Wednesday, 29 May 2013

2000AD Prog 1834

Prog 1834 Cover by Henry Flint

Nice looking cover - the green 2000AD logo compliments the background and there's a nice touch of the lightsaber reflecting in the glass of the battle-suit. Henry Flint's art looks fantastic, as always, and this is probably the most dynamic image from the strip that could be used to showcase Zombo as a front cover. 


JUDGE DREDD - THE FORSAKEN (Part 5)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - PJ Holden
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

Hmm...looks like I was wrong with my theory that Echavez was the Dredd clone, although I was right that it wasn't Falcon - it seemed a bit too obvious that it wouldn't be him. It's still possible that Echavez may still be alive, as this tale has been ripe for plot twists and a blind narrator isn't the most reliable when it comes to relating events.


Dredd echoes my own thoughts as a reader

As for the real Dredd Clone, Cadet Paris, she happens to be the one cadet who hasn't had much focus in the story so far, to the point where I actually thought "she" was a "he", until I re-read Part 2 of the story-line where each cadet was introduced and named. This is why I think Echavez would have had a bigger impact as the Dredd clone as she'd been featured more than Paris had, and the twist of a female Dredd clone would have been more recognizable. 


I have a sneaking suspicion that we won't see her alive in this story and that she'd have died before Dredd & Dolman catch up with Falcon, mainly because the focus seems to be on Falcon rather than Paris herself. I am looking forward to seeing the confrontation between Falcon, Dredd & Dolman, especially if Falcon is responsible for the death of the real Dredd Clone.



SINISTER DEXTER - MALONE AGAIN (Part 3)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - John Burns
Letters - Ellie de Ville

During their escape from Frontal Loeb, Sinister (or Malone) continues to question his witness protection case worker about Moses Tannenbaum. He tries to explain that Tannenbaum's existence in this dimension threatens the stability of the universe, but he realises that he sounds crazy without Dexter to back him up. Before they can locate Dexter, they find themselves sandwiched between chasing cops and an approaching Frontal Loeb.

It seems like this story is tying up more loose ends from the previous story-arc than I originally thought, which is a shame as I initially hoped this would be a nice starting point for someone like me who hadn't kept up to date with the strip. One positive is that it doesn't seem like we're going to spend too long with Sinister and Dexter separated, something that has been done numerous times before (Downlode Tales, for example). I do hope this strip finds a new purpose soon, rather than making up loose ends to fix.



CADET ANDERSON - ONE IN TEN (Part 2)
Script - Alan Grant
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Anderson and her team of Psi-Cadets follow up leads on the baby-farming case and after a brief shoot-out at the docks, a case of human waste lands on two of the cadets, covering them in blood and guts. Ewww!



Not much happens in this episode but I do like the idea of Cadet Anderson having other Psi-Judges with her, especially ones with different talents. Considering the concept of this series is that it is flashbacks of Anderson's early career, there is always the potential that we may see some of this Psi-Judges in the current timeline.



STICKLEBACK - NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Part 11)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Rather than escape to the surface, Stickleback and his gang make their way towards the centre of the dinosaurs lair, where the Queen seems to be having trouble with the latest batch of newborns. Sending off Miss Scarlet and Moody to fetch help, Stickleback appears to betray the human race in favour of the dinosaurs...

It seems like this strip is coming to an end, possibly with a double-sized finale next week. It's been one of the longest stories featured in 2000AD since the jumping-on point, but technically very little has happened. On the plus side, it has been very effective at building a new status quo for Stickleback with the idea of a dinosaur underclass amongst Victorian London and the artwork by D'Israeli has been consistently fantastic.



ZOMBO - PLANET ZOMBO (Part 9)
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Simon Bowland

Zombo comes to a barmy conclusion with some pretty shocking developments, such as Zombo being sliced in two, the Moon crashing into Planet Chronos and Jason Van Satan seemingly successful in his attempt at taking over. I wasn't expecting the story to end on a downbeat cliffhanger, but to add another Stars Wars reference to the many included in the strip, it seems very reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back. The promised follow-up, 'Viva Zombo' should pick up on some of these plot threads and hopefully be a lot simpler and easier to follow now!


Was I the only one who heard the Pac-Man death theme when this happened?



