A late one from Orlok who had a grand plan of how to review this until that utter bastard Flint Lockjaw kyboshed it. He’ll get his come 20 January, you mark my words…
A Robinson and Teague special to round off the year and it couldn’t be better. There’s no logo coverage, the brand is the familiar red and there are the requisite 7 links on the chain. All is well in the world.
I love the image of the other Judge peering up at the falling reindeer while Dredd looks upon the fiery Santa with utter disapproval.
The whole thing is so beautifully framed and composed I am tempted to use it as a Christmas Card next year.
Inside Bah Humbug Tharg plugs the woefully overpriced 40th bash and there is an It’s A Wonderful Life style joke in Droid life about suicide.
Holy Hell. Can someone please get something incriminating on Weston to make him draw Dredd at least once a month?
The city just looks fantastic here and was backed up by an excellently realised parade featuring Dave, Fergee, Giant, Fish and Sump. The war robots also looked like Santa with metal beards, which had me guffawing.
Best of all was Dredd’s body language which shifts brilliantly in the meeting after the financial incentive is revealed and there is an immediate surprised look with him biting his tongue and clenching his fist. You can just feel the anger going on there, even if the financial logic is sound.
There is no explanation as to why Vienna has started dressing like Xena though.
Storywise this is well done and captures the spirit of the city nicely, from Judge Atkins being filled with Christmas cheer (and the disgust of Santiago who requests a psych evaluation) to the final riot as the cits give in to their true desires.
Dredd is also not a happy chappie, having been invited to a meeting about finances where the plan is to bribe the citizens to behave. With a 1000 creds each in the offing, Barney is rolled out to spread cheer but seems to be malfunctioning in a quirky way that only the Meg can cope with.
There’s lots of humour (“Holy Chit”) and discomfort for Dredd be it the finance meeting or the personal time where he has to make small talk with relatives. Can I just say I loved the “Rico- Dredd” “Dolman- Dredd” stuff as well as the Vienna’s new bloke being given a grilling/eyeballing by the family Judges. Fan pleasing this may be but it is without doubt perfectly in character.
When it is revealed that Timms wants to take the cash for himself it is the citizens, not Dredd, who save the day. Not because they are heroic, but because they feel cheated and have given up their baser desires for nought. By the end of this they are more interested in rioting than looting the dropped cash.
Normality has been restored and Dredd’s Christmas wish is granted.
Two fuck ups though. First, Boxing Day isn’t really a thing in the US. Although after the country is renamed Trumponia, it may all change.
Second, a Christmas game played during the Apocalypse War is impossible since the war was fought over a matter of days and effectively ended in early July.
I’ve played a lot of RPGs over the years and the background of the browned map felt like the start of an epic quest, except without the option to press X to skip.
Ditto for the amazing splash page of warfare which was part Dungeons & Dragons and part Lord of the Rings. Coming from Gallagher’s skilled hand, this is a snapshot of the midst of combat with Barad-dur in background and beasts and heroes duking it out for the fate of the world. In the centre of it all, the fucking gigantic undead prick who needs to be stopped and around him, blood being shed for the cause.
There are some genuinely gorgeous angles used here, likewise the intelligent use of the shadows thrown by the firelight. The panel layout in the combat is superb and keeps it flowing well despite the gore and brutality which can often be an eyeball stopper in the wrong hands.
The story is the same old tale; a farmer tilling the land disturbs an artefact and evil returns to the world. A quest to find a lost armoury takes place with only two of the companions making it to the end and getting the weapons in range of the Evil One. Suddenly aliens show up.
Just when you think this is going to end in destiny taking a hand, actual redneck fucking aliens show up and blast them and the instant you think it is going to the fantasy cliché, it suddenly doglegs into sci-fi. This was a cracking rug pull.
Also well done was us being taken out of the story to the present where the storyteller is goaded into revealing his magical powers. The interrupting douche works for the Shrikes it seems and he then gets an elf blade in the back for his lack of bar-room etiquette.
Crixis of the Black Watch rescues the Wizard Ablard (who was supposedly blasted to death by the aliens) and thus we are set up nicely for the continuation of this. Colour me intrigued thus far.
ACE TRUCKING CO:
The art is really good and Dobbyn’s a good fit for this.
