Wednesday, 24 June 2015

2000AD Sci-Fi Special 2015

Sci-Fi Special 2015 Cover by Greg Staples

Nostalgia is clearly a key theme for this cover by Greg Staples, which not only showcases some classic 2000AD characters, but also depicts a young child reading the Prog in the hopes to tap into those childhood memories of reading the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special over the Summer holidays. Staples' beautiful fully painted artwork ensures that the cover looks like a classic mid-80's annual, while I'm sure having Ace Garp and Sam Slade on the cover will attract any lapsed readers itching to recapture their past.


JUDGE DREDD - LET'S GO TO WORK
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Jake Lynch
Colours - John-Paul Bove
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Considering the level of nostalgia found in the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special, it's rather fitting that this Judge Dredd story has a timeless quality about it. With the series' trademark dark humour, Michael Carroll takes a satirical look at the amount of sequels, reboots and unoriginal ideas seen in Hollywood nowadays, through the exaggerated lens of Mega-City One. Carroll's script is littered with some nice moments, such as Dredd casually discarding the permits once he realises they're all in order, or his sarcastic barb at the end of the story as he deflates the director's ambitions for an original movie idea. It's a fantastic “done-in-one” and works great as an opener to the Sci-Fi Special.


After a few black and white appearances in the Prog drawing Sinister Dexter and Orlok: Agent of East Meg One, it's great to see Jake Lynch's artwork in full colour. It certain adds a fresh dimension to his artwork, bringing it to life in a much more vivid manner. Despite working in the Judge Dredd universe before through Orlok: Agent of East Meg One – this is actually the first time that he has drawn Dredd himself, and his interpretation of the character is pretty solid and reminiscent of Cam Kennedy's style in some panels. Hopefully we'll see more coloured stories from Jake Lynch in the near future!



ROBO-HUNTER - IRON SAM
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Mark Simmons
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Following on from their appearance in last year's Sci-Fi Special, Alec Worley and Mark Simmons reunite for another “lost” Robo-Hunter tale, taking place in the classic John Wagner and Ian Gibson era of the series. The story, which is a cheeky homage to Iron Man called “Iron Sam” captures the same wacky humour and rich atmosphere of those earlier stories. The characters of Sam, Hoagy and Stogie are so iconic and well-realised, it's really great to see them revisited again, and with their voices still intact, thanks to Worley's excellent script that pays respect to the roots of the series.

I also enjoyed the 'in media res' approach to the story, which saw the narrative shifted about a bit with the ending and middle showcased up front before explaining the events that led up to Sam's imprisonment in the Irn-Bro suit. It added a better sense of pacing to the story, sandwiching it with action sequences. As with the last adventure, Mark Simmons' art suits the light-hearted action romp often seen in Robo-Hunter stories and his designs of the trio of Robo-Hunters is just spot-on, echoing elements of Ian Gibson's style but incorporating his own distinctive look too. I would love to see Worley and Simmons tackle a multi-episode Robo-Hunter story-arc in the Prog itself, but failing that, I hope they're back again in next year's Sci-Fi Special!



FUTURE SHOCKS - DUST
Script - Gary Blatchford
Art & Letters - John Higgins

Short, but sweet – this three-page Future Shock from Gary Blatchford manages to deliver an excellent twist using a bit of narration box trickery and a rather nifty switch of protagonist perspective. I must admit that I didn't see it coming at all, which instantly makes it an effective Future Shock. While it doesn't outwardly acknowledge the central theme of films, John Higgins' beautiful painted artwork does imbue the story with a cinematic quality as the dinosaur and human traverse the post-apocalyptic ruins of the planet. It's a great little story, which really captures the nostalgic feeling of those old-school Future Shocks from 2000AD's beginnings.



ACE TRUCKING CO. - STAR'S TRUCK
Script - Eddie Robson
Art - Nick Dyer
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Making a much anticipated return is the classic strip, Ace Trucking Co, which last appeared 26 years ago in the 2000AD Annual 1989. The series, which revolved around an alien cargo freight company run by the eccentric and money-obsessed Ace Garp, was iconic for its wacky situations and the detailed futuristic CB Radio language that John Wagner and Alan Grant invented for the series. Charged with the mission of reviving the series, Eddie Robson succeeds in re-establishing the series' sense of humour with a deep-space romp that captures the essence of Ace Trucking Co. alongside the iconic CB Radio slang that made the series so popular in the 1980s.


Whereas Robo-Hunter and Rogue Trooper are presented as “lost tales” set amongst the continuity of the original series, it appears that this adventure takes place some time after Ace Trucking Co. ended, with references to the characters being retired and attempting to restart their business again. There's also a subtle reference for long-term fans towards Ace's previous experience “getting too close to stars”, setting this adventure after his “croak-side trip” that saw him driving into a star and ending up in a parallel dimension.

Another key element of the original series was Massimo Belardinelli's detailed artwork, which filled each panel with little in-jokes, such as Ace's seemingly sentient scarf. With Belardinelli no longer with us, Nick Dyer steps in to handle art duties, managing to capture that same level of detail and manic energy. All in all, this was a successful return of a 2000AD classic, and I hope that Tharg revisits the wonderful world of Ace Trucking Co. in future Sci-Fi Specials, or in 2000AD proper.



