It's head to head time as the Prog drops at the same time as a jumping on issue of the Megazine, and there are some top thrills to compare.
Karl Richardson on Outlier vs Greg Staples' Dredd
Richardson supplies some creepy alien body horror in an arresting image. I like the use of the glowing green for the eyes and highlights instead of the standard alien blue that seems to be the colour of magic almost everywhere else these days. But when it comes to arresting nobody beats Dredd and there is no-one better at pulling together (sorry) a terrific cover than Staples. My only reservations would be the blue artex on the wall behind him which is a terrible decision by the decorator, and the rather chunky Planet Replicas gloves. Two smashing covers but Staples wins the point.
Result: 1-0 to the Megazine
Judge Dredd: Blood of Emeralds by Michael Carroll, Colin MacNeil, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse vs El Maldito by Gordon Rennie, Carlos Ezquerra and Annie Parkhouse
I'm a bit confused by the opening pages in the Prog as Stonefish breaks free of his bonds requiring Dredd and Joyce to step in and shoot him, and then he's strapped back in the interrogation chair with a neat white plaster on his shoulder. It all seems to happen a bit fast and then Dredd is back on the street breaking heads with his suitable sardonic "Oh really?" to the knife wielder. However once they are on Irish soil the story runs much more smoothly and things are ramping up nicely. I trust Carroll's writing and look forward to next week's bar room punch up. Plus he gets his medical terminology correct, there really us a part of the brain called the Raphe nuclei. MacNeil and Blythe continue to deliver fantastic stuff, you really can't beat the way the lighting picks out Dredd's visor. Beautiful.
In the Megazine Gordon Rennie takes to a previously unexplored corner of the Dredd-verse but fortunately King Carlos is on hand to guide us with his trademark black jagged panel borders. There's also what may be his signature layout of a background figure firing at the camera or the bad guys immediately in front of it. Nobody can pull off this scene like Carlos and its a joy to see it crop up here. With regards to the story I'm intrigued enough to be looking forward to more although I almost wish they were able to use another senior Judge instead of Dredd who must be stretched pretty thin these days. But his name's in the comic title so he has to be in the first story and it's reassuring to see him sum up the situation in a few terse sentences.
Result: a tough call and I hate to vote against any story with Ezquerra art but I love Carroll and MacNeil's Irish adventure so the Prog gets the win and it's tied at 1-1
Absalom by Gordon Rennie, Tiernen Trevallion and Simon Bowland vs Demon Nic by Paul Grist and Phil Elliott
More of Rennie doing what he does best: putting sarky old Harry Absalom in the midst of a paranormal investigation and tapping up a few of his contacts to get the information he needs. Trevallion does lovely work with shadows and his panel layouts and it's charming to see that the holy terror assassin is a fan of the Dredd movie. Between them Rennie and Trevallion instantly plunge me into their dark and dreadful London and I can't fault this at all.
And talking of dark there's plenty of black space in the void around the characters of Demon Nic. Strangely I found the short lived character of the Priest far more interesting than the anti-hero of the piece who so far seems like a collection of weapons and kooky habits with the usual witty line in battling banter. I'm aware of Grist's previous work wothout having read any of it and it's certainly interesting but if the Priest had stayed around a bit longer I might have been more on board for this first chapter.
Result: an easy point for Absalom and it's 2-1 for the Prog
Slaine by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville vs Storm Warning by Leah Moore, John Reppion, Tom Foster, Kirsty Swan and Simon Bowland
The bad guy Sloughs his skin to become a Cyth lord while Darth Gort does the time warp as well. In between Slaine says his signature line and swings his mighty axe. Looks lovely but I'm still itching for next week's final episode.
Tom Foster and Kirsty Swan produce a lovely look for the first part of Storm Warning with some creepy images and fantastic lighting. Plus the title font recalls Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright comic and they also throw in a mighty "FOOOM" sound effect. The story of one Psi-Judge with a dodgy past being sent to recover a deadly artifact sounds familiar but I'm going to give this one some time because of the powerful artwork, and I'm also giving it the point over Slaine.
Outlier by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse vs Lawless by Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade and Ellie De Ville
Outlier gets right to it pulling Carcer off the PTSD ward and promising him a place on an investigation team heading for a captured Horde ship. It's a pretty good opener which promises quite a bit of the old ultra-violence and body horror for the coming story. Karl Richardson's muscular artwork looks terrific as well, and it's a convincing first episode.
There's promise of a bar room brawl in next week's Dredd but it's going to have to go some way to beat Winslade's fantastically detailed line work in Lawless. How long must it take him to produce these pages? OK, so the mild mannered accountant twist may have been done before but look at Lawson's knee length boots, her gloriously impractical hair, and just look at her bike. You can't go wrong with cowboys, or cowgirls, in space and this is absolutely splendid stuff from the Megazine.
Result: Winslade's art tips it in favour of the Meg, 3-2
Helium by Ian Edginton, D'Israeli and Ellie De Ville v Everything else in the Megazine put together.
And there was me thinking it was something else that turned your hair green. More details of the world below the cloud are revealed including some nasty looking Morlockian mutants while the Constable does that Rio Bravo thing of locking up the newcomer for his own protection and if I squint a bit I can almost see Walter Brennan playing Solace. The forum is divided as to whether this story is Ian Edginton retreading a familiar line or a wondrous new thrill for the Prog. It's perhaps not quite hitting the heady heights of Dredd and Absalom yet but it's still hugely entertaining, and it sure floats my boat (yes, I'm pleased with that one). Lovely to look at as well.
It's not fair to compare Helium to Finn which I don't like the look of and haven't read. The Meg's text pieces are OK but not fantastically interesting. Perhaps the best of the rest is the strange cut out reservation token to hand to your newsagent and reserve your copy. Nobody cuts up comics these days do they? Maybe Tharg just wants us to feel nostalgic for those halcyon days when we wouldn't dare speak to the seedy guy who ran the paper shop but might just pluck up the courage to poke our nose over the counter with a grubby slip of paper to secure a copy of the Galaxy's greatest comic. Still it is utterly charming and almost seals the win for the Meg but I'm going to give the point to Helium.
So it's another 3-3 tie and yes my scoring system sucks but it's a splendid day when these two land on my doormat. Top thrill is going to be Judge Dredd: Blood of Emeralds but Absalom and El Maldito both ran it close.