Fresh from a punch up with a p-addict (yes, really), here is Orlok with a frank review of 1992. There’s thrills, there’s spills, there’s even a dig at Steven Ross. Read on.
First a disclaimer; if you don’t like my reviews, which as a consumer I am entitled to write, then don’t read them. It really is that simple. If you want to read a review that will applaud every story like a drunken seal for fear of being unfriended by the artist or writer on Facebook, go elsewhere.
My reviews are scathing but honest and I have no personal issue with artists or writers involved, just the work that is produced. Gordon Rennie, for example, has written a fucking masterpiece with Absalom and it is consistently brilliant, tightly paced and funny with every outing. Jaegir, however, I regard as badly written and replete with gaps and I review both of those strips with frank honesty.
But let’s get to the meat of the contention here. Despite my criticism of his recent stories Michael Carroll remains my top choice should Wagner ever tag him in as lead writer.
Why? Well this is because of the current crop of Dredd writers who aren’t Wagner, he remains the one who is most passionate, most knowledgeable and most capable of “getting” the character. All of these are admirable traits which mark him out as the guy I would want running with the baton should that day ever come and unless we get someone else who is as conkers deep in Dredd-lore then that’s not going to change.
Is he beyond making bad stories? Absolutely not. But you know what, neither is Wagner, and those of you with better memories will remember my critical dissatisfaction with the PJ Maybe escape story leading up to Day Of Chaos.
These two states (criticism of a droid’s work and respect for their overall ability) can exist simultaneously and if you don’t understand this, then I ask you to go and watch both The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia (in that order) and get to grips with two disaparate performances by the fantastic Meryl Streep, the latter of which will make you want to scoop out your own eyeballs and smash them underfoot.
Though my review style may be called into question as a matter of personal taste (and believe me I do understand that), the fact remains that it is my opinion and not intended to sway anyone.
And at the end of the day you can always tell me to go fuck myself. But, you know, that would be denying your mum…
Well that’s just damned beautiful work from The Ronald. How I hate him.
I believe my fellow reviewers have already pointed out the false advertising taking place, but the thing is just so perfectly framed it virtually throws itself into your hands from the shelf. The central figure, being Shuck, has massive claws and is far more terrifying than the actual creature inside, which looks like a Yorkshire terrier that has been birthed by Kerry Katona. This figure really stands out against the moon and to top it off the terrified soldiers in the flames convey the emotion we are meant to feel on seeing a hairy dogbeast bearing down on you.
Iz McAuliffe knows what I’m talking about.
In short the entire thing is striking and it such a shame the story cannot live up to this.
Inside Yewtree Tharg reminds us that Kingdom will be returning and a reunion is on the cards. Can’t wait.
We also get the usual random selection of letters with Earthlet Paul Sweet starkly laying out Hershey’s failures in the Carroll story and it being remarkable that such a fuck up hasn’t seen her fall on her sword.
Being the thrillseeking loon Maybe plays a dangerous game but manages to be on site right under Dredd’s nose and is probably enjoying this all the more.
As Dredd doesn’t see it, you just know he will kick himself for that later. This goes ditto for his delay in sending over an art droid until the next morning. That delay costs them dearly and seals Budley’s fate at the hands of the maniac.
A search of the apartment reveals it is indeed PJ who has the killer hips and manly nips and so they have had to re-evaluate their approach to catching the bastard.
Horribly it is revealed that Budley is slowly rotting away due to rad rot and that PJ seduced him while dressed as a woman. This revelation surprises Dredd who “never had him down for same sex”, forcing him to re-evaluate his quarry once again.
There is a classic Dreddism where it is pointed out that PJ is experimental, when the old man replies “you’re not wrong there.”
To buy himself some time, PJ hooked up with Budley and then when he left he decided to ensure his silence, cruelly lacing a box of cremolies with rad rot knowing that Budley would eat them in desperate grief. That’s a real dick move.
What I absolutely loved here was the robots, though and Wagner writes robot dialogue really well as they come across as quite matter of fact and deadpan. The scenes where they pull off Budley’s nose in mid conversation are just brilliant.
The final panel of Nurse PJ killing Budley with a bandage was excellent too and that sort of shock is how an instalment should end, because it makes you want to read the next part rght now. And that’s something that has been missing from my Dredd reads for a while.
The art is lovely, and Budley’s mask reminds me a little of a Renaissance era doctor’s mask. I also loved the attention to detail of the blurred screen in the background of page 4 panel 3 and it is little touches like this that have always taken Carlos’s work above the norm.
One of the things that astonishes me is that how Abnett manages to pull off a narrative flow so utterly different to both Grey Area and Sinister Dexter (shudder).
The way this develops is almost indicative of a closed environment which also helps to bring alive the realisation that this entire strip is somewhat claustrophobic in nature. All of our characters are trapped in space in metal boxes and even alone time is a rarity.
What we get here is a great wrap up and a cliffhanger to keep us wondering and that is part of the strength of this story. Just when you think the script is going one way (solar space egg) you get it pushed towards a different option (spiked food) and then we are left with another twist; Mercury has gone dark.
It also flows so well that you think there have only been seven or eight instalments when the reality is twice that.
So, what happens? Well, with Bridge surveying her handiwork, she calls in assistance and evacs Anish.
Hassan confirms that contaminants are present in the food processing of the troubled areas and that (of course) foods exported to other habitats are carrying it along.
Finally Bonner gets to sit down and do a case review with Bridge and remarks that though the case has far reaching consequences, they are working through it methodically and procedurally instead of taking names and kicking ass. Before he can conclude he and everyone else is called to alert since they have lost contact with Mercury.