SURVIVAL GEEKS - MOVIE NIGHT
Script - Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art - Neil Googe
Colours - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Serving as an interlude between adventures, this one-off storyline sees the Survival Geeks using the various apocalyptic scenarios they've visited to create a movie blockbuster. This gives writers, Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby, the opportunity to make plenty of pop culture references to iconic movies, such as Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I particularly liked the universe that saw the Geeks taking on more realistic versions of Paddington and Rupert Bear.


Neil Googe's brightly coloured artwork continues to give this series a vibrant sense of fun, working well with Rennie and Beeby's hilarious script. Even though this adventure largely takes place in front of a television, Googe manages to keep things moving nicely with some wonderfully chaotic visuals on-screen. While it does feel a bit slower-paced than previous episodes, this installment does serve to formally introduce Howard, the mini-Cthulhu house pet glimpsed at the end of the last story, as well as teasing a return of the demonic RPG-obsessed overlord from the series' first adventure. Survival Geeks is a fun, light-hearted piss-take of sci-fi and fantasy tropes and I'm looking forward to seeing it return in 2016.



ROGUE TROOPER - DEATH OF A DEMON
Script - Guy Adams
Art - Darren Douglas
Letters - Simon Bowland

After appearing in last year's Sci-Fi and Winter Specials, this storyline marks the third time that Guy Adams has written Rogue Trooper, bringing the series back to basics with a number of short, continuity-free storylines set during Rogue's initial adventures on Nu-Earth. Rather than sticking to the black and white visuals of those early, classic stories, Adams has been partnered up with some of the most colourful and realistic artists in recent times: Lee Carter and Darren Douglas. As such, these visuals create a wonderful juxtaposition of the classic and the modern.

Keeping with the film motif present throughout the magazine, Guy Adams' story taps into the “found footage” genre, made famous by films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. It's a really interesting idea with a neat twist, and Darren Douglas' panels help maintain the illusion that the reader is watching a recording of the events, rather than reading a comic book. I particularly liked the brutality of the scene where “Rogue” gets his brains blown out all over the camera lens. It actually took me by surprise when I first saw it – although I soon figured out that it was a propaganda tape for the Norts. 

Considering the long and complicated history surrounding the Rogue Trooper series, I think these shorter, annual-sized storylines are probably the best way to showcase the character, especially when they're as well written and expertly rendered as these past three adventures have been. I look forward to the series' inevitable return for this year's Winter Special, hopefully with the same creative team attached.



OVERALL THOUGHTS:

Looking at the whole magazine, it is clear that this second foray into the nostalgia-dripped world of the 2000AD Sci-Fi Specials has been another raging success. I love the central concept of revisiting classic thrills with brand-new creators, giving these series’ a fresh lease of life. In the case of Robo-Hunter, Rogue Trooper and Ace Trucking Co, this is the best way to showcase these stories, giving long-term readers a hit of old-school thrill-power whilst encouraging newer readers to hunt down the collected editions to find out more about these 2000AD legends.

Aside from looking back at past thrills, the magazine also offers a glimpse to the future with full page teasers for upcoming thrills - Defoe and Bad Company, which are set to return to the pages of 2000AD this autumn. With both strips filled to the brim with hyper-violence, I am eagerly awaiting their arrivals, especially Bad Company, which is one of those iconic series that 2000AD is famous for. I have no doubt whatsoever that Peter Milligan, Rufus Dayglo and Jim McCarthy will deliver an excellent tribute to original artist, Brett Ewins, who sadly passed away earlier this year.


Top Thrill: Ace Trucking Co.


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

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

2000AD Prog 1936

Prog 1936 Cover by Tiernen Trevallion

This is a visually stunning cover from Tiernen Trevallion which features an intense level of detail on the face of Harry Absalom, with every pock-mark and blackhead visible across his old, world-weary face. I quite like how Absalom is depicted in greyscale tones, mirroring the interior strip, whilst the flash of fiery colour from the crucifix really makes the whole image leap off of the page. It's a strong and powerful image that effortlessly manages to capture the series' dark supernatural atmosphere.


JUDGE DREDD - BLOOD OF EMERALDS (Part 3)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After last Prog's cryptic hint about Judge Joyce Snr's undignified death, we get to see through flashbacks how he apparently died whilst drunk on the job, although it isn't long before both Dredd and Joyce question this “official” version of events, prompting an attack from the shadowy organisation who have been watching the two Judges since they arrived on the Emerald Isle. I am fully invested in this central mystery surrounding the death of the elder Judge Joyce, as Michael Carroll weaves the story expertly around these supporting characters. Setting the story in Murphyville is a wonderful decision, getting Dredd out of Mega-City One and seeing some of the other cities in the wake of Chaos Day. Obviously, Murphyville hasn't been that affected – still clinging to its stereotypes for tourists with a man dressed up as a pint of Guinness and its McMurph's “Soggie Burgers”.


Despite the conspiracy surrounding our heroes, the story is filled with some excellent moments of humour, mostly from the changes in culture. Ma Joyce is another brilliant creation from Carroll that wonderfully showcases the difference in judging styles in the two countries. I loved her questioning over Dredd's love life, and whether he has “a wee lass on the side” as well as the way she forced both of the Judges to take off their boots before coming into the house. With its excellent balance of humour, intrigue and action, “Blood of Emeralds” is shaping up to be a fine tale from the Carroll and MacNeil droids, and a excellent departure from the Mega-City One centric stories of recent years. I'm thoroughly enjoying this sojourn into Murphyville, in fact, you might even say I'm enjoying the “craic”.



