A double dose of thrill power brings me to the keyboard for some reviewing, hopefully without drifting into mere synopsis,
Covers. Ben Willsher on Strontium Dog Vs Glenn Fabry on Judge Dredd
Mr Willsher can do very little wrong in my eyes and this is a lovely composition which manages to fill the page with action and give us a good taste of the fishy business that's going on in the strip inside. Meanwhile I've never really been a fan of Fabry's work. Art is a peculiar thing and there is, as they say, no accounting for taste but this image leaves me cold. I don't like the body twist, the eagle, or the rather crude representation of the lawgiver. The background colours are rather lovely though and Dredd delivers the coup de grace to the title logo clearing the way for Pye Parr's parting gift to appear on the next issue. I appreciate the significance of that gesture but Willsher's action filled cover wins the day for me.
Result: 1-0 to the Prog.
Judge Dredd: Breaking Bud by John Wagner, Richard Elson and Annie Parkhouse vs The Cop by Al Ewing, Ben Willsher, Adam Brown and Simon Bowland.
Wagner's introduction of a new mythos to Dredd's world started in his Megazine story The Dead Zone and continues here with another of his well turned puns on a popular phenomenon and political satire about the differences between the haves and the have nots. Meanwhile Ewing's complex tale of corruption, an outsider in the Mega-City, and revenge continues to play out in the Meg with violent and gory consequences. Both of these Dredd stories have now finished and I write this with a sense of the whole stories in front of me. Two of he best Dredd writers both spinning a good yarn and difficult to tell them apart.
On the art front Elson smoothly switches from Kingdom to Dredd's world and produces beautiful pages but yet again Willsher is the deciding factor and switches sides to level the score for the Megazine.
Grey Area by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrrison and Annie Parkhouse vs Reaper Files by Pat Mills, Clint Langley and Annie Parkhouse.
Two straight science fiction stories go head to head. American Reaper is a much lambasted strip and I confess I always feel that I have missed out in not reading it from the beginning. One to look out for in the inevitable hardback collection perhaps? In Grey Area the transition of the ETC team to a whole new universe has given this story a transfusion of new meaning and excitement. I always thought the earth bound tales were just treading water, or providing simple one or done stories to fill the pages. But on a whole new world with a strange set of rules and a pressing sense of impending doom the story has really kicked off. And it sets up the potential for future Quantum Leap or Sliders type adventures as the ETC are thrown onto other stranger worlds. It's a neat trick by Abnett and Harrison and I'm fully onboard now.
Result: 2-1 to the Prog
Slaine by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville vs Tales from the Black Museum by Alec Worley, Paul Davidson and Annie Parkhouse.
I'm on much firmer ground with Pat Mills' current work on Slaine accompanied by Davis' beautiful painted images. Slaine's old friend Gort looks quite like to Russell Crow in Gladiator and the setup of the battle seems similar to the early scenes from that movie but it is splendid stuff to look at. I love a creepy black and white terror tale from the Black Museum and Worley and Davidson's arachnid horror is splendid stuff. It feels a bit strange to pick a black and white strip over the glorious colours of Slaine but it's a monochrome equaliser for the Meg.
Commercial Break by Eddie Robson, Mike Collins, Gary Caldwell and Ellie De Ville vs Anderson by Emma Beeby, Andrew Currie, Eva De La Cruz and Ellie De Ville.
Tharg's 3Rillers have a tough task in wrapping up a complete story in fifteen pages and doing enough to generate interest in a return of the characters with so far only the Survival Geeks managing to do enough to get a return fixture. This particular story about some mysterious alien light artifacts is momentarily intriguing but doesn't divert me for long.
On the other hand the psychic mindscape of Cassandra Anderson is always fascinating and the introduction of Cadet Flowers intrigues me. Leaving aside all the fuss about the writer's gender and its use as a marketing tool I would like to read more stories about Anderson and Flowers by Beeby. I would prefer it if Cass was drawn to look a little bit nearer her actual age though, unless some writer is going to come clean and announce that the image we see is her psychic projection of how she wants to be seen.
Result 2-3 to the Megazine
Strontium Dog by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Simon Bowland vs Interceptor by Ian Edginton, Steve Pugh, Len O'Grady and Ellie De Ville
The world weary and suicidal Johnny Alpha appears to have shifted back into his business as usual mode with plenty of action and victories over impossible odds as the Stix Fix takes on all the trappings of a classic Strontium Dog tale. You can almost feel Wagner and Ezquerra pulling this on like a nice, comfy pair of slippers. And it's just and comforting and reassuring for us regular readers. Maybe it doesn't push the envelope in the way it threatened to at the start of the adventure but it's still fantastic stuff from two of Tharg's top performers of all time.
I normally gobble up anything written by Ian Edginton but I got about halfway through Interceptor and gave up on it. Somehow the search for another super powerful alien device that falls into the hands of a woman in her underwear didn't do it for me. Sorry.
Final result: it's a 3-3 draw and two top quality issues from the house of Tharg. Sure there are some ups and downs along the way but for just under £8 (or even less if you subscribe) that's the best value in comics at the moment as far as I'm concerned. Great British comics indeed.