Wednesday, 24 August 2016

2000AD Prog 1995

Prog 1995 Cover by Jon Davis-Hunt

Caught in the crosshairs, this Anderson, Psi Division cover from Jon Davis-Hunt is absolutely gorgeous in its simplicity. Davis-Hunt’s take on Cass is brilliant, and I love his interpretation of her uniform and lawgiver. While the actual cover may be minimalistic in design, Davis-Hunt doesn’t skimp on the details with some amazing line work on the character’s face and uniform. I particularly like the attention given to her eyes, as they glimmer with psychic power. While it’s not the most dynamic image, it works great as a cover and takes full advantage of the well-worn ‘hero in the crosshairs’ motif without seeming overplayed.


JUDGE DREDD - LADYKILLER (Part 5)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Following up on his threat to cause more bloodshed, PJ Maybe commits murder on the dance-floor when he gases an entire nightclub full of revellers. The stakes are beginning to rise in this tense tale of cop versus killer, and John Wagner seems to be enjoying pitting two of his finest creations against each other, for possibly the final time? I’m really enjoying watching as this story is escalating and how Dredd is unwilling to compromise, despite the increasing body count that his manhunt has caused. Wagner portrays Maybe perfectly – a crazed psychotic whose need for recognition and respect has overruled his common sense, leading him to this situation. However, the more desperate he gets, the more dangerous he becomes and his threat to hurt Dredd personally seems to indicate that he will target one of his friends or loved ones.


Carlos Ezquerra does a tremendous job on art duties, as one might expect, and he manages to make the female incarnation of PJ Maybe look positively “femtastic”, to quote one of the doomed clubbers. Looking every bit like a femme fatale, She-Maybe steals the show in this installment as he places the Justice Department on the back foot once again. The tension for this story is reaching boiling point, and with things becoming more personal, it seems like Maybe will target one of Dredd’s supporting cast members in an effort to get him to back off. Personally, I think either Beeny or Hershey will be the target, but the question is whether he will succeed in his ambitions. Maybe’s days sure seem numbered, but will he be going out of this world alone? Wagner and Ezquerra have me on tenterhooks waiting seven whole days to find out. I haven’t been this desperate to read the next installment of an episode since the end of Nikolai Dante.



THARG'S 3RILLERS - MINDMINE (Part 3)
Script - Rory McConville
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Peter Doherty
Letters - Simon Bowland

Keeping to his Future Shocks roots, Rory McConville brings this concluding episode of “Mindmine” to a close with an ingenious twist ending. While the initial chapters were relatively light-hearted in nature, McConville shifts gears somewhat in this final installment to deliver a chilling ending that suits the gut-punch of a twist. McConville’s script-writing benefited from the extended page count of the Tharg’s 3rillers format as he managed to deftly balance character development and heady science-fiction concepts without losing any pace. He certainly has the right tone of voice for 2000AD, with the majority of his stories so far featuring a razor-sharp blend of humour and tragedy simmering away in a subversive sauce. Colin MacNeil remains impeccable, as always, bringing a darker edge to this final installment that helps cultivate its more macabre twist. Overall, it’s been a fun little three-part adventure that perfectly encapsulates that feeling of sci-fi mischief inherent to 2000AD. Great stuff!



ANDERSON, PSI DIVISION - THE CANDIDATE (Part 3)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - Nick Dyer
Colours - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This latest episode of “The Candidate” moves away from the political machinations of Carol Smart and the Citizens Army to reveal another aspect to the storyline – one that better fits the Anderson, Psi Division series. While the initial episodes hinted at a brain-washing element to the assassination attempts, there were times when I questioned whether the plot was a good fit for Anderson, Psi Division as it lacked the emotional impact often present in Judge Anderson's adventures. What initially seemed like a politically motivated assassination attempt is revealed to be something far more personal as it seems that the Anne Robinson-esque Carol Smart has a brother who murdered her parents and has been in prison ever since. With the ability to influence and control others without speaking a word, this mute assassin seems intent on killing off Smart, using the Citizens Army angle as cover.