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

I'm really looking forward to the next installment of Judge Dredd as the noose begins to tighten around the neck of the remaining Cadets. I'm glad to see the back of Zombo, mainly because I wasn't quite getting the strip, and would prefer too try something new. With the end of Stickleback next week, that'll be the last of the strips that started in the jumping-on point of Prog 1824 all those months ago!


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1834 will be available in stores on Wednesday 29th May - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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, 22 May 2013

2000AD Prog 1833

Prog 1833 Cover by Glenn Fabry 

Brilliant poster-worthy cover artwork by Glenn Fabry, showcasing Cadet Anderson's return to 2000AD - I remember Fabry's covers from the excellent Preacher series and his painted work still looks amazing here. I'd love to see more covers from him, especially Slaine, which was his most iconic work for 2000AD.


JUDGE DREDD - THE FORSAKEN (Part 4)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - PJ Holden
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

As with the previous instalments, this episode takes the shape of Dredd and Dolman interviewing one of the 'forsaken' cadets from Chaos Day with flashbacks from the aftermath inter-spliced with the story - despite the heavy reliance on flashback, it remains exciting and very readable, as we are drip-fed details of the events that befell the missing cadets.

The story seems to be shaping up for a Dredd/Falcon showdown, although to me, his borderline criminal behaviour is proof that he isn't the Dredd clone. Nothing has been confirmed about whether he is or not, which leaves my theory that Echavez is the clone (despite reports of her demise!) open. 

I've been really liking this arc and the slow paced discovery of the facts.. There's three rookies left, which may equate to three episodes remaining considering the naming convention of having an episode focusing on one of the rookies, with possibly a fourth one for Dolman, who I think is going to come out of this as disillusioned with the law as the cadets. 

It was a nice twist with the disfigured face (and the particularly brutal panel in which she earned it), which just piles on more bad luck for this group of cadets as they suffered in the aftermath of Chaos Day, making it understandable that they would be somewhat resentful of the Justice system - what's interesting is whether this resentment will transfer to either Dredd or Dolman.



SINISTER DEXTER - MALONE AGAIN (Part 2)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - John Burns
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Sinister (or is that Malone?) uses his employment mix-up from last Prog to enter the Records office, posing as a cleaner and discovers a fourth name on the Witness Protection list, alongside Dexter and Tracy Weld. Before he can confront his case-worker, his past life backfires in the worst way possible...

I'm not best placed to comment on how shocking the reveal that Moses Tanenbaum is the fourth name on the list, as I never saw the results of the previous story-arc, so I don't know if he was implied to be dead, or missing, or what. I was relatively surprised, but then I guess I'm unsure of why they're in Witness Protection - who are they hiding from? Hopefully this will be revealed, but I might need to ask on message-boards or do some back issue hunting.



I'm still undecided on John Burns' interpretation of Sinister, who looks like Heath Ledger's Joker. There appears to be a mix of artists who depict Sinister as pale-faced (and red nosed) and some who dial back his clownish appearance quite a lot. I tend to think of Simon Davis' Sinister as the definitive article, but he never felt particularly Joker-ish to me, despite embracing some of the more clownish aspects of the character design. Perhaps it's the shorter hair?



CADET ANDERSON - ONE IN TEN (Part 1)
Script - Alan Grant
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Cadet Anderson leads a team of Cadet Psi-Judges on a raid against a medical facility, but what they discover there reveals a darker side to the Mega City underbelly than they ever expected...

I was taken aback by the rather dark plot of using newborn babies for body parts, especially with the depictions of the babies missing limbs. I'm not sure whether Carlos Ezquerra's artwork is the best fit for such a dark story line, although I think it would be a bit much if it had been an ultra-realistic Arthur Ransom job. I do love Ezquerra's work on this tale though, as he remains the quintessential Dredd (and by extension, Anderson) artist.



I liked the brief introduction to Anderson's team of fellow cadet Psi-Judges, each with a distinctive 'power' - an empath, telekine, camouflage, locksmith. I'm not sure if they've appeared before, but they were quickly introduced and given a brief spotlight during the raid. I like the stand-alone nature of this story, which acts as a missing story from Judge Anderson's youth - while some long-term readers might not appreciate 'flashbacks' preferring to move the narrative forward and see how Anderson advances now - I am quite happy to read a continuity-free Cadet Anderson tale.



