Reviewer: William Cooling
Editor: Matt Smith
Story title: Cincinnati Pt. 1
Written by: John Wagner
Art by: Carl Critchlow
Lettered by: Tom Frame
In the only new story to start with this Prog, we see a band of Judges led by Dredd come to Cincinnati, a town whose infrastructure has long since collapsed into tribalism. They are searching for a suspect, but they run into trouble from the largest gang in the area, the Crazy 20, led by Biggie.
An excellent opening for what promises to be an intriguing Dredd story. Wagner has adopted an almost decompressed pace with this part gently introducing the reader to the area. Establishing the derelict state of the city and the state of lawlessness and anarchy that it has descended into. However, Wagner manages to deliver some bang for your buck this issue; with Dredd and the Judges being sucked into a confrontation with a gang led by someone who (to me) seems to be a Wolverine imitation/parody.
The art is amazing with Carl Critchlow really excelling in his depiction of the ruins and the gang. His stylised almost polygon based linework is unique and brilliant at capturing the unease and tension that surrounds the city. In addition, his dynamic and varied layouts (which seem to have benefited from the change in page size) are excellent in capturing the action, especially the fight between Biggie and Dredd.
This was an excellent opener that deftly captures the balance between introducing us to the story and bogging us down in back-story.
The Red Seas
Story title: Twilight of the Idols: Pt. 2
Written by: Ian Edington
Art by: Steve Yeowell
Lettered by: Annie Parkhouse
Last part we saw Jack Dancer captured by the British after having become a broken, drunkard following being dumped by his girlfriend. However, he was saved by a mysterious Arab figure on a fire spewing ship. This part sees Dancer back in top form after being reunited with his crew and then being properly introduced to their new benefactor.
The first series of Red Seas was an engaging mix of pulpy pirate, occult action that delivered an enjoyable, light-hearted romp (similar in oh so many ways to Pirates of the Caribbean). Edington seems to be following the exact same pattern as this part not only sets up the mystical quest that will (presumably) form the basis of the series, but also reintroducing us to the dynamics of the wider supporting cast and their interaction with Dancer.
The main focus of this part is introducing us to the group’s mysterious new benefactor who is revealed to have a well-developed relationship with the occult. The character is engaging with an air of mystery that is only added to by the revealing of forces lining up against him.
Steve Yeowell continues his usual sterling art job; mixing a simple, clean line style with a rounded, concise design sense that is perfectly suited to this series. The fact that his art is left in its entire black and white colour is an extra piece of good news as it further adds to the pulpy feel of the story.
This was a good second part that develops the story well from the opening part by successfully reintroducing old elements and developing new ones.
Story title: Book III ~ Hit the Ground Vaping: Pt 2
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Anthony Williams
Lettered by: Ellie De Ville
Last part, we see Keege and Smith retrench after the apparent destruction of all the other VCs. This issue we are surprised as erâ€¦three VC’s that were apparently killed in action in combat return full of health and meet up with Keege.
Now what I think Abnett is doing is showing a flashback to how Keege ended up on his own as I definitely saw Jupe dead in the last issue. Now where Abnett is taking us with this and why he doesn’t make the nature of the story explicit in the captions (both parts are dated as the same day) isn’t entirely clear.
Once you work you head round the complicated continuity you get fairly interesting sci-fi army action with the three humans being the more developed characters. Although Abnett could be criticised for the amount of repetition in these first two parts this is a well-written story and does seem to have a tighter grasp on characterisation especially character motivation. His script is complimented well by Williams who undertakes the difficult task of making a firefight between two uniform, faceless protagonists (the VCs wear full body armour whilst the Geeks are straight out of Zulu in terms of depth) into an exciting, interesting affair with some success.
A readable part which is let down by the writer failing to inform the reader of the nature of its relationship to the first part.
Title: The Books of Invasions ~ Scota: Pt. 2
Written by: Pat Mills
Art by: Clint Langely
Lettered by: Ellie De Ville
Last week, we saw the battle hit up with the Sea Demon invasion begin proving difficult to overcome. Slaine realises that he must gain the advantage by gain the weapons of the Atlanteans.
Strange part this week; with Mills turning his attention away from the battle and to characterisation with differing results. The opening scenes that develop the friendship between Slaine and Fergus are well written although there does seem to be a flaw in the logic (how does eating garlic-porridge make your wounds not smell of garlic?).
The major thrust of the piece is the relationship with Slaine and Scota. This comes to slightly disappointing results as Mills seems to be threatening to force the independent Scota into the â€œwhoreâ€ archetype that his women characters often conform to by hinting at a sexual element to her and Slaines’ relationship. In addition, his portrayal of Slaine takes an â€œinterestingâ€ turn with Slaine showing hitherto hidden diplomatic skills. The scenes aren’t written badly with the dialogue well written throughout, but they could develop into something unwanted.
The art on the other hand maintains its awesome standards with Langely once more showing that he can capture the moment with reference to conversation as well as he can set piece battles. Indeed, this more human dominated part shows off the awe-inspiring detail his art has by showing how realistic it is.
Another good part with some good writing and amazing art, however this dialogue-dominated part hints at themes that if not developed carefully could derail the series.
Samantha Slade, Robo-Hunter
Title: Like a Virgin: Pt. 2
Written by: Alan Grant
Art by: Ian Gibson
Lettered by: Tom Frame
At the end of the opening part we saw Sam Slade’s former associates, Hoagy and Sanchez, finding Sam’s granddaughter in the middle of their search for Sam himself to help solve a big case. This week, we see them try to overcome Samantha less than enthusiastic response to the mention of her granddad (or as they see try to get Sam to drop his disguise) and Samantha become more deeply involved in Hoagy’s case.
Alan Grant and Ian Gibson are obviously having a lot of fun on this story. With Alan Grant’s humorous script revelling in the absurdities and idiocies of the various characters and situations that the straight women Samantha is inflicted by. He also introduces some action that manages to maintain the general comedic tone of the strip whilst being credible. In addition, Grant’s script perfectly compliments Gibson’s art with his emphasis on comedy and carry-on style sexual innuendo playing to Gibson’s strengths.
This was a charming part that develops well from the first part offering a story with a witty script and excellent art delivering a pleasant whole.
Another good issue with an excellent opener for the new Dredd story. Strong parts for all the rest, although both VCs and Slaine have small problems that could become more problematic. However, that shouldn’t detract from an excellent issue that combines a mixture of time periods, genres, writing and art styles, signalling a welcome return to 2000AD’s traditional values of variety, variety, variety. In addition, the new wider and shorter page size is a format that harkens back to the classic 2000AD look of yore, and seems to add to the pages by allowing more panels to be fitted on each page.