Review written by Jordan Smith
Cover by Alex Ronald
One of the many fascinating things about 2000AD is that they don’t often do variant covers like other comics. Where DC use these variants to let another artist have a stab at a cover for one of their characters whilst the artist of the strip inside does the standard one, here we almost always have the single cover, and what’s interesting is that they very often have little to do with the story inside, are by a completely different artist to anyone found inside, or are outright unrelated to what’s inside. In this case we have a Sinister Dexter cover from an artist I’ve never heard of, portraying the duo in an action-movie like shot that you won’t find awaiting you in Abnett’s third part of Gun Shy, and the funniest thing is that Finny looks totally different than he does at the moment – as I’ve ever seen him in my collection of the comic actually – with long hair and in a suit, the polar opposite of the punk rock vibe he has going on just now.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a bad cover or anything – it’s a belter as far as I’m concerned, all digital like Clint Langley or not. Like I said though, the artist’s name rings no bells with me, and for good reason. A search of the name on Google and I came back with his blog in which the latest post of his is about this very cover, specifically saying that it’s his second for 2000AD (he would appear to have done more for the Megazine and would seem to have featured within there at least), having last done one only several weeks before I jumped on board with the comic again. That was Prog 1869, for which he drew a cover of a character called Ulysses Sweet, apparently quite an old character that has now recently been revived. Over on the blog 2000AD Covers Uncovered there’s a post about that one in which he steps us through the process of creating it for those of you that may be interested. Thankfully there’s one for this too, though not quite as revealing about his approach unfortunately. But whether you like this more obvious type of digital art or not in your comics, it’s just as complicated as doing it the old fashioned way, and I should know as someone who very briefly did some digital art as part of his games development course.
If I do have one complaint, however, it’s that it would appear to me that there’s quite a lot of aliasing going on here, most noticeably around all the shards of glass, although you can just make it out on Ray’s two guns as well. Can’t imagine what the deal is here because in all of Clint Langley’s art that I’ve seen, jaggies has never been something I’ve noticed, yet it immediately stood out here. Alas, having studied games development in which aliasing is a problem or not (sort of why you have anti-aliasing methods in the options menu of most PC games), I’m no expert on the cause of it and have no idea why we could be seeing it so clearly here. Oh well. Otherwise, it’s a brilliant cover and we’ll hopefully be seeing much more from Mr. Ronald in the future.
Wasn’t going to include this as part of the review but what the hell. We’re already at almost 800 words, so why pretend that this will be short? But, yeah, Droid Life’s still kicking around. Never really cared much for this, though I guess it’s nice that it’s there. Plus, it has its own short collection, so I guess some people find it funny. But I never do, so I can live without it in my life. Then again, I can’t imagine it’s easy creating a joke in such a small amount of space. Whatever, I don’t know why I’m still talking about this. In his usual spot of the Prog, Tharg mentions a Sci-Fi Special at the end of May. Not really sure if this is also the Summer Special but he promises to talk about it again soon, and I’m sure I’ll see someone refer to it as the same Special Prog if that’s what it is.
Judge Dredd: Mega City Confidential (Part 3)
Quite unsurprisingly, following on from last episode’s ending, we find Erika walking into a trap in which Max Blixen is involved. It could have been a little unnecessary of Wagner to show us Dredd intimidating Blixen into co-operating via flashback, but it works in conjunction with the final page where we get a shot of an awfully sad looking Blixen taking off his glasses. That’s a panel I do love because on the second page it was his turn to get a close up where we can’t see the eyes behind the glasses, already used to paint Dredd and Styler in a non-human light, so it works in contrast to this, making Blixen another victim of the Judges in a way. Indeed, only he, Erika and the now-dead Ramage have been characters we’ve seen below the surface of. Though not exactly a choice when it comes to Dredd, Wagner and MacNeil could easily have decided that Styler should be without glasses if there weren’t a purpose behind it, so I am seeing the distinction between those characters looking so constantly ominous and the others as having eyes and more expressions than a frown on their faces as an intentional choice, and it’s bloody good stuff with that being the case.
Still no word on what this big conspiracy could be and although Blixen now has a data slug containing Erika’s evidence, I don’t think we’ll be finding any answers next time either, which I’m sure will annoy some people. Though there is the possibility that Wagner could pull a fast one on us by having Blixen killed and the secret remaining so, I do believe that we’ll find out what’s worth all this quite soon. But in the next Prog I expect that we’ll see Blixen make a run for it (the Judges will most likely interrogate Erika into revealing that she made copies of whatever the data slug contains) and who knows where we could go then. Maybe Ramage’s senseless death is supposed to be an indication that the Judges are going to rack up a body count in keeping their mysterious secret contained? That could make for a bit of a tragic tale, especially if the secret doesn’t reach the public. Whatever happens next will probably give us a better idea of the story’s direction. Another good episode this week.
Outlier (Part 3)
A bit of an unusual week for this story. Taking up the middle three pages this time, we get two featuring a flashback and one of Carcer and his client talking to each other. The latter’s a little silly since there’s no room at all to make it even slightly interesting, with both characters talking via hologram. It is your typically boring full page of exposition, right down to Carcer telling us that she’s lying. Meanwhile, the actual flashback scene would appear to simply be a set up for another one in the future, one in which I expect we’ll see exactly what happened to Caul and the other characters who were left to the mercy of the Hurde. If you care.
