With a song in his heart and a fire in his loins that is probably worthy of a visit to the GUM clinic, here is Orlok with his take on 1901…
Jesus Horatio Christ, we’re getting a bit spoiled of late, this time with the deceased Ichabod Azrael gracing the cover. This is an evocative and moody piece of work from Nick Percival showing the titular maniac in all his defiant glory. With a smokewagon in each hand and a duster that makes him look every inch the Saint of Killers, he stands on a stunningly coloured plain while skulls appear in the sky overhead. Skulls are always good.
Unless you’re Fred West hoping to fool the cops into digging over your back garden so you can plant carrots.
The logo has been left alone too. That’s double plus good.
Inside Raging Tharg checks out my reviews of the progs preceding the jump on and also informs us of the incoming thrill of Orlok (no relation) by Messrs Wyatt and Lynch. I’m not sure how much mileage there is in that character since an end point has been definitely established but it does look lovely.
Dredd implements his block wide policy changes while the assorted cits react to the new regime.
The colours really stood out for me this prog and for the first time I noticed the new credit boxes, presumably the work of Parr.
The snapshots of life in the block tell a rich, dense tale that doesn’t seem overly long and introduces characters that we will probably interact with as we go. What struck me here was the individual look of each of the residents we get a peek at. Even after decades in the business Carlos can still show the sameface artists exactly how shit gets done.
Dredd’s immediacy of cleaning the lower levels of garbage and defacement and the installation of small cameras (the leaflet drop and signs are a masterstroke) speaks to his resolve that attitude is the key here and dissuaded citizenry is only half the battle. The cits have to have a clean environment to want to keep it that way.
Coupled with the art it is really intense storytelling but incredibly effective. Instead of an info dump it gives us a look at the cross section of block life in just a few panels and tells us everything we need to set us up for wherever this goes.
From the put upon mother of out of control fucknut Budge through bitter bomb maker Peet to a woman consuming practice gel packs to train her gullet for the impossible dream of championship eating, Wagner gives us a rich tapestry of Big Meg craziness and despair.
It’s smart stuff to show the divisions between rich and poor in the block too. As I type this I’ve just come back from a lecture on socioeconomic inequality in NZ, and the ingrained traits of both the haves and have nots are laid before us by Wagner in a few short sentences. The rich don’t go to the lower levels for fear of the crime and the poor don’t venture up out of feckless disinterest (or security).
The keenly observed “work is as rare as a Judge’s smile” made me chuckle and realise that post Chaos Day the Judges haven’t conscripted the whole survivor population to rebuild the city.
Beeny’s interrogation technique and threat to pat the unfortunate Bobbybob on the back in front of the Skids was simply brilliant and shows she has a different way of looking at it than Dredd who would probably just reel of the promise of cube years.
The lottery ploy was classic Wagner from the old Daily Star Strips, so it was great to see that used on a fresh generation of criminal fools.
I absolutely loved the old guy informing on the scrotes next door and watching the action unfold through the spy hole in his door.
Best line? “Guess we’ll be gettin’ new neighbours.”
It looks like big trouble on Level 66 next week as there is going to be gang payback.
Stickle learns more about The Cutter and goes to the papers to flush him out.
Well, the art’s just a bit good, innit? The texture work is sublime and the first panel of the skinned, upside down face is quite a jolt. Best of all is the gorgeous panel on page four of Scarlet in shadow, her tattoos playing in both light and dark. There’s great split panel work here too.
Stickleback being challenged by Scarlet was clever with her throwing his recent tussle with Grouty Jr back at him as evidence of his perceived impotence. She would never have done such a thing back in the day so is pushing at what she sees as a softening of the man.
It’s an interesting revelation that The Cutter is not just going after hookers, like the brilliantly referenced Saucy Jack (the Ripper) and Sister Hyde. Instead he’s targeting anyone he wishes before vanishing back to the shadows of obscurity.
I feel we’re in for another slow burn but this tale is all about the journey and not the destination, so just enjoy the ride.
