is rather flat and dull. While it’s nice to see him including some classic bad guys from Dredd’s history I can’t quite put my finger on it but this just doesn’t do it for me. Over on the Prog Karl Richardson produces a memorable image which is only spoiled by the foreshortening of the left hand that ends up looking weird. I suspect Brian Bolland’s cover will have the best impact on the shelves so it gets the win, but only just. Strange.
Result: 1-0 to the Meg
Judge Dredd: Student Bodies by John Wagner, Boo Cook and Annie Parkhouse Vs Dead Zone by John Wagner, Henry Flint and Annie Parkhouse.
Mr Tharg is spoiling us with two Wagner stories running at the same time, and with two great artists. My only problem is that we have just had a Boo Cook story in the Megazine and I’m trying to decide if he is suited to Judge Dredd or whether his best stuff is on other strips. Meanwhile Henry Flint can do no wrong for me. Both artists do some neat stuff with panel lay outs and end with a full page splash but Flint wins easily and I think this is the more interesting of the two stories as well.
Result 2-0 to the Meg
Sinister Dexter: Congo by Dan Abnett, Jake Lynch and Ellie De Ville Vs Lawless by Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade and Ellie De Ville
I still can’t summon any interest in Sinister Dexter and although Lynch’s artwork suits something like the Tales from the Black Museum it leaves me cold here. Over in the Meg Abnett introduces a new character and setting and gets me interested straight away. The bar room scene is fun and Winslade includes lots of detail and interesting looking background characters including a belligerent Uplift. Marshal Lawson is clearly very capable but I’m not sure that pony tail would be approved of by Justice department. Far too likely to be grabbed in a fight. Does look very sexy though.
Result 3-0 to the Meg and it’s getting embarrassing. Just like the Germany-Brazil semi-final.
Brass Sun: Floating Worlds by Ian Edginton, INJ Culbard and Ellie De Ville Vs The Man from the Ministry by Gordon Rennie, Kev Hopgood and Simon Bowland.
Reading the original Brass Sun run in its new US format comic is really helping me appreciate this strip more. I’m enjoying these flying ships and Culbard’s full colour spreads are gorgeous. The Man from the Ministry continues to charm me with its British science fiction nods and who doesn’t love an RAF Lightning? But as this episode is mostly exposition I’m going to give my vote to the colourful flying beasties in Brass Sun.
Result 3-1 to the Meg
Aquila: Carnifex by Gordon Rennie, Leigh Gallagher, Dylan Teague and Annie Parkhouse Vs Dredd: Uprise by Arthur Wyatt, Paul Davidson, Chris Blythe and Simon Bowland.
I’m not adverse to comic sequels for the Dredd film and I like Paul Davidson’s art but I can’t see the point of this story. It just reruns the bike against the van scene from the movie and then has some auto destruction that seems to nod to the Stallone version. Maybe episode two will be better.
Aquila has the advantage of Gallagher’s gritty and action filled art teamed with Teague’s muted colours. Again it may be too early to tell how this story is going to progress but it easily beats out the Dredd story.
Result 3-2 to the Meg and there’s a comeback on the cards.
Tharg’s 3rillers: Voodoo Planet by Guy Adams, PJ Holden, Steven Denton and Simon Bowland Vs All the Megazine’s extras.
I like Holden’s comic book art but this three parter has left me neither shaken or stirred. I haven’t read the Megazine interrogations and have no plans to read the floppy, but a free Bolland Poster? Maybe I wasn’t convinced by it as a cover but as a poster it’s a winner and seals the win for the Megazine.
Result 4-2. They think it’s all over, it is now.
Meg 350 Review by Nexus Wookie! You can check out his blog for other reviews at http://nexuswookie.wordpress.com/
And so we reach another milestone as the Meg hits 350, and to cap it off we have an eye grabbing cover by the legendary Brian Bolland. I was sharing the cover with my boy and he was definitely intrigued when I told him which character was who (he knew who Judge Dredd was naturally!). I have no doubt that this is another iconic additon to Bolland’s famous works, and the A3 poster was very welcome indeed, showing the piece in all it’s undisturbed splendour.
First off we have a new Judge Dredd story: Dead Zone (Part 1) by John Wagner and Henry Flint. Special things always tend to happen when those two names come together, and this was definitely the case here in this terrific opener. We have Dredd investigating the death of Mr. McPhee, an accountant at the Chaos Memorial Comittee. Dredd is not too keen on the whole memorial venture, which is basically another money making gimmick. But the city needs the income that it generates because of the financial repercussions of the Chaos Bug disaster. We also follow two cursed earth residents as they seek to make a better life for themselves in the big Meg, but they are set upon by a ruthless group of scum drudgery. This is the thing I love about Wagner’s writing, when he highlights the plight of normal citizens trying to get on with their lives, but have all these hard obstacles thrust before them.
