Saturday, May 31, 2014

Scarlet Traces

This is 2000AD related as it appeared in the Megazine, and it's by two of Tharg's finest droids, Ian Edginton and Matt 'D'Israeli' Brooker. The front cover of the edition I have describes it as a murder-mystery sequel to H.G.Wells' War of the Worlds and it is a rather splendid bit of sinister steampunk.

Set about ten years after the events described in the original novel the British Empire has harnessed all the technology left behind by the Martian invaders and used it to ensure that Britain remains a world superpower with flying machines and advanced weaponry. Major Robert Autumn and his redoubtable butler Archibald Currie are two retired soldiers who investigate the case of a number of young women who have gone missing, but of course they are going to discover much more than that.

The original idea and the execution by Edginton is nearly flawless. Not all of his 2000AD projects meet with universal approval but his writing here is superb. The clever integration of Martian technology into everyday British life is extremely good, and the murder mystery is also very well done. Meanwhile fan favourite D'Israeli delivers lovely coloured art which is full of vibrant details. If you enjoyed his recent work on Ordinary then take a look at this.

The steampunk world that they create is just great fun, so much so that it deserved and got a sequel called The Great Game which advances the story into the 20th century and adds a new twist. Both books are also filled with lots of clever references and nods to various other classic science fictions ranging from Quatermass to Thunderbirds. Some might find these in-jokes intrusive or tiresome, others will just love that kind of thing. I am so much in the latter camp that I went so far as to compile a website listing all of these references which you can find here.

The only downside to Scarlet Traces is that the original book is now out of print but second hand copies are reasonably easy to get hold of. The sequel The Great Game is still available, as is the pair's comic book adaptation of Wells' novel itself.

If you like a bit of the old steampunk delivered with D'Israeli's lovely art then track this down. Recommended.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

2000AD - Prog 1882

Cover by Simon Davis. A wraparound piece of loveliness from Mr Davis. The greens are fantastic and I like the giants in the background. However in the iPad app there is no way of stitching the two pages together which seems like a major problem and one that should be so easy to fix. I want to be able to turn the pad to landscape and see the full cover but at the moment the pages are split at either end of the Prog. Time to reprogram one of the droids, Tharg!

Judge Dredd: Shooters Night part 4 by John Wagner, John McCrea, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
Wagner wraps up the tale and the full horror of the shooters' conspiracy is realised. McCrea and Blythe do fantastic work with more expert storytelling and I look forward to more from them soon.

Dredd's guilt level continues to grow and grow. He has so much on his conscience by this stage and here he adds to it with the consequences of a single question that he didn't ask. The young Dredd was always convinced of the rightness of his actions but old Joe increasingly questions himself and the system he represents. Can a Judge feel guilt at the same time as determining the guilt or innocence of those they judge? It's an interesting dilemma for a character who was once compared to an emotionless robot. Dredd's 'wool-gathering' moments seem to be all about the decisions he has made in the past. Put him in a straight forward action setting like Matt Smith's "Badge" in the Free Comic Book Day issue, or the night club shooting in the first episode of this story and he is as swift and resolute as ever in his actions. But once he is off the streets and stalking the corridors of the Hall of Justice his mind turns to the past.

Some decisions he can reverse, most notably his stance over the Mutant issue, but he can never go back on his actions in the Apocalypse war, or those during the Day of Chaos, or even his conversation with the psychiatrist in Shooters Night. Joseph Dredd is in a perilous position as he ponders his past and his future. Coming up next is Michael Carroll's heavily trailed Trauma Town which asks whether the toughest law man around is losing his mind. Unusually Wagner seems to have helped set this up with his unrelenting ramping up of the pressure on Dredd.

Last thought: is Hershey suffering from an attack of the Vapors?

Indigo Prime: Perfect Day part 3 by John Smith, Lee Carter and Simon Bowland.
Wikipedia tells me that Indigo Prime has been appearing in the pages of 2000AD since 1988 and that means the appearance of Major Kurtz Arcana pre-dates the Marvel Ultimates version of Nick Fury by 12 years. Still a bit of a jolt to see his scarred and patched bald visage in this story though. I'm not quite sure where this story is going but the visuals are fantastic. As ever 2000AD has to sell pre-existing stories to new readers and there is enough intrigue here to get me on board for more.

Slaine: A Simple Killing part 9 by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
Slaine battles the jolly green giant (are we allowed to say that in a 2000AD review?) while the bad guys discuss their doctoral theses. Strangely the action sequences are rather static with Davis' beautiful images not really conveying a sense of motion as the giant tastes BrainBiter and falls. Still my favourite Slaine story ever but possibly as I have so little to compare it with.