STICKLEBACK - NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Part 10)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Sitting around a fire (kind of), the gang discuss the return of Bob, and two more former cast members reappear in surprising ways. The mystery deepens as the Librarian from earlier in the story appears to be in league with the villains. 


Me and Moody share the same reaction to Bob's revelation to Tonga's whereabouts

This is the most self-referential that the strip has been so far, showing flashbacks to earlier stories and drawing heavy from past adventures, however, it didn't feel that disorientating, possibly because of the addition of Moody, who was asking questions that new readers, like myself, would be asking. This allowed Ian Edginton to use exposition that didn't alienate long-term readers. Again, I must say that I'm wondering how this can be drawn to a satisfactory end without leaving it on a cliffhanger.



ZOMBO - PLANET ZOMBO (Part 9)
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Simon Bowland

The body count continues to rise in the bonkers Zombo - it all seems to be heading towards a conclusion now, but without much attachment to any of the characters (apart from Zombo and his two human companions) it is hard to care about what happens. Good, Evil - it seems a bit irrelevant really. I appreciate the craziness of the strip and there's the odd joke I get, but I feel like I missed the boat on this one. Maybe, after this particular story-arc ends, things might simplify in a future series (if there are plans for one).




OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Cadet Anderson is a great addition to the line-up, requiring very little prior knowledge to enjoy. Although the subject matter is a little dark, I look forward to reading more from it. I'm enjoying all the strips at the moment, although Zombo and Stickleback seem to be overstaying their welcome somewhat, but I'm guessing we're approaching the conclusion for both of them soon.

Tharg's Nerve Centre column mentions IDW are planning a Mars Attack vs Judge Dredd crossover, which may win the award for one of the barmier crossover ideas I've ever heard, yet it sounds strangely appealing! I put my vote in for an Doctor Who / Judge Dredd crossover, since IDW hold the licences for both!


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1833 will be available in stores on Wednesday 22nd May - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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, 15 May 2013

2000AD Prog 1832

Prog 1832 Cover by Cliff Robinson & Dylan Teague

I really like the use of the foreground in showing the motion of the cigarette butt heading towards us - it gives the cover a really dynamic feel. I like the mood that this cover image evokes of the lonely Sinister hiding from his past in Generica. Great image!


JUDGE DREDD - THE FORSAKEN (Part 3)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - PJ Holden
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

Dredd & Dolman continue their hunt for the missing cadets, locating one of the females (Tanuma) who sheds a bit more light on what transpired to the Forsaken as they discover another clue that leads them to continue their search for Falcon and the others.

I really like the heavy detective element to this story with Dredd & Dolman discovering the flashbacks via different sources. I also liked how Dredd & Dolman outsmarted Tanuma into revealing her true identity. It seems like a confrontation between Falcon and Dredd is on the cards, but I have a feeling that the true clone and the only one who will be brought back alive is Echavez as she is the only one besides Falcon that has been given any prominence, and I think the twist of a female Dredd clone would be really effective! 

Could this be a clue that Echavez is the Dredd Clone?

The differences between Dredd and Dolman are explored again in this episode with Dolman giving Tanuma a second chance, that Dredd himself would not have been so generous to do. Could this case start a rift between Dredd & Dolman, if their allegiances differ upon locating the rest of the cadets?



SINISTER DEXTER - MALONE AGAIN (Part 1)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - John Burns
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Finnegan Sinister is no more - in his place, once again is the enigmatic Malone, a mysterious stranger to Generica, although Malone's past may be catching up with him quicker than he hoped when he is recognised. Unsure of how to start his new life, Malone retreats to the comforts of his previous employment in 'wetworks' although a miscommunication might lead to a new line of work.

This was a nice opener for what appears to be another ongoing arc for the Gunsharks and I liked the wetworks pun at the end. I do wonder whether there is much mileage left in this concept anymore, as this feels reminiscent of the Downlode Tales era from years ago, and even the title implies a re-visitation of the Malone era. I've drifted away from the strip during my sabbaticals, but it doesn't feel like there's much 'unfinished business' left to be resolved. In fact, I was under the impression that the doppel-ganger storyline was intended to be their swansong.


