Thursday, November 21, 2013

2000AD - Megazine 342

This week's Prog 1859, can be summed up pretty quickly:

Good second episode. Dredd's face looks a bit weird in some panels and he gets disarmed too easily, but I'm looking forward to seeing how this wraps up.
Future Shocks
If you have read any Ray Bradbury story ever then you know how this one is going to end. It's no coincidence that the kid is called Troy. Lovely art by Nick Dyer though.
Brass Sun.
It's capture time in the continuing cycle of events for Wren and the other two whose names I keep forgetting. Looks very pretty.
Now the art is going off the rails as well as the script. And the Dinosaur rampage is really being dragged out.
Damnation Station.
Starting to get into this now, even if this episode is in Spanish. Pick of the prog this week.

However, this was a Megazine week so let's look at that in more detail.

Cover by Colin Macneil.
Beautiful image. 2000AD has always done future war and made it look weird and terrifying at the same time. This image is no exception. The razor wire gives it a world war one feel which is very appropriate for a comic published in November.

Judge Dredd: Duty Calls by Alec Worley, Ben Willsher, Gary Caldwell and Annie Parkhouse.
I love Willsher's kinetic artwork on Dredd. It helps to know that he is such a fan-boy himself and the photo of him getting a book signed by Ron Smith at the Free Comic book day event in May was a lovely thing to see. The story about a rogue sniper is a pretty good one, and it gives us a chance to see more filed teeth cannibals roaming the ruins of Mega-City One. The final image also takes us right back to Dredd's very first appearance in Prog 2. Classic stuff

Insurrection part nine by Dan Abnett, Colin Macneil, John-Paul Bove and Simon Bowland
Atmospheric black and white artwork, an army unit betrayed by their command, and terrible scenes of battlefield desolation. All this and an enhanced talking gorilla in battle armour, how can you go wrong? The first volume of Insurrection came out while 2000AD and I were on a trial separation so I missed it completely and the trade paperback is now out of print. I'm going to have to track down a copy to go along with this final chapter because this has been fantastic. And it really feels like a powerful anti-war story that reminded me of the last episode of Blackadder.

Ordinary by Rob Williams, D'Israeli and HV Derci
Another thing you can rely on 2000AD for is super-powers with a twist. Here we have a world falling apart as everybody suddenly acquires special abilities, everyone apart from one ordinary plumber who incidentally looks rather like the artist D'Israeli. Rob Williams is perfect at capturing that streak of dark comedy that 2000AD has always done so well. His Low Life stories were great and this is shaping up to be another great story. Having Michael the plumber trying to get across New York to reach his son allows D'Israeli to fill the background with all manner of strange super powered characters, the vast majority of them are just throwaway gags but it's all beautifully done with his trademark detail. It's unusual to see D'Israeli colouring his own work, I'm more used to his black and white stuff in the prog, but here his colouring just leaps off the page and reminded me of the great work he did on Scarlet Traces.

Dredd: Underbelly part three by Arthur Wyatt, Henry Flint, Chris Blythe and Ellie De Ville
The comic sequel to the Dredd movie concludes and left me strangely unmoved. Flint's art is great and the two page spread showing the Judges moving through the drug factory is fantastic, but I'd rather have him drawing regular Judge Dredd. I expected this story would be more about Anderson but she just popped up for a couple of cameos. It also seems strange that they chose to do another drug bust story for the sequel, there was the new angle with mutant trafficking but I would have thought they could have chosen a different aspect of Mega-City crime for the sequel. I am left feeling underwhelmed which is a shame as the rest of the Megazine has been great.

Lobster Random: Tooth and Claw by Simon Spurrier, Carl Critchlow and Ellie De Ville.
So there was a long period when I wasn't buying any comics at all. I know, what was wrong with me? So here is another story that first appeared in the Prog while I wasn't looking. Normally these floppy collections that come with the Megazine don't really interest me but this was great fun. Spurrier is clearly a very clever writer and while I found his Simping Detective quite hard work Lobster Random is a terrific creation. A grouchy old man with "anger management issues, surgically bonded Lobster claws, an inability to sleep or feel pain, and a sexual attraction to pieces of intelligent machinery". Add to this Carl Critchlow's weird science fiction art and you have something with a European comics feel that looks like it came from Heavy Metal magazine. Splendid.