The last page is very disturbing as it shows the depths that human kind will plunge to for greed. Henry Flint’s artwork is simply outstanding, I love the colour work and the details in each of the panels from the Chaos Memorial itself to the bleak, cluttered places surrounding it, and of couse the residents who inhabit both places.
Next up we have a new strip: Lawless – Welcome to Badrock (Part 1)by Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade. I was pleasantly surprised with this opener, why? Because it was so damn enjoyable! I’m a sucker for westerns and I really loved the set up here. We are on 43 Rega, a planet “on the ass end of nowhere”, only notable for the fact that Mega City forces stopped the alien Zhind invasion here. A group of townsfolk await the arrival of Colonial Marshall Lawson. Dan Abnett’s introduction to the various characters is done in a really fun manner! Soon after Lawson makes herself at home by going to the local saloon for a drink. Pretty soon trouble is on its way, and then, an encounter with someone who may or may not be insane.
Phil Winslade’s b&w artwork is simply outstanding. I spent a good amount time just ogling his panels, studying the details and wonderful line work. His street and saloon scenes are especially a treat as it evokes a feeling of being on a set, with a futurustic western taking place. On this evidence I must say I’m already looking forward to the next instalment.
The Man from the Ministry (Part 3) by Gordon Rennie and Kev Hopgod follows next. I haven’t been overly wowed by this strip unfortunately. However, this episode was much better, with a strong ending which throws up an element of danger. Kev Hopgood’s art is good, but not Night Zero good. There’s far less depth or detail to his art, something which I loved on his work on Night Zero and Beyond Zero.
Dredd: Uprise (Part 1) ends the strips. This is the new sequel to Underbelly by Athur Wyatt, but this time with Paul Davidson on art duty in place of Henry Flint. And I feel Davidson has done a pretty good job here. For starters, we have Dredd with a proper movie chin, and Chris Blythe’s colour work is excellent. One criticism I had with Davidson’s art in his past work was the way he drew the character’s lips, it looked a little contorted and well…silly. But there’s none of that here, in fact, I love his character design especially the rookie and the senior Judge accompanying her. I also thought the reference to Domhnall Gleeson via ‘Gleeson intersection’ was a nice touch. The story concerns ‘Uprise’; a group that wants to bring power back to the people, away from the rich folks who live in isolated comfort higher up in the blocks. It’s certainly a strong opener and I can’t wait for the next part.
There are three Interrogations on show, pick of the bunch has to be the Trevor Hairsine piece by Matt Badham. There’s some interesting insight into Hairsine’s artistic process and the various projects he has worked on. Kev Hopgood’s interrogation was also insightful (again by Matt Badham), and Leah Moore and John Reppion end the features with a look into their husband and wife partnership on comics and other projects, and juggling work with bringing up three kids. We also get some word on their upcoming work in the Prog; Black Shuck, which I’m really looking forward to.
Burke & Hurr by Simon Spencer & Dean Ormston. I’ve only started to read this and it’s not too bad on early impressions. Dean Ormston’s stylised artwork is really enjoyable, bringing a sort of ‘Jack the Ripper-esque’ East End vibe to it, or the muddy backstreet alleyways we see in Disney’s Pinocchio, it’s dark and macabre, but with added comedy. It’s fascinating to think that a place like this exists somewhere on the Cursed Earth, which is in total contrast to the big Meg.
The Megazine has been on fine form these past few months and so it continues here in this special celebratory issue with a host of new line ups which have grabbed my attention and given my thrill circuits a thorough work over. Top Thrill would have to go to Deadzone, which evokes a feeling of awe (via Flint’s artwork) and despair (via Wagner’s excellent storytelling) in equal measure.
Meg 351 cannot come soon enough for me.
The Complete Nemesis The Warlock
Review by Seth
This third and final volume features the climax of the seemingly endless (and to be honest, getting a bit repetitive now) conflict between Torquemada and Nemesis. Interestingly it probably is the most varied of the 3 volumes, featuring contributions from artists whom offer their own very distinct interpretation of the alien freedom fighter and his universe.
Volume 2 had ended with the remarkable “Two Torquemada’s”, featuring grotesque art by the mercurial John Hicklenton. Torquemada is pursued by Nemesis through the time wastes after escaping from the 15th Century inquisition-era Spain, leaving Torquemada’s namesake and Thoth, Nemesis’ son dead in their wake. The galaxy is still threatened with annihilation thanks to the imminent collision of the white and black holes on either side of Termight, set in motion by Thoth.
Volume 3 begins with “Purity’s Story”, written as ever by Mills and drawn by David Roach. Purity and Nemesis exit the time wastes in pursuit of Torquemada. Leaking time radiation removes a block on Purity’s memory and she begins to recall her early days with the resistance and her first meeting with Nemesis. As much an origin story as setting the direction and establishing important plot points for the strips last lap. It also raises questions over Nemesis’ motivation, the Warlock treating the conflict as a game, which conflicts with some of what precedes it and what follows, though arguably this just proves that Nemesis is a force of Khaos . Art wise, “Purity’s Story” is sandwiched between the Hicklenton books of “Two Torquemada’s” and “Deathbringer”. The difference between the two artistic styles is almost jarring. Hicklenton has the ability to draw things seen in your worst nightmares. His characters, even the heroes and heroines of the story, are grotesque beings with distended bodies and limbs contorted into unlikely shapes and fearful facial expressions (even when they are smiling); the stuff of acid flashbacks. Roach’s art has almost a woodcut look about it, and maintains the spirit of the early O’Neill strips, though the designs are not so outlandish. Beautiful art. I have a page of it on my wall dontcha know.