Tharg's 3rillers: Colony part 3 by Kek-W, Vince Locke, Adam Brown and Ellie De Ville
It started as Ivan Denisovich and it finishes as The Thing. Stealing from the best is no sin but their needs to be something original in there as well. This 3riller has been the Prog's dud for the last 3 weeks. Let's see what replaces it.

Outlier part 9 by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse.
It turns out there is something that can slow Caul down, but nothing that can stop the villainy of Ramona. Still bothers me that we've seen no more of Carcer's interesting visual abilities. The art is fine apart from one image of Caul on the second page that looks a bit rushed.

Pick of the Prog is Dredd for raising those questions about the great man's mind.

Friday, May 23, 2014

2000AD - Prog 1881

Cover by Glenn Fabry and Kevin Molen. I'm not sure why the image required Dredd to be kneeling, his knee pad looks weird to me. The shooters in their day of the dead outfits are suitably nasty but the colours look a little muddy.

Judge Dredd: Shooters Night part 3 by John Wagner, John McCrea, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
No credits card on this week's instalment but I assume the line up is the same. We find out whose door Dredd turned up at in the final panel last week and the detective work continues as the Judges track down the rest of the gang. The page where Dredd takes down the suicide bomber is very effective with some nice story telling from McCrea as the panels zoom in on the hand with the detonator. Interesting to note that Dredd seems to be sporting some Burdis like chin growth at the moment.

Outlier part 8 by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse
Richardson gives us a nice two page splash of Caul's destructive power but it still begs the question as to how he can possibly be stopped. Ramona turns out to be an even nastier piece of work than previously shown and I presume this can only end with Caul killing everyone and then disappearing off in to space. I still like the art and colouring but I'm ready for the conclusion now.

Indigo Prime: Perfect Day part 2 by John Smith, Lee Carter and Simon Bowland.
I bet there are all sorts of in-jokes and references on the multiple screens Danny is watching. I see Bagpuss, Ron Burgundy and The Dark Knight Returns cover but I'm sure there is much more there. Meanwhile the set up to the main story continues and we focus on Danny and Unthur as they meet their Nazi client. Lee Carter's artwork is just fantastic but I'm still not sure what this is going to be about. Stay tuned.

Tharg's 3rillers: Colony part 2 by Kek-W, Vince Locke, Adam Brown and Ellie De Ville
The infectious nature of the red stuff comes as no big surprise and this week we get a reference to John Carpenter's The Thing with the crazed guy locked in the hut. Probably the best moment is when he likens the invaders to Imperialists from outer space but apart from that it's still not doing much for me. Wraps up next week with a big fireball on the horizon.

Slaine: A simple killing part 8 by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
Six lovely painted pages from Davis who is getting better every week. I presume the reveal of the villain's parentage is significant but it I figured he was involved somewhere along the line. Great last page this week, I wonder what gets chopped off next time?

Pick of the Prog is Indigo Prime which wins on looks alone for now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Starlord #1

Here's a moment from British comics history that I picked up at the Lawgiver convention. I don't really know much about Starlord and certainly don't remember getting it at the time, we were a 2000AD house. All I know is that Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters started here before the inevitable merging that was so common in UK comics back then.

Cover is by Ramon Sola and combines some tough looking characters with acres of free space so the title, blurbs and free gift can fit on. It looks very different from anything we'd get on 2000AD until the much later painted era. At first glance I might be hard pressed to pick out Johnnie and Wulf but more of them later.

Planet of the Damned by R.E. Wright, Lalia and Bill Nuttall.
It's a classic science fiction trope about the routine passenger flight that crashes through some inter-dimensional portal and ends up in a barbaric world with the passengers fighting for survival. Stephen King has done it, DC comics have their Warlord character, and on TV we've seen both Land of the Giants and Lost.

Thick, dark inks and some typical 1970s artwork with no less than 3 circular panels in these 6 pages alone. Interestingly the creators named are featured in little credit boxes so the experiment which began in 2000AD prog 36 was carried over into this title.

Timequake by Jack Adrian, Ian Kennedy and Peter Knight
This one seems like a variation on the Invasion theme with the twist being the invaders are the alien Droon from the future and time-travelling scientists are putting together a Time-Control team and need a Bill Savage like hard case from the 20th century to complete the gang. I don't know what happened to this strip from here on but I suspect it involved Blocker and some shootahs.

Strontium Dog by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Carlos Ezquerra and Jack Potter.
Johnny Alpha's first appearance gets the colour centre-spread as Alpha uses his mutant eyes to track down the bad guys so he and Wulf can wipe them out. They then have to explain themselves to the local police which gives them a chance to fill us in on the background of the search and destroy agents.

There's some odd stuff in this first episode, Johnny's helmet gives him a more reptilian look than we are used to. He uses a time drogue to resurrect a body and get a clue to their next target from him. And then Johnny uses his eyes to look at the electro-patterns of the perp's brain and see if he is lying. I don't know if they stuck with this power for very long. It's a bit like the birdie lie detector that Dredd uses which Wagner now admits was a bit of a mistake as it removed one element of tension in interrogation scenes.