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PRIMORDIAL (Part 13)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This concluding episode of Slaine revolves mainly around the climactic fight between Slaine and his evil doppel-ganger, the Primordial, who appears to be a thinner version of a warp-spasmed Slaine, thanks to his hero harness keeping his form under control. Unsurprisingly, Simon Davis' artwork steals the show once again as Pat Mills' script allows the actions to speak louder than words. Action scenes are where Davis' skills come into play and I absolutely adored his gorgeous artwork here and how he managed to capture the energy of the fight. I particularly liked the panel where the Primordial hooked Slaine's neck with his axe, dragging him across the page. As with the previous episode, the mix of greys and rich reds really contrast against each other, accentuating the gore and violence of those scenes and that stunning final page of the Primordial about to land the killing blow is a true work of art, and would have made an excellent cover for the Prog, albeit a slightly spoilery one.


I quite liked the symmetry between this chapter's cliff-hanger and the one for “A Simple Killing” - both of which feature a defeated Slaine, seemingly at his last ebb. However, I fully expect a last minute save from Sinead, justifying the time spent on rehabilitating her throughout this book. In terms of the storyline as a whole, I don't think it was as effective as its predecessor in reinvigorating my interest in the character – while I have enjoyed the story, it didn't seem to flow as well as “A Simple Killing” and got tied up in its own flashbacks and heritage throughout the middle with Slaine wandering the countryside reminiscing and trying to snap Sinead out of her brainwashed stupor. Things did pick up once the Trojan army were introduced, but it feels like little has happened since the end of the previous series and the end of this one – something that felt exacerbated by the similarities in the cliff-hanger endings. Hopefully the third book, "Psychopomp", will have a better balance between action sequences and plot development.



ABSALOM - UNDER A FALSE FLAG (Part 3)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Tiernen Trevallion
Letters - Simon Bowland

After glimpsing Harry's unorthodox procedures in the last Prog, this episode brings all the clues together for the reader, filling in the blanks and providing us with a gist of what is going on, albeit without the crucial ingredient of a motive. It appears that the church has developed a “housing estate demon-killer training course” that has produced a teen assassin who appears to be silencing those who stayed at a children's home during the 1980s. It's an interesting hook and I'm intrigued to find out what happened to the children in the past that requires them to be assassinated in the present. Judging from the flashbacks that book-end this episode, there seems to be some kind of demonic possession element to the plot.

Tiernen Trevallion's artwork is top-notch and while this episode is more of a talking-heads sequence, he manages to inject a sense of tension and energy into each panel. Meanwhile, Gordon Rennie's script is rattling along at a cracking pace, pushing Absalom further down the investigative process with each successive installment. I'm really enjoying this story, despite my unfamiliarity with its history, and I like how it feels tonally similar to its “sister series”, Caballistics Inc, with Trevallion's art reminding me of Dom Reardon's stark black and white style, but through a grey toned lens.



HELIUM (Part 3)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Even though this is more of a transitional episode, Ian Edginton and D’Israeli still continue to craft their wonderful world, focusing more on the lead character of Constable Hodge this time around and the red tape and political back-biting that affects her job. This character-driven installment demonstrates Edginton’s skill at writing characters, giving his female protagonist a fresh voice and distinct personality. However, it’s not all talking heads as the episode ends on an explosive note as more tanks arrive from below the gas clouds, although these ones are far less friendly than Professor Bloom.


D’Israeli’s artwork is utter perfection, filled with fantastic details that help bring the rich world of Helium to life. There are plenty of little details squirreled away in the artwork, such as the woollen jumpers worn by the public during night, presumably due to the icy cold temperatures in the high-altitude town. I also love the way he uses colours, such as the rich magenta tones in the final panels, to convey mood and tone. It’s an effective approach and really elevates the storytelling. Not only is this the best written series in 2000AD at the moment, but it is also the best drawn. I love it!



OUTLIER - DARK SYMMETRIES (Part 2)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After checking in with Carcer in the previous installment, T.C Eglington and Karl Richardson switch narrative and present a sequence from Caul's point of view, deep within Hurde territory. The practically wordless episode focuses on an army of avatars, much like Caul's symbiotic suit from the original series are attempting to take over an alien craft, and during the chaos he glimpses his lost-love Jess, also clad in a suit. However, he misses the opportunity to speak to her when he is killed and respawns in a different area. 

The switch in location and protagonist is slightly jarring, especially so soon after the series has reappeared, but it doesn't take long to adjust and understand the action. With so few words used, the responsibility of the storytelling rests on Karl Richardson's shoulders and he manages to pull it off with ease, especially that impressive double-page spread of Caul letting loose and hijacking some Hurde-engineered beastie. With this installment, Eglington manages to establish that Caul and Jess are still pawns of the Hurde's plans, being revived and used in conflict with near limitless lives on the battlefield. While there are still plenty of questions around the Hurde and their motivations, it was a surprisingly insightful episode considering the lack of dialogue. Given the series' subtitle of “Dark Symmetries”, I wonder if we're going to see the narrative switching back and forth moreso in future episodes with both Caul and Carcer sharing the protagonist role, rather than the hero and villain approach of the initial series.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Once again, Helium continues to be the standout thrill in the Prog’s line-up, closely followed up by the excellent work that Michael Carroll and Colin MacNeil are putting into the current Judge Dredd storyline. Both Outlier and Absalom are chugging along quite nicely, establishing their storylines and building up the plots. Slaine also ended on a strong note, even if it was slightly predictable, and the promise of another series of Jaegir taking its place is welcome news indeed.