“Deathbringer” – the penultimate of book of the series, continues directly from “Purity’s Story”. Nemesis has reinforced the spell on Purity to prevent her remembering anything else she shouldn’t. Torquemada has spent 10 years in the modern era, and established himself as the head of a paramilitary group called the “Oy Boys” with a sideline in a nationwide chain of bed and breakfasts. Nemesis’ attempt at blocking Purity’s memory had been unsuccessful and Torquemada and Nemesis battle for her allegiance. The contemporary (ish) setting and the artist give it the feel of a lost book of Mill’s “Third World War”, with Torque’ taking the place of villain Inspector Ryan. Hicklenton’s art feels slightly more reigned in here, but contains some startling images. However, by now the strip had begun to slip into the routine of the climactic battle of all battles between Nemesis and Torquemada, which you knew wouldn’t actually be resolved. The last few Nemesis books had become one overlong chase scene through the time wastes, kind of like a gothic “Road Runner” cartoon. It was time for this to be resolved. But this wasn’t going to happen for another 10 years.
In the lay-off between “Death Bringer” and the final book “The Final Conflict” there were a number of one off or short runs that were used as fillers setting up the final book or just to keep the plot bubbling along and remind readers what these characters were about.
The first of these “The Shape Of Things To Come” drawn by Paul Staples, very definitely falls into the filler category – adding nothing to the ongoing saga. Staples art, though capable, was a significant stylistic change from Hicklenton, moving away from the gothic tone and into a more mainstream vein. Staples is a good artist, though his images tend to be bit static and conventional for a strip that had previously been drawn so distinctively by Hicklenton, Talbot, O’Neill and Redondo. It seemed to be a false start, and the strip was further rested until 1994.
The 3 part series “Hammer of the Warlocks” was to be a prologue to the final book, drawn by a nascent Clint Langley. Torquemada has found the answer to the increasingly savage conflict with Nemesis, the titular Hammer of the Warlocks. Langley’s art has come a long way, here he comes across as a more coherent Simon Harrison, but with equally organic textures, with so much green on some pages it looks like he has painted with algae.
We had to wait another 5 years before Mills with the genius of Henry Flint in tow was to complete the saga. The team brought the series full circle. Torquemada had returned to Termight to take charge again, Purity heading up the now independent human resistance. Nemesis returns to Termight to finish the feud with Torquemada (and seemingly contradicting his earlier statements of the reason for his involvement). Torquemada is overthrown and put on trial, escapes and he and Nemesis square up for the final confrontation, fittingly drawn by Kev O’Neill. Flint reverted to the “sword and sorcery” atmosphere of O’Neill and Redondo, from the science fiction, gothic and steam punk drift of Talbot, Hicklenton and Roach. Slightly anti climatic, perhaps a tad rushed and most definitely overdue, the strip was put to rest and the characters met a fate quite fitting for the tone of the series.
The volume also collects as “bonus” material strips that.
“Warlock and Wizards” from prog 700, acts as a prologue to the “Enigmass Variations” which ran from the first all colour prog : 723. Written by Pat Mills, with co writer Tony Skinner and painted by Carl Critchlow. A tongue in cheek Agatha Christie who dunnit style fantasy strip, it co stars Deadlock from the ABC Warriors. “Bonus material” is an odd term for such utter dreck. Mills and Skinner’s plot and script are hackneyed and clichéd, and in places just plain painful (see Nemesis donning a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker and pipe) and with both leads acting agonizingly out of character. What were they thinking? The strip suffers from the mid 90s painted art syndrome. Critchlow employs muddy, dark colours and his characters weren’t great. He’s definitely gone onto better things.
The final strip in the collection was published in the 1992 Winter Special and is set between “Deathbringer” and the “Hammer Of The Warlocks” and drawn by the great lost Nemesis artist Chris Weston, striking the right balance between the O’Neill and Talbot interpretations. The strip resolves the triangle between Nemesis, Candida and Torquemada and puts paid to some significant characters on the way. Unfortunately, it does end with yet another Torque / Nem’ slugfest, laboured even in 1992. This isn’t bonus material and should have been published in this volume as it fits within the strips’ timeline.
A good package, with some spectacular art from Roach, Weston, Flint, Hicklenton & O’Neill, but by now the strip itself had become tired, and like all good things, it had to end. (And please – not revived).
But let’s all pretend that the “Enigmass Variations” never happened.