Blake undergoes reorientation by killing some villainous asshats
It was quite a shock seeing that the story wasn’t a direct follow on. Instead we’re left with a part reboot/part puzzle as we figure out what went on and what is going to happen. All of it is done without the need for story hobbling flashbacks every instalment. Bottom line; character reintroduction doesn’t get much better than this, so lap it up.
And new readers are now aware that Greysuits are the ultimate assassins, being superhuman and ruthless.
Here Blake offs two ne’er do wells and it is an act of cleverness that the whole thing is being monitored to the point where just as one of them is about to self-terminate, he is shown a way out. As the cuntish Lenny deludes himself into thinking he is being recruited for a life of adventure, fast cars and wealth he comes face to jaw with the stark reality. He is vermin to be put down; no more and no less.
This is great stuff from Uncle Pat, using the narrative viewpoint of the prey to reveal what the Greysuits are and we are left with the underlying promise that Blake will be called upon to kill a cop next time as a final, final test.
You can bet this will have all sorts of issues that Mills will be keen to explore. Hopefully in subtlety.
John Higgins is my favourite 2000AD artist. That opener with Blake standing on the rock against a leaden sky is just jaw dropping and Higgins is one of the truly chameleonic artists out there. He is able to adapt his style to comedy or drama with almost insulting ease.
I cannot draw to save my life so really appreciate it when I see it done well, especially from one of my fellow Merseysiders. Apart from my irrational hatred of Leigh Gallagher. Though I suspect that to be simple jealousy and/or a man crush.
Anyway the shadow work and expressions on show here are a masterclass in artistic competence and I’ve never seen a face being punched off with such brutal elegance.
That said, give me five minutes with James Corden and I’ll give it a fair fucking go.
Ichabod Azrael continues his rampage, putting God firmly in his sights.
I’ve been reading the Bible of late so he absolutely deserves it.
So, we pick up where we left off. Icky goes postal, giving Charon a lead lobotomy and then is surprised to find the armies of Purgatory against him. Go figure.
Crossing the Styx leads to a brief impassable obstacle like a really weird version of The Truman Show before he breaks through to meet a talking horse.
We’ve all been there after a night on Jägermeister.
Below him is the town of Atonement where God apparently awaits.
The script is pure joy to read and I’m tempted to paraphrase the great Mr Taggart “God darnit, Mr. Williams, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.”
Except that might be a little weird.
Dowling is a bit special isn’t he? A competent and skilled artist in his own right he has adapted his style to meld perfectly with that of the previous artists. You know it is Dowling and can see flashes of his work but it just looks different enough to puzzle over. That subtlety of shift works wonders and I hope that if this is ever collected then we’ll see it for the skill it represents.
The first (colour) page that is eventually blasted away is just amazing, the warm yellow slowly giving way to the ashen grey as Ichabod recalls the false memory. There’s a cool juxtaposition of the peaceful and colourful opener with the black and white carnage that follows as Icky ventilates Charon’s head with a primal shout.
The sight of Atonement from the hill is giving me Red Dead Redemption flashbacks. Now where did I leave my Rolling Rock rifle?
Gene and his army get whet and make it to Aux Drift.
A whole different kind of story this one and it fits perfectly in the prog as big dumb fun; a Saturday morning kid’s cartoon directed by Michael Bay and starring a man who can lick his own testicles. It is carnage as an artform, ably drawn by the always surprising Elson. Ryder provides perfect colours to match and that really makes the battle scenes pop.
There’s a cool revelation that Gene will find the Kingdom but the real strength here is the wording. The name puns are a better fit here than in Downlode where they are more of an insult disguised as something groan inducing. Here, coupled with such bon mots as “made up for in sack” and “give yourselves pat, dogs!” Abnett’s creative smarts shine bright.
Finding the compound under siege by Them is a nice nod to the story of the battle of 1879. Having said that, Abnett is steeped in Warhammer knowledge so he may well be referencing Orc’s Drift, which is a closer phonetic match.
Not a dud in the bunch, which is both excellent and annoying as I have to choose a favourite. Gonna go with Dredd out of sheer bloody mindedness.
The Prog has not been this strong in a long time and it’s fucking magnificent to see.