Pick of the Meg is a really tough call but I'm going with Insurrection.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2000AD - Prog 1858

Cover by Clint Langley
I'm not a huge fan of Langley's artwork when it appears in the prog, but I do love his covers and this is no exception. Fantastic image that will pop on the shelves and hopefully tempt some new readers. Having said that both the alternate covers shown on Pete Wells' blog look great as well. Either of them would have been fantastic.

Thrills of the Future
Absalom is coming back and it looks like it's going all Life on Mars back in the 1970s. I love Absalom and can hardly wait for this one shot story that is set to appear in Prog 2014.

Judge Dredd. Ferals part one by Emma Beeby, John Burns and Annie Parkhouse. 
A nice little prologue to something wicked this way coming. I like the idea of groups of feral children establishing their own law in the aftermath of Day of Chaos, and regarding the Judges with suspicion. The first pages reminded me of an old Thunderbirds episode where a boy who was playing International Rescue managed to call them out repeatedly on false alarms. John Burn's art looks lovely for the scenes of the kids playing and I like his interpretation of Dredd's helmet which gives him more peripheral vision through the visor. Not sure why he turns blue in one panel but that is probably meant to be some ambient lighting effect. All in all a nice opener which promises much, and notice how I got right through this review without mentioning the writer's sex once? It shouldn't be the talking point it has become, let's get past it and concentrate on the stories.

Brass Sun. The Diamond Age part nine by Ian Edginton, I.N.J.Culbard and Ellie De Ville.
A change of worlds and a change of scene. The idea of all these different planets with splendid names like Plenitude, High Dudgeon and Hot Air is intriguing. I've been a bit bored with their adventures on the world they have just left so hopefully Hot Air will seize my attention again. Interesting that the colour scheme has changed with the setting.

Flesh. Badlanders part nine by Pat Mills, James McKay, Lee Townsend and Annie Parkhouse
Gorehead finally breaks loose, the black and white scratchy art makes me feel young again, and Pat Mills' dialogue is terrible. That about sums it up. I know we're not allowed to say a bad word about 2000AD's godfather Mr Mills but I'm not sure that he is giving this strip his full attention. At least next week we get Cowboy vs Dinosaur again, and that's usually entertaining.

Tharg's 3rillers. Rewind part 3 by Robert Murphy, Jesus Redondo, Eva De La Cruz and  Ellie De Ville.
So last time I got the details of how time travel works in this story all wrong and missed the bit about "time blisters" created by traumatic events. It still doesn't make much sense to me. I'm not sure what happens to the undead cop's chest wound when he returns to base. Nor how the murderer gets left to live out his life in the 18th century but can also be spirited away to serve an eternal punishment. Are the cops some form of purgatory police, and if so why do they need the science fiction technology trappings? To drag in another TV show comparison this felt a bit like the final season of Lost where all the sci-fi stuff was explained by a certain plot twist that the writers had been vigorously denying right from the first episode.

However Redondo's artwork looks great and the colours by De La Cruz are fabulous so it's nice to look at. Let's hope the next 3riller works better as a story.

Damnation Station. The Howling Beast on the Borderline part one by Al Ewing, Mark Harrison and Simon Bowland.
I went back and read Tordelback's primer to this series on the 2000AD boards and it begins to make more sense. Humanity is paying off a debt to one lot of aliens by fighting another alien force, and the beanie wearing Commander Joe Nowhere is some sort of undercover alien agent who is leading the resistance. The humans work out how to get a missile lock on the invisible alien ships but not before a bunch of nasties break through an airlock. At least I think that's what is happening. It all looks absolutely spectacular, I'm guessing that Mark Harrison is working mostly with digital artwork and colouring. However he's doing it this is the best looking strip in the prog at the moment.

Pick of the Prog could be any one of Dredd, Brass Sun or Damnation Station for the artwork alone. Although the Thought Bubble image of Judge Flask on the back cover, and Ezquerra's picture of Johnny and Wulf in the Strontium Dog advert look even better. No medicine to report on this week but I'm watching out for that adrenaline.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Big Finish - The Revenants

The Revenants by Ian Potter and directed by Lisa Bowerman.