Thrill of the Week: Helium


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1936 will be available in stores on Wednesday 24th June - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can now be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 12

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 12
"The Fountains of Forever" - Part 2 (of 2)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Elena Casagrande & Eleonora Carlini
Colours by: Arianna Florean

After a stonking great cliff-hanger at the end of last issue, which saw the Tenth Doctor “retro-regenerating” in his Ninth incarnation, I was eagerly awaiting this second installment of the “The Fountains of Forever” storyline to see how writer Nick Abadzis dealt with this shock regeneration. Unfortunately, the cliff-hanger was a slight misdirect, in a similar fashion to the aborted regeneration from “The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End”. While it was obvious that the Ninth Doctor wasn't going to stick around for too long, it would have been nice to see that sequence extended somewhat. However, I do have to applaud Nick Abadzis for coming up with such a wonderful idea, which really did make for an exciting cliff-hanger!

As with the preceding issue, the story maintains that Tenth Doctor era feel of earth-based stories, with a secret organisation attempting to collect alien artifacts. In typical Doctor Who fashion, however, its a bit more complicated than that with the introduction of an extra-terrestrial threat from the stars. Abadzis' script raises more questions than it answers, especially surrounding the clandestine organisation that Cleo works for and this mysterious entity that has possessed Dorothy, developing an intriguing mystery on two fronts. Aside from the core sci-fi element of the story, Abadzis also continues to develop those character moments between Gabby and Cindy, bringing Cindy directly into the adventure.


Art duties are shared between Elena Casagrande and Eleonora Carlini, who compliment each other wonderfully, to the point where it is hard to tell when they switch over. Both artists have a really dynamic style that captures the sense of light-heartedness and adventure that this storyline possesses. This isn't a dark horror like “The Weeping Angels of Mons”, but a sci-fi romp set out in the Russell T Davies mould. One of my favourite moments of this issue, and its a subtle moment, is the way that Casagrande depicts the confidence and determination seen in Gabriella once she receives her psychic message from the Doctor and she storms off to find him. It just captures how much this character has grown since her debut, and showcases to Cindy how much she has changed.

While this episode is largely set up, placing puzzles pieces in place that don't necessarily make sense to the reader at this time, it is well written by Nick Abadzis, who manages to weave in a nice parallel between Dorothy's terminal illness and the Doctor's own “death sentence” as he attempts to put off the Ood's prophecy that his song is coming to an end. This helps firmly place this series of adventures during the gap between “The Waters of Mars” and “The End of Time”, where he embarks on a series of procrastinating adventures, including marrying Queen Elizabeth I, which we saw in “The Day of the Doctor”. This adventure is shaping up to be a strong story, oddly evoking a Ghostbusters vibe due to its New York setting and the “bell” and “key” being separated and needed to be brought together. It reminds me of Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver as the 'key-master' and 'gate-keeper' who come together to summon Gozer. Maybe, it's just me... Overall, though, this is a cracking little story and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops as the various plot threads begin to converge on each other.


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor # 12 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, 17 June 2015

2000AD Prog 1935

Prog 1935 Cover by Karl Richardson

This is an excellent cover from Outlier artist, Karl Richardson, which manages to convey the intense pain that Carcer is experiencing as his flesh is torn apart during his horrific transformation. It's certainly a striking image for the newsagent shelves, proudly announcing the return of the gory sci-fi revenge-thriller to the Prog. There seems to be a fair amount of skin shedding taking place in 2000AD of late, with the Lord Weird undergoing his own grotesque metamorphosis over in Slaine. It's odd, the things that end up trending... #SkinShedding2015.


JUDGE DREDD - BLOOD OF EMERALDS (Part 2)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After the fast-paced introduction to this storyline last Prog, Michael Carroll continues to keep the investigation moving along at a nice speed, with the Psi's gleaming a number of clues to the mystery behind Joyce's assassination attempt that leads Judge's Joyce and Dredd towards Murphyville. Carroll manages to slide in some interesting nuggets of exposition and foreshadowing, creating an element of mystery around Judge Joyce Snr's death and why he is ineligible for inclusion on the wall of fame, as well as explaining the defining event that led to the British and Irish putting their hundreds of years of animosity to rest. Straight away my speculation hat is on and I'm already compiling a list of suspects – the last story set in Murphyville, “Emerald Isle” featured the terrorist group, the Sons of Erin attempting to stop Murphyville from being a tourist attraction, so given the foreshadowing here, I am wondering if this is the work of another organisation trying to reignite the animosity between Brit-Cit and Murphyville?


In amongst weaving his own plot threads together, Michael Carroll also fits in a nice nod to Rob Williams' recent story-arc, “Encaledus: New Life” through Judge Joyce's comment about the weather in Mega City-One being freezing. Clearly, whatever it was that arrived from Encaledus in that shuttle is beginning to effect the temperature throughout MC-1, possibly bringing forth an Ice Age? Hopefully it won't be long until Rob Williams returns to finish off this storyline. Art-wise, Colin MacNeil continues to impress, even though he has less action sequences to choreograph in this installment. I did however, like his take on the Murphyville uniforms and his interpretation of Judge Dredd is simply fantastic – it's easily one of my favourite versions of the character. This story is shaping up to be an excellent excursion outside of the walls of Mega-City One, and I'm looking forward to seeing more action sequences under the masterful eye of Colin MacNeil.



