Review written by Jordan Smith
A bit later than I expected with this one, but I’m back with this week’s Prog now that 1879 has been delivered to me from the future. The consistency of the Saturday delivery has actually been quite surprising, for I recall usually waiting until Monday when I was last subscribed. That’s nice, and always lovely to see sitting on the floor below your letterbox as you go downstairs for breakfast because if you’re anything like me, try as you might not to, you accidentally spoil the week’s cover via the comic’s Twitter account before it actually arrives. Blasted social media!
Ach well, at least it wasn’t the case here. The cover’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for: of my favourite ongoing strip, Jaegir, and brought to us by Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady colouring it like the strip itself (I can’t actually remember if Coleby colours any of his own work, come to think of it). It’s quite the piece of brilliance, and I dearly hope we’ll see a post detailing the process behind it over on 2000AD Covers Uncovered as I’d be very interested to know whether there were other ideas before this or not. The reason for my curiosity is that this is a fairly packed image that could have very easily failed. We have Jaegir and Klaur take up the foreground; their air shuttle take up the distant centre along with the forest; Grigoru looming over all in the background; and, further behind him, the castle itself, a full moon behind it. Of course, some of the last is partly obscured by the brand logo, but that’s still a lot going on.
It’s great to see that it really works then. Although Coleby does a perfect job positioning everything and I really love the dramatic poses of the characters, especially Grigoru’s Frankenstein’s monster-like howl, it’s O’Grady’s colouring that really swoops in to save the day in my opinion. The two characters at the bottom are given a sand colour not unpleasing to the eyes and a red tint to their left hand sides, apparently from a fire. The forest behind them is a very light, washed out shade of green, which perfectly leads our eye to the figure of Grigoru, who is given a ghostly blue-grey shade of colour (note the subtle white highlight around him too) from which, alongside the anguished expression, he’s painted as both a terrifying monster and man racked by an illness out of his control. Finally, the castle and its surrounding hills are a dark grey, giving it an appropriately menacing look indeed. A bloody well done cover – someone add a little something extra to these droid’s oil rations fer cryin’ out loud!
Inside Tharg tells us about the forthcoming Free Comic Book Day, previewing what we can expect to see in the Prog. No doubt I’ll give it a pass on the day itself, so small is my patience with long queues (plus, if I enter the nearest comic book store in Glasgow just for the free Prog, guilt shall overcome me and I’d probably go on a spending splurge), but I’ll be keeping an eye out for it on eBay, if only for a Dredd tale illustrated by Chris Burnham, a chap whom I praised to no end for his work on Grant Morrison’s last story arc of Batman. In my mind there is simply no way that can’t look amazing, and I hope that those who pick up the Prog and have never seen his work before will be as impressed with him as I was.
We see the end of Mega City Confidential this week, and it concludes as I suppose all these darker Dredd tales do: with no one coming out unscathed, including the Judges. The big revelation of Section 7, as speculated on the forums, though really quite obvious from the art in hindsight (all those visor reflections, though certainly depicting several characters as demonic, was also highly suggestive of camera lenses staring back), is that the Judges have been spying on citizens through hidden devices recently planted in their homes after Day of Chaos. It wouldn’t be a move I’d make following such devastation to people’s everyday lives and, sure enough, the citizens take up arms against their lovely enforcers of the law, resulting in “over a thousand deaths” according to Dredd, of which very few are the Judges themselves. Arrests are large in size too – so big that Hershey suggests they may soon run out of room in the Iso-Blocks – and amongst those characters we’ve seen imprisoned joins Blixen’s partner, Max himself being suspiciously found dead. (That final page with his replacement on the show is great by the way, as it could be interpreted as the Judges actually sending a warning to the citizens of what the price for being a whistleblower is.) Wonder who could’ve possibly been behind that? Ah, the Judges never change…
Of course, as we saw last time, Dredd himself wasn’t particularly pleased with Hershey’s decision – we’re actually given a nice insightful line into how he appreciates his own privacy – so it’ll be interesting to see the ramifications of this latest chapter in his life on the world. It is, as I said last week, one of those short stories that I feel like Wagner writes every so often with the intention of building towards some great event, so that’s what I’d like to see anyway. On the other hand, it could just be that it’s another Dredd tale doing social commentary, quite obviously being based on Edward Snowden’s ongoing leaks about the U.S. government’s snoopiness. In fact, it’s one of those stories that I expect we’ll all look back on years from now as a perfect example of the strip’s excellent commentary on social issues, the message in this case being that no good can come from the breach of people’s personal lives.
Though short, it’s been excellent stuff and I look forward to much more from Wagner in the future no matter what he does next. Really, what a great way to find myself reading the comic again. Hopefully we’ll see more from MacNeil again soon too, especially if it means more of this darker style.