This development certainly reinvigorates the series as Emma Beeby begins to focus more on Anderson as a character. While this episode doesn't quite spell out the connection between Smart and her assassin, it seems likely that they are brother and sister. I do wonder whether Smart herself has any psychic abilities as the sequence with her aide seemed to suggest she could 'push' people to things she wanted. It could explain her rise to prominence in politics – it's much easier to get votes and nominations if you can influence your constituents! I'm certainly glad that there is this whole other layer underneath the adventure, subverting my expectations of a generic political thriller by introducing a more personal motive. Nick Dyer continues to deliver pure excellence onto the page, ably capturing the atmosphere of Mega-City One with ease. Both Beeby and Dyer work well together, injecting a more emotive tone into this third chapter of the story and moving it into a whole new narrative direction.



SCARLET TRACES - COLD WAR (Part 8)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

It’s action all the way in this week’s installment of Scarlet Traces, which sees our trio of heroes commandeering one of the Martian War Machines to escape their prison. Ian Edginton keeps the series moving along at a brisk pace as he crafts an exhilarating escape attempt that somehow manages to feel both nostalgic and modern at the same time. It’s this strange juxtaposition that fuels Scarlet Traces as Edginton and D’Israeli manage to refresh and extend upon H.G Wells’ mythology in a way that doesn’t betray the sensibilities of the original War of the Worlds. Edginton also demonstrates a firm grasp on episodic storytelling as he alternates between exposition and action on a weekly basis, ensuring the narrative never becomes stale and dull.


The pairing of Edginton and D’Israeli seems to be a chemical equation for success, and once again the duo deliver a fantastic slice of science-fiction that has ‘instant classic’ etched throughout it like a stick of seaside rock. D’Israeli’s alien designs are brilliant, especially the flying creatures with their brains exposed and wired up to devastating laser-powered weaponry. Every page is a delight to read, overflowing with emotion and energy that drives the adventure. Aside from the actual artwork itself, D’Israeli’s self-colouring is impeccable and really showcases his skill as an artist, perfectly encapsulating the mood of the series. It is no overstatement to say that this is a tremendously fun series, and one that has well and truly earned its spot in 2000AD’s library of thrills.



OUTLIER - SURVIVOR GUILT (Part 6)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This latest installment of Outlier returns the focus back to the series' core cast as Luthra, Jess and Caul begin their journey to meet with the Hurde elite in an attempt to bring the war to a peaceful conclusion. On the flip-side, Carcer has arranged to meet with General Sornell in an encounter which will likely end badly for the war-mongering General. As a whole, the series seems to be more engaging when focused on its main cast, rather than the broader glimpses at the Hurde-Alliance war seen so far. As the series heads towards its conclusion, it's great to see T.C Eglington reuniting his characters and having them interact with each other – i'm looking forward to the eventual confrontation between Caul and Carcer more than the resolution of the Hurde-Alliance war. Despite the heavy exposition seen in this chapter, Karl Richardson's art continues to delight and I really enjoy his depictions of the females in the series, whereas many of his male characters find themselves sharing similar facial characteristics. The pieces definitely seem to be heading in the right place as Eglington begins to bring this operatic space adventure to a dramatic close.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Once again, we have another fantastic Prog as the momentum continues to build towards the epic Prog 2000. It almost goes without saying that Judge Dredd earns the spot of 'Thrill of the Week', but the other thrills in the roster perform strongly as well this Prog. Scarlet Traces, for example, has really developed into a fun slice of retro sci-fi, replete with modern stylings thanks to the meeting of minds between Ian Edginton and D'Israeli. Outlier seems to be headed in the right direction as the focus narrows to concentrate on the series' core characters once more. Anderson, Psi Division benefits from a slight change in direction as the storyline begins to take form and move away from the political elements seen in its beginnings. Overall, it's a real strong line-up of stories, and I'm interested to see what will replace the Tharg's 3rillers to round out the remaining four Progs of this run.