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PRIMORDIAL (Part 12)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

When an episode opens up with the lead antagonist ripping his human flesh from his body and ordering his followers to consume it, you know it’s going to be a particularly gory six pages and Simon Davis doesn’t disappoint. We once again see the Miscreations, last featured in the climactic of “A Simple Killing” and Davis’ designs emphasise the grotesque nature of these deformed creatures as they meet their demise at the end of Slaine’s axe. Davis uses a strong grey palette for the interior scenes of this episode, thus emphasising the scarlet splashes of blood that punctuate the scenes. While previous scenes haven’t skimped out on the gore, there is something about the juxtaposition of colours in this particular sequence that makes it seem more violent.

Slaine had a somewhat unorthodox golf technique...

This penultimate installment finally introduces the titular Primordial, who is revealed to be a warped-out version of Gort sporting an unusual visual design that resembles one of those cones that a dog wears to stop it from licking its stitches. I quite like that the Primordial isn't some huge monstrous creature, but rather an inversion of Slaine – a dedicated warrior who instead of the goddess worships the Cyth and gains similar warp-spasming powers as a result. Given the lack of story space remaining in this particular chapter, I suspect we’re heading for another cliff-hanger ending, and I eagerly await seeing what level of peril Pat Mills leaves his lead character in as this chapter comes to a close.



ABSALOM - UNDER A FALSE FLAG (Part 2)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Tiernen Trevallion
Letters - Simon Bowland

After last Prog’s gentle introduction to the series of Absalom, this episode features a greater focus on its lead character, revealing his politically incorrect ways as his unconventional investigation techniques take him down some unusual avenues. I liked the mix of normal and supernatural methods employed by Harry to uncover the serial killer, using a psychic street scrawler who draws the faces of killers onto the pavement, and a shifty antiques dealer. Gordon Rennie has developed a strong identity for the series, blending in themes from old-school 70’s cop dramas with more modern supernatural tropes. It works well as a juxtaposition and certainly stands out from the crowd.

As with last Prog’s sly shout-out to the Viz’s Biffa Bacon, Tiernen Trevallion continues to fill his panels with some lovely background jokes and references. I particularly liked the image of a man in a bowler hat and suit, seemingly urinating inside a telephone box on the streets of London – very odd! The greyscale approach really suits the strip, adding a palpable atmosphere to the story – a kind of “grey noire” tone. In some ways, this installment reminded me of Sin City: The Hard Goodbye, albeit with a very British vibe, mostly due to the reveal of a church-sponsored killer which felt reminiscent of Cardinal Roark and Kevin from the premiere Sin City story. It's certainly a series that has a lot of potential and I'm looking forward to watching it develop over the coming weeks!



HELIUM (Part 2)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

If I had to sum up this series in one word, it would be “Breathtaking”. If I was afforded a few more, it would be “H.G Wells in full technicolor”. As it is, I have a near unlimited amount of words to describe my feelings about this series, so I can be far more descriptive than that! With deceptive ease, Ian Edginton and D'Israeli have enraptured me into the world of Helium in just over a dozen pages. The best kind of storytelling is the type that inspires and as I read through each beautiful panel of this series, I feel compelled to follow in their footsteps and create my own worlds to populate with characters.


Edginton's script quickly builds up the world, establishing the three major players in this universe: the air dwellers, the land dwellers and those mutated monsters who live in the poison belt separating the two. Much like with Brass Sun, the possibilities feel endless as Edginton constructs a living, breathing world filled with conflicting organisations and alien concepts and almost lets it write itself. D'Israeli's artwork is simply fantastic, filling the story with the same depth of atmosphere (no pun intended) seen in his work for Stickleback. As with Brass Sun, and Nikolai Dante before that, this series feels like one of those amazing stories that comes into the world full formed and with “instant classic” stamped all over it. 



OUTLIER - DARK SYMMETRIES (Part 1)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

The initial series of Outlier (which ran in Progs 1874 – 1883) was a curious tale of gory revenge, set against the tense backdrop of an interspecies cold war between the humans and the Hurde. The focus of the story was firmly on the mysterious Caul, who had been left for dead by his crew-mates and returned, sporting a nifty symbiotic suit, and began butchering them up. It wasn't until the end that the more political elements between the Hurde and the Humans came out, adding an additional layer of intrigue to what appeared to be a fairly simple revenge thriller. With this second series, T.C Eglington is building on those unexplored sub-plots regarding the Hurde and fleshing out his main character of Jared Carcer – who wasn't even given a first name in the first series!

This whole opening episode strongly reminded me of the beginning of Aliens, where the Weyland-Yutani corporation try to talk Ripley into returning into space to look for the colony on LV-426. Carcer, one of the few survivors of Caul's attack on Falcorp in the original Outlier series, is being sent on a mission to learn more about the Hurde, who were only glimpsed at in the initial series. It feels like the stakes are being raised and that the initial plot of Caul's Hurde-based avatar was merely a prelude to this larger storyline. While I was a bit unsure of the initial Outlier series because of its focus on superficial violence and gore, this sequel promises to delve a bit more deeper into the background of both Carcer and the alien Hurde species – something which felt lacking before. Also returning is artist Karl Richardson whose distinctive style really gave the series a visual hook, filling the panels with muscles and gore. Given that this is likely to end up just as violent as predecessor, I'm glad that he was available to draw the sequel.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This week brings another stunning Prog with the addition of Outlier bringing the thrill-count back up to five. It's a lovely mix of stories at the moment, and I'm intrigued as to what may be replacing Slaine once it concludes next week. Despite a strong line-up, however, there was only ever one candidate for “Thrill of the Week” and of course, that honour goes to Helium which has truly blown my mind these past two Progs. It's going to take some pretty strong storytelling from the other writers and artists to sway me over in the coming weeks!

