2000AD PROG 1408 Review

Title: PROG 1408
Teaser: Perfection never tasted sweeter

Reviewed by: Will Cooling
Editor: Matt Smith
Publisher: Rebellion

Judge Dredd

Title: Total War Pt. 1
Written by John Wagner
Art by Henry Flint
Coloured by Chris Blythe
Lettered by Tom Frame

Chief Judge Hershey is warned of imminent attacks by the pro-democracy terrorist organisation Total War on a previously unanticipated level whilst Dredd is once again confronted with the use/abuse of his precious bloodline when confronted with another member of his bloodline.

So here it is…the most eagerly anticipated Judge Dredd since…well I get back to you on that. Its also one that this website has led on; we broke the news that Henry Flint was drawing the sequel to Terror and we gave you the first glimpse of the zarjaz action that was to follow. Ego-massaging aside, the core question has to be, is it any good?

To which the only answer is Hell Yeah!!!

Wagner’s manages to surprise in what must be the most heavily trailed 2000AD story for quite some time with the shocking return of the “Dredd-clone” program that has inspired such recent classics as Brothers of the Blood and Sector House (I returned to 2000AD just after Blood Cadets). The manner he does this is stark and uncomfortable and further confirms the desperate and manipulative measures the Justice Department is using to prepare for life without Dredd. Wagner’s characterisation of Dredd here is superb with his horror at what the medics have done being understated yet brusque. His attempts to distance himself from the clone program suggest further uneasiness at this constant confirmation of his own supposed mortality and expendability.

However, Dredd is not the star of this part, indeed his appearance is rather brief. Instead Chief Judge Hershey takes centre stage as she is forced to react to the citywide threat posed by Total War. These scenes are superbly written with a sense of urgency and “panic” that reflects the direness of the situation. Where we might quibble is with the characterisation of Hershey; she had been portrayed before becoming Chief Judge as an unusually liberal and freethinking Judge yet here (as in recent years) she fulfils the generic role of Chief Judge of suppressing the information, threatening the press and organising the response. The only hint of her former liberalness is in her unwillingness to accept that Total War would commit such an act. Whilst its not a major problem and doesn’t detract from the story, it is a shame to see such an interesting and established supporting character being reduced to the generic Chief Judge persona…of course Wagner might be using her to say something about politicians in general.

Where there are no complaints is with the magnificent art of Henry Flint who makes a welcome return to 2000AD after a horrifically long absence of two weeks. His art is fantastic with the messy nature of his art in Lowlife replaced with a cleaner, more Golden Age McMahon-esque linework with a…er…jaggedly clean approach. His character design is fantastic with the sight of “nimrod” a suitably disgusting and pathetic sight whilst his Hershey looks light a real person instead of the impossibly beautiful/stylish women she is sometimes shown to be. He excels the most in the delivery of the message and it’s transmitting to Hershey, somehow making what should be uneventful scenes the basis for some dynamic and vibrant art (with credit also going to Wagner for some very clever writing). The terrific art once again confirms Flint as an amazingly versatile and consistent artist.

Over all this is a superb start to an amazingly relevant series that promises to live up to the hype (which is saying something).

Caballistics Inc.

Title: Creepshow Pt. 8
Written by Gordon Rennie
Art by Dom Reardon
Lettered by Ellie De Ville

The Caballistics Inc. team reunited after spending time in different Ludgate horror try to storm the house whether Ludgate creator Drako has based himself. They decide to split with Nessy, Chapter and Verse fighting Ludgate’s entire back catalogue whilst Brand and Demon Jenny confront the man himself, tentacles and all. Also there appears to have been some funny goings-on at Caballistics Inc. headquarters.

Oh man how great is this? If you didn’t just answer f’ing great then you’re an ass. What has usually been a very characterisation focused, talkie story has with this story turned to fun, occult-themed action with impressive results as the Caballistics Inc. has been pitted against some fearsome foes. This is no different with the central battle between Drako and Demon Jenny/Brand being superbly realised as Brand takes his chance to shine brilliantly in a powerful and emotive scene. Add to this the characterisation driven second half where Brand is dragged right back from his previous euphoria and the shocking last page and you have some jaw-droppingly brilliant writing. And of course this is compliment by some equally jaw-droppingly art with Dom Reardon producing some fantastically chaotic and messy linework as he portrays the chaos that has engulfed the Caballistics Inc. team. He shows tremendous versatility excelling both at nine-panel pages and at one-page splashes both of which manage to contain the same visceral power. Together, Rennie and Reardon have created a masterful story/series and I can’t wait for them to return with the next Caballistics Inc. story.