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1995 will be available in stores on Wednesday 24th August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

2000AD Prog 1994

Prog 1994 Cover by Ben Willsher

Ben Willsher nails the brutality of PJ Maybe’s murderous ways with this fantastic cover that places the serial killer’s trademark badly spelt notes front and centre. Even though most of the gruesome tableau is obscured, Willsher manages to establish a macabre tone to his cover image that is reflected inside with Carlos Ezquerra’s wonderful interiors. Tharg referred to this current Judge Dredd storyline as a thrilling “cat and mouse” chase between cop and killer, and this cover image certainly captures that vibe. The perspective and angles are spot-on and really help the cover stand out from the crowd – definitely a strong contender for the eventual Top 10 2000AD Covers in 2016 list.


JUDGE DREDD - LADYKILLER (Part 4)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Narrowly escaped capture yet again, PJ Maybe resorts to random murders in an attempt to persuade Dredd into ending his manhunt. It’s interesting to note the desperation in Maybe’s behaviour as he continues to make sloppy mistakes and even his internal monologue chides him for tipping his hand after Chaos Day and revealing himself to be still alive. After a solid four episodes of the Justice Department having the upper hand, this installment showcases Maybe’s attempts to regain control of the situation and despite his erratic behaviour, he remains a very dangerous threat to Dredd and his supporting cast. There’s a wonderful tension about this storyline as John Wagner delights at bringing these two nemeses together for what appears to be their final face-off. While it seems increasingly likely that Maybe’s luck is about to run out, I am still wary that the title “Ladykiller” may be more literal than we first thought and refers to one of the female supporting cast members in Dredd’s world.


The living legend that is Carlos Ezquerra continues to serve up a world-class feast for the eyes as things take a more macabre turn in this installment. As with poor Budley’s strangulation in Prog 1992, Ezquerra creates a genuine sense of unease as Maybe commits another murder, this time killing a well-loved priest. The religious iconography and ‘crucifixion’ imagery certainly heightens the effect of the crime scene and Ezquerra’s artwork has a wonderful grittiness to it that suits the story-arc. With Maybe more focused on spilling blood on the streets, it appears that these set-pieces are set to get bigger and bloodier as the story advances. With Prog 2000 billed as a ‘special story’ from Wagner and Ezquerra, I wonder if it will be a similar set-up to Orlok’s death and we will see Maybe publicly executed after being caught in Prog 1999. The thing is, it’s impossible to predict where this story is going next as Wagner and Ezquerra conjure up a gripping thriller filled with unlimited promise. 



JUDGE DREDD - CAROUSEL
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Ben Willsher
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

In the wake of his excellent mega-epic “Every Empire Falls”, Michael Carroll returns to Judge Dredd with an absolutely electrifying single episode that just drips with coolness. Playing out like Die Hard set in a hospital, Carroll crafts a story that showcases Dredd's toughness and inability to lie down and die – he is an unstoppable force here, not unlike Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. Thematically, it is similar to his recent story “Sleeping Duty” in Prog 1956, which featured some perps uncovering a sleeping Dredd in a stasis tube, but rather than attack him, they surrender themselves because they know they'd inevitably fail. Thanks to the lengthier page count found in the Judge Dredd Megazine, this extended story feels perfectly paced and could easily be adapted as an episode for a Dredd TV show on Netflix. It is so cinematic, riffing on slasher horror tropes and 80s action movies.