Elsewhere, Tharg's Nerve Centre teases another series of Kingdom on the horizon, entitled “Beasts of Prey” with some very intriguing artwork from Richard Elson. Also in the near future is the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special, which is expected to contain a raft of new stories from some classic thrills, including Ace Trucking Co, Robo Hunter and Rogue Trooper. I absolutely loved the last edition, and am eagerly looking forward to this slice of retro-thrills but from new writers and artists.

Thrill of the Week: Helium


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1935 will be available in stores on Wednesday 17th June - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can now be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor # 13

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor # 13
"Conversion" Part 2 (of 2)
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Warren Pleece
Colours by: Hi-Fi

Action is the name of the game for this concluding episode of “Conversion”, which sees the Doctor and his companions taking on an army of Cybermen advancing onto Ancient Rome. However, these are not your ordinary Cybermen, instead they are ‘infected’ by the Entity and endowed with the added ability to hypnotise their victims into seeing their hearts desire, making them powerless to resist assimilation into the hive mind. Rob Williams and Warren Pleece waste no time throwing the Doctor and his three companions into the mix as a brutal battle takes place amongst the two armies.

After his stunning final page reveal of the Cybermen last issue, I was worried that there would be a loss of detail when the creatures were depicted “in action” and across many panels, but Warren Pleece continues to draw the creatures with such wonderful realism that you’d think they were sketches of scenes from the show. The whole issue is filled with some wonderful set-pieces, choreographed by Williams and Pleece, who bring the excellent concept of Romans fighting Cybermen to life.

Williams’ script, while action-heavy at times, works well as a prelude to the “season finale” with both Jones and the Entity disappearing and the Doctor left slightly defeated and unsure of himself. Looking ahead to the post ‘Year One’ stories, it seems both ARC and Jones are no longer travelling with the Doctor and Alice, so I suspect both of their storylines will come to a conclusion in the finale. As such, I have a theory…which might be a bit bonkers! Given all of the time-wimey elements of Ewing and Williams’ story so far, could Jones turn out to be the combination of ARC and the Entity reunited at last, or maybe the third missing ingredient? Once all three are united, maybe Jones becomes the “music legend” that Alice and her mother remember, and the Doctor will be leaving his companion better off than how he found him – it would also act as a nice resolution to the storyline, and possibly explain his “chameleonic ability” to blend in.


I was also surprised by the level of authenticity to the historical references in the story – having only a general knowledge of the Roman Empire, I googled the two emperors (Maxentius and Constantine) featured in the story and found out that the two were engaged in a civil war to decide who would be the sole emperor of Rome. The story also tied into Constantine’s religious policies, where upon he was the first emperor to stop Christian persecutions and legalise Christian Empire. I quite like this pseudo-education element of the story, which tied into the TV series’ origins as an educational programme for children using entertainment to tell stories in the past and speculative future. However, I don’t recommend any history students out there cite the Cybermen as a contributing factor to the ascension of Emperor Constantine.

Overall, this was a strong finish to the “Conversion” storyline, making use of an iconic Doctor Who monster in a fresh and interesting way. I also liked the way it set events up for the “season finale”, placing one of the companions in peril and sending the Doctor, Alice and ARC on the road towards a final confrontation with the Talent Scout and the Entity. Bonus points go to whoever came up with the idea for that excellent Simon Fraser cover, poking fun at Rory’s role as “the last Centurion”. It’s the perfect fan in-joke and brilliantly brought to life.


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor # 13 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 9th Doctor # 2 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 2 (of 5)
"Weapons of Past Destruction" - Part 2 (of 5)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Blair Shedd

This second issue of the Ninth Doctor miniseries from Cavan Scott and Blair Shedd picks up from the wonderful cliff-hanger of Rose being cast adrift in the time vortex, showcasing the Doctor’s dismay at losing Rose and possibly foreshadowing his actions in "Bad Wolf" and “The Parting of the Ways”. Rather wisely, Scott doesn’t focus too heavily on this particular plot point and has Jack and the Doctor locate her fairly quickly, moving the plot along smoothly to the Fluren Temporal Bazaar.

This issue feels really well paced, with most of the action taking place in the alien marketplace, wonderfully realised by Blair Shedd’s amazing artwork. Star Wars fans may find the desert planet somewhat reminiscent of Tatooine, with the marketplace itself filled with a number of vendors that wouldn’t look out of place in the Mos Eisley Cantina. I particularly liked the alien octopus, Glom, who’d “rescued” Rose and quickly put her to work on his market stall of time lord trinkets. Within a few pages, Scott and Shedd created a great supporting character and I hope he appears again in later issues.


With Rose out of the picture for the opening half of this issue, Cavan Scott gets to spend more time looking at the Doctor and Jack’s relationship, particularly in these early stages where the Doctor disapproves of Jack’s more cavalier attitude to time travelling. Scott’s script is spot-on and captures the very essence of these two characters from that particular point of time. Coupled with Blair Shedd’s amazingly accurate representations of Jack, Rose and the Doctor – it truly feels like a lost episode from Season One.