This is looking more and more like a straightforward revenge tale, and that’s quite a shame. Even the titular ship that I thought might be of some importance wouldn’t appear to be of any at all, little more than that which Caul was part of the crew of, now only a representation of the people that betrayed him, boohoo, etc. It would be nice if I’m wrong about this strip and it can still surprise me, though I won’t be getting my hopes up, particularly as Karl Richardson’s artwork, I’m afraid to say, continues to be unimpressive. Here we are at a game reserve on another planet and out in space, yet neither have any memorable qualities. Since we’ll still be on the planet in the next Prog, hopefully that means we’ll see a bit more of the jungle and finally something about this world will actually look kinda interesting. At least Caul had gorilla-like arms on the last pages, I suppose.
Slaine: A Simple Killing (Part 3)
Well, that was an unexpected two page spread to open this part of our story, wasn’t it? The first three pages of this week’s Prog are pretty good – rather odd certainly, but it’s quite interesting to see Slaine apparently having moved on from his dead wife in such a simple manner some time in the past, the memory perhaps being another indication of Pat Mills taking the character in a new direction, forgetting these things. Or is he? Though last week’s Prog had Slaine choosing not to kill the man who stole from the Goddess’ temple in the opening episode and he again considers leaving his pursuit of that man’s daughter or the sea devils who kidnapped her behind here in this chapter, she turns up anyway, apparently having escaped.
The thing is, last week took quite an unconventional turn by having Slaine meet Kark yet do nothing in the end, changing our perception of this series’ title, which seemed to suggest it’d be a run of the mill “To kill this guy, our hero must first jump through this hoop, and then another, and another after that – irony, folks!” kind of tale. So to see Slaine either being lured into a trap or finding himself in the position of having to help Sinead anyway, might suggest that things are to be on the straight and narrow from next week’s episode onwards. It’s hard to tell at this point obviously, but I do hope that Mills won’t have Slaine caught up in another supposedly epic tale that we’ve seen before and stick to what he’s been doing for these first three episodes because, for me at least, this bare bones approach to the character has been really fun so far and, missing some complicated plot or other, I’m not sure what to be expecting.
Artistically, I don’t know if I need bother for it speaks for itself. Yet again Simon Davis is acing the look of this series and I sincerely hope that he’ll be kept around for future story arcs. This week we get a mixture of lovely colour, starting with a very green opening spread, finding a page full of orange after that, and then some darker pages after that which have a lot of blues and purples. A treat for the eyes, I call it. The only particularly unusual thing about the art this week – and by “unusual”, I don’t mean in a bad way – is on the fourth page, where we see the moon behind Sinead’s head, which two separate panels are cut off with a crescent arc to either side of. There’s no lacking in the imagination of Davis, that’s for sure. Looking forward to more of this next week.
Sinister Dexter: Gun Shy (Part 3)
Apart from the slightly humorous Pastor, I pretty much have the same feelings about this as the last few weeks, which is to say I do not care and hope it ends swiftly. Just complete filler until we reach the next big story, and I shudder to think what that may be. It’s funny that this week’s cover of the duo is so exciting, yet the story inside so bland and uninteresting. However, we’re gearing up for the big fight soon (though it would not surprise me if next week’s episode is five pages more of stretching this out) so hopefully that will make it somewhat worthwhile in the end.
The art continues to be alright, but I really do believe that it’d look so much better in colour. Earlier this week I was actually going through some of my collection and came across a Judge Dredd story drawn by Smudge that was coloured and I think a similar look would suit this strip a lot more. Wouldn’t save the story itself from being total crap of course, but I probably wouldn’t let my eyes skim over the artwork compared to the rest of the current line-up.
Jaegir: Strigoi (Part 3)
Yep, still my favourite, which is quite strange because very little of importance happens this week, except that we’re given some subtle insight into Jaegir and her team members. What the point of this episode basically is is that, even when she’s given a new task, Jaegir doesn’t put the assignments she was previously working on on hold. Though many of her own people may hate her for it, this is her job and she’s fully committed to it. Where I can honestly say this week surprised me was in the way that she personally only brings her targets in alive, and only then because she needs to interrogate them in order to chase up another lead, but the other three that we see are rather brutally killed by the members of her team. For some reason I expected her to be taking everyone in alive to stand trial but it’s very suitable to see that she neither has the time for this or the means to do so because of their political standing, so has her team members dispatch of them through more discreet means.
Absolutely loving this strip, as dark as it may be. It’s taking its time, which I’m sure is bugging people as much as Dredd may be as well, but it has something to talk about week to week and I can’t wait to read what happens next, and probably after that too. All the while, Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady are still being a brilliant combination. To be honest, I’m actually so comfortable with how well these two are depicting this grim world that I’m having a difficult time imagining who else could possibly be doing the art and colouring for it, drawing a complete blank. When this is over and the second series begins I think it would be great if these two were still on board because they’re doing a great job at bringing Rennie’s story to life.
So that’s another fantastic Prog overall, though I am a little concerned that Outlier may not have any tricks up its sleeves after all, and that Slaine could be succumbing to a familiar storytelling pattern next week after these first three surprising episodes. Let’s hope not. Otherwise, Jaegir’s still on top for me, and Dredd is just behind.