Cover by Simon Davis
It's warp time with a third Simon Davis Slaine cover in quick succession and my least favourite of the three. It may all depend on your history with Slaine and his warp spasms but I don't particularly like this image. The rest of this Prog is a pretty good jumping on point but the abstract picture wouldn't attract me to pick it up off the shelf at Smiths. The painting technique is stunning but the image and Tharg's obvious pun seem weak. This one won't be making my top five of the year.
Droid Life by Cat Sullivan
I love the cartoon drawings style in Droid Life but I wish it had better jokes. At least the strip has moved on from the repetitive countdown bomb gag but the laugh level hasn't risen. Still they are cute looking droids.
I don't understand this week's Damage Report. Does this mean that Pye Parr first freelance job is for 2000AD again?
Judge Dredd by Michael Carroll, Colin MacNeil, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
This has got it all: a story by Michael Carroll, the fabulous noir inflected art of MacNeil, and the splendid return of Judge Fintan Joyce. One of the things that occasionally bugs me is when the other Judges from Justice department appear incompetent so it's nice to see that Fintan has excellent instincts, reflexes and self defence skills. Obviously he is not up to the standard of Dredd or former Sov-Judge Pax but at least he is on the ball, even if the assassin is literally too hot to handle.
I enjoyed MacNeil's excellent work on the recent Mega-City Confidential story and here he provides more of his characteristic impassive reflections in the Judge visors and from the ever present video screens. A lot of this is down to the superb colouring and lighting by Chris Blythe but it's lovely stuff from the pair of them. There are also some nice little details such as the delivery droid company's name A2B. Clearly the contents of his father's safety deposit box are going to drag Joyce along with Dredd back to the auld Emerald isle, and hopefully Pax will tag along as well. Maybe young Joyce will be embarking upon some kind of odyssey and the story will bloom from there. Whatever way this goes it's a great opening episode that has something for regular and new readers alike.
Absalom by Gordon Rennie, Tienan Trevallion and Simon Bowland
The return of Rennie's best creation for 2000AD with a splendid two page opening of demonic parkour before Inspector Absalom arrives at another weird crime scene and begins to do his stuff. Trevallion's black and white art is joyous and the only problem is that it's over too soon. I wish Tharg could have squeezed in another five pages to allow new readers to catch up with one of the best characters to grace the pages of the Prog in the last few years but hey-ho it's a five page limit for everyone apart from Dredd and completely new strips. Anyway it's great stuff, hopefully we will learn a bit more about the fate of Harry Absalom's grandchildren in this story.
Slaine by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
This seems like the weakest installment of Slaine for a while. We've seen all of the magnificent Davis art by now and the small images of warped Slaine doing his thing just looked like a sprite from some crappy video game, or a horrible Conan parody. I'm not sure what is happening on the last two pages at all so I guess you can put me down in the "some don't know and will never know" category but I'm ready for Slaine to go away for a while now. Hopefully this wraps up next week.
Helium by Ian Edginton, D'Israeli and Ellie De Ville
A new strip by the Scarlet Traces team gets ten pages to introduce a strange world and a new story line. I'm a big fan of both Edginton and D'Israeli, I've met them both and they have signed many a comic and book for me and they are both splendid chaps with a long history of sterling work for Tharg. Hopefully this is going to be as good as Scarlet Traces or Leviathan but time will tell. For me it was a thoroughly enjoyable opener and the introduction of another interesting pair of characters in Constable Hodge and the steampunk mechanical revenant, Solace. Interestingly Hodge's gender is not an issue and we are more interested in the question that Edginton raises about her origin as an "outsider" in this airborne community. A very promising start.
Pick of the Prog is Dredd but Absalom and Helium look very good as well and if the Prog had just been those three thrills I would have been quite happy.