Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review - Brass Sun # 3 (of 6)

Brass Sun # 3 (of 6)
Written by: Ian Edginton
Art by: I.N.J. Culbard

This third issue of the six-part miniseries collecting the Brass Sun saga features the first half of the second book, 'The Diamond Age', which originally appeared in last year's 2000AD Prog 1850 and picks up three months after the events of the first book, with Wren and Septimus now working as researchers for the Scarlet Duke on the noble planet of The Keep. However, the two adventurers are also keen to get ahold of Cadwallader's Journal, taken from Wren when she was captured by the Duke's men, in order to find out more about the key to restarting the Brass Sun and restoring warmth to the dying clockwork universe of the Orrery.

This issue continues to explore the Machiavellian palace politics as the duplicitous, weasel-like Ramkin plots with the Grand Dame to usurp her Duke brother's throne whilst simultaneously working with Wren and Septimus to escape his confines and travel to new worlds. Ramkin's character really stands out as the more cynical and sarcastic voice in the team (think Cordelia Chase in the early Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons) providing a much needed hint of mischief to the innocence of our main cast.

I really love the Studio Ghibli-influenced designs of the Duke's mechanical guards, who were introduced last episode and feature prominently in this particular sequence as the deadly Scythe robots reappear and cause havoc during the Duke's sixtieth birthday celebrations. While the preceding two issues seemed to be a balance between action and exposition, this issue seems to be tilted towards action and adventure and definitely benefits from the non-stop pace as the Grand Dame's robotic assassins flood the Duke's palace.


One key sequence that impresses is the fantastically thrilling rooftop chase as Ramkin attempts to escape the Scythe dispatched to silence him. I.N.J. Culbard's brilliant visuals and his use of panel size and placement to convey a sense of movement and scale really helps capture the tense atmosphere of the scene and the moment where Septimus comes to his rescue is so perfectly timed that it almost feels like a motion comic as your eyes follow the page. It's a fantastically cool moment and would easily garner some cheers in a cinema if the series ever made it to film. I honestly cannot praise Culbard's storytelling enough in this issue, as he continues to capture a grandiose sense of scale and wonder with his simply breath-taking scenery that leaps off the page and directly into your imagination.

While I've concentrated on the artistic element of the storytelling, I mustn't forget to give Ian Edginton his dues, with a truly shocking conclusion to The Keep's civil war storyline as the Duke's daughter betrays him and has his head popped like a cherry by one of his own automations. It comes out of nowhere and raises the stakes immediately, providing our trio of heroes with a new deadlier and more ruthless threat. I also like the subtle changes in the relationship between Wren and Septimus which has evolved during the three months that they have spent together on this alien planet, with an awkward 'moment' between the two which was interrupted by the Dame's attack. It's another great example of the script and artwork working together to produce wonderful moments of palpable storytelling.

Perhaps I'm slightly influenced into preferring this particular chapter of the story because it was my introduction to the series, but I must say that this is easily the best part of the Brass Sun series thus far and reads even better the second time around, thanks to the additional back-story I've accrued from the earlier issues and the move away from weekly installments to provide more fluid and exciting narrative chunks in this 'US-size' format. If you have picked up the earlier issues, you simply must treat yourself to this third issue in the series, and if you've managed to keep away this long, I urge you to pick up the trade paperback collection when it comes out in December, or if you're impatient jump into the story with this relatively accessible chapter. You will not be disappointed!


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Brass Sun # 3 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the 2000AD webshop. Be sure to put in a standing order for the remaining issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

2000AD Prog 1892

Prog 1892 Cover by Colin MacNeil

I absolutely love the bright colours and simplistic design of this cover from Colin MacNeil, which is reminiscent of the classic Looney Tunes opening credits with our cast of characters filling out the circular 'spotlight'. As a result, the whole image manages to capture the light-hearted nature of the Judge Dredd story inside, as well as proudly proclaiming the 'weturn' of Walter the Wobot to appeal to lapsed fans.


JUDGE DREDD - A NIGHT IN SYLVIA PLATH (Part 1)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colour - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Revisiting Walter the Wobot and Mrs Gunderson after the events of the Day of Chaos injected a wonderful sense of nostalgia into the strip, which was even seen from Judge Dredd himself, as he smiled warmly at his former robot servant, displaying a level of affection not often seen from the lawman. It reminded me of the moment in Nikolai Dante storyline 'Amerika' where the world-weary Russian thief spots a poster of himself in his younger, roguish years and we, as the reader, can see how far he has evolved as a character. The same is true here – the goofy antics of Walter the Wobot might be a bit of an embarrassing note in the Dredd universe, but the way that John Wagner revisits the character not only treats that era with respect, but evokes true feelings of nostalgia from both the character and reader for those 'simpler times'.


The whole theme of revisiting the past is made complete by the inclusion of the classic Judge Dredd logo as a tribute to the original art editor, Jan Shepheard, who designed the iconic title logo. Colin MacNeil's artwork is fabulous and despite associations with the grim and gritty 'Mega City Confidential' storyline a few months back, he manages to inject a humourous element to this darkly-comic story. There has been a trend of recent weeks to focus on the oddity characters of the Judge Dredd world with stories featuring Sensitive Klegg, deformed Mutants and now, Walter. I'm enjoying the light-hearted feel to these tales as it acts as a nice contrast to the more serious elements of Mega City One life.



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - CONGO (Part 4)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This concluding episode of the current run of Sinister Dexter neatly advances the story further moving the sub-plot of Moses Tannenbaum to the fore – something that the series has needed to do for the last few months, and sets up a thrilling cliffhanger with the gang of former gun-sharks waiting outside of the diner to 'uncompromise' Tannenbaum's security. I particularly like the character of Ted Behr – the Walter White cypher – although he will likely be dispatched early on once the strip returns.

The art from Jake Lynch is great, and I'd love to see him return with the strip in the future. While his initial episodes were a little bit hap-hazard, he seems to have got a handle on the design of Sinister and Dexter now and his panel composition is a lot clearer and easier to follow. I've gotten used to the black and white approach for the strip and am beginning to prefer the film noir atmosphere it conjures up, especially with Jake Lynch's use of shadows to accentuate the griminess of Generica.