In fact, Cavan Scott’s encyclopaedic knowledge and love for Doctor Who lore, both past and present, shines through in this issue with numerous nods to the continuities of other adventures. Keen-eyed readers will notice a cameo appearance from the Jarrodic and Amstron races that featured in Issues 7 and 8 of the Eleventh Doctor comic series. There's even a Slitheen and Hoix in the background for fans of those lesser-featured Doctor Who villains. There’s even a “Bad Wolf” reference, further emphasising that “lost episode” feel to the mini-series.

To borrow from the Ninth Doctor’s lexicon, this was another “fantastic” issue of the series, which is shaping up to be a magnificent storyline. At this early stage, the plot is still shrouded in mystery but it appears that Cavan Scott will be introducing elements of the Time War into the storyline, which was only obliquely referenced in that initial season so it will be interesting to see how he delves into the Ninth Doctor’s experiences of the war, and his time as the War Doctor. Judging from his behaviour at the end of this issue, he is still rough around the edges and quick to act rashly whenever the Time Lords or Gallifrey are mentioned. With Cavan Scott’s excellent script and Blair Shedd’s gorgeous artwork, I am confident that the Ninth Doctor is in safe hands.


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 2 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, 10 June 2015

2000AD Prog 1934

Prog 1934 Cover by Simon Davis

This Prog's cover is a great piece from Simon Davis depicting Slaine mid-warp spasm as he looks over his shoulder towards the reader with his face contorted and eye bulging out of his head. Davis' painted artwork is always a treat for the eyes and this simple, uncrowded portrait image works well to capture the unbridled rage and energy of the warp spasm, whilst providing a grotesque visual for new and lapsed readers to take in from the newsagents shelves.


JUDGE DREDD - BLOOD OF EMERALDS (Part 1)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Wow – that was a helluva start to a Judge Dredd story! Michael Carroll delivers a lovely action-packed opening with a healthy dose of intrigue that left me really energised and looking forward to where this one is going. It's good to see another one of Carroll's many sub-plots, this time Judge Joyce Jnr, getting a bit more development within the series and it seems that it will be leading the two Judges back into Murphyville, possibly in a pseudo sequel to the Garth Ennis story “Emerald Isle”, which saw Dredd partnered with Joyce Snr in an effort to prevent the Sons of Erin from terrorising Murphyville. It will be very interesting to see how much the country has changed all these years later.


Aside from Carroll's well-crafted script, much of the kudos for this story is down to Colin MacNeil's gorgeous artwork, which along with Carlos Ezquerra's style, epitomises Dredd and his world and radiates a sense of quality and importance. I loved the little touches that MacNeil put in his panels, such as the rust on Dredd's helmet compared to Joyces' shinier one, or Stonefish hiding in “stealth mode” on the left-hand side of the second panel before his actual reveal. It's this level of detail in his work that proves that MacNeil is a master of his craft, although anyone who has ever read Judge Dredd: America would attest to that statement immediately. With Carroll and MacNeil at the helm, I'm sure that the rest of this story will be as excellent as this opening chapter was.



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PRIMORDIAL (Part 11)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Once again, Simon Davis continues to deliver some absolutely gorgeous artwork in this current run of Slaine, piling on the gore and severed limbs as he depicts a warp-spasming Slaine making short work of the Trojan soldiers. Despite all of this carnage, the Lord Weird seems confident that his Primordial creature will be able to triumph. With only two episodes remaining, it seems as if the story is heading towards another cliff-hanger ending, presumably with the reveal of the Primordial. At the moment, it seems as if Gort is being prepared to be the vessel for the creature, but I’m expecting Pat Mills’ to deliver a twist and have Sinead be revealed to be the host.


The episode certainly helps build up anticipation for the climax of this story, but my only gripe is that Simon Davis used far shots to showcase the scale of Slaine’s murderous rage, rather than opting for closer panels to bring the reader into the action. As such, we don’t really get to see the horror of the warp-spasm up close, which feels like a missed opportunity to make use of Davis’ frenetic art style. Given the lengthy build-up towards the Primordial’s reveal, I am expecting something truly grotesque to appear and given Davis’ rendition of the warp spasm and the Lord Weird’s shedding of his skin, I’m certain that he is up to the task!



ABSALOM - UNDER A FALSE FLAG (Part 1)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Tiernen Trevallion
Letters - Simon Bowland

Absalom makes its return to 2000AD with this Prog, although I have to admit that I'm quite unfamiliar with the series, which has been largely absent from the Prog for the last three years (aside from a short story in the 2013 & 2014 annuals). From Tharg's Nerve Centre synopsis, it appears that Harry Absalom is an old-school cockney copper who wouldn't be out of place in The Sweeney, but the criminals he hunts have been given a supernatural twist. It appears that the storyline is a bit more complex than that, with mention of his superiors attempting to blackmail him thorough his grandchildren, although luckily this storyline approaches things with a fairly blank slate to ease readers back in gently.

It's a bit early to say how I feel about this series at this early stage, but I quite liked the opening sequence with the youth escaping a horde of demons across an urban cityscape. It reminded me of sci-fi film, Attack the Block and in some ways, a modern version of Button Man with the two men watching the candidate. Tiernen Trevallion's greyscale artwork definitely helps the strip stand out and gives it some atmosphere, and his take on Absalom, whose frail looks contrast against his nasty bite, makes him one of the more visually distinctive 2000AD heroes in recent years. On a side note, I quite liked the Biffa Bacon graffiti scrawled on the Newcastle streets – it's a nice little easter-egg for Viz fans.