It's always a treat to see Ben Willsher on art duties, and after doing such a fabulous job on Prog 1994's cover, he brings his flair for the gore to this adventure. Willsher captures the brutality of the perp's attack on the hospital perfectly, and the ferocity of their attack is later mirrored by that of Dredd's. Willsher is the ideal art droid to illustrate this alternate depiction of Dredd, capturing the raw pain and anger as he systemically executes his would-be assassins. After putting Dredd through the wringer in his mega-epic, Carroll effectively resets the clock and literally refreshes the character for other writers – in his epilogue last month in the Megazine, Carroll implied that Dredd had plenty more years on the streets ahead of him. In this story, he actively demonstrates this fact and addresses those critics who question why a man in his 70s is still able to work as a Judge. Even though he takes his fair share of punishment during adventures, Dredd's body can always be repaired and rejuvenated – but is his mind as durable? I think back to Rob Williams' hints of senility seen in his stories, and wonder what is next for ol' Joe.



THARG'S 3RILLERS - MINDMINE (Part 2)
Script - Rory McConville
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Peter Doherty
Letters - Simon Bowland

After establishing his story’s conceit in the opening episode, Rory McConville turns his attention to character building as he focuses on his protagonist whose mind is infected with the psychic shrapnel of one of the enemy’s minds. What initially seemed like a riff on Inception has become something more – it’s a bloody brilliant idea and McConville makes full use of the dramatic ramifications of having pieces of someone else’s mind etched into your own. McConville’s authorial voice is brilliant, showcasing a real sense of confidence in his storytelling that makes the recent addition to the magazine feel like part of the 2000AD furniture already. Colin MacNeil’s artwork remains flawless as always, and it’s great fun to see him focused on the alien environments and populous as opposed to his more grounded work on Judge Dredd. Demonstrating his excellent grasp of mashing sci-fi concepts and character development together in quick bursts, McConville delivers a cracking ‘middle chapter’ to his first Tharg’s 3riller, showcasing the talent that helped him win the Thought Bubble 2000AD Writing Competition  last year.



ANDERSON, PSI DIVISION - THE CANDIDATE (Part 2)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - Nick Dyer
Colours - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Anderson, Psi Division continues to make political parallels as the Citizen’s Army attempts to ruin Carol Smart’s mayoral campaign, even hijacking the airwaves to do so. After last Prog’s assassination attempt, Emma Beeby adopts a more investigative stance in this episode as Anderson and Flowers work together to uncover more about the mysterious Citizen’s Army and their hold on people. Once again, an innocent person is seemingly hypnotised into performing the organisation’s terrorist attacks and I wonder if the so-called Citizen’s Army will be revealed to be a single person with psi-talents who has been exerting their influence on the Citizens, in a Manchurian Candidate style.


Nick Dyer’s art has a wonderfully nostalgic quality to it, reminding me of Cam Kennedy’s work on the Prog many years ago. His interpretation of Anderson is much less glamorous than other artist’s take on her, and I like this grittier and more mundane approach. The story is ticking along nicely and the references to the US presidential election and organisations such as Anonymous help preserve 2000AD’s strong reputation at presenting stories ripped from the headlines and shown through a science-fiction prism. The story itself is an interesting departure from the typical emotional roller-coaster that Judge Anderson usually endures, and it is odd reading an emotionally detached and more hard-ass version of Cass. At the moment, Judge Flowers seems to be the more interesting of the two characters, and I hope Beeby spends some more time with Anderson and her inner monologue in future episodes.



SCARLET TRACES - COLD WAR (Part 7)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Opening up with some curious foreshadowing of future events, this episode of Scarlet Traces sees our heroes trapped in a Martian jail in Venus awaiting interrogation at the hands of their captors. Despite moving the action to Venus, this series remains rooted in its characters and this chapter sheds some further light on the mysterious Splice character who has instigated events. Finally, we get a name for the flamboyant anti-hero (Iykarus) and a backstory that fleshes out his motivations for arriving on Earth. Ian Edginton continues to maintain a brisk pace to the storyline, having out heroes escape captivity and running into a familiar face, whilst dropping in some more mysterious hints about Ahron Shakespeare’s true purpose.


