Returning from semi retirement to a Prog review, here is Orlok with his take on the mighty Prog 2015…
I keep using the word iconic for Greg’s work. As a Dreddhead there are few things more recognisably terrifying than the blood splattered badge of Sidney Death. It won’t be cover of the year for me, but it does exactly what is required in horrifying beauty.
Inside is another Droid Life. No smile cracked on my face this time and though I do understand that some people like it, I’m not one of them.
After a long wait we’re off to a quick start with some scene setting. A bunch of rich pricks seemingly led by a Branson-alike have decided to use their enormous wealth to quit the city and become interstellar colonists on the Mayflower. There’s a nice line or two here about how the good life is still possible in the worst circumstances, so long as you have a multi-billion cred bank balance. I can only hope Bono is on board.
With Death returned from oblivion, he is keen to reunite with his brethren and so has hunted them down. The Dark Judges are psychic so of course would have communicated to Death where they were. He breaks in to PJ’s gaff and sticks a gun on his temple to enforce his will. Since PJ is financially loaded I wonder if he will get Death and co aboard the Mayflower? Although I am sure the plot of the Dark Judges attacking a sealed off society was the plot of Die Laughing.
Elsewhere Dredd tries out the Lawgiver Mk3, which is a slight improvement over the Mk2. The big news is that heatseekers have been dropped from the standard load in favour of a stun shot, though it is still in use as an alternate. There’s a nice nod to Dredd continuity here with the marker shell and tracer bullet being mentioned.
Finally we cut to Logan, still in a bad way after his brush with Mortis. A very familiar looking Anderson goes into his noggin to try and figure out what is going wrong, and I suspect it’s more of the same post Dark Judge contact possession suffered by Yassa Povey. Either that or they are using the poor drokker as a bridge like they did with Kit Agee.
This is possibly Greg’s magnificent octopus. From the outset he gives us the shit eating grin and patronising pat on the head from the rich bellend, so we know that they probably all irredeemable cunts. With 4000 of them on a single large vessel I can only guess at what would happen should an alien superfiend and his cohorts get aboard. Cuntricide, I expect.
The colours and expressions are done perfectly and it’s hard to pick a favourite panel but the one on page 3 of Death climbing the wall as the lighting flashes is hard to top. The mood on this page is something carried off wordlessly, be it the rain dripping off the nose, the crazy eyes or the use of light.
Second would be the blurred perspective shot of Joe on page 5 as he tries out the new shooter.
Bringing up a tight third is the glorious POV shot of Logan going toe to toe with Mortis.
Top work, all of it.
Special mention must go to using the house of one Charles Foster Kane as a template for the design right down to his name being scratched out on the door buzzer.
THE VISIBLE MAN:
I’ll cover the art first as Hitchcock does some bloody fine work here. Loved the panel of Frank looking up the stairs in a downward angle, and that puzzled me for ages before I worked it out.
It’s probably no coincidence that in one panel, the priest looks uncannily like fellow inhuman monster and waterboarding enthusiast Dick Cheney.
Just as Frank is transparent to others, so are their motivations and morality to him.
When Frank and his missus happen upon a house perched precariously on the edge of a cliff they discover a priest inside. Father Wace is a man with secrets and after spotting the 70s and 80s toys in the room; Frank drags those secrets to light with brutal, er, Frankness. Knowing that the priest lies for a living, Frank sees through the rotten apples/cross to bear protest and exposes Wace as a child diddling monster who is working for the establishment.
There are some choice lines in here such as the Happy Families pun of “Mr Paedo, the priest” and it flows well as an assault on the horrors of child abuse.
Frank could also hear screaming in the walls, hinting at other powers bestowed by the alien contact, so we will see where that goes.
Though I abhor the actions of the Catholic Church as a whole, Pat can sometimes lay on the “religion is corrupt” stuff with a trowel and it can come across as preachy. There’s no faulting the message and we see here that such abuse has far reaching consequences, but repeating that message over and over turns it into a mantra. And anyone who has walked up a street alongside Hare Krishnas knows how annoying mantras get after just a few seconds.
As an ideas man, Pat Mills is a dude of broad horizons, all of them fucking awesome. It’s just the execution of those magnificent concepts that sometimes falls down for me.
Holy crap this is beautiful to look at and Burns is always at his best when drawing period pieces. And hot women. I had to put that last bit in due to a contractual agreement with Flint Lockjaw.
The story is one of Anna Kohl searching for the truth of her father’s death years before and the legend of how he went to his eternal rest in a struggle with Team Jacob.