But it's still a thrill to see Johnny and Wulf for the first time, and to have no explanation of the pairing of the weird looking mutant with a huge Viking. Top thrill (if I'm allowed to say that about Starlord).

Ro-Busters by Pat Mills, Carlos Pino and Tom Frame.
Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein along with Mr Ten Per Cent and Mek-Quake all make their first appearances, and there is a gorgeous colour splash page by Pino. Clearly it's meant to be International Rescue with robots but it's brilliant and so much 2000AD goodness will result from this opening episode.

Star strip goes to Strontium Dog even though his look hasn't been finalised yet. A fascinating trip down one of the 2000AD side alleys, and an astonishing Whittle circular panel count of 12!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Retro review - Prog 310

Prog 310 from April 1983 and looking pretty good for a comic that is 31 years old.
Cover is by Mike McMahon and it's another arresting image which tells us all we need to know about the story inside.

In the Nerve Centre Tharg breaks the grim news that the price is going up to 20 pence an issue. Those were the days.

Invasion of the Thrill Snatchers by Tharg, Massimo Belardinelli and Steve Potter
Tharg's body gets invaded by the pesky blighters and we get an alien version of the Fantastic Voyage movie all done with Belardinelli's usual charm. It's nonsense but it looks lovely.

Time Twisters: Chrono Cops by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
One of the all time classic single stories that Moore wrote for 2000AD with Gibbons' lovely figures and beautiful backgrounds to behold as well. The multiple time lines involved and the importance of keeping an eye on what is going on at the back of the panels was something that this pair would later weave into the world of Watchmen. It's almost like this is their try out for that later epic, while at the same time serving as an amusing parody of Dragnet.

Then we have an Action Video two page text piece about the latest cutting edge games from Atari. Shame they all ended up in landfill sites.

Judge Dredd: The Starborn Thing part 2 by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Carlos Ezquerra and Tom Frame.
Here is an earlier version of Dredd versus the beastie from Alien, or a thinly disguised version thereof. This one is not orally fixated and prefers to stick some nasty brain controlling spikes in your spine instead so Dredd's investigation of the crashed alien spaceship goes horribly wrong, leading to the scene played out on the cover.

The colours on the centre spread are so vibrant that they bleed through onto the next page and you know what, that's quite all right with me. Wagner, Grant, Ezquerra, Frame and a vicious creepy crawly makes this one a winner again.

Rogue Trooper: Fort Neuro part 19 by Gerry Finley-Day, Cam Kennedy and Bill Nuttall
This is the final chapter of a Rogue epic as the GI leads the successful defence of the Fort and Nort General Vagner is carted away in a strait-jacket raving about blue warriors. There are some typically 2000AD whacky robots and the story ends with the solitary Rogue once more striding off into the mists of Nu Earth. Not too dissimilar from what's currently happening in IDW's Rogue Trooper title.

Skizz part 3 by Alan Moore, Jim Baikie and Tony Jacob.
I've recently reviewed the Skizz trade so can't add much more other than to say this is the episode where Roxy first finds Skizz hiding in the garden shed and gets to utter the classic line "You're not from round here, then?" I love Skizz, always have,always will.

Back cover is a Cam Kennedy Rogue Trooper pin-up.

Pick of the prog is Chrono-Cops, partly for its future significance but also because it's a really funny story. And the Whittle circular panel count is again 3.

Judge Dredd Big Drokkin' Treasury Edition

Bit of an oddity this one. IDW comics as part of their project to introduce Dredd to American audiences have produced a treasury edition of some classic stories from the good old days of 2000AD. So here are eight stories all written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, in large format black and white, which means that they have actually removed the colour from some of the two page colour centre spreads that Dredd used to get.

And it is big, about A3 sized so bigger than even the current prog. The A3 proportions don't match the old progs so there are quite large white margins at the top and bottom of the page. Even so the pages are bigger than we are used to compared with the progs themselves or the case file reprints, and the black and white reproduction is pin sharp with none of the issues that marred the recent Halo Jones edition or Skizz. The result is the chance to admire some beautiful line work by the acknowledged masters of early Dredd art. Kevin O'Neill, Mike McMahon, Cliff Robinson, Ron Smith, Ian Gibson and Brian Bolland are all here with only King Carlos not making the final cut, and that must have been a tough decision to leave him out.