BRASS SUN - FLOATING WORLDS (Part 5)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This episode of Brass Sun saw a departure from the visual look of the series with a trippy dream sequence where Wren discovered some of the key details behind the construction of the Orrery and the ties the clockwork universe has with our own. This felt like a pivotal episode for the series as a whole, shedding some light on the mysteries of the 'clock-punk' worlds and adding important context to the cataclysmic future that awaits them all if our heroes fail to restart the Brass Sun.

I loved the Americana references in INJ Culbard's artwork this week, with the Blind Watchmaker taking on the forms of key historical figures: Mark Twain, Robert Oppenheimer and Kurt Vonnegut throughout his appearance. The change in colour palette really accentuated the dream-like feeling to the sequence, and helped make this chapter really stand out as important to the series mythology.



BLACK SHUCK (Part 2)
Script - Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art - Steve Yeowell
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Simon Bowland

Black Shuck continues to tell the story through two narratives, with flashbacks to the Black Shuck's journey to Scandinavia as a prisoner of the Dene inter-spliced amongst the current events of the Jotnar attacks. Maybe it's too early to speculate but I suspect that there might be some kind of twist in store behind the Black Shuck's origins, possibly he has undergone some kind of transformation during his time as a prisoner.


As much as I'm enjoying the story from Leah Moore and John Reppion, I'm also really impressed with Steve Yeowell's coloured artwork with his clear, minimalist approach making the story and battle sequences easy to follow. He has a unique style that I have admired for years and the addition of a colour palette adds a whole new dimension to his work.



AQUILA - CARNIFEX (Part 3)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

With another action-packed episode, we see Aquila face down a hulking great rock creature in his quest to provide Nero with seven priestly heads to guarantee his ascension to godhood. We  also get a glimpse into Triscus' plan to divert Nero's plan so that Jesus Christ is able to benefit and rule Rome instead of Nero. I like the idea of subverting history to create alternate timelines, but the idea of manipulating Jesus Christ, and potentially turning him into a monster is a bit similar to the recent Indigo Prime series, although I suspect Gordon Rennie will take this in a different direction.


Leigh Gallagher's artwork is simply perfect, from the gore-drenched carnage left in Aquila's wake to the imaginative designs of the various deities that he has been sent to dispatch. I particularly loved the design of the rock creature – for some reason this whole sequence reminded me of the gory anime classic, Ninja Scroll, albeit set in the Roman era rather than feudal Japan. I really can't wait to see where this series goes next, and what creatures lie in wait for our deadly gladiator to deal with.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This was a fantastic example of a Prog with all five serials working perfectly together to deliver a thrilling whole. There's nothing much to say, except that I'm looking forward to the return of Jaegir in next week's issue as it replaces Sinister Dexter. The highlight of the Prog has to be a tie between the 'weturn of Walter the Wobot' and Aquila's fantastic battle, perfectly depicted by Leigh Gallagher.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1892 will be available in stores on Wednesday 30th July - 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, 23 July 2014

2000AD Prog 1891

Prog 1891 Cover by Alex Ronald

There is a strong Lord of the Rings vibe to this week’s front cover from Alex Ronald, which as with his previous work for 2000AD looks well-polished and lavishly rendered. I love the dynamic pose of the swordsman defending himself against the troll in the foreground, whilst two more approach him from behind. The framing of the hand holding the dagger obscuring the reader’s viewpoint really adds a cinematic touch to the image and makes it a fantastic way to welcome Black Shuck to the Prog.


JUDGE DREDD - STUDENT BODIES (Part 2)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Boo Cook
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After being quite affected by Lennie McTick’s story last week by viewing his mutation as a metaphor for physical and mental disability, this story continues the darkly comic route by showing Lennie’s eventual fate at the hands of cannibals. While I hoped for a happy ending for the hapless mutant, John Wagner instead delivers a typically cruel slice of Mega-City One irony as the bully responsible for Lennie’s death has his brain placed into his body in a rather literal case of 'putting yourself in someone else’s shoes'.




Boo Cook’s wonderful artwork continues to impress with some fantastic depictions of Dredd (gotta love that chin!) and a brilliant range of colours bringing the desolate environment to life. The action sequence when Dredd finally catches up with Lennie’s captors is simply amazing, making use of the space outside of the panels to give a truly effective sense of action and movement. I absolutely loved the panel where Dredd fires his lawgiver, sending three heat-seeker rounds racing into the hearts of the cannibals. While Cook’s cartoony style might not suit every type of Judge Dredd story, it has been a perfect fit for this darkly comic two-parter.



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - CONGO (Part 3)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Okay, so I was slightly wrong with theory that it would be an alternate version of Sinister Dexter who were behind the rival ‘wiretapping’ in the Congo database. Instead, we’re introduced to a rival group of former gun-sharks, also hiding in Witness Protection, who are using the Congo database to aid their own criminal endeavours. When asked nicely to provide the new identity of Moses Tannenbaum, the rival group declines leaving Sinister and Dexter to form an alternative plan.

I got a strong Breaking Bad whiff about the whole set-up, with ‘Teddy Behr’ strongly reminding me of Walter White, both with his visual design and his "I’m the Cook" apron. The whole barbecue in the back garden with the families and dual identities theme also reminded me heavily of the hit AMC drama. This episode seemed to work much better for me than the previous parts, with Jake Lynch’s pencils taking a less rough and raw approach for this less action-packed installment, and the banter between the group taking a turn for the meta with the mocking the ‘pun names’ that Dan Abnett often uses, including those of the titular characters.



BRASS SUN - FLOATING WORLDS (Part 4)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After a few weeks of build-up, this episode delivered a ton of action as the Nominal Charge is overrun by the very toothy Jackanapes creatures, who aside from having a mouth of teeth that would send a dentist into a meltdown also possess tongues capable of poisoning their victims with a single touch. I really enjoyed the frantic action of this sequence, realised superbly by INJ Culbard, although I would have liked to have seen the sequence extended slightly.