With the revelation that his companion, who kept his face hidden, is now just a robot head we’re off from a medieval fantasy into something else.
The fact that he is called Ritterstahl is a dead giveaway to the metal bastard’s inner workings.
I actually lolled at the “Achtung! Reboot in progress!” as that’s the kind of thing you’d expect from a jumped up Teutonic operating system. Next thing you know it will start downloading U2 albums on the pretext of “just following orders”.
Once activated he connects to the cloud for a date stamp and realises that it is 1210 and the wurms will be returning. I believe you can get medicine for that.
Hard to judge on a single issue but it’s coming across like Skyrim vs Terminator and that’s well worth a punt.
In a flashback to a happier time, we get the story of what happened to Sweet on the years between his first foray into the prog and his violent return.
In a nod to Wolverine he is revealed to be the best there is at what he does and it was funny to see the dudes on the ship glibly accepting their imminent and brutal fate, especially when their comrade is decapitated and his severed head set ablaze. It’s hard to keep positive under such conditions, so I applaud their stoicism.
Sweet, sporting a haircut like a less bitter Kevin Sorbo, is having an existential crisis.
Having the chip of professional hug merchant Kinsey Warmz in his noggin hasn’t helped and he decides to remove it with high velocity. One brief bit of surgery later and he now resembles the Sweet we know and thus goes in search of a new chip.
The art was pretty cool and I loved the POV switch on page 2 as our narrators are blown away.
There was a nice mixed media piece on page 3 and the panels of a frustrated Sweet with a straw between his ear canal and nasal cavity were hilarious.
Ditto for the cocktail umbrella in the eye and the brutal headshot.
The chipper walk by Sweet as he heads to the well-guarded reception was brilliantly done, as was the “I’m kind of famous” panel of him checking out his nails.
It’s dumb but fun nonetheless.
Gordon Rennie has come up with a fantastic new story for the Rogue Trooper expanded universe. Unfortunately he’s gone with this one instead.
In a sort of flashback to Atalia’s unhappy childhood we get to see how the men in her life have let her down, especially her father. As a strong female character she is of course completely dominated and influenced by men and not her own self-determination.
Beaten by her brothers and reviled by her daddy she carries these issues with her on a daily basis and Rennie lays this on thick.
The only decent character study here is her father, who is a man so driven by his hatred of the Southers who tried to kill him in his own home that he sees all that happens as a personal slight. The atmocraft crash that claims his son is re-imagined as an assassination that galvanises his resolve to poison Nu Earth in response. It’s all about him and he doesn’t mind using his own family to achieve his revenge.
Knowing how good Rennie can be (love or loathe him, the guy certainly has talent) I’ve often wondered if he’s doing this story in an ironic way and being clichéd and heavy handed as an experiment to see who calls him on it. I dunno, it just seems too by the numbers so far.
Even the visit to the graveyard featured the double tropes of libation for the dead/talking to the grave.
At the end of this (after talky talk talk dialogue) we’re left with the revelation that Atalia made a promise to cap the old man and her one remaining good brother is now a brain damaged, drooling mess. He’s an ideal UKIP candidate.
The only bonus here is the artwork which is extraordinary. Gorgeous backgrounds, lovely layouts and when Atalia is beaten by the douchiest brother she has blood on her face not unlike her eventual scar tissue.
Well we’re off to a cracking start with this.
Frank is back not only in the Low Life but also in Wally attire and is still reeling from the whole Nixon thing.
He gets in touch with his old oppo, the incorruptible Nicky Narko, who is a man with an unusual coping strategy. Whenever he views temptation his body goes into narcoleptic shutdown with great comedic effect. His user name on the chat message that Frank gets is “Nickynaptime”- brilliant.
It’s a shame we don’t get to see more of him as he goes out swinging in the last act, but sometimes less is more for these characters so they don’t suffer overuse like Sensitive Klegg.
After some peccadillo/pedalo confusion we see how Frank is trying in vain to put things back in order. This is made all the more difficult by his former contact with Smiley. Hearing this name makes Frank queasy and I can fully understand why. The thought of that utter nonsense fair turns my stomach too. Frank is also hallucinating Smiley’s ducks as part of this reflection but he manages a beautiful Christmas carol to banish such unpleasantness.
Aimee appearing as a ghost is perhaps an indication that something unpleasant happens on Enceladus and is a nice Segway into what’s coming.
The art is just joyous. I love the citizens we see (cross dresser with beard and afro star haircut; Cyborg with a face mask that looks right out of Mass Effect) and the dirty signs (“Suqui/Suqui”) are just, well, dirty. Especially that one on panel 3. Yes, you know the one.