D’Israeli’s gorgeous artwork remains integral to the tone of this series, and the architecture of the Martian jail evokes memories of classic Doctor Who episodes such as “Genesis of the Daleks” – in fact, the Martians themselves are very reminiscent of the Daleks – slimy, octopoid creatures encased in metal casing. I also loved the brutal efficiency of the fight scene between Iykarus and the two splice guards and D’Israeli’s use of green tones in the panels to accentuate the laser blasts. The panel where Iykarus blasts open the splice guard’s skull with a concentrated laser blast is horrifically beautiful and brought to life perfectly. Even though the series is hitting its stride now, Edginton and D’Israeli never lose sight of their wonderfully realised characters, and Scarlet Traces works perfectly as a love letter to classic science-fiction.



OUTLIER - SURVIVOR GUILT (Part 5)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

The Hurde’s counterattack against the Alliance instantly changes the tide of the war as the symbiotic creatures begin to transform civilians into enemy occupants, effectively increasing their numbers and making further ground attacks useless. T.C Eglington maintains the pressure as he reveals the full extent of the Hurde’s forces, finally adding some evidence to fuel their reputation. While these initial episodes have focused on a galactic scale, Eglington seems to be heading back to a more micro level with the suggestion of a mission to deliver Caul to the Hurde to prove that he was manipulated by rebellious factions within the alien race. Presumably, this will bring him into contact with Carcer and add an element of symmetry to the story as the two characters clash once more on opposite sides of the fence. After five weeks setting up this last-ditch rescue mission, I’m looking forward to seeing Eglington focus more on his principal characters. Karl Richardson remains the driving force behind this script, bringing the epic sense of future war to life with style. There’s a brutal element to his work on the strip, which suits the uncompromising and vicious nature of the Hurde. All in all, this strip is shaping up to be a final conclusion to the Outlier trilogy as it heads towards its next act.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Once again, the Judge Dredd Megazine has trumped 2000AD with a nail-biter of a Judge Dredd story – while things are heating up with PJ Maybe over in “Ladykiller”, Michael Carroll and Ben Willsher managed to craft a thing of beauty over in the Megazine. Without a doubt, “Carousel” might be the best Judge Dredd story of the year, and it has definitely risen to the top of the list of stories I want to see brought to life in a Dredd TV show!

The rest of the Prog is brimming to the edges with high-quality storytelling, making it tough to pick a favourite within the Prog itself. Each and every story is firing on all cylinders, providing a strong line-up as the magazine heads towards the iconic landmark of Prog 2000. I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter of “Ladykiller” as Wagner and Ezquerra gleefully pit arch-enemies against each other for perhaps the final time! I'm in serious danger of thrill-power overload over the coming weeks, and I'm loving every drokkin' minute!

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd (Megazine)


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1994 will be available in stores on Wednesday 17th August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

2000AD Prog 1993

Prog 1993 Cover by Christian Ward

Celebrating the return of Anderson, Psi Division to the Prog is this wonderful cover from Christian Ward, whose painted style reminds me of the Marvel Comics artist, Leinil Francis Yu. It’s a suitably psychedelic image to welcome back Mega-City One’s premier Psi-Judge, thanks to the bold colour palette choice of pink and orange overwhelming reader’s senses. Unlike Dredd, Anderson can vary quite drastically in appearance based on the artist, but Ward keeps his interpretation consistent with the current design of the character with her shorter hair style and more aged appearance, compared to the ageless Debbie Harry look that some other artists revert to. It’s a great eye-catching cover, and one that perfectly represents the interior series within.


JUDGE DREDD - LADYKILLER (Part 3)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Pushing his foot firmly on the accelerator, John Wagner keeps the Judges on PJ Maybe’s tail as his efforts to silence Budley Winterton only lead to them discovering more and more about him. There’s a brilliant pace to this adventure as Wagner plays up the “cat and mouse” element as both criminal and cop work hard to outsmart the other – it is like the Mega-City One version of Heat. Both Dredd and Maybe are both so beloved by fans that it is legitimately hard to decide who to root for as the pair clash for what could be the final time. Despite Maybe’s keen instinct for danger, he soon finds himself cornered by the Judges and has to resort to drastic measures to devise an escape plan on the fly. The tension is palpable in this storyline as Wagner has crafted an effective and tautly paced thriller where the reader’s loyalties are being tested to the limit.