This was a free extra that came with the special edition version of The Light at the End. It's a First Doctor story narrated by William Russell as Ian Chesterton. I don't normally like the companion chronicle stories where there are only one to two characters telling the tale instead of a full cast audio drama but this was splendid.

It helps that it has a framing device of a much older Ian telling the story to a woman he meets on a ferry. This also means that William Russell doesn't have to try and sound like his younger self. The writers have cleverly included several chemical references which makes the most of Ian's background as a science teacher. And it has an eerie ghost story feel to it. All this plus William Russell's only performance as the First Doctor which is lovely stuff.

An unexpected delight and a great bonus, 4.5 out of 5 stars.  

Big Finish - Judge Dredd: Grud is Dead

Judge Dredd: Grud is Dead by James Swallow and Simon Jowett, directed by John Ainsworth.

A bizarre faction of the Catholic Church are involved in a plot to create a new God and Judge Dredd has to travel to Rome and team up with Devlin Waugh to prevent them from unleashing chaos.

The whole subject of religion in Mega-City One is a bit complicated with characters using Grud as an exclamation instead of the word god, which the editors wanted to avoid in a children's comic. And here we have the church trying to restore the concept of God to the world of Dredd. On top of the that we have the renegade, vampire exorcist Devlin Waugh who, I confess, is a character who I know nothing about but he is played with considerable relish by Peter Guinnesss.

I'm running out of Big Finish Dredd stories and it seems unlikely that I'm going to find anything to rival Death Trap or Get Karter. This plods along nicely and I could happily hear more of the Waugh character but again it was all a bit humdrum, another middle of the road 2.5 out of 5 crosses.

Big Finish - Fanfare for the Common Men

Let me get this blog back on track with three quick Big Finish reviews. first up, Fanfare for the Common Men by Eddie Robson, directed by Barnaby Edwards. The first in the Big Finish 1963 trilogy.

The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa are in 1963 to see the Beatles but no one seems to have heard of them. Instead the band that was mentioned in passing by Susan in the very first episode of Doctor Who have taken their place in history and the Doctor wants to know why.

On the plus side the music in this story is fantastic. Howard Carter has come up with some catchy pop tunes that sound just right for the period and he's helped by some great performances by Mitch Benn, Andrew Knott and David Dobson as the band members with those familiar Liverpudlian accents. Having said that the rest of the story rather left me cold. The Doctor and the Nyssa investigate and discover the inevitable alien who is meddling with time, and although it is the standard four episodes long it just whizzed past without leaving much of an impression on me.

Not a terrible story but the pairing of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa is one of the least interesting teams that have Big Finish currently have. Let me be generous and call it a 3 out of 5 mop top haircuts story.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Big Finish - The Light at the End

The Light at the End. Written and directed by Nicholas Briggs.

It's the 50th anniversary special featuring the eight classic Doctors, a host of companions, the Time Lords, and the Master, and it's all fantastic. Everything about this production just hits the right spot for Doctor Who's birthday celebrations. The music and sound effects are superb. All the Doctors are on fine form with Tom Baker and Paul McGann really standing out. And there's a terrifically creepy performance from Geoffrey Beevers as the Master.

I won't go into details of the story and how all eight doctors end up drawn back to an important event on the 23rd November, 1963. However it's all masterfully done, there is nothing like a good multi-Doctor story and this is a real stand out. It even features incarnations of the first three Doctors here played by William Russell, Frazer Hines and Tim Trealor. They are trapped in some sort of Tardis time pocket so their voices are a little distorted which allows the actors some leeway in their recreation of the original actors.

As well as all this there are two CDs worth of extras which are well worth listening to. It's a tremendous package from Big Finish and it is impossible to give it less than 5 out of 5 classic Doctors. Highly recommended.

2000AD Prog 1857

By Karl Richardson. Terrific depiction of Dredd and the monster. Richardson goes with the vambrace gauntlet thing that he used on the cover of 1845 but more of that later. Dredd has pretty impressive abs for a 70 year old, I don't believe they would show through a leather uniform but that's artistic licence again. My main problem with this cover is that it looks so similar to Prog 1826 by Paul Davidson. I'll be interested to see Pete Wells' 2000AD Covers Uncovered blog posting on this and what Tharg's brief was.

Dredd. Prey part three by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse.
Although the bad guy gets plenty of time to monologue his evil plan this final episode feels a bit rushed like a lot of the recent Dredd tales. It did seem that it might have another prog in it but once the beastie is dispatched it's all wrapped up in five quick panels.