There is a shocking turn of events with Wren being poisoned by one of the Jackanapes creatures - could the gaseous clay be her only chance of survival? I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the cast interact with each other now that the central character of Wren has been ‘taken off the table’ for a while, as well as the ongoing threat of the Sweet Sisters, waiting for their chance to take out our heroes once they lose their usefulness.



BLACK SHUCK (Part 1)
Script - Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art - Steve Yeowell
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Simon Bowland

Black Shuck is the long-awaited debut from Leah Moore and John Reppion, mixing trolls and Vikings up in wonderful looking fantasy drama. This opening chapter is packed full of atmosphere with a strong narration from the titular character; as we witness him wash up on the beaches of Scandinavia proclaiming himself to be the son of King Ivar and heir to the throne. But this ‘happy’ family reunion is cut short by the rampaging hordes of Jotnar that threaten to overwhelm the Viking settlement.

It’s great to see Steve Yeowell back in the Prog following his work on The Red Seas, and while at first glance this series would appear to be similarly themed, the decision to feature his work in colour as opposed to The Red Seas’ black and white look really brings a fresh flavour separating the two. I particularly like Chris Blythe's understated, almost greyscale approach to colouring the artwork, allowing Yeowell’s strong linework to stand out, rather than overwhelm it with colour. It also helps capture the foggy location of Scandinavia and Nordic atmosphere. Overall, it’s a strong, self-assured debut from the two new writers which instantly catches the reader’s attention and shouts “Vikings! Trolls!”, until you raise your own flagon of mead in excitement of the adventure to come.



AQUILA - CARNIFEX (Part 2)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After the action-packed opening chapter last week, this episode focuses on the supporting characters of Triscus the diviner and his assistant Piro, who attempt to flee the city but find themselves trapped under Nero’s orders, as he wishes all diviners, mystics, seers and sorcerers to be confined within the city walls, should it transpire he requires one of their heads as part of his rite of ascension to godhood. Unhappy with this, Triscus then attempts to head off to thwart Aquila’s attempts to behead his new target – the apostle, Peter.

Nero channels his inner Kenneth Williams...

I do like an old-school hacking and slashing adventure and with its Roman setting and inclusion of gods and other deities, Aquila is hitting all the right notes. The series reminds me of the God of War video games, although much less overt in its themes of the supernatural, at least for now. Aquila makes for a fascinating lead character with his brutish strength manipulated by others and I love the tense atmosphere conjured up from both Gordon Rennie and Leigh Gallagher as Rome waits with bated breath for Nero’s metamorphosis from emperor to God.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

With Black Shuck completing the comic’s line-up, presumably until the next jumping-on point of Prog 1900, this issue not only feels complete, but also offers a fantastic level of variety with a mix of different genres explored within its pages, from swords and sorcery to wonderful "clockpunk" environments. With the promise of a return to Sylvia Plath block next Prog in Judge Dredd, could it be that we’re due a reappearance of Mrs Gunderson and Walter the Wobot? I certainly hope so!


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1891 will be available in stores on Wednesday 23rd July - 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!

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor # 1

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor # 1
"After Life"
Written by: Al Ewing & Rob Williams
Art by: Simon Fraser
Colours by: Gary Caldwell

Ever since it was announced that the Doctor Who comics licence was moving from IDW to Titan Comics, I've been eagerly awaiting getting the comic into my hands. With a British imprint at the helm, and a bevy talent from a 2000AD background, such as Rob Williams, Al Ewing and Simon Fraser, this relaunch felt more authentically British than previous attempts, and by introducing new companions rather than slotting in ‘lost adventures' with Amy and Rory, it strangely feels more realistic and ‘canon’ than most off-screen adventures.

Set after Amy and Rory’s honeymoon above Sardicktown in ‘A Christmas Carol’ and before the Season 6 premiere ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, the series chronicles the time the Doctor travelling along, checking for imperfections amongst the rebooted ‘Big Bang 2.0’ universe. This is a great place to set the comic series and gives us a ‘Season 5B’ continuity, in which fans can place these adventures into, plus there’s still the chance Amy, Rory or River can appear as guests.

This opening chapter is relatively continuity-light requiring the most basic knowledge of the Doctor and his TARDIS, and focuses mainly on introducing readers to the new companion, Alice Obiefune. As a slightly older companion, suffering from depression and mourning the death of her mother, we have a different type of companion to the ones seen in the TV show, and hopefully with the Doctor’s interference, we should see her come full-circle and leave the TARDIS in a much better state of mind than she joined.

Al Ewing and Rob Williams’ both nail the Doctor’s voice here, but wisely invest their time in making sure that Alice Obiefune is an engaging and complex foil to the familiar character. The biggest challenge of this first issue, and any story introducing a new companion, is to make the reader/viewer love the character and consider them worthy to travel with the Doctor. Tonally, I think this episode is similar to ‘Smith and Jones’ which didn't have to worry about introducing the Doctor to a new generation in the same way that ‘Rose’ did, and focused on Martha Jones instead. While Martha and Alice are miles apart in terms of characterisation, it seemed like a familiar structure in terms of the story.


Aside from the familiar 2000AD names attached to this project, the artwork was a major drawing point for me, from Alice X. Chang’s amazing cover art, which captures Matt Smith’s likeness perfectly, and even though there has been a multitude of variant covers to celebrate the launch of the series, this was always my first and only choice! For a glimpse at the many, many variants available for both the 10th and 11th Doctor comics, check out this comprehensive list.

Being familiar with Simon Fraser’s artwork on Nikolai Dante and Lilly MacKenzie, I was expecting great things from him here, and he didn't disappoint bringing his A-game to the series with vivid and imaginary new alien designs, as well as an accurate rendition of familiar aspects of the TV show, such as Matt Smith and the TARDIS interior. At times, it felt smoother and glossier than his other work, possibly due to Gary Caldwell’s colours, but I absolutely loved every panel, and I look forward to his design of the alien worlds that the Doctor is sure to visit. After seeing his sprawling vistas of a futuristic Russia in Nikolai Dante, we’re in for a treat if he delivers any detailed TARDIS-eye views of alien civilisations.