John Burns' art doesn't quite suit this strip either - I loved Burns' art on stories like Nikolai Dante, but his painted style seems to fit stories with a fantasy setting or swashbuckling - for example, his best Dante work was the sea pirate era because it suited his style. It's not bad artwork, but Burns seems an odd fit for a strip that has traditionally had very clear linework, although I guess there is a hint of Simon Davis about it, which many people associate closely with Sinister Dexter.



THARG'S 3RILLERS -  GUNHEADZ (Part 3)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Boo Cook
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This conclusion went some ways to explaining the slightly thin plot and why Maurice Aitken used comic books to attempt to teach the Gunheadz morality, but the whole story ultimately seemed a bit pointless, which is a shame as the concept was really quite fun, but the execution, whilst very strong on the art front, faltered somewhat in terms of the plot.

I really enjoyed the final page with the burnt scraps of the Gunheadz comic intermingling with the artwork of the real world, but it did feel slightly rushed at the end and there didn't seem to be much pay-off in the ending. Perhaps a straight tongue-in-cheek parody of The ABC Warriors with the Gunheadz would have been a stronger story without the meta-fictional twist. Perhaps we will see a 'lost adventure' by Maurice Aitken in the future?



STICKLEBACK - NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Part 9)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This ninth instalment of Stickleback features the return of another character from earlier series, which may come as a shock to some long-term readers. I've really been enjoying this since the action quota picked up and the sequences with the dinosaurs in the sewer tunnels were thrilling. The story seems to be picking up, but I wonder how it will resolve itself cleanly over the next few weeks without feeling ill-paced, unless we're going to end this particular story on a cliffhanger.



ZOMBO - PLANET ZOMBO (Part 8)
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Simon Bowland

I felt like I understood most of this week's instalment, which means I must be picking up the main plot details through the dialogue. No naked Thumb Wars this time and the whole instalment seemed to be filler for the next part. I quite liked the sequence with the final Sc4rab being decapitated, but it did feel like this was a little bit padded out to prepare for a larger sequence next week.


This never happened on Star Wars!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Bit of a weaker Prog this week with most of the stories feeling like filler, apart from the start of Sinister Dexter and the ending of Gunheadz, which didn't quite live up to the promise of the first episode. This current batch of Tharg's 3riller's is concluding now and there's a Cadet Anderson strip next week in its place. I'm assuming this is some kind of prequel to the older Anderson stories, set in her past. I'm looking forward to it - I really enjoyed the Anderson stories in the late 90's that used to be in 2000AD, before she moved to the Megazine.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1832 will be available in stores on Wednesday 15th May - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Top Ten Scariest Videogames

It's very difficult to create a pitch-perfect horror game - many factors need to be taken into account in order to craft a truly scary game. Developers need to strike the perfect balance of setting, soundtrack, character design, gameplay difficulty, atmosphere and story-line in order to generate a real sense of unease and fear within a gamer - just one miscalculation can turn a game from a terrifying journey into survival horror into a gun-crazy first person shooter. Here is a list of my Top Ten Scariest Videogames:


10) The 7th Guest

The 7th Guest was an interactive movie puzzle adventure game for the PC, released in 1993, which told the story of seven guests invited to a mysterious mansion and each one was murdered. The game takes place through the viewpoint of the player as you witness spooky apparitions of the dead guests replay events. The gameplay was one of exploration and nigh-impossible puzzles. While it is dated by today’s standards, at the time it was possibly one of the scariest games released, because of the movie-style graphics (which don’t hold up now) and the haunted house atmosphere. It has since been released on iPhone & iPad with great success.



9) Manhunt

Released in 2003 by Rockstar, Manhunt was no stranger to controversy, due to the extensive graphic violence within the game and the concept of snuff-film murder. The whole game has a very dark, nihilistic tone, with the lead character, Cash, murdering gang members in increasingly gory fashions, in fact, rewards are given for the more grotesque acts of violence. However, it isn't the level of hardcore violence that makes this game scary; it’s the hide-and-seek stealth gameplay that forces your player to hide in the shadows from hunters and the effective background sound effects as you struggle to keep hidden. This isn't a game where you can take on the world and survive. You’re alone with limited weaponry against hordes of murderous hunters, relying on your wits and ingenuity to survive and it’s that reliance on stealth and careful attacks, which makes Manhunt such a scary game.