Now for the medical content. Firstly I don't know how the nurse's medical band delivers the "anti-allergy medicine" into the body but I'm pretty sure it would need to be on the skin or fairly close to it. We teach patients that they can deliver their Epipen or Jext injection devices through a pair of trousers or tights in an emergency, but I don't think that would work through a pair of thick leather gauntlets with that wrist protector vambrace thing. We know that Dredd's costume is resistant against fire and a variety of nasty chemicals. I don't think it can do that and still allow a fairly small needle or gas powered injection device to fire through the back of his glove.

The second problem with this get out of jail device is the idea that this medical band has delivered "enough adrenaline to briefly counteract the neurotoxin". Adrenaline does not work like that, there are only a few medical emergencies that justify its use. The devices used by patients and doctors to treat allergic anaphylaxis do contain adrenaline but the way that works is to increase the force and speed of the heart pumping, as well as opening up the airways and making it easier for someone having an allergic crisis to breathe. It's not going to reverse the effects of a neurotoxin. Adrenaline was also used incorrectly to get Dredd back on his feet after major blood loss in Trifecta. And another thing, in America adrenaline is called epinephrine, in fact there is an attempt to get all countries to use the same name for drugs and epinephrine is the term accepted by the international medical community. Unless the nurse is from Brit-Cit she is using the wrong drug name. This sort of stuff stands out like a sore thumb to me (and I see lots of sore thumbs as well). There are better drugs and devices that might work in these situations, just ask me.

Having said that the detail about the Doctor developing new drugs from the Scrall venom does reflect real medicine. In recent years we have started using a blood pressure medicine developed from Pit-Viper venom, and a new diabetic drug comes from the saliva of the venomous Gila Monster. So hats off to Mr Eglington for that.

Brass Sun. The Diamond Age part eight by Ian Edginton, INJ Culbard and Ellie De Ville.
Stop me if you have heard this opinion already. The art is lovely and I look forward to reading the whole thing in trade, but it just moves so slowly. Having said that doesn't it also seem that the protagonists are getting chased through long grass by one of those strangely ineffectual Scythe robot things every third episode or so? I'll wait for the collected version.

Flesh. Badlanders part eight by Pat Mills, James McKay, Lee Townsend and Annie Parkhouse.
I'm growing to love the black and white art which reminds me of the early days of 2000AD but I'm still mystified by the storyline. Still we get a raptor versus a rodeo cowboy, Vegas shows off her boobs again, and next issue we might finally get Gorehead living up to his name.

Tharg's 3rillers. Rewind part two by Robert Murphy, Jesus Redondo, Eva De La Cruz and Ellie De Ville.
I really enjoy these three episode stories which introduce some new blood into 2000AD's line up. There is a slight problem with the time travel cop story which has already been pointed out on the forums, namely if you can go back and solve past murders, why don't you just go back a little further and prevent them in the first place?

As you might expect I also have some medical problems with this story. In the last prog one of the cops used a hand held device to identify the suspects as two adult males based on "exhaled DNA particles". There are all sorts of problems with this. Let's assume that we do shed some some lung lining cells and blow those out in each breath. Collecting enough of those and then extracting the DNA from them is going to be enormously difficult and way beyond the power of something you can wear on your belt. However if we can accept time travel for the story then let's allow Robert Murphy to have a CSI crime lab that can be carried on a utility belt. But you can't identify someone's sex from DNA, you identify it from the chromosomes made from DNA. And even if we reject that as just a quibble about names how does DNA analysis tell you how old someone is?

My other problem with this particular story is the size of the hole that Dick Turpin blows in Benson's chest with his flintlock pistol. Of course this allows for some Death Becomes Her fun as the artist draws his partner peering through the gaping wound, but even a large calibre musket ball would not make that size of wound. Look at the American civil war photographs of Matthew Brady to see the small but deadly wounds caused by musket fire.

Damnation Station. In Another Lifetime by Al Ewing, Mark Harrison and Simon Bowland.
Looks pretty but I have no idea what's going on. I need to go right back to the start on this one.

Pick of the prog is Dredd, but mainly through lack of competition. I'm off now for an adrenaline shot and a nice cup of tea.