One of the elements of the story which stuck out the most for me was the brilliant 'Wizard of Oz' inspired transition from Alice Obiefune’s greyscale viewpoint on her life into a world enriched with colour after a rainbow dog literally leaps into her life, forcing her to ran after the Doctor, still clutching onto her carrier bags of shopping! It’s a fantastic visual trick, and Gary Caldwell’s colours really help sell the moment and bring forth an almost cinematic mood to the ‘pre-credits sequence’ of the issue.

In conclusion, I was totally wowed by this book – in fact, as a testament to how great it was, I actually bought it twice. I downloaded a digital copy from Comixology because my pre-order from Forbidden Planet was delayed! However, I really enjoyed reading it on the digital format with the dynamic panel by panel view managing to convey a cinematic sense of action which helped it feel like an actual episode of the TV show. As for the story itself, it works as a brilliant introduction to a new and interesting companion, with the faintest of hints at an overarching plot involving the Time Lords. The whole book feels like authentic Doctor Who and is a must read for causal fans and hard-core Whovians alike! Oh, and it also includes a free character code for the Doctor Who: Legacy mobile game – what more is there to like?! And for that reason, it has to get a perfect score of 10 out of 10!


Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor # 1 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 1

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 1
"Revolutions of Terror" - Part 1 (of 3)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Elena Casagrande
Colours by: Arianna Florean

Ever since it was announced that the Doctor Who comics licence was moving from IDW to Titan Comics, I've been eagerly awaiting getting the comic into my hands. While I was more interested in seeing how the team of 2000AD stalwarts (Rob Williams, Al Ewing and Simon Fraser) handled the Eleventh Doctor adventures, I was also curious to see how Nick Abadzis and Elena Casagrande interpreted David Tennant's Tenth Doctor.

Set after the Season 4 finale 'Journey's End', this series features the Doctor travelling on his own, after he had to erase Donna's memories of their adventures to save her from death resulting from the meta-crisis event. Setting it during the seasonal 'specials' that marked the end of the Tenth Doctor's time in the TARDIS offers the writers a great deal of freedom when it comes to the stories, with plenty of continuity flexibility during those episodes. I'm guessing it's set between 'The Next Doctor' and 'Planet of the Dead' as this version of the Doctor doesn't seem too preoccupied with his impending death foretold by the Ood, although we don't see too much from the character in this opening issue.

This opening chapter to the multi-part storyline 'Revolutions of Terror' acts as a slow-paced introduction to the new companion of Gabriella 'Gabby' Gonzalez, spending most of the issue introducing her family background and her motivation. Much like Rose Tyler before her, Gabby seems to be wasting her potential, tied down to a job she doesn't like and aspiring for something to come along and improve her situation, unaware that the Doctor is waiting around the corner to change her life completely. With her Mexican background, the character has a unique cultural heritage that has been unexplored in the TV series itself. With a complex relationship with her family, particularly her father, she seems to be a strongly developed character with more personality behind her than the current companion, Clara.

Linking in nicely with the Gabby's origins, the story has a strong Mexican theme tying in with the Day of the Dead festival, with a threat seemingly supernatural in tone rather than alien, but as with episodes like 'Vampires in Venice' and 'The Shakespeare Code', it might transpire that there is an alien explanation behind the mythological elements of the storyline.


With the focus on Gabby in this initial chapter, the Tenth Doctor is relegated to something of a peripheral character, only really appearing in the forefront once the two leads meet up in the final panel, promising greater exposure of the character in the next issue. From the brief glimpses of the Tenth Doctor in this issue, Nick Abadzis, seems to get his voice right, capturing the way he rambles to himself when on his own. I also like the reference for the Doctor's home-made gadgets and fondness of the noises they make, as seen in 'Day of the Doctor' with his Zygon-hunting device. Hopefully next issue should give Abadzis the chance to showcase the Doctor's character more, as well as setting up his relationship with Gabby.

Having been unaware of Elena Casagrande's artwork until this issue, I have to say that I absolutely love her art style and it suits the book perfectly. Her depiction of the Tenth Doctor manages to capture David Tennant's likeness perfectly, whilst her designs for Gabby and her extended family are really great too. While this initial episode takes place in the familiar environment of New York City, I look forward to seeing Casagrande's approach to more alien locations as the Doctor and Gabby begin their travels.

Aside from the interior artwork, I was also very impressed by the Alice X. Chang cover art, which provides a near photo-quality representation of David Tennant, and even though there has been a multitude of variant covers to celebrate the launch of the two series, this was always my first and only choice. For a glimpse at the many, many variants available for both the 10th and 11th Doctor comics, check out this comprehensive list.

In conclusion, this was a brilliant debut for Titan Comics' relaunch of the Tenth Doctor comics. While it might be a slightly slow-paced start, I really appreciated the lengthy introduction to Gabriella and the slow-burn approach to the villainous threat. The effective cliffhanger at the end with the Doctor and Gabby facing down the deadly threat in a subway car helps create a sense of excitement and continues the classic series' tradition of thrilling cliffhangers between each episode of a serial. I hope that Nick Abadzis continues this trend in future stories with more imaginative and seemingly inescapable endings for our Time Lord hero.


Score - 8.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor # 1 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

2000AD Prog 1890

Prog 1890 Cover by Karl Richardson

With a wonderfully striking pose that gives the impression that Aquila's blade is coming off of the page towards the reader, this brilliant cover from Karl Richardson definitely celebrates the deadly gladiator's return to the Prog in style. I particularly love the way that Richardson captures the stern, yet determined look on Aquila's face, as well as the blood on his sword, which perfectly reflects his actions inside.


JUDGE DREDD - STUDENT BODIES (Part 1)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Boo Cook
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

In contrast to the brightly-coloured approach seen in Boo Cook's artistic style, there was a very serious and emotional edge to this story of a missing mutant student, with John Wagner's effective script managing to make me feel sorry for the character of Lenny within the space of six pages. Maybe it was because his mutation, speech impediment and general lack of self-awareness drew parallels to both physically and mentally handicapped students, but the character's mistreatment at the hands of his peers really stirred a genuine emotional reaction in me. I truly hope that he manages to make it out of the situation intact and that he gets some kind of payback on his bullies.