The only puzzle about this book is what it is setting out to achieve. IDW's own take on Dredd, or Heavily armoured special cop as we might have to call him from now on, is very different from the version shown in these classic strips. And I'm not sure if American readers go for these oversize reprints in a big way, plus they have a fairly well known resistance to black and white comics. It all comes back to that great mystery (to me anyway) which is how many copies do comics actually sell these days. I can look up on the Diamond website what the top 100 selling books are but neither Judge Dredd or Rogue Trooper are troubling the scorer there. Perhaps something like this will increase recognition of Dredd in American comic stores, or maybe the Free Comic Book Day prog would do a better job of that. And perhaps this is just putting out some more classic stories to be snapped up by us hardcore fans who probably have all these stories already.

Having said all that is costs less than £7 here in the UK so if you want to see some eye-wateringly beautiful Dredd art hunt down a copy. Pick of the Prog goes to the Judge Minty story which has grown in significance and impact with time and now has a terrific fan film to go with it, and I'm not just saying that because I got to wear Minty's jacket at the Lawgiver convention.

Friday, May 16, 2014

2000AD Free Comic Book Day Prog

This is 2000AD's fourth Free Comic Book Day issue and  they approach it in their usual anarchic style. So we get a lovely parody cover by Henry Flint and then a nice mix of old and new stories which hopefully will attract a few new readers to the weekly joys of the Galaxy's greatest comic.
Flint's homage to the classic Spider-Man No More issue really does the business as ever. If I was a Marvel reader then this cover would make me curious about 2000AD. I hope it grabbed some new readers but I suspect it was mostly snapped up by all the existing fans. Hopefully they all bought some other stuff in their comic store at the same time.

Judge Dredd: The Badge by Matt Smith, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn and Pye Parr.
Now having Dredd talk a rookie Judge through a tough situation is a neat idea and one that I wish I'd thought of for the forums short story contest. There's also plenty of nods to the past with the Blobs and the out of control Mek-Quake like machine that Dredd is tackling.

Chris Burnham's art is lovely, I haven't seen any of his Batman stuff so don't know if this is his usual style but it is great fun and Fairbairn's colours are lovely. I also like having a Judge named Hartnell, especially in a story written by Matt Smith (no, not that one).

Slaine: Lord of the Beasts by Pat Mills, Rafael Garres and Ellie De Ville
Another artist that I am unfamiliar with and my first impressions were rather confused, it looked a bit dark and messy. But closer examination reveals some lovely images and a neat little prelude from Uncle Pat. I'm sure it would make more sense if I followed this on to the Lord of the Beasts trade but I'm buying too many 2000AD books at the moment and Slaine will have to wait. But the FCBD sampler has done its job and tempted me.

Rogue Trooper: Glass Zone by Gerry Finley-Day, Dave Gibbons and Bill Nuttall.
A classic moment from the early days of Rogue as he tries to get some rest and then has to improvise weapons when he is surprised by a Nort patrol. Having read Seth's reviews recently I am curious as to how much Dave Gibbons still believed in the strip at this stage but his artwork is always rewarding. Looks lovely in black and white as well.

Anderson PSI Division: Golem by Alan Grant, Romero and Steve Potter
Another old story and another unfamiliar artist who does that flicked up hair thing I associate with newspaper strips like Modesty Blaise, and of course, when I look him up I find that he is one of the definitive Modesty Blaise artists. Must have been lodged in the back of my brain somewhere. The Golem storyline is fairly familiar and Anderson solves it in her usual style. Very pretty though isn't she?

Absalom: Noblesse Oblige part 1 by Gordon Rennie, Tiernen Trevaillion and Simon Bowland
I was really hoping we might get some new Absalom in here. There's nothing wrong with this short intro but I've read it a few times already. Roll on the new stuff.

Durham Red: Running out of Patients by Leah Moore, John Reppion, Jan Duursema, Dylan Teague and Ellie De Ville
Brian Blessed and his mutant pirates hi-jack a blood wagon and it's up to Durham Red and her sidekick Scampi to save the day. Things go from bad worse and just when it looks like Scampi may end up as a basket case (yes, I did) the voluptuous vampire vigilante does her thing and it's type O all round.

Apart from her obvious charms I've not really got into Durham Red yet and this effort by the Alan Moore younglings left me unmoved.

Then there is that full page advert for the Mike McMahon statue. Must try and resist, I have so much stuff already.

Future Shocks. It's a Dog eat Dog Universe by Barry Hammersmith (AKA Robo-Keef), Henry Flint and Pye Parr
Gluetanic channels Galactus, Flint does Jack Kirby, and Robo-Keef gives us his Al Ewing. It's a bit of a throwaway gag that's been done once or twice already but it's still funny and awfully pretty.

Two pages of Ron Smith Daily Star strips and then we're into a last page gag by Henry Flint that rounds out a tremendous issue. I hope you all had as much fun as I did on Free Comic Book Day.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Rage against the machine

This ran in Progs 1453-1464 and 1555-1566 back in 2005 and 2007 respectively. Sergeant Nate Slaughterhouse returns to Mega-City One with his family after been horribly injured in an off-world conflict, but he is not the man he was. Most of him has been replaced by advanced military prosthetics so that he has become the Mandroid of the title. When his wife disappears and his son is brutally murdered he decides to take the law into his own artificial hands.