Lovely snow effects, especially against a lovely cityscape, are a real joy here and the panel of Frank holding his hand out for the snowflake was amazing. The only downside is that I keep scanning over every panel for something else going on in case I miss it. As a consequence it takes me three times as long to read it!
I absolutely loved this.
In a flashback to better days we get a retelling of the story from Prog 20. This gives a whole new insight into Max Normal informing on Skinner and Sloper and their comic pushing ways, since he wasn’t doing it for the good of the city; it was purely for payback.
The confrontation with the mech is nicely done and the reference to the original story; Corridor (Prog) 20, Crate 9/7/77 (Publication date) was a great touch. Adams has pulled off a love letter to the first appearance of Normal and it works beautifully.
The “I don’t remember you giving me any creds!” and Max’s reaction was just laugh out loud funny.
I adored the sign for “Snork’s” in the shape of a bulbous nose and the pensive looking Max on the bottom of page 1.
The flashback to a city long gone featured the likes of The Collector, Fatties, Chopper, The Statue of Judgement, skysurfers and the Aggro Dome fist. It was brilliant.
Willsher also lovingly redraws some of McMahon’s original panels and saves the best for last with that amazing splash of holo-ghosts of Thrills Past. Here the holo ghosts of the younger protagonists look over their shoulders enjoying the thrills of yesteryear.
Bonobo-Hunter is pure fucking genius and I loved the Jungle/Monkey/Zoo related block names in there too. This is even more spectacular when their ruined names spell out a holiday message.
Hmmmn. We’re a little backwards and forwards on this. We learn that a squad of supers is being assembled by the Volgs. Probably not in time to prevent their defeat by the resistance but possibly as a weapon of retribution. Although the “Junk Monk” sounds vaguely pornographic.
All the talk of transhumanism and wanting to be like Blackblood is a disturbing development and it will be interesting to see just what monsters the Volgs will produce.
Back in the present, the resistance are in the shit and our Bill decides it is high time to go out in a blaze of glory. He’s just about to lead the Forlorn Hope when Quartz’s raptor drones arrive and kick fuck out of the dirty Volgs. Unlike the modern day equivalent these aerial death merchants are able to pick out the difference between heavily armed enemies and schoolchildren and this is hammered home when the drones turn on the Tolpuddle Martyrs with eerie accuracy. Marked down as having no place in the future society due to their radical views, Quartz is apparently bowing to pressure to remove them from the playing field. This makes Savage angry as evidenced by his deadened and murder filled eyes.
I was wondering what would happen there come the peace, for what is Savage without a war? He’s a forever dissatisfied and chronically enraged murder machine using the death of his family to fuel his killing spree. In peacetime there will be no place for him.
The art is fucking gorgeous. Nuff said.
Karl Richardson has upped his game here. This art looks differently inked than we are used to and only a handful of the characters look like steroid abusers.
The panels of Axle retaliating to the initial hit with ruthless efficiency are breath-taking and the panel of the bent Judge in the diner was great. There was Pops and Junior while in the next booth Axle gives it the watchful eye as a bribe is made.
The gorgeous panel of the various ghostly victims confronting Axel was the highlight. Here we see how grimly some of them were disposed of. It’s easy to see how this might trouble a man in reflection.
And was it me or has Lewis changed her hair colour since Traumatown?
It makes absolutely perfect sense of course that the mobs would employ psykers to protect them not only from the Jays but from other mobs too. I’d never considered that.
The psykers being referred to as muties is also a nice nod to the movie.
My only quibble is that Axle gets his head wound an immediately starts to doubt the job he is doing. Does this mean that the Justice Department are constantly probing him for weakness and managed a breakthrough just when he got grazed on the noggin? Or is that a bit of script convenience we just have to go with? I know there was the reference to the psi shenanigans of Traumatown but the probing did not work until after the head injury so that must be the key.
Regardless of how we get there Axle goes gun crazy taking out Pops, Junior and the henchmen before being confronted by Judges who mop up the remainder.
Bottom line, this was a brilliant one off, smartly told and almost Parker-like in plot.
We’re getting a sequel to Titan. That’s good knowing the talent involved but I hope it is more cohesive than the first one which had gaps and inconsistencies you’d find in the witness statements of a shooting in Missouri.
A quiz! And it is a really tough one too.
I’d expect that in an annual so it was a pleasant surprise.
A beautiful star scan by Godmachine of Fire and Mortis!
Next prog we have Orlok (no relation).
I’m going with the Max Normal tale but there was some really tough competition in the form of the two Dredd tales, both of which were excellent.