8) Left 4 Dead

The most effective horror games put the player in an isolated situation with limited weaponry and force them to survive; however Left 4 Dead is the opposite of that. It’s a weapon-heavy four-player co-op shooter, where you and three friends take on various hordes of the undead in fast and frantic battles across a deserted cityscape. Where Left 4 Dead becomes truly scary, however, is with the introduction of the Witch, a female zombie of extreme speed and strength, who unlike her fellow zombies doesn't rush straight at you, but sits on her knees, gently sobbing to herself. The eerie sound of the sobbing overwhelms the background music as you approach The Witch and the player characters hush each other as a warning. The Witch will not attack you unless provoked by gunfire or shining a light in her face, so once you hear that sobbing coming through the speakers, it becomes imperative that you locate the source and avoid her!



7) Resident Evil

When you hear the words ‘Survival Horror’, your first thoughts are likely to be ‘Resident Evil’. This game, released in 1996, arguably started the modern survival-horror genre and influenced a multitude of sequels and spin-offs. This initial game was set in an isolated mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City and while the storyline (and voice acting) is of a B-movie standard, the gameplay was so inventive for its time and effectively scary that it traumatised a whole generation of gamers. Subsequent games have improved upon the graphics, the voice acting and the gameplay, but with each glossy update, the series has lost some of its survival-horror roots, growing more into an action-adventure franchise. To best experience the same feeling of horror and dread that gamers had when first stepping foot into that mansion, try the 2002 Gamecube (available on Wii) remake which featured improved graphics, voice acting and notable gameplay changes.



6) Condemned: Criminal Origins

One of the launch games for the Xbox 360 in 2005, Condemned: Criminal Origins, was a first-person horror game that focused on melee combat instead of shooting and puzzle solving, such as gathering evidence and investigating crime scenes. The atmosphere of the game was similar to the movie Seven with detective, Ethan Thomas, exploring derelict environments with minimal lighting, relying on a flashlight to navigate through the darkened areas. Throughout the game there are several ambushes with enemies attacking you from behind or in front. Due to the melee combat, these fight sequences are very up-close and usually require some skill to survive, such as blocking attacks and picking up weapons. The recognisable locations in the game (schools, libraries) are made bizarrely alien as they are abandoned and darkly lit with frequently scary sound effects echoing down the corridors. Playing through this game evokes the feeling of being alone somewhere you shouldn't be as you continue to hesitantly explore whilst hearing the frustrated grunts and groans of the criminal element in the near-distance. Definitely not one to play with the lights off!



5) Clock Tower 3

The best way to generate fear within a gamer is to make them feel vulnerable and Clock Tower 3 manages to do just that. Playing as a 14 year-old schoolgirl called Alyssa, you spend the game fleeing from massive enemy bosses, based on serial killers, and have to hide from them. It is these sequences where you are hiding and the boss character searches the area that the scares begin – the controller vibrates in time with your heartbeat and the whole gameplay feels like playing hide-and-seek as a kid…except with serial killer monsters! Since Alyssa doesn't have any weapons or real attacks; the object of the game is to avoid confrontation, which is a complete departure from other survival horror games. This technique is very effective and if the player finds themselves drawn into the game, it can be very terrifying indeed, especially if you have friends who like to jump out and shout “Boo!” whilst you're hiding from the Sledgehammer boss.



4) Silent Hill

Considered by many to be the thinking man's Resident Evil, Silent Hill focused more on the psychological aspect of horror with creepy visuals (remember the midget babies with knifes in the school?) as well as effective use of sound to evoke fear. Due to graphic limitations the open environment of Silent Hill was cloaked in an eerie fog, which not only covered up the abyssmal draw distances of the PSone but also gave a sense of atmosphere to the troubled town. While the story made very little sense (until the Silent Hill movie came out and filled in the blanks) it had the novel idea of having multiple endings based on your choices within the game. While later instalments would introduce iconic bad guys such as Pyramid Head - it was the original Silent Hill that unnerved me the most, especially the creepy pre-credits piano music that accompanied the FMV intro.