Once again Dredd is largely a peripheral character in this story with Slaughterhouse's drama taking centre stage as he kills his way towards the truth of happened to his wife and son. Dredd's conversations with Nate are mostly sympathetic although he is much harsher with his junior colleagues here, particularly with a Judge Wittle whose screw ups allow Slaughterhouse to escape from the iso-cubes. Yes, Wagner has to arrange another break out from the ultimate prison and while the medical details of the escape seem somewhat improbable it does allow the Mandroid to return for a second chapter after presumably being a big hit on his first outing.

Dredd's relationship with machines and technology is interesting. In his early appearances other characters would speculate that he appeared to be more robot than man. And of course he famously influenced the Robocop movie, but for a science fiction character he is notoriously distrustful of machines. Obviously he relies on his lawmaster and lawgiver, although he often seems to prefer his daystick and boot knife, and he uses the various other bits of tech that allow him to do his job. However his distrust rises when dealing with machines that are designed to replace humans in some way. This is most obvious in his longstanding opposition to the Mechanismo program of robot Judges which turn up briefly in the second story here. Dredd places his faith in human decisions, particularly those made by well trained Judges, he does not believe those decisions should be delegated to machines.

Early in the Day of Chaos epic the council of five ordered a remote drone strike on the rogue Sov judges' bunker, Dredd wanted to put troops on the ground instead but was outvoted with disastrous consequences. Dredd's decision to trust humans over machines could have prevented the decimation of his city. I wonder if that other cybernetic Judge Gerhart will take that into account if he ever succeeds in bringing Dredd to trial.

Of course by this stage of his career Dredd himself is partly bionic although he regards his implants as just tools to allow him to dispense justice. And here he comes face to face with a man who has had to have most of his body replaced with machinery. Slaughterhouse is bitterly unhappy about his replacement parts, and spends time debating whether he is still a man. This philosophical debate as to how much of us we can replace before we are no longer ourselves is fascinating, and how great to find it in a weekly throwaway comic (I don't really throw them away, honest). So it is perhaps not too surprising when Dredd meets what he could become himself that he empathises with Nate to some extent. Of course there can only be one winner, although the way Dredd handles the final showdown is calm and unexpected.

I can't get enough of Wagner's writing when the standard is as high as this. He so thoroughly understands Dredd's character by this stage that he is just turning out gems every time he returns to the character he is most closely linked too. Here he mixes Dredd's detective work, a vengence vendetta, and a political conspiracy thriller but the thing that shines out is the human element of Nate's terrible plight. It seems to me that as Wagner has gotten older his interest in the ordinary citizens of his future city has grown and he has portrayed them in a more sympathetic light.

The art is split between Kev Walker, Simon Coleby and Carl Critchlow and they are all top notch. I'm hard pressed to chose between them but Walker's work on the first chapter just edges it. This is the first complete story by Walker that I've read and it's lovely stuff. I'd like to see more of this in the prog. The only bad thing about Mandroid is that I missed it when it first came out, this is one of those stories that I would have really enjoyed to read on a weekly basis. Another top thrill from the house of Tharg and I'm really digging my journey through the Dredd trades available on the iPad app.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

2000AD Retro Review - Prog 242

Here from December 1981 is another slice of golden age goodness courtesy of the back issue bins at Orbital comics.

Cover is by Brian Bolland and its another beauty. The dynamic posture of Orlok and his red jumpsuit fit perfectly against the yellow and blues of the backgrounds. This one would have leapt off the shelves for me in 1981 just like it did in Orbital.

The Nerve centre has a few moans and niggles from readers about Ace Trucking Co, whether Dredd should remove his helmet, and reporting that 2000AD is popular down under.

Ace Trucking Co by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Ian Gibson and Tony Jacobs
I'm not used to seeing Gibson handle the art on Ace, it's a change from Belardinelli but Gibson can draw really whacky aliens so it's not too much of a shift.. Ace and Feek are about to be impaled by some belligerent Yaaga so GBH releases concentrated Macmac vapour which intoxicates the aliens and allows GBH to launch a rescue bid. It's fun stuff as Ace Trucking always was back in the day. Entertaining kids' comics.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully, Mike White and Pete Knight
First time I've read a Mean arena in a long time. Mixing a sport strip with some futuristic war elements must have seemed like a sure winner for the editorial team. Matt Tallon takes on the Roy Race role and scores a perfect volley portrayed in classic British footie comic style. It's like Rollerball but played on the mean streets of Edinburgh.