The story is ok but I have never really taken to Ace Garp so it wasn’t ever going to thrill me. Though Robson’s script is tight it seems to have been less about trucking and more about satire of modern cultural proclivities. Don’t we have Future Shocks for that?
Anyway this is a simple tale of the Outtaspace Revenue Service being facilitated in their work by the crew.
Having picked up some hitchhikers in the hold who are getting away from Euphrates Inc, a tale unfolds of how the big bad corporation has fucked up their world and genetically altered the indigenous population to be akin to wrapping paper. Ace and the gang bring the ORS down on them to address the balance and make good by the end. Although this seemed to be a way to screw the Man rather than to help the oppressed and throughout all of it I was struggling to compare this character with the Ace we had back in the day.
I did like the very thinly veiled attack on those corporations who don’t pay tax (Amazon/Euphrates-geddit?), give their workers shit wages and push the commercialisation of the Yuletide Season in order to drive up the profits. It was nice to see the Euphrates Board as a multi-headed suit too.
Would I want to see this continue as a series, once again rehashing the past to suit the future? Probably not, but you can guess that Tharg is listening to his Member Berries on this one.
It’s 1655 and big nose Cyrano de Bergerac is coughing up his last while relating his final story; a tale of The Order.
This meshes really nicely as a teaser and straddles the line of it being either a fairy tale from the addled mind of the moribund great man or a legit root of the folk tales.
In the Middle Ages all of the old fairytale classics are there; the house in woods, the names (Jan) Grimm, Reina Red Hood, Hans and Gretchen (Hansel and Gretel) and an enormous chopper. Or this could easily be a Danish skin flick from 1982.
When the Wurms rip our merry band a new one, Ritterstahl comes through time to save his robotic counterpart Grimm, potentially causing a Terminator Genysis stle paradox.
Only hopefully a lot less shit.
He’s recruiting across time which brings a whole new direction to this story as we may see multiple robots going forward, leaving a metal bastard trail of temporal destruction. It won’t be long before they come for John Kerry, you mark my words.
One of the things I enjoy most about this is seeing the different groups recruited to the cause. Sort of like a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen crossed with annelid extermination.
The art is just brilliant and beautiful fare from Burns.
We pick up where we left off with Fairfax and Jess fleeing some maniacs like Lone Wolf and Cub on a souped up Kawasaki. These two are bonding really well with Fairfax confident that the kid is a crack shot and can deliver the goods when required to; and she knows full well that this Ex-Judge is her only hope for survival. The bike also seems to know how important the kid is, which makes me wonder if it is still linked to Justice Dept system somehow.
We are briefly introduced to Beartrap who seems to be half R.J. Macready and half Santa, only without the penchant for awesome hats. Beartrap is living off the grid, Alex Jones style, and reports that drones have sprayed the woods and put dead fluids in the food chain. After imparting this vital info, he goes out swinging as his cabin comes under attack.
There’s some more world building going on in the background what with Superstorm Cassandra, the use of drones and the poster of “Boone 4 Pres” (perhaps their version of Bad Bob?) thrown into the mix.
Even though you know it won’t end well, these two main characters have an underdog charm to them to the extent that those in Rogue One lacked almost entirely.
The art was a good and though it was not the best in the Prog it was up there. Had it not been for that glory hog, Weston, this would have been top of the shop.
I loved the sparks flying as the flesh plough scrapes along the ground and when the scenes explode into violence you really do feel every bash and bullet in the gore that follows. The grey zombie wolves are truly horrific looking, too.
Best of all was Fairfax taking out one perp and seeing the spirit form leave the corpse. That’s a game changer, right there.
I really enjoyed this as the black and white realism of the art made me think I was reading something out of Warrior. And what’s not to love about a nun in a gas mask, especially since only our protagonist can apparently see Our Lady of the Eggy Fart.
Said protagonist employs magic which in this realm has dark consequence with each use (think Hellblazer or Twitter) and it is noted that WW2 has been won through sorcerous means. This cost Franklin Roosevelt his life and placed Henry Wallace in the big seat. Hahaha. Fuck you, Truman.
It is revealed that there is a big magic underground in LA and I’m intrigued to see where this goes in line with the LA Noir feel.