Despite my pity for the character of Lennart McTick, his wonderfully grotesque appearance has been fantastically realised by Boo Cook, especially with his fanged teeth sticking through his areola covered skin. I also love Cook's rendition of Dredd, managing to capture the lawman's stern presence through his body language and posture.

Even though Dredd himself takes a minor role in this opening chapter, with the narrative style relying on flashbacks to the student's disappearance, the story continues to hold the reader's interest with the inclusion of an interesting supporting character. As with the 'Sensitive Klegg' two-parter that preceded this storyline, this tale uses the effective storytelling method of placing a loveable, yet vulnerable character in a perilous situation to raise the stakes and generate some tension and fear within the reader.



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - CONGO (Part 2)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This episode immediately addressed last week's cliffhanger of an undercover Sinister approached by some security guards as our hapless hitman attempted to improv a cover story before resorting to fisticuffs, with Jake Lynch's artwork providing a dynamic fight scene with some impressive angles and movement. I particularly liked the design of the panel where Sinister is viewed through a handcuff loop.

The story continues to build upon the mystery surrounding the other infiltrators into Congo's database and my current theory that they are alternative versions of Sinister and Dexter remains in play for now with no new evidence to disprove it. This much-needed element of mystery has helped fuel the story along a bit better than previous weeks where it felt as if each story was just padding to draw out the inevitable confrontation between the Downlode gun-sharks and Moses Tannenbaum. I also like the puns that Dan Abnett slips into the story, sometimes too seamlessly, as evidenced by the whole Congo/Amazon connection, which didn't register with me at all last week, but fell into place once Dexter suggested that Sinister might escape the warehouse by mailing himself to their address via “Congo Prime”.



BRASS SUN - FLOATING WORLDS (Part 3)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With little plot development, this five page installment seems to be moving at its own leisurely pace, once again proving the story's suitability for the US-format magazine where it can be read in larger chapters and the narrative's slower beats enjoyed in relation to its more action-packed moments, rather than with the constant interruptions. The best way to describe it would be to imagine the ad breaks in a film on TV as opposed to watching it uninterrupted in the cinema. While some 2000AD strips do not seem to suffer from the episodic approach, it feels like Brass Sun may have outgrown the anthology format somewhat, making it an ideal choice for the magazine's debut US-sized offering.

The lack of forward momentum in Ian Edginton's script allows INJ Culbard another chance to wow readers with his wonderfully designed environments and constant world-building as the Nominal Charge traverses the deadly forests of The Deep. I love the double-page spread showing the new flora and fauna amongst the gaseous location, with the brilliantly designed Jackanape creatures representing a key highlight. The small, yet fierce creatures remind me of the Kryll from the Gears of War series with their sleek black design and rows upon rows of razor sharp teeth waiting to rip a body to shreds in seconds.



THARG'S 3RILLERS: VOODOO PLANET (Part 3)
Script - Guy Adams
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Steven Denton
Letters - Simon Bowland

As discussed in last week’s review, this storyline suffers from being crammed into the three-part format of the Tharg’s 3riller as there are some wickedly gruesome ideas here that feel like they are getting lost in the mix. I would love to have seen this world fleshed out a bit more beyond the brief flashbacks the appeared in the story, and the concept of voodoo puppetry in the far future seems ripe for exploration beyond fifteen pages.


I liked the strong, downbeat ending here, which came as a bit of a surprise and works as a brilliant example of how subversive 2000AD can be. Not every story ends with the good guys victorious and sometimes evil triumphs in a devastating brutal way as seen here. PJ Holden’s artwork is top-notch, showcasing some brilliant action sequences with Clair and the parasitic Loa. I was also very impressed with the reveal of the disembodied heads plugged into the mainframe with the mess of wires evoking memories of HR Giger.



AQUILA - CARNIFEX (Part 1)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode works fantastically as an action-packed reintroduction to Aquila with an effective bit of exposition from Gordon Rennie explaining the current status quo as the Nubian gladiator works for the mad emperor Nero to acquire the heads of seven deities in order for his master to become a god himself. With three heads already atop their pillars in Nero’s chamber, this story looks to feature some bloodthirsty battles over the next ten weeks with this strong new status quo and direction for the series.


Leigh Gallagher returns to art duties for the series after Patrick Goddard illustrated the last storyline, ‘Where All Roads Lead’, bringing a grittier look to the gladiatorial action sequences. After seeing Gallagher’s artwork in black and white for Defoe, it is refreshing to see it realised in colour as colorist, Dylan Teague, provides a darker, subdued palette that captures the foreboding atmosphere of events and symbolises the dark path which Aquila is on as Nero’s Carnifex. I'm seriously looking forward to seeing some roman-themed sword and sorcery adventure over the coming weeks.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

The return of Aquila definitely makes this a stronger Prog than previous weeks, giving readers a long-term storyline to follow as opposed to the shorter Tharg’s 3rillers and Future Shock stories. The start of a new Judge Dredd story always revitalizes the line-up and this feels like a real mixed bag appealing to everyone with new beginnings, continued stories and a dramatic conclusion rolled into one Prog.

There are plenty of hints of the future (both near and far) with a back page teaser for Black Shuck, the Vikings and Trolls orientated fantasy from Leah Moore, John Reppion and Steve Yeowell. We also have our first glimpse at a panel from the upcoming Judge Dredd storyline ‘Block Judge’ appearing in Prog 1900, which looks reminiscent of the classic ‘The Pit’ storyline.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1890 will be available in stores on Wednesday 16th July - 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, 9 July 2014

2000AD Prog 1889

Prog 1889 Cover by Chris Weston

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we may have a strong contender here for the Cover of Year 2014 – this beautiful Judge Dredd cover from Chris Weston featuring the Sensitive Klegg is just sublime. The level of detail is amazing, even including the cheeky nod to the Gears of War series with the Lancer chainsaw gun. The whole concept of Dredd protecting a vicious looking crocodile is fantastic, with the speech bubble, “Back Off Creeps, He’s Sensitive” being the icing on the cake. It’s clearly a popular image around the 2000AD offices too, as it was used as the design of the London Film and Comic Con exclusive t-shirts.