Tharg's Future Shocks. Love Thy Neighbour by Kelvin Gosnell, Jesus Redondo and Steve Potter
A grumpy old git invents a machine to stop his neighbours annoying him with all their electronic gadgets. But there is typical twist in the tale and it's probably a good job he wasn't around once we all got smartphones.

Judge Dredd. Block Mania by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Steve Dillon and Tom Frame
Orlok the assassin is caught dumping the block mania toxin into the water supply and the chase is on. More golden age stuff as the Judges close in on the deadly Orlok and his floating robot Sattelat. Dillon's sequentials are brilliant and really deliver the high intensity of the hunt. I wont give away a 33 years old spoiler but one of Dredd's supporting cast dies at the end of the episode. Thrill-powered stuff of the highest order.

Tharg's Future Shocks. Mister, could you use a Squonge? by Alan Moore. Ron Tinner and Tim Skomski.
A space probe returns with a weird bunch of self-replicating space sponges which when worn on the head seem to boost intelligence, but there is a classic Moore twist when he reveals that they are not quite the good idea they seem to be. Wonder whatever happened to that Moore guy?

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finlay-Day, Mike Dorey and Bill Nuttall
A brief Rogue story where he takes out a Nort ship before collapsing apparently poisoned and he is supposed to be immune to all poisons. It's a bit of a throwaway story that is over in a couple of pages. Not vintage Rogue Trooper.

The back cover has a Star Lord scan, not sure who is the artist is, and neither is Barney. Anyone?

Pick of the prog is clearly that moment from a great Dredd epic and the Whittle circular panel count is 3

Friday, May 9, 2014

2000AD - Prog 1880

Cover by Simon Davis. What a beautiful piece of art by a lovely chap who I have met and if I meet him again I will ask him to sign this for me, but although it would not look out of place on an art gallery wall is it a comic book cover? I honestly can't make up my mind. Part of me thinks that Tharg should push at the boundaries with interesting art and design, but I also want to see Slaine with a big axe because I think that would look better on the shelves and sell more copies. I'm going to have to stare at this for a while before I decide whether it will make my top covers of the year list.

Judge Dredd. Shooter's Night part 2 by John Wagner, John McCrea, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
Wagner gives us some good detective work by Dredd as he works his way towards the shooters club and McCrea's art does the job nicely, it's cartoony but that is no bad thing. Interesting to see a human psychiatrist in a very old world office filled with books and papers, not a computer or iPad in sight. I don't understand the last panel though, whose door has Dredd turned up at, and why are all those pictures or mirrors on the wall? A bit of a jump there, but presumably all will be explained next week.

As ever Wagner can probably write this stuff in his sleep by now. And while it hasn't got the same tension as the Mega-City Confidential story this one has a more human angle which strikes a chord with me.

Indigo Prime. Perfect Day part 1 by John Smith, Lee Carter and Simon Bowland.
I have a problem with 2000AD stories where I wasn't there at the beginning, and I wasn't there at the start of Indigo Prime. I know that they have to fix problems in alternate realities but apart from that I'm a bit confused, and it doesn't help that in this first episode it is not immediately clear who the central characters are, and whose adventure I am supposed to be following.

The story certainly starts with some arresting images of the crucifixion, the sort of thing that used to get comics banned, and it gets even weirder with the Planet of the Apes style stuffed bodies in Buckingham palace. The last page reveal is perhaps less surprising as everybody wants to tell an alternate history story where the Nazis won the war, and we all knew they were really giant lizards anyway, at least we did if we watched Wogan back in the 80s. Anyway there is enough here to keep me intrigued and reading for now.

Slaine. A Simple Killing part 7 by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
The Giant's Causeway turns out to be exactly that as all manner of monsters cross from the island (or to the island?). Davis' art is absolutely stunning in this episode, the image on the fifth page of Slaine riding away from the camera and his eyes in the sky is particularly breath-taking and might have made a better cover than Sinead's profile.

Meanwhile this story is proving to be anything but the simple killing of the title. Episode 7 and we still haven't got Slaine to the island yet? Oh well, just look at the lovely pictures.

Tharg's 3rillers. Colony part 1 by Kek-W, Vince Locke, Adam Brown and Ellie De Ville
One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich meets the colour from space. Better dead than red as they used to say in the last century, but in case they will probably end up being both. If I hadn't read the Solzhenitsyn novel I might be more interested. The dud of the issue for me.

Outlier part 7 by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse.
Bit of a talky episode this week and Richardson's art is mostly static as well. The character of Carcer still seems underused to me and I'm disappointed that we haven't seen more of his enhanced optic abilities as this has gone on. The world of Outlier hasn't been fully explored yet and I found this confusing rather than compelling this week.

Pick of the Prog is almost Indigo Prime which is a surprise but goes to the ever reliable Dredd yet again.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

2000AD Prog 1879

Cover is by Phil Winslade and after last week's muted browns Mr Winslade goes for the whole Skittles rainbow. Psychedelic!