3) Dead Space

In terms of videogames, there hadn't really been much science-fiction based horror, apart from the occasional game based on the Alien movie franchise. Some of these were effective, such as 1996’s Alien Trilogy, which used the bleeping motion sensor to add tension to a standard first-person shooter. However, no game truly captured the feeling of a science-fiction horror until 2008’s Dead Space. Set upon an abandoned mining ship, you play as engineer Issac Clarke, who has to fight his way through the Necromorphs, human corpses infected by an alien virus. One of the game’s innovations is the ability to shoot off body parts to slow down and incapacitate your enemies, as well as using stasis to slow down the fast-moving creatures. Unlike most survival horror games, shooting an enemy in the head had little or no effect, forcing players to rely on other tactics to kill their enemies. The setting of an abandoned space ship is beautifully realised with eerie background sounds and darkly lit corridors that you have to creep through to unlock doors. Dead Space was a refreshing change to the Survival Horror genre that put a new spin on a tired genre.



2) Project Zero (aka Fatal Frame)

Taking its cues from Japanese Horror movies such as Ring or The Grudge, Project Zero (known as Fatal Frame in the USA) uses the haunted house setting, but mixes in a sense of vulnerability as the protagonist must explore the mansion and take photographs of the various ghosts in order to defeat them and capture them inside the camera. The game uses a first-person perspective as you take photos and it is effectively spooky as you explore the haunted mansion looking for ghosts to defeat. As with Condemned: Criminal Origins, the immediacy granted by the first-person viewpoint creates added drama and fright as you attempt to capture advancing spectres within the camera lens. It is a completely different feeling to shooting or fighting with an enemy and leaves you feeling vulnerable. The Japanese horror flavour adds to the scariness, giving western audiences a totally unique style of horror that they might not be used to.



1) Siren Blood Curse

Also drawing from the Japanese horror genres is Siren Blood Curse, a remake of the Playstation 2 game, Forbidden Siren. Siren Blood Curse manages to cram in all the key ingredients to make a truly terrifying game into one package - it features vulnerable heroes, who lack any real combat skills or weapons and have to resort to hiding from their enemies. One twist is the ability to 'sightjack' those that are hunting you which gives you a first-person perspective on what the enemies can see, allowing the player to determine the best route through the eerie Japanese countryside to safety. Combining first person visuals with stealth tactics and an eerie soundtrack results in one of the most horrific gaming experiences yet. I've only been able to handle playing the first few chapters before giving up and letting my fear consume me - have you fared any better?


Do you agree with my Top Ten Scariest Videogames? Are there any titles that you feel are missing and what aspects of games do you find the scariest? Let me know in the comments section or contact me via Twitter or my Facebook page.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

2000AD Prog 1831

Prog 1831 Cover by Ben Willsher

This week's cover is a wraparound featuring a standard Dredd stock pose by artist Ben Willsher. I'm not entirely sure why this warranted a two page cover since it's fairly bland with its content. On it own merits, it's a well drawn and clear pose of the comic's flagship character so it would appear recognisable to potential new readers, but he's not doing anything particularly exciting. To be effective, a front cover should be both eye-catching and intrigue the reader enough to want to read on, and in my opinion, this one doesn't particularly evoke any sense of urgency to read the Dredd story.


JUDGE DREDD - THE FORSAKEN (Part 2)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - PJ Holden
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

Dredd follows up on the lead Dolman found on the missing Cadets, and finds the remains of one of them. The Judge team find a data pad, showing the cadets fighting off some hostiles, which concludes with one of the Cadets (Darrien Falcon) leaving a threatening message for Dredd, if they happen to meet again.

Those words are going to be, "You Git"

There are hints that Falcon is the clone, but it's possible this is a red herring and it could be one of the others - possibly one of the females...or maybe all of them are Dredd clones? I quite like the way this story is shaping up with disgruntled cadets feeling betrayed and angry at the system - I hope the story is given some time to grow and develop rather than rushed into a swift conclusion. I also like the fact each episode so far has been 'named' after one of the cadets upon which the story has focused on.