JUDGE DREDD - THE HEART IS A LONELY KLEGG HUNTER (Part 2)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Chris Weston
Colours - Michael Dowling
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

The concluding half of this two part storyline has a more frenzied approach than its opening chapter, as our sensitive Klegg ‘hero’ attempts to avoid being murdered by the Hunters Club. It was fun to see the wacky choices in would-be assassins, ranging from a big-game hunter to a mother and child combo. I also liked the way that Judge Dredd begrudgingly made his way to rescue the Klegg, showcasing the aging Judge’s sense of humour as he wondered whether it would be wrong to ‘root for the perp’.


Chris Weston’s artwork was fantastic, from his impressive close-up on Dredd on the first page, highlighting the iconic chin, to the way he escalated the slapstick violence as the Hunters bickered amongst themselves. In some ways it reminded me of the movie, ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ except involving a fierce-looking but friendly crocodile and a gang of hunters instead of Cars, Monte Carlo and buried treasure…well, it makes sense to me, okay?!

I’m glad that the Sensitive Klegg made it out of Mega City One in the end, and by sending him on a Hell-trek across the Cursed Earth, Rob Williams seems to be setting up more adventures of the popular supporting character. I, for one, would love to read a short spin-off series, in the same vein of Low Life, exploring the Klegg's adventures in the Cursed Earth.



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - CONGO (Part 1)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Sinister Dexter returns to the Prog, once again using a black and white artistic style as seen during its previous adventure, ‘Gun Shy’. This time, however, it is Jake Lynch on art duties, fresh from his work on Orlok in the recent Sci-Fi Special. I like his scratchy, rough around the edges approach, but I'm not entirely convinced on his depiction of Sinister, who looks really wrinkled and old here. Maybe its just the exaggerated linework that comes from the black and white format.


Dan Abnett appears to moving the plot forward, having Sinister hack into the Witness Protection Program's database in order to find out if they can determine which one of the false identities belongs to Moses Tannenbaum. After the diversion of the previous adventure, this seems like the series is getting back on track and is focused on the primary plot-line of the Witness Protection organisation. There is even a degree of mystery introduced with the revelation that someone else is attempting to hack the database and find Moses. Could this be an alternate version of Sinister and Dexter, perhaps?



BRASS SUN - FLOATING WORLDS (Part 2)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After a lengthy double-episode reintroducing us to the characters status quo, this chapter feels a bit slow with some more exposition between the main cast as they approach The Deep, and the introduction of another mysterious enemy, presumably from a more technologically advanced planet. As I've been reading the recent 32-page American comic format reprints of this series, I have to say that it definitely works better in those bigger chunks, as the five/six page chapters that 2000AD affords can sometimes make the wonderful world-building that Ian Edginton and I.N.J Culbard provide can seem rather lengthy and slow-paced. Needless to say, I'm sure this particular chapter will read perfectly fine within the grander scale of the storyline, and no doubt there is some action-packed adventure to be had once the crew of The Nominal Charge find themselves in The Deep.



THARG'S 3RILLERS: VOODOO PLANET (Part 2)
Script - Guy Adams
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Steven Denton
Letters - Simon Bowland

As with most stories featured under the Tharg’s 3rillers banner, this feels like a longer story condensed into a three part format. The ideas of mind-controlling gas, voodoo rituals and a corrupt president partnered up with the vivid character designs of the gruesome President and his Bogeymen lackeys by PJ Holden really deserved a few extra chapters to expand upon the story and let the universe breathe. I understand the Tharg's 3rillers format works well for those Future Shock stories that just creep over the 'done in one' guidelines, such as the recent Colony story in Progs 1880 - 1882, but perhaps there needs to be a third level for those one-off adventures that need greater flexibility and space (say, four or five chapters) to tell a rich and interesting tale.


I love the dark tone to this adventure established by PJ Holden’s artwork and the really gruesome nature of Guy Adams’ script, particularly through the nefarious President character. I also really enjoy the concept of voodoo juxtaposed against the futuristic elements of planet colonization, and the added twist of mind-altered natural gases helps establish a unique dynamic for the storyline.



FUTURE SHOCKS - THE NAME IS THE LAW
Script - Eddie Robson
Art - Nick Dyer
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This quirky little Future Shock from Eddie Robson and Nick Dyer had an interesting concept around the power of ‘true names’ and how they can be used to control a person. I feel like this idea of names granting power over individuals has been done in fiction before, but I can’t quite remember where. The twist was relatively effective, in the sense that I assumed she’d made ‘Ben’ jump out of the window, not realising that she’d changed her mind, but it didn't quite shed much light on the nature of the ‘name control’, and presumably if the mysterious third party wanted rid of Cassie, they’d find another way.

One thing that confused me was whether there was any importance to the nature of business conducted by the organisation. It was vaguely inferred that it was some high-flying position, making decisions that would affect millions, but it wasn't particularly clear (at least, not to me). Perhaps the devilish nature of the mysterious ‘name dropper’ at the beginning was meant to symbolise some kind of supernatural, possibly soul-selling nature to the company. Perhaps with a bit more fleshing-out, this could have been a candidate for the Tharg’s 3riller format, as it didn't quite work for me as a Future Shock.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

It feels like this period between Prog 1888 until the next jumping-on point of Prog 1900 will be filled with a number of shorter length stories with Sinister Dexter, Jaegir, Aquila, Black Shuck, Tharg’s 3rillers and Future Shocks all scheduled to appear in during the twelve Prog gap alongside the lengthier storyline of Brass Sun.

Next week’s Prog sees the return of supernatural gladiatorial series, Aquila, and no doubt we will see more of the promised series’ appear over the next few weeks, so it should be an exciting time with plenty of fresh changes to the line-up. It’s just unfortunate that the combined appearance of both a Tharg’s 3riller and a Future Shock gives this week’s Prog a slightly ‘disposable’ feeling with very few long-term series featured.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1889 will be available in stores on Wednesday 9th July - 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, 8 July 2014

Review - Death Sentence: Vol. 1

Death Sentence: Volume One
Written by: Montynero
Art by: Mike Dowling
ISBN: 978-1782760085

What would you do with superpowers if you only had six months to live? That’s the dilemma facing three people who've contracted the G+ Virus, a terrifying new STD which gives you incredible superpowers, but also kills you within six months! What will struggling graphic designer Verity, failing indie guitarist Weasel and roguish media personality Monty do in the time that remains? Fade away – or go out in a blaze of glory? And if they choose to kick back... will there be anything left of the world when they're through?

