Orlok looks at Prog 1991 which is a marked improvement over the last one despite the fact that Black Shuck is still in it. Reading it has been hard going and there are better ways to spend your time such as watching Suicide Squad or calling all of your exes and telling them they need to get tested.
Neil Roberts pulls off a very strong contender for cover of the year.
Since the covers of the Judge Dredd RPG I have been a sucker for the old trio of Lawmasters rushing off the page.
I absolutely loved the design of the bike here with the cyclops laser gleaming and the different coloured headlamps standing made me think I was thumbing through the back issues and coming across a Star Scan. Despite the awesome bike porn of the Willsher, I love anything that makes the old school Lawmaster look awesome, and this certainly does that.
Ditto for the deep black of the uniforms with bluish tint on the helmet reflecting what is in the sky above. And that is of course, some gorgeous Charlie Squirrel style H-Wagons flying overhead.
The green citi-blocks remind me of some of the McMahon era blocks (most notably from Mega City Rumble) and that too was a nostalgic shot in the arm.
There’s just too much to like about it and I could easily end up buying that if it was for sale. I’d probably have to sell a kidney.
Inside Yewtree Tharg seems to have have a pop at Brexit in the Damage Report. Weird. I felt that a green skinned immigrant would have no worries about reprisals from knuckle dragging fuckwits, but there you go. It’s the end of days.
Reading this is like sitting before a fine meal after having a massive shit. It really is a far cry from what we have been experiencing these last few months with a desperately poor showing in the Prog. Sorry, but there you have it.
The hunt for PJ is on and Dredd lays it out with a 1 million credit bounty for info leading to his arrest.
Even though the city has been broken the people remain the same and the usual kooks come forward to claim the bounty, whcih gives us a nice sense of business as usual.
In a lovely character study, Dredd himself is obsessing and keeps returning to Strepsil Mansion in case he has missed something. He probably hasn’t but the fact that Maybe has gotten away and caused more death and destruction rankles him, especially given what horrors were unleashed as part and parcel of that evasion.
It is revealed that Ciudad Barranquilla is again being uncooperative with the investigation of PJ’s assumed identity, which is weird. Isn’t that a Mega City One satellite state now thanks to the regime change and the installati- oh, that Gordon Rennie story was utterly non-canonical? Oh, fair enough.
While going through his investigation, Dredd notes that guns are not really in the PJ playbook and so he knows his quarry well to the point where there is almost a respect there.
Could this change (and the other change mentioned later) be a sign that Dredd may be underestimating his enemy? Are we going to see this missing firearm used against Dredd or someone close to him?
Speaking of changes, there is a lead from citizen Budley who reveals that he and PJ were lovers. It seems our boy PJ is quite the Tom Ripley being chameleonic in his sexual preferences be it girls, robot girls, eldster women or Chief Judges with a penchant for daystick action. He’s never been gay before but good luck to him I say as it is no longer a cottage industry. So to speak.
Hopefully this is setting up the last hurrah for PJ as he and Dredd need to have some sort of closure and as he has reached his zenith, keeping him on now will seem like a bad move. I hope Wagner sends him out with a bang though.
Artwise it is really nice and PJ has gone all Johnny Alpha in his looks (check out that Alpha nose!). Whittle will be beside herself.
I do love Ezquerra’s work to display the city and the big screens here are well rendered to the point where this feels like a future city from the layouts and the size. This is where the likes of PJ Holden fail as they never seem to convey the scale nor the futurism of the city. Instead of a Big Meg that looks like 22nd Century New York, we get something that looks like 1996 Bradford, which sometimes takes you out of the story.
Interestingly, Carlos used a map of NY here, including the Hudson River and green spaces of the boroughs. Though the Hudson has been mentioned before and even seen once or twice, it is unusual to see it is all there as it is in these primitive times. Maybe this is just the Squirrel being stubborn as he draws the old style Lawgivers too.
Top prize goes to page 5 panel 4 as I love the background where Dredd is towering over the seated perp. We have seen Dredd do this many times as part of his intimidation technique and it is his signature move when it comes to the up close and personal interrogation.
This of course plays into the nostalgia of the strip and the obsessive nature of Joe in that he will use this technique again and again to get results.
Good return to form and unlike the last few months I am eager to see the next instalment.
Bloody hell, this is a perfect match between storytelling and art.
It’s all kicked off as Anish takes an interest in Bridge’s hallucinations, saying that this ties in with a suspicion he has. This doubt brings him closer to Bridge who grabs him just as Bob fires.
With feathers and blood exploding from Anish’s coat we see what Bob meant now about them being expensive. The feathers will be hard to come by considering we have seen no wildlife on the stations and if the planet is really in a shit state, then chances are we have seen mass extinctions too.
Bridge fires the gun in Anish’s pocket hitting Bob and she finishes him off with a round in the eye but not before he gets off a shot that hits her shoulder.
At this point, Frannie snaps and goes for the gun, initiating a Mexican standoff. Hang on, can we still say that?
Brilliantly Frannie is a totally disjointed fruitloop merely concluding that “You shot Bob. He was really clever” by way of her emotional involvement.
They both shoot and Bridge is the better shot, sending the crazy bitch over the balcony and hopefully to a splatty end.