Robo-Hunter

Title: The Furzt Case Pt. 3
Written by Alan Grant
Art by Ian Gibson
Lettered by Tom Frame

In the course of trying to find Sam’s old body they bumped into Sam’s old buddy Stiv only to see him abducted by robo-Japanese High School girls (and your point is?). Of course they followed him with Samantha showing a bit of cleavage (don’t pretend you didn’t notice. Pervert!) to help commandeer a taxi. Whilst they are successful in smashing the robo-Japanese High School girls they do not rescue Stiv and are in any case arrested by the police, who are of course robot dwarfs. Now as our fantastic foursome share a cell they attempt to find out more on their enemy who has captured Stiv and probably has Sam’s old body.

I love this even if it’s completely bonkers. No actually that’s wrong I love this because it’s completely bonkers. Grant seems to be having a lot of fun in providing the retro action as we are confronted by a cackling evil genius on a far-flung Island whilst the bumbling police arrest the wrong man. Then there’s the bickering between the four as Sam, Hoagy and Carlos Sanchez berate her for her failings and generally patronise her whilst expecting her to do all the work. Of course not that 2000AD’s legendary sex-obsessed readership noticed as they were too busy staring at Samantha who is drawn expertly Gibson, the premier drawer of women in comics today. He makes Samantha genuinely sexy whilst clothing her in realistic clothes and giving her a realistic type of body…well a women that toned probably wouldn’t have those size breast but I’m not complaining:). The art in general is fantastic with Gibson’s cartooney artwork being lush and gorgeous to look at whilst being perfect for capturing the zany spirit of the story. Together these two produce a perfect slice of retro action that is typically British.

Asylum 2

Title: Untitled Pt. 3
Written by Rob Williams
Art by Boo Cook
Lettered by Ellie De Ville

There is trouble amongst the alien refugees after Holt releases the Earth Government soldiers who had invaded the Island where they are all squatting after the crash of the space-station processing centre they were being held at. Two named Run and Spore have taken particular exception and have left the Island with the intent on going on a killing spree. Now Buchanan prepares to get back to base and hopes to take the half-human and increasingly dissatisfied commune leader Holt with him.

This is story seems to be picking up as Williams writes with more subtly and flair than in the last Asylum. What is striking is how this series is more focused on the characters and giving them fully rounded personalities instead of forcing them into prearranged and largely didactic roles. His focus on Holt and his internal conflict between his desire to provide the leadership the aliens want and his desire for a quiet life is interesting and well shown with Buchanan and Holt’s followers providing provocative support on either side of the debate. The scenes with the followers are particularly effective showing the mawkish and cloying cult of the leader that has engulfed Holt. In the background there is the terrorism of the two rebel aliens that produces some effective and vivid scenes.

Of course this would be half the story without the superb art of Boo Cook with his new, matured style still packing in plenty of wow-factor. Whilst his linework has become more detailed and naturalistic it’s in his colouring that the biggest improvement has been made. What had previously been bold and vibrant has been replaced with colours of extraordinary subtly with an almost pastel feel in certain sections. The use of colour is extraordinarily effective as Cook uses it to shift the tone of his art expertly. His superb art compliments and improves a perfectly sound story.

Strontium Dog

Title: Traitor To His Kind Pt. 3
Written by John Wagner
Art by Carlos Ezquerra
Lettered by Annie Parkhouse

Last week Johnny Alpha and Wulf went to the Milton Keynes mutant commune to find out more about the kidnapping of the King (man is Wagner in touch with the zeitgeist or what?) by mutant hardliners. At the end we saw Wulf getting his leg over whilst Johnny was attacked by some of his fellow mutants. Now Johnny must escape the ambush and find out why he’s being attack when he hasn’t even accepted Negus’ request for him to rescue the King.

Yay, this rules. This marks a return to the more emotive and serious tone that made for some of the most famous Strontium Dog stories. What is noticeable is how Wagner “ups his game” to give the story the necessary oomph and weight with the scene of Alpha fighting the mutant gang having an edge lacking in recent comedic offerings. Whilst the duplicity that Alpha is forced to use is shown in a way that is less funny and laughable than in The Headly Foot Job and almost lives a bad taste in your mouth. Of course its natural for a bounty hunter to use such means especially when confronted with what appears to be a conspiracy against him and mutant rights as is hinted at towards the end of this part. Wagner’s writing is superb throughout with a taut and concise use of each page as he packs some much action and plot whilst maintaining a weight and cohesion that puts other writers to shame.

As for the art, well what can I say but (to be said in a dodgy foreign accents) why Mr. Ezquerra you are really spoiling us. In other words the art is of course fantastic with Ezquerra producing some fantastic work with his character design terrific and the fight sequence that opens this part being extremely vivid and eye-catching. His colouring is excellent as well with him taking some chances with his colour schemes that all pay off especially during the fight scene. Fantastic art added to fantastic writing makes for a (wait for it) fantastic story.

Final Word: This rules, ’nuff said.

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