Death Sentence is a six-issue miniseries, originally printed in Mark Millar’s CLINT magazine before its release in a US format comic by Titan Comics. This hardback collection features all six issues, alongside some selected supplementary material and a ‘directors commentary’ of the story from both the writer and artist, which looks page-by-page at the work behind the scenes.

Set predominately in London, Death Sentence tells the story of three individuals, infected with the deadly STD called G+ Virus, which endows its host with superpowers in exchange for their life expectancy, leaving them with just six months to live. As writer, Montynero, states in his foreword, the concept of the G+ virus (and the comic itself) originated from his desire to express himself creatively, in a burst of recklessness, before his first child was born and he would have to grow up. With his wife’s pregnancy giving him a six month deadline, this notion inspired him to come up with the "death sentence" which sits at the heart of the series.

The G+ Virus is such a brilliant concept that other writers out there must be kicking themselves over not thinking of it first. The idea of an AIDS-like virus which offers the ‘double-edged sword’ of super-powers along with a dramatically shortened life expectancy is ripe for dramatic possibility, forcing the reader themselves to consider the pros and cons of the deadly STD – while I'm sure many comic book readers out there would love to become superheroes, would they be willing to sacrifice their chance of a long life to do so?

It's just a phase she's going through

Despite the central conceit of super-powers, this isn't a 'tights and capes' kind of universe – there's no superheroes flying out of the sky to save the day. These people 'blessed' with super-powers are rife with flaws, self-doubt and self-loathing and struggle to keep their own lives on track, let alone save other peoples, however some of the familiar superhero tropes, such as the origin story and the grand showdown with the 'big bad' are present here albeit disguised in a fresh and exciting way. 

In a universe where super-powers are sexually transmitted, it comes as no surprise that the language and behaviour of the central characters is somewhat adult in nature. Those easily offended would do well to avoid this title and read the brightly-lit four colour worlds of the Marvel and DC universes, because Montynero paints an explicit tale of sexual exploration and violence, with some scenes of questionable taste and ethics involving real-world personalities. However, those who like their comics to challenge them and talk to them in a mature and adult way will love the risky nature of Montynero's daring script, which truly takes the safe options off the table and lets the chaos begin.

Throughout all six issues of the series, Mike Dowling handles the art duties (ably assisted by the beautiful covers by Montynero, himself) showcasing a great deal of artistic range as he nails the quieter introspective beats in the beginning chapters, before moving onto the bigger cinematic moments, as shit begins to be flung against the fan. The fight sequences are perfectly realised, capturing the spirit and energy of the action as it unfolds, managing to evoke memories of war-torn Armageddon movies such as Akira, with the book's central villain coming across Russell Brand mixed with Tetsuo.

Lunch with the Windsors

Montynero’s gritty realism, mixed seamlessly with his blockbuster movie set pieces, is very reminiscent of Mark Millar’s work, with echoes of Kick-Ass and Nemesis evident in the series, representing anarchic British comics at their best. I would not be surprised to find out that Hollywood is sniffing all over this one, as just like Millar’s work, it feels cinematic in nature and offers a subversive, more adult take on the superhero movie genre. Of course, they might have to clean up some elements to make it more palatable for mainstream audiences, but there's definitely enough content here to produce an interesting adaptation. Besides, we all know that the books are always better than the films!

There are further comparisons to be made, with Weasel appearing reminiscent of the classic 2000AD character, Zenith, albeit viewed through a modern-day prism, as opposed to the mid-80’s Thatcher-ism in which Zenith was set. In Weasel, we have a drug-addled, self-loathing musician who is instantly recognisable, thanks to any number of real-world cyphers such as Pete Doherty, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. As with Monty's passing resemblance to Russell Brand, these parallels with real-life figures makes it easier for the audience to connect with the character, understanding their personality types because of frequent exposure to the same behaviour in the tabloids.

As Montynero's debut into creator-owned comics, Death Sentence truly is a masterclass in storytelling and the only disappointment is that the 'Making Comics: A Practical Guide' sections which he included in the single issue editions of the miniseries are not present in this hardback collection. As a budding comics writer myself, those gems of knowledge from someone who has recently undergone the experience himself would be invaluable, and I will do my best to hunt down the rest of the single issues, solely to get access to those supplementary materials. Perhaps Montynero will write a short book based on this 'warts and all' guide, as I'm sure there are plenty of people out there like me who would love to read more about the behind-the-scenes aspect of the industry.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel – not only was the hardback presentation by Titan Comics amazingly lavish and well-crafted - but the story and artwork was top notch. Heavy concepts about life, mortality, greed and selflessness are explored with an expert’s eye, whilst Mike Dowling manages to create and sustain a grim, bleak tone amongst the debauchery and graphic violence that escalates. This is a fantastic exploration of a brilliant ‘elevator pitch’ – in lesser hands, the story could have become cloy and superficial, but Montynero delivers a truly effective narrative, delving into three distinctively different mindsets of his leading characters to explore the repercussions of a terminal illness with unusual side-effects. In fact, you could remove the super-powered aspect from the story completely and still be left with a thrilling exploration on how three individuals choose to deal with the time they have left, but obviously everything is more fun with levitation, energy pulses and exploding heads!

Death Sentence is available in hardcover format from a range of retailers including: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Forbidden Planet and directly from its publisher, Titan Comics, in both a physical and digital format.