The first thing that sprung to mind after reading this week’s instalment of Outlier was, quite appropriately, how bored I am of it. Last week I was pretty harsh on it, and I’m afraid my mood towards it hasn’t changed, Caul’s little flashback to what the Hurde did being another terrible attempt at making us give a shit about him. The funny thing is, the flashback ends with a shot that the next is a mirror of, something which Jaegir also does this week (they really are quite similar, huh?), the difference being that the latter story does it a lot better, actually serving a greater purpose than telling us something we already know – the Hurde torture people? Really?!? – in addition to not being cheap in its delivery of character development. That’s what I suspect Outlier’s all about here anyway in its depiction of Caul’s girlfriend being skinned alive. It didn’t make me feel any sympathy though – just mild sadness that this is all Eglington seems capable of.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Not only does Carcer actually, you know, get involved a little more in the story this week by confronting Caul at last (though he does get stabbed, which also made me mentally face palm), but we find that he has a good reason not to trust his employer, who is indeed up to no good. We already know this – Carcer spelled it out to us before that she’s hiding something, and it didn’t take a genius to work out that she’s interested in taking Caul alive if possible, to be sold and his Hurde technology analysed. What could be somewhat interesting is a “psychological link” between Caul and Carcer that she mentions, suggestive that all these mirroring words and panels of the two characters is indeed to emphasise a greater bond they share besides being Hurde survivors. I’m still not enjoying this, but maybe, just maybe, Eglington does have some surprise there.
As for Richardson’s art – it’s still not doing it for me, and I think never will. A thought that occurred to me this week is that someone else could do the colouring for him in the future, but that still leaves the excess amount of detail he tries to throw on everything that I noticed a great deal more in this episode, putting me in mind of Tony S. Daniels, an artist I bashed to no end during my read of Grant Morrison’s Batman run. It’s a sort of realistic style, most noticeable when it comes to defining every little thing about a characters appearance (look at how much detail he pours into the structure of Mr. Hain’s face), but I really need find it to be too much, leaving little room for the imagination and more for mistakes.
This week’s Slaine wraps up the fight with the gloops from last week, quite hilariously beginning with a our hero narrowly dodging the tail of one that last week’s episode dramatically ended on. Although week to week instalments are reading quite well in the comic’s weekly format, I think it’ll be a lot easier to appreciate this particular series, A Simple Killing, once all of The Brutania Chronicles are collected in trade as again, not much happens here in way of significant plot developments. After the fight, Slaine and Sinead chat for a bit (the former curiously mentions having to go to a party “to say goodbye to someone” – does that mean the Green Man celebration we saw a couple of weeks ago was actually a flash forward or how he was picturing it in his head?), the main highlight of their conversation being Slaine’s refusal to help, as unusual as him choosing not to kill Kark in the second episode.
But that probably won’t last as Sinead looks like she’s either turning into some human-serpent hybrid or, more likely, seeing as the gloops are “sea devils”, some mermaid creature. Indeed, I’d come across a preview of this strip quite recently, with concept art of Slaine fighting a group of mermaid-like creatures (they were much taller), so I suspect that he’ll either be forced to kill Sinead or lose her to these creatures in Prog 1879, giving him the motivation to go to Monadh and face the Drunes there, which I suppose will be the final legs of this particular story arc. Sinead even mentions that they’re intending to raise a powerful new monster, so it could be that it’s that who becomes the villain of the next story arc, should Slaine be too late, something which might make for a good little twist.
The art, as always, is gorgeous. Not as incredible looking as last week, but still very consistent in terms of quality, Davis continuing to position everything in a unique fashion and nailing every panel, from the level of detail (when we first see Sinead’s legs changing you can tell that her veins have become noticeably thicker) to the choice of colour. It’s such bloody good stuff that it pains me to know that it must end sooner or later.
On the contrary, what I can’t wait to see end is Sinister Dexter. After last week’s decent episode, the focus is brought back on to the two shitty lead characters again as they shoot stuff, how exciting, blah blah blah. Please, for the love of god, wrap up soon. Please. The art from Smudge is alright, though I still contend that it’d look much better in colour rather than black and white. Although could someone tell me what the hell’s up with the last couple of panels on the first page, where we find Finny being cut loose then smoking in the next, but on the panel at the top of page just after this not smoking at all? Oh, fuck it, who cares? Be done already, I implore you.
Thankfully, Jaegir is here to never let the Prog end on a downer with that shite. Although not my favourite of this week’s episodes for a change – that would be the conclusion of Mega City Confidential – this series continues to impress. Like Outlier, it opens with a flashback, but does so with the purpose of making our heroine realise that the strigoi she’s hunting is smarter than she’s given it credit for – a lot better than the other’s strip poor attempt at characterisation. That is to be found here too, but it’s also done to greater effect: the flashback shows a side of Atalia’s father that was proud of her (in contrast to him beating her last week, no less), creepily marking her forehead with the blood of a bear that she didn’t flinch against as apparent symbolism of the future blood of Nordland’s enemies that he expects she’ll drench herself in as a soldier. What’s great is that he says this, and the next panel contrasts the young girl with a scarred woman, the “Madam Kapiten” of a team who investigates the crimes of their own people. Brilliant.
Sadly, it looks like this shall be ending soon, Grigoru launching his attack against Atalia and co. to end this week’s episode, probably meaning they’ll kill him next time, at which point I guess we’ll meet with the crippled old guy again to set us up for the start of another series. And hopefully whenever that series comes along Simon Coleby will still be artist, and Len O’Grady his colourist. Their cover is terrific this week and the art inside as good as always, perfectly suited for such a dark series as this.
Overall, another solid Prog. Whatever’s next for Judge Dredd, I hope it can live up to the brilliant Mega City Confidential. The next Prog arrived on Saturday so I’ve seen the fantastic cover, but I highly doubt its old school appearance has anything to do with whatever may be inside. Guess we’ll find out next time. Until then.