Review by Jacqusie
COVER: A monochrome masterpiece from Disraeli, which actually tells us very little of what is to come inside and more importantly, who the mysterious trio ‘the bad pennies‘ are. There are no signs of life in those leering eyes and a brief cameo on the final page of the last episode, again gave little away to the reader towards their designs. It might not make cover of the year, but it’s unique, idiosyncratic and menacing charm is enough to delight this fanboy.
DREDD: Block Judge
Dredd continues his tireless quest to bring his brand of law and order to Gramercy Heights, with no rest for the wicked and poor old Corrigan by the looks of it. I keep wondering if the block’s moniker is play on words from the old strip Mercy Heights, or moreover it was with good intentions that it was blessed with it’s grateful name.
Not that old Gilbert George would have been too thankful for his acid bath, and with a great one liner opportunity missed with him being a psychic and not seeing that coming. Still, it was intriguing the way that Dredd took off his gauntlet to touch George’s decaying skin in assessing the time of the murder. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dredd do that and it’s more than a little odd, when the body has had acid sloshed on the wrist that Joe’s delicate pinkies now gently fondle.
Seriously, that’s a very womanly hand of Dredd.
I’m loving the narrative of this, as Dredd mulls the crime over in his melon, giving an air of the detective in Joe and the panel on the second page even looks as though he’s chewing his lip whilst pondering the motive for the death of the Financial Psychic. It’s all part of the threads, that Wagner is so good at spinning into his usual web of intrigue, the arrangement of characters all enacting their part in the stories interplay, with a credibility and depth of quality that can even give rise for captivation in a corpse’s role in the story.
The panel where Dredds team blow Knights door, is one a sheer Ezquerra joy from old, in it’s execution and contrast both in light/shade and to the rest of the gum-shoe tactics Dredd plays out, with Knight’s reaction equally as charming as Dredd pulls on the metaphorical rubber glove. Great stuff.
STICKLEBACK: The Thru’penny Opera
Speaking of intrigue, The Crooked man and his warped chums provide more than their fair share in this weeks beguiling episode. A cosy chat over a cuppa tea leads to a rather startling and wondrous revelation concerning our Robert with a subtle, yet clever change in his anatomy too. I want to appreciate this strip for all it’s genius and so have taken to reading it several times to try to catch the fishies that hide amongst the reed banks of Disraeli’s fascination and although I’m landing most of the surreptitious nods and winks, there are always a few furtive tiddlers that seem to get away.
A second cast over butterfingers Bobs brew serving skills and cor blimey guv’nor, he’s only gawn and got his mince pie’s back!
This kind of reminds me of when Bill Bixby’s eyes went full on shit pantingly, freaky fruity in the 70’s Hulk series, when he turned into the green machine. As a three year old kid, to say I didn’t really appreciate having to watch those terrifying scenes is an understatement, but my parents thought it was a laugh.
Anyhoo, we now have the disclosure that the sigil in blood is in fact not a sigil and it’s only blummin Robert the Great’s old gaff, av a banana. It’s interesting to wonder at the magic of the image and the witches, that Bob pertains to, which “lifts the shroud of years off my mind”. For Bob to get his peepers back at this, one imagines what else may have stirred in the old fella.
Talking of old fella’s, the reaction to the inconceivable chain of events from Stickleback is brilliant, as he scratches at his fez, confounded and humbled in the Pangean Kings presence; “How can you even BE here?”. It’s all an absolute delight as one King exalts another.
GREYSUIT: Prince of Darkness
Now to give this a fair go, I also read this thrice and alas thrice I was not thrilled by its presence. I don’t have anything against the art, as John Higgins has always been a Steady Eddie in my book and I really like his use of the realistic backgrounds here. Nope, I’m sorry to say that it’s Pat Mills and his style of story telling that just can’t get on with.
We all know that the premise of the story is hardly original in 2000AD lore and having given that a nod too, I still can’t summon up any excitement to either; the characters or, what is occurring both in the flashbacks and present day. It is most apparent in some of the former, being of such fragmented dialogue that it makes my gears grind with it’s disjointed story telling. It’s almost as if someone has removed several panels from the story, leaving out great chunks of untold, yet fundamental conversation.
To be honest I’m not that enamoured by the story per-se, so try as I might to free myself of bias, I have to just accept that this doesn’t do it for me, one mans fish being another mans poisson an all that jazz.
ICHABOD AZRAEL: One Last Bullet
Yee haa! Less’ all gather round for a good ol’ hanging as Ichabod continues to not fear the reaper, although his trousers may say different when the Hunter in his horrific new guise ‘schlops’ towards him. I love the fact that the Hunter is now an amalgamation of his mutated hounds and vile apparatus and that there are two apparent guises of justice on show here.
Confusion continues to dictate his epitaph to Ichabod in this episode and now that Deputy Crowe has got with the plot, it will be interesting to see how he will settle his scores in this final tale. The General Beauregard is on excellent form as usual and his interaction with Ichabod provides the light heart, along with the stories version of Mr Ed. A talking horse is nothing too crazy really, after all we have been through in this captivating series full of fabulous dialogue, so why not give the horse some too as we await the next fall out from the winds, that seem to circle our anti-hero.
The artwork from Michael Dowling is top notch and I’d even go so far to say that it beats his run on Anderson, or maybe that it fits this series in black and white so well my judgement is clouded? Whatever, his use of shadow and light is magnificent with no grayscale to fall back on, just old fashioned pen and ink which works a treat especially the unveiling of the wild eyed general.
I’ve struggled in parts with this series to really appreciate what is occurring and what is fantasy. Yet to be honest I gave up caring and just went along for the ride on those occasions, as this is such a great concept and the familiarity of the characters that keep cropping up makes it feel like I’m greeting old friends each time.
My hat is off to Rob Williams for creating this Wild-West fantasy and it could have gone terribly wrong given the cult material to cut from, but he has pulled it off with aplomb and with such fantastic recent works as Ordinary and The Royals as well as his run on Dredd, I don’t think it too much praise to say that he might just be one of the best writers in comics today.
KINGDOM: Aux Drift
I get the sense that I’m now in a minority of those who find Kingdom rather dreary these days and that really can only be a good thing. I suppose I should try and take my brain out, enjoy the artwork and view this as a Stephen Segal ‘mean moody fightin’ machine’ type situation where I’m obviously looking for something that’s just not there.
Without wishing to sound repetitive, I’m just a bit fatigued by it’s formulaic pattern and of course I’m happy for you guys if this floats your boat, but it’s too limited in both content and execution for my tastes and I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a pretentious arse, but repetitive gratuitous violence for it’s own sake gets a little tedious after a while, especially when the enemy is a non-sentient race.
Then again we might have some plot development soon, with such crazy characters as Jess Ticulate or Bob Sleigh being introduced into the action, the latter who is called Bob and he rides a sleigh, but also has been on the walkabout, is tougher and tough and gets whet at the mere mention at the scrapping of the day. Joining them later could be Pat & Ron Eyze who turn up to regail us all with some new hullabaloo and they too will enjoy getting whet with the rest of the pack who can all get eaten by them big them things for me.
TOP THRILL: Bless ‘is little cotton socks, Stickleback