Score - 9.3 out of 10

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Review - Judge Dredd: The XXX Files

Judge Dredd: The XXX Files
Written by: John Wagner, Alan Grant, Robbie Morrison, Gordon Rennie and Al Ewing
Art by: Ian Gibson, Simon Bisley, Greg Staples, Paul Marshall, John Burns, Cliff Robinson, Carlos Ezquerra, David Roach, Ben Willsher, Vince Locke, Jon Haward, Mike Collins, Andrew Currie and Paul Peart
ISBN: 978-1781082430
Price: $24.99 (US) £13.99 (UK)

This Graphic Novel reprints the following stories:

  • Love Story - 2000AD Prog 444
  • Love Story II: Futile Attraction - Judge Dredd Mega Special 1991
  • Love Story III: End of the Affair - 2000AD Prog 1281
  • The Great Arsoli - Judge Dredd Megazine 3.15
  • Attack of the Sex-Crazed Love Dolls - 2000AD Prog 1066
  • Bum Rap - 2000AD Prog 1070
  • To Die For - 2000AD Progs 1074 - 1076
  • Sleaze - Judge Dredd Megazine 3.40
  • Stone Killer - Judge Dredd Megazine 3.43
  • Sex Beast! - 2000AD Prog 1230
  • Driving Desire - 2000AD Prog 1271
  • Cheating Drokkers - 2000AD Prog 1272
  • The Girlfriend - Judge Dredd Megazine 4.15
  • The Marriage Game - Judge Dredd Megazine 203
  • Holding On - 2000AD Prog 1357
  • Crime of Passion - Judge Dredd Megazine 213
  • Love Hurts! - 2000AD Prog 1388
  • (This is Not A) Mega City Love Story # 1: Callista - 2000AD Prog 1405
  • The Sex-Mek Slasher - 2000AD Prog 1521
  • The Performer - 2000AD Progs 1635 - 1636
  • Tour of Duty: Lust in the Dust - 2000AD Progs 1672 - 1673
  • Sex, Vi and Vidslugs - Judge Dredd Megazine 295
  • Harry Sheemer, Mon Amour - 2000AD Prog 1705
  • Judge Hershey: Naked and Ashamed - Judge Dredd Yearbook 1994

Just as sex and pornography are prominent in the underbellies of capital cities around the globe during the 21st century, the same is also true for the Mega-Cities of the 22nd century, as this new collection from 2000AD proves. By looking into the various vices that ordinary citizens and corrupt Judges embark upon, Judge Dredd: The XXX Files offers an intriguing glimpse at the filth that pervades the streets of Mega-City One.

Over the years 2000AD has grown up with its core audience and relaxed its rules surrounding the depiction of nudity and sexual behaviour in its pages, and this shows in this collection with the majority of the nudity-heavy stories appearing chronologically in the magazine after the notorious 'sex issue' of the late 1990's – one of these days I will have to write a blog post on that particular Prog (Prog 1066) as it sticks out in my mind so vividly.

There's nothing worse than looking like a bit of a tit

Most of the stories are stand-alone affairs, originally appearing in 2000AD or Judge Dredd Megazine, and offer glimpses into the perverse desires of the Mega-City One citizens, most of which are warped, exaggerated evolutions of our own fetishes. One recurrent theme, however, is the use of Robots (or Sex-Meks) to fulfil the carnal pleasures of the lonely, which considering the market for blow-up dolls, ‘real girls’ and other imitation sex aids, it feels like a likely progression of where humanity might be going once technology catches up.

For the majority of the stories, the only connecting tissue between them is the recurring theme of sexuality and nudity, but there are a few stories that link together, such as the ‘Love Story’ trilogy which opens the collection, charting the journey of Judge Dredd’s obsessive stalker, Bella Bagley, who gradually becomes more unhinged and fixated on her fictitious relationship with the no-nonsense Judge until the inevitable conclusion. The Sex Olympics are also featured prominently with multiple stories featuring the conveniently named Hardy Dix as he first takes part in the erotic games himself, and then later on when he becomes the coach to his unlikely mutant protégé.

Despite the consistent theme of sex, there is a mishmash of genres present in this collection ranging from the comedic tones of stories such as ‘Bum Rap’ and ‘Holding On’ where the nudity is light-hearted with an almost 'Carry On' tone to its usage, to the more grim and grittier approach seen in stories like ‘The Sex-Mek Slasher’ and ‘Stone Killer’ which highlights the darker side of the sex trade.


One ‘bum’ note in the collection is ‘The Great Arsoli’ which stretches credibility (among other things) to deliver a rather slapstick punchline. While the appearance of a woman crawling out of a magician’s rectum might sound funny, it doesn't quite fit the world of Judge Dredd and feels like a slight misstep in an otherwise brilliant collection of stories.

As with any anthology, there is a multitude of artists and writers involved in the creation of the stories. The majority of stories come from the pen of John Wagner, who manages to showcase his talent for writing offbeat comedy as well as more serious, tense thrillers. There were also a handful of stories from other stalwarts of the Judge Dredd universe, such as Gordon Rennie and Alan Grant, as well as relative newcomers to the series, Robbie Morrison and Al Ewing. It’s a testament to their writing skills that there is some difficulty in noticing when there is a change in writer, aside from the occasional credits box on the page, which signifies a consistent narrative tone of voice across the stories, as well as a high bar of quality throughout.


While there are a handful of writers featured, there is a much greater quantity of artists, too many to delve into detailed analysis of their work here, but Ian Gibson stands out as a frequent contributor, bringing the sexy into Dredd’s world with his wonderfully drawn females, synonymous with his artistic style. I also loved Greg Staples' artwork for ‘Attack of the Sex-Crazed Love Dolls’, especially the shocking panel of a male Sex-Mek planting a smacker on old Joe’s lips.

Overall, this is a great release for the North American audiences, giving readers who were introduced to the character through the movie, Dredd, a glimpse in the seedier inner workings of Mega City Life, much like how the earlier collection, Judge Dredd: Fatties, showcased the series' satirical nature in relation to obesity. Running the full gamut of emotions, there is something here for everyone – mechanic sex-workers, sexual Olympics and even a bottomless arsehole. It’s a fantastic idea for a themed collection and despite its tawdry connotations, there’s actually a great deal of story here – not just cheap titillation and double-entrendres, although there’s a fair bit of that too, if that floats your boat!


Judge Dredd: The XXX Files is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in both the UK and North America.


Score - 8.6 out of 10

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...