The art is just lovely and the expressions and silhouette work in the Bonner/Bridge scenes are sublime. Panels are also entirely different each time so that it changes up and never looks samey as you dart from one to the next, following the conversational flow.
There’s great detail here too with Bridge’s bloodshot very eye evident. A lesser artist would forget that.
In a mood killing way, we open with the thrilling tale of a man in a pub reading about Suffolk folklore.
Back in the fight, Coenwulf gets Eadwald to kneel like the little bitch he is and we get a brief bit of rebellion where some of the locals have a “Spartacus” moment announcing that they are against the King. All that was missing from the “and me!” trope was someone saying “…and my axe.”
This was then broken up by our hero returning and exclaiming “I Black Shuck, stand with King blah blah blah”. Seriously, who talks like this outside of 1950s Hollywood movies?
Unless he’s a fake Black Shuck from an early version of TMWRNJ and has to keep saying “I am Black Shuck! I am him” to fool people.
Maybe I have got this all wrong and this is really a very subtle comedy.
Anyway, a fight ensues and Shuck punches the king of his horse before he is assaulted from behind by a man with a stick. This causes him to go into wolf mode and…wait a minute…a stick? That’s highly convenient, eh? Private Dumbass gets to carry a stick into a battle when everyone else has swords, thereby ensuring he doesn’t just come up behind the Jesus-alike and drive a blade through his skull.
The King legs it and Shuck lets him go, just as a Viking army suddenly arrives like the Knights of the Vale at the Battle of Winterfell. Coenwulf is defeated (off the page) and everyone is happy.
I’m half tempted to think this is an “Indy and the swordsman” moment where Steve Yeowell gets the script that says “a massive battle ensues and fills three pages with bloodshed, carnage and acts of shocking cruelty”.
Steve Yeowell just writes back saying “Some ships arrive unannounced and Coenwulf’s army run off. The end.”
Years later in 1577 the spirits of the Scucca are released from their pots by a lightning strike and it is promised that there are more tales of Black Shuck to come. No please, I beg you. I’ll pay you to stop.
Ok, so where does this leave us? There were few redeeming parts to this and though I did like the idea of Shuck doing all he can to help his kids stay free of the curse as a motivator for his return, everything else seemed shoehorned in. Sadly it is never quite clear how the hounds latched onto his kids since the Scucca he met states they grab onto the unbaptised and the curse seemed to be there before they even arrived in the country. There must be other unbaptised in the world and remember these kids were conceived in a Viking country where such births were the norm, so, that doesn’t really work. Are Yeth hounds making up the general population outisde of Christendom?
The Scucca himself shows up from nowhere imparts some info and then dies so this was sort of pointless. Was it also implied he was Shuck’s real father? Do we care? Are we supposed to? If so, where was the dramatic impact to it?
And why does he send the note to Coenwulf to stir up trouble? Is it becuase he is a bad guy and has fuck all else to do. It half arsed motivations like this that hamper the script and the episodic treatment isn’t working for the flow of it. If this has to come back it should really be in longer stretches and punctuated with fewer departures like a man drinking a pint in a pub. This isn’t Tale of the Black Freighter, is it?
A Meg turn might have been better to get more of a bite, to be honest. Or maybe just binning it. I’m good either way.
Steven Ross hit the nail on the head with this one and that’s rare for him as he usually says the most inappropriate comments imaginable that need to be edited out of the podcast.
Anyway he said that we don’t know who to root for and he’s absolutely right. Do we care about Caul or Carcer, two similarly names characters who are barely in it and have little in the way of personality? Do we root for Jess the doomsayer or the dickish military trying to fight the Hurde?
This time we get yet more characters watching telly and the revelation that the Hurde are being defeated in each engagement but Jess says this is a false victory, much to Luthra’s annoyance. Though as nobody smiles in this strip it is hard to see them display any other emotion apart from annoyance.
Jess states that Caul’s escape was somehow a grand plan by the Hurde and that it is a gambit to unite their warring castes against a common enemy. Hang on, so now they have shifted from a single purpose (attacking and assimilating cultures as a survival trait) to faction warfare?
Luthra’s prime purpose now is to capture Caul and see if they can confirm this story. They can also show the Hurde that they have been deceived by their own kind. No, it really says that. Let me know how that pans out.
Meanwhile Sornell is concerned with cracking the Hurde gate tech in order to limit their scope.
Artwise it is still ok but not wowing me and maybe it is the fact that a lot of the folk look the same that compounds the lack of characterisation. The females all seem to look like Jennifer Carpenter and the men resemble Ross Kemp scowling as he tries to pass a particularly troublesome stool.
That said, some of the poses and expressions (mainly angry) are good and that last panel of the Hurde approaching some unlucky planet is very nice.
We open on a multicultural street and rather brilliantly this whole scene is backed by an adapted version of Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech.
True story, an ex-mate of mine (I won’t go into it) once met Enoch Powell in Liverpool in 1990 and called him a “Tory cunt”. To his face.
Ahron is briefly reunited with some of his family before he ships out and these reunion scenes are absolutely brilliant. His mum’s singing plant collection of course brings to mind several Audreys, which was a lovely touch, and she gives him a stern warning about returning to Venus. It seems there is some sort of secret that will put him in huge danger should he ever go back. Is he a member of the Venusian Royal Family? Or is he too a splice?
Artwise there were some lovely moments here such as the young Asian kid and Ahron exchanging salutes (which is more respect than our immigrant serviceman gets elsewhere) and the look of joy on Venusian faces as Ahron is reunited with his family.
The colours in the greenhouse are just exploding off the page and the whole thing has a vibrancy to it unmatched in the Prog.
For the twisty turny ending and the strong conclusion, I’m going with Brink and I am really looking forward to this coming back.