2000AD Prog 1382 Review

Reviewer: William Cooling
Editor: Matt Smith
Publisher: Rebellion

Judge Dredd

Title: Gulag Pt.1
Writer: Gordon Rennie
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Colourist: Chris Blythe
Letterer: Tom Frame

In what is his first attempt at a longer running Dredd story (as opposed to his usual one or two parters) we see Rennie returned to the well-toiled ground of the aftermath of the Apocalypse War between Mega City One and the East Meg One. Despite attempts at Détente between the two powers including exchanges of prisons there are still ill feelings fuelled by rumours that the Sovs didn’t release all their Apocalypse War prisoners and were keeping some in hidden prisons. This festering issue is blown open by the sighting of the Sovs killing prisoners who had escaped by a Mega City spy satellite. Dredd is convinced that these are Mega City One prisoners as shown by their using the “Judge in Danger” code and lobbies the Chief Judge and her Cabinet to organise a rescue party.

Rennie is on top form here despite utilising a side to his writing that is usually left out of his Dredd writing here. Here he displays is aptitude for intense characterisation with the scenes between Dredd and Hershey being an excellent portrayal between mentor and protégé, with the protégé now in the ascendancy. We see how Dredd adopts a superior attitude not just to Hershey but to all the present Judges and we get to see the slightly unhinged, stuck in the mud, reactionary nature of Dredd that just hates those stinking Sovs. He also is excellent with the escape of the prisoners with the three pages having an eerily, cold and cynical feel that is emphasised by the use of silence. Rennie is also matched by the art with Adlard making amends for his poor Dredd work last year with a scratchy and messy rendition that is reminiscent back of Mike McMahon in his prime. And to round off what is an excellent all-round effort we have the colours of Chris Blythe who jettisons his usually bright, primary palette for a muddier, subdued one that complements Adlard well. A good start to what promises to be a fascinating story.


Sinister Dexter

Title: Just Business Pt. 3
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colourist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Ellie De Ville

Having blown their errant protégé off the world Sinister Dexter give the lovesick fool a choice; kill the girl or get the hell out of town. Abnett really delivers here a stark, powerful script that dares to delve in the amoral nature of Sin-Dex’s life. His characterisation is excellent showing the naïve hope and dreams of Kal Cutter being forced to confront and accept the world-weary truth of Sinister Dexter. With its heavy focus on characterisation and dialogue its also a welcome change of pace for Sinister Dexter, which has far, far too often became a mindless Tarantino spoof with the characters becoming nothing but glorified plot devices. Abnett is also helped by the icy, cool art of Andy Clarke who with his realistic yet idealised linework and his use of layouts and “camera angles” makes this feel and look like a Hollywood Blockbuster. An effective and stark end to what has been an enjoyable story, which with the establishing of a number of plot lines (including a new regular customer for Sin-Dex) revitalise the script.


Rogue Trooper

Title: Realpoltik
Writer: Gordon Rennie
Artist: P.J. Holden
Letterer: Tom Frame

We continue Rogue’s quest to assassinate to Nort War Marshal at the behest of the Nort High Command with his attempt to make a rendezvous with his contact on the inside whilst Arkhan continues his investigations into the assassination attempt. This is slightly successful than the previous two parts with Rennie obviously struggling with the characterisation of Rogue’s three talking pieces of equipment (his gun, bag and helmet contain the microchip brain of three of his friends) with their dialogue seeming forced, hammy and total out of place when judged against the more tense tone of the rest of the story. Still it’s a many flaw and Rennie does an excellent job with the action scenes and Arkhan’s demented attempt to get to the bottom of the assassination plot. P.J. Holden also maintains his excellent standards with his realistic linework, use of shading and his often-sparse backgrounds making for an aptly atmospheric look. Together they continue to create a story that manages to feel modern despite being Rogue Trooper.


Valkyries

Title: Untitled Pt.
Writer: Steve Moore
Artist: John Lucas
Colourist: Len O’Grady
Letterer: Ellie De Ville

And so this monstrous mistake of a serious draw to a close as it final collapses under the weight of its own incomprehension. To be fair it had a good thing going to begin with a breezy, jaunty tone that was match by a languid pace and a knowing plot, something matched by the enjoyably cartooney art of Lucas. Yet progressively the plot has become ever more Byzantine and to be honest I haven’t got the energy or the forbearance to work out what the hell happens in this final part. What Moore has seemingly failed to grasp is that if you design a story to be frivolous by featuring joke T&A, spoof style scenes and characterisation, etc then the story should be easy and simple to read. It should be something that people can pick up and read without much thought, something that this thoroughly confusing series hasn’t done. In the end this has been a poor series let down by the usually dependable Moore who has tried to hang too much on a joke. Here’s hoping the repeated hints of a second series contained are ignored by Tharg.


Durham Red

Title: The Empty Suns ~ Book II Pt 1
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Mark Harrison
Letterer: Ellie De Ville

At the end of the last book we see the new rampaging leader of the mutants and Grim Reaper of humans the Offspring make contact with Durham Red and her gang, which caused Red to be transported by centuries to Milton Keynes at the time of the purges where she is confronted by former lover Johnny Alpha. Of course nothing is as it seems as everything descends into Red hitting things and shouting at Offspring who is simply playing mind games. Er, this isn’t that good as whilst Abnett’s writing is solid enough delivering a logical and near enough compelling attack on Red by Offspring Harrison’s art is the pits. His linework seems rushed and unfocused whilst his colouring is for the most part way too dark for us to properly see what’s going on. And as for Durham Red’s clothes (which is probably exaggerating the body thong she is wearing) let’s just say I’ve never seen something so ridiculous and unsexy this side of a Jordan photo-shoot. Thankfully his art does improve towards the end so hopefully it will pick up as the story adopts a more cosmic setting. Still it’s a disappointing if readable return for Durham Red.