DANDRIDGE - THE COPPER CONSPIRACY (Part 8)
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Warren Pleece
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Dandridge comes to a fine conclusion, with Shelley using his head to save the day (again!). I liked the denouement which seemed to introduce a larger threat to Dandridge in the near future and there was a nice little wrap-up, leaving Dandridge ready and willing to take on the challenges that the next adventure brings. I've really enjoyed this story, despite not knowing much about it going in. It certainly has piqued my interest enough to check out some back issues or locate the graphic novel. The artwork by Warren Pleece had a simplistic beauty to it and suited the laid-back nature of the lead character, and Alec Worley managed to craft a well-paced adventure that felt like a Carry On film mixed with Doctor Who. I look forward to another outing for the well-dressed former spook!




THARG'S 3RILLERS -  GUNHEADZ (Part 2)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Boo Cook
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

I love the artwork for this strip with the flashes between the 70's comic strip and the 'real world' but with this instalment, some of the holes in the plot begin to reveal themselves. It seems a bit odd that a comic book artist would publish the Gunheadz comic nationwide, while he was hiding the exact same creatures from the Army. It doesn't exactly strike me as incognito. Perhaps there is more to the plot than I'm aware and the final episode will reveal a twist, but the whole concept seems a bit flawed and contrived in order to get Boo Cook to draw the two versions of the Gunheadz. Perhaps if this story had been given a longer stint, some of these "plot bubbles" could have been ironed out? That said, I'm looking forward to seeing the potential carnage that the shell-shocked, psychotic Sgt. Howitzer will deal out in his blind rage.
It's bad to punch pregnant women?!
 Even I'm learning something from these comics!



STICKLEBACK - NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Part 8)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This episode of Stickleback seemed much more fast-paced than any of the previous with an attack on the Rat Queen and her Ratlings. Stickleback, Lady Scarlet and Moody manage to escape, while the Rat Queen is eaten by the vicious dinosaur horde, who continue their pursuit of our protagonists. I really liked this action-focused approach and I found myself reading through this week's instalment with more interest than any of the previous ones. With the bulk of the exposition out of the way, I'm hoping that the conclusion of this part will be as thrilling as this episode was!



ZOMBO - PLANET ZOMBO (Part 7)
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Simon Bowland

Zombo continues to baffle me and entertain me in equal measure. I don't recall the Padre from any of the previous parts, but there has been so many characters in this story so far that I do struggle to keep track of them. Rather than try and make sense of it, I'm going to look at the pretty pictures, laugh at the funny jokes and hope it all makes sense to someone out there!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Overall, this was a great Prog and even though one of my favourites, Dandridge, came to an end this Prog, I am confident that it's replacement, Sinister Dexter, will keep me entertained. The return of Sinister Dexter comes as a welcome surprise as I have always enjoyed their adventures, although I am somewhat lacking in the recent history of the story. Last time I was regularly reading, there was a gang-war between two versions of Moses Tannenbaum which threatened to destroy the multi-verse. I'm guessing this particular story-arc as been resolved by now, so I am intrigued to see where the two hitmen have ended up now.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1831 will be available in stores on Wednesday 8th May - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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, 1 May 2013

2000AD Prog 1830


Prog 1830 Cover by Boo Cook
I love the retro look to this cover, which looks like a very early copy of 2000AD - it definitely leaps out at the viewer and it would entice any lapsed readers, especially those with memories of the comic in the late 70's. As for the characters depicted on the cover, from the new Gunheadz strip inside - they are certainly appealing and exciting to look at. I love the designs on them! This would certainly be a strong contender for Prog Cover of the Year!


JUDGE DREDD - THE FORSAKEN (Part 1)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - PJ Holden
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse


Dolman, one of Dredd's clones, heads to the Sovsec within Mega City Two to locate some missing cadets since the events of Chaos day - there he discovers Kessler, one of the cadets, who tells a story of what befall him and his friends in the immediate aftermath and explains why he deserted Mega City One.


Moreso than the other Dredd stories since I began reviewing Progs on a weekly basis, this one has the strongest ties to the Chaos Day event that changed the landscape of Mega City One. So, while this may be more intriguing and tense for long-term readers, I did feel a little nonplussed by the developments in this issue, particularly the last panel which didn't have much impact on me. Perhaps the next part will shed some more light on Dolman's mention of 'family' as I am not 100% sure whether he is talking about an existing Dredd clone or a brand new one. Still, this seems stronger than the other Michael Carroll story I reviewed in Prog 1824 & 1825, and PJ Holden's artwork is really good and suits this story well.