In the words of Nelson Muntz “Ha-ha”.
The kinetics of that simple gunfight are so well meshed with the story that it is hard to separate it and the art, but I will give it a whirl.
Like the slaying of Brink and the gun play that followed, the simple touches here make this a believable exchange. Frannie’s pulling at her coat hood to get warm, covering her ears as the shots ring out and the sight of flying feathers is smart stuff that gives this a pace and grounding that keeps you in the moment.
There’s also a nice POV shot of the gun pointed at Anish and the different angles used in the exchange make each panel fresh. We’ve all seen the repetitive panel trope in gunfights and it probably lost its appeal after the third or fourth time. Here it never once loses the kinetic flow and I love the amount of red used as the scene gets bloodier and bloodier.
I rarely say this, but this is shit. Embarrassingly shit, in fact to the point where I wouldn’t let anyone read this Prog as I have in the past.
So what happens? Well, one ghost pup is contained, the second is grabbed (it’s a spirit but still apparently corporeal) by the Queen until it can be contained with magic. By a priest. Who clearly needs to have a fucking good think about his belief system.
Meanwhile, with a pregnant wife, Shuck follows the path of many expectant fathers and goes off to wrestle with a one eyed monster.
Shuck is victorious, driving a bolt through eye of the Yeth hound, ripping it out and popping it. This kills it for some reason. Not sure why. Don’t fucking care.
Meanwhile, Coenwulf just shows up in the background and begins a crackdown worthy of a Brexiter in that he is going to kick all immigrants out.
The art is the same as we have come to expect and though the colours are great (just look at that sunrise), it simply cannot lift the fight scenes above the bland. That’s a terrible shame.
There’s a standard fuck up when the bolt changes position in Shuck’s hand giving the impression that the artist is just phoning this in.
I just want this to end now and never come back. I know it will, of course and I can bet that a handshake has already taken place. I can only hope that it will be much improved, not just for my selfish benefit but because it can be something the Prog can be proud of.
Ok, so this ticks along a little, but again we are watching people watch TV, which is not the best narrative device to maintain this on.
Essentially we learn that the Hurde are now attacking Alliance colonies, with Carcer now looking at the camera and giving his best “Le Tigre”.
For some reason, he is neural tapping a rat, so maybe he is learning how to piss all over things, much like the creators of Black Shuck.
For extra content, there’s some frisson between Luthra and Sornell (now promoted to General) and it is revealed that when the Hurde attack a military cargo ship they are ambushed by an armourigami shoal that drops in and tears them a new arse before it attacks the Hurde ship.
Tough shit on the crew, but fuck ‘em.
Either the tide is now turning, or the Hurde are allowing this to happen in order to engage and adapt to the new weapon.
We’ve no motivations for the Hurde yet so maybe that is coming but so far I don’t have a clue and at the stage that we do get to know, will it be too late to get engaged with it?
The art is OK but not quite to my personal tastes. The only real fault I can find is that several times the Alliance symbol switches from back to front, even though the writing stays the same.
Our visitor reveals to Ahron that he is a splice and that he has decadent tastes such as eating maltesers and being driven around in a Rolls (with half legs and half wheels!).
This prompts a history lesson and some revelations from the immigrant Venusian about how he dislikes the splices because they have initiated the problem. In an echo of 50s/60s Britain and some isolated pockets of the modern era, common or garden bigots have turned into monsters because of fear. Anyone who has seen the spike in attacks post Brexit or the unedited footage from a Trump rally knows how easy this situation can develop but I guess the writer was drawing this from 60s Blighty and the sentiment summed up by Enoch powell and his stirring Rivers of Blood speech. And by stirring I mean “cunty”.
The history lesson fills in some of the blanks from the 1935 invasion and the pummelling of the South.
In 1945, a flotilla of Venusian refugees arrive at Earth and half of them are blown up. It seems that such was the anger and distrust, even after they were found to be refugees, the shooting still didn’t stop and the Earth seemed to have no appetite to help. This seems remarkably like the current Australian policy towards boat people.
Like a dead Syrian toddler splashed across the front page, Radio Caroline broadcasts images of dead Venusian children and this outrage is enough to stop the murder.
As with refugees all over, the survivors are put into camps and made into pariahs. They don’t want to be there and the indigenous population don’t want them either.
There also seems to be no desire to free Venus and waste human lives on this endeavour but the knowledge of the Martian plan will undoubtedly change this.
The art is beautiful and I’m still looking out for the homages be it the Venusians from Dan Dare or the big red construction vehicles with “Houseman Road Maintenance” on them which I think is from Thunderbirds. The Rolls reminds me a little of FAB 1 too.
And was the chauffer/potential assassin (Captain Skellen) a nod of the hat to the late great Lewis Collins in the risible Who Dares Wins? maybe I am seeing too much there.
The expressions are great (especially the one on Skellen as he underlines what a pleasure it would be to pop the splice should he step out of line), the backgrounds are rich in detail and there is a nice comparative image of Martians invading both London and Venus.
Top marks goes to that image of the Venusian ghetto including some exotic alien fruits and veg.
Also, check out the excellent Scarlet Traces review linked to on this very site! It’s fantastic.
Though Dredd was an amazing return to quality and Brink was excellent I’m going to break with the standard and choose that lovely cover.