Judge Dredd: Shooters Night part 1 by John Wagner, John McCrea, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
Wagner brings the horrors of Columbine and Sandy Hook to the big Meg and does it in such a way that we really feel the pain of the victims, their families and friends. It's grim and nasty, as is Dredd's simple dispatch of the lone gunman, standard execution round - dead. But there's more to it than that and Dredd has his suspicions.

What a treat to have two Wagner stories back to back, and with McCrea's art I wonder if we'll see a black horse anywhere.

Outlier part 6 by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse
We learn a bit more about what the head woman is prepared to do to capture Caul. Karl Richardson's art does tend to make all his big, hard blokes look alike but at least the story takes a leap forward here towards a conclusion which can't be far away.

Slaine: A Simple Killing part 6 by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
Poor old Sinead. That's nasty stuff when you're transformed into a water breathing snake demon. Still not much happening in each issue though, but it looks lovely.

Sinister Dexter: The Generican Dream part 6 by Dan Abnett, Smudge and Ellie De Ville
Is this nearly done yet? Kill them off in a hail of bullets Butch and Sundance style. Get Simon Fraser or Colin MacNeil to do an elegiac cover and end it in glory.

Jaegir: Strigoi part 6 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O'Grady and Simon Bowland
Jaegir ends with a fairly satisfying moment between Atalia and Grigoru. Just one military quibble which has probably already been mentioned on the podcast. I'm sure a real sniper would be using some form of support, or the prone position rather than the stand up and twist shot that he takes here.

Jaegir has convinced me with the characters and setting so finally it gets the Pick of the Prog from me and I look forward to its soon return.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dredd versus Things with Teeth

Here are two Dredd collections linked by the rather toothy nature of the monsters he is up against, and by artist Henry Flint.

First up is The Hunting Party by John Wagner with art by Flint, Sean Philips, Trevor Hairsine, Jason Brashill, David Bircham and Callum Alexander Watt. It originally ran in 2000AD progs 1014-1049 back in 1996. The story seems like an interesting midway point between some of the early epics from the 1980s and the more gritty story lines we have come to expect from later Dredd. After an attack on the Mega-City wall by ferocious Dune Sharks the Chief Judge details Dredd and DeMarco to take a group of cadets out on a Hotdog run to hunt down and destroy the sharks in their cursed earth lair. Along the way they will have the usual run-ins with mutants, madmen and crazed militia.

Henry Flint draws the opening episodes and then returns to do the finale. This was his first work on Dredd and he's already head and shoulders above the other artists in this book. The only piece of original 2000AD art I own is a colour page from the first part of this story which Flint signed for me at Thought Bubble, and it hangs framed on my wall as I write this. The next artist in the book is Sean Philips who was also fairly early on in his career at this point and his art is some way from the brilliant noir stuff he produced in Ed Brubaker's Criminal.

A cadet hotdog run is always good fun although this is not vintage Wagner. It feels much nearer to those weird and wonderful stories from the early days of the comic. Dredd's assessments of the cadets is interesting and surprisingly lenient, something that the 2012 movie got right, Dredd will make exceptions if he thinks cadets show potential. Apart from that the best thing here is the Henry Flint art.

Next is Judge Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus by John Wagner, Andy Diggle and Mr Flint again, with colours by Chris Blythe and letters by Tom Frame. This one ran in progs 1322-1335 in 2003. The story is a version of the second Aliens movie set in the bowels of Mega-City One. All the usual tropes turn up, face-huggers and chest bursters, acidic blood, a Queen alien, and eggs, lots of eggs. There is even a Ripley and Newt like connection between Dredd and a rookie Judge although I don't believe he would descend down into the Queen's lair to try and rescue her. I think Dredd would be far more likely to seal the hole and then nuke the whole site, just to be sure.
Minor quibbles aside this is fun stuff, who doesn't want to see Dredd face off against a fully grown Alien, or fighting off waves of face-huggers all intent on getting him to take off that helmet. The supporting characters of the rookie Judge Sanchez, and a group of vermin exterminators who want revenge for their fallen colleagues are well done and add a nice human element to the battle between the Justice department and the alien invaders. Once again Dredd makes allowances for Sanchez because he sees her potential. There's an introduction written by Simon Pegg who discusses Dredd as a substitute father figure and there is something interesting about the mentoring role he takes on in these two books.

Henry Flint's art is, as ever, sublime, he is right up there with the top Dredd artists of all time. Along with the Simon Pegg intro this book also has a short piece by Andy Diggle about the origins of the story, and there are a couple of pages of sketches by Flint. An introduction and some extras in a Rebellion trade, what a great idea. More please.