So, bottom line, the story is off to a good, skewed start and the art is a hell of a thing from Broxton. I do like how there is no hand holding in this too and it requires the reader to pick it up without a massive info dump. On the downside we have a well-trodden path of the occult detective so I really wish this does something that beats a different route through the long grass.
I was hoping this would be better. It isn’t, and even a jump to 14th Century Venice doesn’t help.
There is nothing new in the story, in that it is still the rinse and repeat two plot options (high on the hog bad guy gets killed/monster of the week gets smashed) on offer. This time, a high living bad guy/target has a corrupt existence in full view of suffering and is finally given justice when Aquila stops him. We know all of this because there is some exposition dialogue about the bad guy and the would be assassin also spins the explanation out. Bizarrely this idiot takes an eternity to bring out the knife to stab his quarry and is then thwarted by a slow acting/quick acting (depends what panel you are reading) poison.
Now that we know Aquila survives to the 14th Century the surprise is gone, not that there was any in the first place since he is a character with all of the cheat codes constantly active.
There is an intriguing sideplot about the gladius getting sold to the mark and a cult (the Sons of the Black Hawk) being set up to take down the corrupt in the absence of the blade’s owner. There may have been a better story focussing on this cult, with Aquila’s fate(s) mentioned and left as possible avenues to explore while some measure of his work survives with the faithful looking to acquire the tools of his trade for their shrine. But, if Rennie wants to go with the tropes then so be it.
The art is still the best feature with some lovely colours and Davidson continues his fine work in bringing the script to the eyes. It is a nice device that the bad guy has lushly coloured interiors while the outside city in the grip of plague is drab and grim.
It was also nice to see the collection of artefacts included the Spear of Destiny and Mjolnir.
We start with Gene in a dream state being told that he is a good dog, which is all any loyal mutt ever needs to hear. The talk of the dog in the past tense brings to mind Tallahassee’s “pup” talk in Zombieland and I don’t know if that was intentional but it set up an emotional connection between the master and the mutt.
This of course plays out when Leezee saves Gene and Gene in turn saves Leezee. These two clearly have a link which goes beyond any of the established relationships between humans and auxs.
Elsewhere, we are six months into the war with modded insects (which have an inbuilt off switch) making good ground on Them. With 200k colonists waiting to reclaim Earth, all efforts are being funnelled into that conflict and the wild aux are a liability to that aim. A decision is made to kill the wild aux as they are a drain on resources and this will doubtless sever any further trust between the two groups should this fail or become known. It is important to note that Abnett has cleverly steered Gene from one ruthless enemy (in the form of the unthinking hive mentality of Them) to another (the devious humans who eschew morality in favour of survival) and that he will need a different set of skills to survive both. If indeed he does survive.
The colours are absolutely gorgeous and this is the strip that Elson was always destined to draw. Like the Horned God, we are seeing a master at work in his element here. The fight between the two aux is far and away from the clean business of killing giant insects. This was up close, brutal and feral. You feel every headbutt and wrist snap and that’s the sign of an artist at the top of his game.
There was a really, really good article on Misty which took up 8 pages. I think this could have been half the length but some of the art is just beautiful to look at and if it sells the book (and that’s what this is there for, make no bones about that) and gets it out there to more folks then that is a good thing. My sister used to get this and the annuals so it brought back some memories which was good as it doesn’t need a reboot.
Read Em And Weep gets a nice intro and a two page extract. I’m not sold on it thus far, sadly.
Best of all was a truly amazing Chris Weston splash page which I am not going to tell you about. Simply put this review aside and go look at it. Let your eyeballs drink it in.
Tharg hints Countershit Girl may return as will Bad Company and this begs the question “why?” Both have had a weak story first time out (though technically one was a return), so just let it go and move on with other tales that actually have some merit.
Luckily Scarlet Traces will be returning to address some of the damage.
Tharg also excuses Anderson looking like Luke Goss in that one story since she is “around 58”. That’s a piss poor excuse there and you only have to look at the Dowling art for comparison to see how utterly ill-judged that comment is.
On the plus side we had some cool Lego builds from some crazy Nords and there was a lovely letter from Stephen Watson about Steve Dillon and what a personable and humble man he was.
Deadworld just scrapes home as script and art are equally excellent.