DANDRIDGE - THE COPPER CONSPIRACY (Part 7)
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Warren Pleece
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Dandridge appears to be heading towards its climax as the activated Coppers swarm London arresting the innocent, forcing Dandridge to shut them down by destroying the host copper. I really like the balance of action and exposition that this strip has had throughout its run with almost alternating installments dealing with action and aftermath.

As I've said before, I am quite fond of the characterisation of Dandridge himself, which reminds me somewhat of Doctor Who with his eccentric genius, and i enjoy his dynamic with his mute assistant, Shelley. This is a strip I can see becoming a regular fixture to replace some of the recently retired ones such as Nikolai Dante, Shakara and The Red Seas. I also really enjoy the artwork, which suits the light-hearted feel of the strip.



THARG'S 3RILLERS -  GUNHEADZ (Part 1)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Boo Cook
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

I am a sucker for Meta-fictional stories such as this where the fictional world impacts on the 'real world' - it reminds me of The League of Gentlemen movie where the characters from the show come face to face with their creators. I also like the use of the retro comic styling to show the difference between the two settings - it reminded me of the Daredevil story-arc, 'Golden Age' where artist Alex Maleev used three distinct art styles (black & white, four colour 70s and modern) to distinguish between the time periods. Boo Cook does a great job of using a different style to the comic strip interludes, so much so that I thought it was a different artist at first. The bright colours and simpler linework make the contrast with the darker, more complex 'real world' seem even more vivid and noticeable - it works perfectly and helps propel the story along!

Gun Crime Fighters

The actual Gunheadz strip in its original format looks fun enough to be a story in its own right without the meta-fictional layer atop of it. It seems very reminiscent of ABC Warriors and stories of that type with the ensemble team with key identifiable features. I particularly like the look of Sgt. Howitzer and the pun names that the team members have (such as Akay for the AK-47 headed Gunhead) - Overall, this is a visually stunning story which works on multiple levels as a straight Gunheadz story or a darker metafictional journey into the mystery behind the origins of the comic.



STICKLEBACK - NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Part 7)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Lady Scarlett calls Stickleback out on his peculiar behaviour, giving the reader a potential theory as to what may have happened to him during his "five-year death" - it's an interesting plot twist if it turns out to be true and I am intrigued enough to hope it develops into a much longer plot thread, rather than be resolved at the conclusion of this story. 


I was surprised by the level of profanity in this strip, counting 'Shat, Shit and Arsehole', which seems a bit strong considering the usual attempts by 2000AD to develop future variants of swearing like 'Drokk, Funt and Stomm' - perhaps this is a sign that 2000AD has accepted that it is time to grow up with it's initial audience. While I doubt we'll ever see an f-bomb in a 2000AD strip (do correct me if it's already happened) I am equal parts pleased that the comic recognises most of its audience is adult, but disappointed as this does make it harder to draw kids into the fold.



ZOMBO - PLANET ZOMBO (Part 6)
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Simon Bowland

Zombo continues its crazy ride with Planet Earth becoming sentient, the President having a nude wrestle in cyberspace and Zombo's genuine confusion at everything that's happening, which mirrors my own somewhat. As I've said before, I do enjoy the humour of the strip and the zany feel, but I still struggle with what it all means, such as the connection between the side-ways head guy and the woman who was controlling the Evil Zombo, and whether the President is a good guy or not and who I should be cheering for as we head towards a confrontation between the two sides. Hopefully, it will become clearer now that the plot threads appear to be entwining now.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

It looks like Dandridge will be finishing next week, so I am interested to see what will replace it in the line-up - probably Greysuit or Age of the Wolf. Out of the two, I'd prefer to see Greysuit as it seems more accessible to a lapsed reader, such as myself.

Overall this was a great Prog, and again, Tharg's 3rillers is the thrill that I was most pleased with. It's been a great run of three-parters with Survival Geeks, Ghostship Mathematica and now Gunheadz, so hopefully one of them gets promotes to a full strip status.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1830 will be available in stores on Wednesday 1st May - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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...