Overall the Aliens book is probably the pick of the bunch but there's plenty of entertainment and great art in both of them.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Free Comic Book Day 2014

A quick posting and some pictures from yesterday's Free Comic Book Day. Like last year I took Tom Waits' Downtown Train (well it was on my iPod anyway) to London and got in the queue for Orbital Comics. A bigger line this year but a cheerful crowd was kept amused by a comedy Deadpool cosplayer who sang Tom Jones songs. We were also kept Bat-safe by sixties Batman who clearly knows you should never go out without a vest until after May.

The advantage of queuing for Orbital is that they let you pick which free comic book day issues you want so I was able to pick up the 2000AD Prog, a Bleeding Cool issue, and the lovely looking hardback Mouseguard which will soon be on its way to Canada for my nephew Ruairi.

From there to Forbidden Planet who hand out lucky dip bags of free comics (nothing particularly of interest to me) where I was first in the queue for the 2000AD droids signing. This year we had Tharg himself Matt Smith (no, not that one), top Dredd artist Henry Flint and Tiernen Trevaillion who draws the fantastic Absalom.

I got two copies of the Prog signed as well as a couple of trades. I'm hoping to get some more signatures including John Wagner's at the Lawgiver event on Monday and then one of the Progs and a trade will be up on eBay as charity auctions for Cancer Research UK.

After that I went back to do some back issue browsing in a slightly quieter Orbital and picked up my usual handful of early 2000ADs some of which will show up as Retro Reviews here later. I also walked over to Gosh comics in Soho and picked up a couple of comics for my daughter. Most of the FCBD mayhem had died down there but they still had artists painting comic characters on the windows, and a big table full of pens and paper where kids were making their own comics. Brilliant stuff from Gosh.

Another grand day out and look at all these lovely comics.

Friday, May 2, 2014

2000AD - Prog 1878

Cover by Simon Coleby and Len O'Grady. The figure of the Strigoi gives me a nice Hammer horror feel which I like. However the colours are a bit dull and it probably won't trouble the scorers much when it comes time to vote for cover of the year.

Judge Dredd: Mega-City Confidential part 5 by John Wagner, Colin MacNeil, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse
And the grim secret of Section 7 is revealed to be a total surveillance project which causes yet more rioting in the streets. Interestingly Dredd is opposed to the project and his thoughts as he attempts to clear up the loose ends are perhaps the most interesting thing about this whole episode. There's been frequent mentions of Dredd's "woolgathering" in recent story lines, as he becomes a more thoughtful and interesting character.

The way that Blixen reveals the truth is a bit weird. To prove that the Judges are breaching citizens' privacy he does exactly the same by revealing secrets about a number of individuals on an international broadcast. Not exactly the actions of a declared liberal.

The cost of the Section 7 project bothers me as well. I'm not sure how the Justice department could afford to install all the hidden surveillance equipment when the blocks were being rebuilt after Chaos day. In fact the economics of Mega-City One are a bit of a mystery. With 90% of the population on welfare how do they generate any revenue at all?

Anyhow Wagner hits the reset button at the end of this tale but it has been good stuff. MacNeil's art has been great throughout with superb colour work from Chris Blythe. Top thrill.

Outlier part 5 by T.C.Eglington, Karl Richardson and Annie Parkhouse.
The grim and nasty science fiction revenge thriller gets grimmer and nastier. There is some talk on the forums as to whether the alien torture scene goes too far for a comic book. Eglington and Richardson want us to know that the Hurde are something completely alien and terrible and eventually they have to show us something to prove that, and we are left in no doubt after the flashback sequence in this Prog.

The question is where does this go from here? Caul appears completely indestructible and Carcer the investigator with the bionic eyes has not really been given any further character development. I'm not sure if this is going to be recurring story for 2000AD or if there is a definite ending approaching, but it still has me hooked.

Slaine A Simple Killing part 5 by Pat Mills, Simon Davis and Ellie De Ville
Quite a lot of standing around talking before Sinead demonstrates why you should be careful about what you do with your piercings. The painted art still looks lovely but my interest is waning.

Sinister Dexter: The Generican Dream part 5 by Dan Abnett, Smudge and Ellie De Ville
Nope, still not doing it. Five stories in every Prog and one is a dud. Still good value at £2.45 though.

Jaegir: Strigoi part 5 by Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, Len O'Grady and Simon Bowland
The Hammer theme continues with more flashbacks and glimpses of the creepy castle on the hill before the ending gives the plot a new twist. If Wagner and MacNeil were not dominating proceedings with Dredd then this would be the best thing in the comic at the moment. Lovely colours and a great atmosphere in the slowly building story.

What about the prog as a whole? The cover is muted, Judge Dredd and Jaegir are both on top form but Slaine and Sinister Dexter are idling, and there is the unpleasantness in Outlier which leaves me feeling that this Prog was good but not great.

Pick of the Prog: Dredd wins again but next week the first team take to the bench and the subs get a chance to shine.