Wagner delights in showcasing the procedural elements of Dredd’s investigation, and it’s thrilling to watch the Judges discover clues to Maybe’s whereabouts, such as a food stamp on the heel of a shoe. Over the years, Wagner has focused more and more on the investigative nature of Dredd’s job rather than the action-heroics with recent stories like “Block Judge” and “Mega-City Confidential” demonstrating this slow-boil approach at its best. Carlos Ezquerra is the perfect ‘partner-in-crime’ for this storyline as his artwork suits both the quieter investigative elements and the high-octane action moments too. The final sequence where Maybe coldly sets fire to a store, kills a clerk and steals a baby just emphasises his detached psychopathic tendencies and serves to remind the reader not to underestimate what he is capable of. While the Judges may have gained the upper hand in this first round, I suspect Maybe has plenty more tricks up his sleeve as the body-count is expected to rocket in forthcoming episodes. While the suspicion is on PJ Maybe being the ‘death’ promised by Wagner  earlier in the year, what if the title “Ladykiller” actually refers to his prey – Chief Judge Hershey or maybe Dredd’s protégé, Beeny? Either way, this storyline makes for absolutely essential reading!



THARG'S 3RILLERS - MINDMINE (Part 1)
Script - Rory McConville
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Peter Doherty
Letters - Simon Bowland

After a run of well-crafted Future Shocks, newcomer Rory McConville gets his first opportunity to write a multi-episode storyline for 2000AD in the Tharg’s 3rillers format. Joined by veteran art droid Colin MacNeil, McConville’s story stirs up echoes of Inception but with a future-war twist. The concept behind “Mindmine” is really fun and smacks of old-school 2000AD inventiveness – a trait that has seen in many of McConville’s stories so far. The cliff-hanger ending of the episode comes out of nowhere and does a great job of leaving the reader wanting more, and McConville has done a fabulous job at establishing the scene and his characters in a mere five pages of content. It’s also refreshing to see MacNeil on a series other than Judge Dredd as he gets to utilise a fresh colour palette with the bright and colourful background of the character’s dreamscapes. While the loose thematic connection to Inception allows the story’s key conceit to be easily digested, this isn’t a simple rip-off and McConville has crafted a solid opening episode with plenty of promise. For his first crack at a multi-episode adventure, he has nailed the pace brilliantly and I look forward to seeing how this story develops over the coming weeks.



ANDERSON, PSI DIVISION - THE CANDIDATE (Part 1)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - Nick Dyer
Colours - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

While 2000AD has featured some Cadet Anderson stories in recent years – this is the first time that Anderson, Psi Division has appeared in the magazine since Prog 1528 back in 2007. As a non-Megazine reader, it’s great to see Cass back in the Prog and with such an impressive creative team of Emma Beeby and Nick Dyer in charge. Aware that Anderson is now in her fifties, Dyer draws the character with an aged look that some art droids are guilty of overlooking and the shorter hair helps distinguish the character from her earlier adventures. Dyer’s artwork brilliantly captures that Mega-City One atmosphere onto the page and evokes memories of Cam Kennedy’s iconic work on Judge Dredd at times. As such, the story has a distinctly classic feel to it and doesn’t require any knowledge of Anderson’s recent adventures over in the Megazine.


Someone might need to check the Beeby droid for evidence of Psi-talent herself as this story bears similarities to actual events happening in the news. Mega-City One stories work best when they are parallels to events occurring in our own time, and this take on the US elections allows 2000AD to satirise the current political zeitgeist overseas. It’s too early to work out where Beeby is going with this story, but an assassination attempt is a strong place to start to the narrative. This opening installment focuses mainly on setting up the events for investigation, so Anderson herself takes a step back to the development of the plot, but hopefully future episodes will allow Beeby to get to grips with the character and flesh her out more.



SCARLET TRACES - COLD WAR (Part 6)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After a slightly jarring time-jump that ensures Ahron’s true heritage remains secret for the time-being, Ian Edginton finally takes the action off-world as he propels his cast of characters into space and to a Martian-occupied Venus. The slower, character-driven pace of those initial few episodes is replaced by a frenetic action sequence as our heroes find themselves intercepted by the Martians almost immediately upon setting foot on the planet, placing their mysterious and unconfirmed mission in jeopardy. This sudden shift in gears is an effective acceleration of the story’s narrative, moving the plot into the next stage whilst maintaining much of the mystery – I mean, we’re still not entirely clear why they have travelled to Venus, and what their overall goal is.


I really enjoyed the ‘bait and switch’ that Edginton pulls here as he opens this installment with a detailed plan of how the team will blend into the local surroundings, posing as Padua monks, only to promptly blow that plan out of the water and present the Martians as an immediate threat. It’s an effective plot technique and creates a wonderful sense of chaos and unpredictability for the series. Despite the change in locale, D’Israeli’s artwork remains gloriously beautiful as he makes use of an overabundance of yellow to illustrate the Venusian deserts – while it isn’t as detailed as his alternate 1960’s Earth, it is no less evocative and there’s a hint of Star Wars’ Tatooine about the planet. The surprise reveal of the Martians is expertly performed by D’Israeli as he brings the creatures crashing into the story, creating panic in their wake. I really enjoyed the disorientating nature of this installment, and with the characters now in the thick of the action, I’m looking forward to seeing this next stage of Scarlet Traces develop.



OUTLIER - SURVIVOR GUILT (Part 4)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This fourth episode of Outlier brings the focus back to the series’ sometimes-antagonist Caul as he is finally captured by the Alliance and forced to undergo interrogation and medical tests to determine whether Jess’ theory of Hurde in-fighting is correct. It’s interesting to see the character in his human form after two series of seeing him as the Hurde’s puppet in a nigh-invincible body armour. T.C Eglington strips away the character’s confidence, reducing him to his original personality as a desperate and ineffectual individual. This lends further credence to the theory that Caul was influenced by the Hurde to commit his various crimes over the past two serials to unite the various Hurde castes against the humans. Ultimately, this episode is largely transitional in nature, offering little progress on the main storyline aside from the capture of Caul. The first invading contact from the Hurde at the end of this episode promises some more gorgeous Karl Richardson battlefield sequences, and perhaps the Hurde will demonstrate their superiority and inject some much-needed tension into this tale.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

The introduction of Anderson, Psi Division and a brand-new Tharg’s 3rillers serves as a semi-reboot of the Prog’s line-up and both series do a fine job in replacing their predecessors, Brink and Black Shuck. Emma Beeby and Nick Dyer’s rather timely Anderson, Psi Division story offers a lovely re-entry point to the adventures of Mega-City One’s chief Psi-Judge and “Mindmine” already seems to be developing into a quirky one-off adventure in the classic 2000AD fashion. Elsewhere, Outlier continues to build up towards an operatic conclusion and Scarlet Traces propels its narrative along with a swift change in locale and substantial injection of peril and danger.

Ultimately, it is Judge Dredd that takes the spot of “Thrill of the Week” with another tense installment of “Ladykiller” – as cop and killer begin to close in on each other. This has been some spectacular writing from John Wagner, brought to life by Carlos Ezquerra’s inimitable artwork. The past few years have been an absolute roller-coaster for Judge Dredd with a succession of amazing creative talent working on the series – ever since “Day of Chaos”, the series has maintained a persistently high level of quality and it seems to be in no danger of slowing down now. Like a fine wine, Judge Dredd just keeps getting better with age.

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1993 will be available in stores on Wednesday 10th August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...