HELIUM (Part 1)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Within a matter of panels, I was sold on Ian Edginton’s latest story for 2000AD. The bright visuals of a steam-punk airship floating above a thick, noxious cloud of poison whilst the blue skies shone down on the inhabitants instantly hooked me. After being used to seeing D’Israeli’s artwork in greyscale in both Stickleback and Low Life, seeing it in full colour is utterly breath-taking and like going from a black and white portable to a full HD television. Much like Brass Sun before it, Ian Edginton’s vivid world-building is truly enhanced by the talented artists that he gets to work with and D’Israeli is the perfect choice for this fantastical adventure.


The opening sequence feels like Herge’s Tintin series as the aging sky captain speaks to the young boy, but quickly descends into horrific terror as he falls into the poison gases and rots away instantly. It’s a shocking scene and instantly sets this series up as something special. In some ways Helium reminds me of Jay Gunn’s recent series Surface Tension for Titan Comics, in the way that it introduces this world-wide danger that humans have adapted to and learned to survive in spite of. I love this kind of post-apocalyptic fiction – it’s far more interesting than the worn out genre of desert landscapes and motorbike gangs, which the Mad Max series perfected.

They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but between this and Brass Sun I’d say Ian Edginton has managed to capture it both times. I would be utterly agog if Tharg isn’t already considering collecting this for his US-sized mini-series – Just like Brass Sun, Helium’s rich world and evocative visuals capture the sheer imagination and potential that the anthology offers, acting as the perfect “gateway drug” to the psychedelic wonders that 2000AD offers readers. 



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Overall, this was a fairly balanced Prog with Judge Dredd and Helium standing out with some fantastic opening episodes. Ultimately, however, the position of “Thrill of the Week” goes to Helium and judging from the fantastic quality of script and art, I have a feeling that might be a recurring theme over the next few months. I’m really glad that 2000AD is experimenting with different types of stories in its anthology, letting Ian Edginton loose building rich and visually amazing worlds. It is these types of stories that will attract new readers and work well collected in trade paperbacks and US-format miniseries. As great as it is to read them serialised in 2000AD, I can’t wait to see them collected as a whole.

Next Prog promises the return of Outlier, following an appearance last year. From what I remember of its initial storyline, it was a gory revenge story involving a betrayed space explorer returning from beyond the grave with alien enhancements. It will be interesting to see what writer T.C Eglington plans to do with the series going forwards as it seemed to be fairly finite when it was last featured. With Slaine approaching its own climax, I’m excited to see what is next down the line – perhaps another Pat Mills story like Flesh or ABC Warriors?

Thrill of the Week: Helium


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1934 will be available in stores on Wednesday 10th June - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can now be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 11

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 11
"The Fountains of Forever" - Part 1 (of 2)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Elena Casagrande
Colours by: Arianna Florean

This issue of Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor sees the return of the original writer and artist duo for this series, Nick Abadzis and Elena Casagrande, for the “season finale” of the Doctor and Gabby's first year of adventures together. Picking up seamlessly from Robbie Morrison and Eleonora Carlini's preceding story, “Echo”, Abadzis and Casagrande quickly resume the plot and have Gabby attempting to reconnect with her disgruntled friend, Cindy, but finding it tough to reconcile her more mundane life with the galaxy-spanning adventures she's experienced with the Doctor. It's good to see Abadzis tackling this issue of the companion finding it hard to adjust back to their normal “quiet” lives and the friends they've left behind. The TV show has addressed this topic in the past through Rose and Mickey, Rory and Amy, and more recently, Clara and Danny. Judging from upcoming cover art and solicitations, Cindy seems to become embroiled in this latest adventures, so I wonder if she will become a permanent addition to the TARDIS team before the end.

With its Earth setting and somewhat low-key approach, this storyline feels reminiscent of those early stories after the reboot, where clearly the writers were under orders to keep the action focused on Earth and at a reasonable budget. Abadzis also throws in plenty of references to this era, through mentions of Torchwood and UNIT, as well as Van Statten and GeoComTex from the episode, “Dalek” - all of which serve to further capture that sense of nostalgia. It truly feels like a Tenth Doctor episode, with the introduction of alien treasure hunter, Cleo, evoking memories of Michelle Ryan's jewel thief from “Planet of the Dead”. I also really enjoyed the concept of an auction for the alien artefacts rescued from Van Statten's vaults – it felt like a Torchwood storyline that the Doctor had stumbled into.


The highlight of the issue, however, has to be that excellent (and totally surprising!) cliff-hanger of the Doctor de-regenerating into his Ninth body. It's a fantastic idea, and one that utilises the comic-book medium to its fullest, considering Christopher Eccleston's reluctance to return to the role. I was so surprised when I turned to the page, it took me right back to that moment in “Journey's End” where the Tenth Doctor started to regenerate, and the whole of the world had to wait until the following Saturday to see whether Russell T Davies was really going to introduce an unannounced Eleventh Doctor midway through a season finale. Of course he didn't, and obviously, whatever Nick Abadzis has cooked up here will be reversed, but I must admit the idea of the Ninth Doctor returning (even for one issue!) is absolutely fantastic! Oh, and I love the final panel of him wearing the Tenth Doctor's clothing, which captures that same post-regeneration mismatch of the new Doctor and their predecessor's clothing.

Overall, this was a triumphant return to the series for both Nick Abadzis and Elena Casagrande – her artwork was absolutely fabulous, even though this episode was more low-key than others. With four more issues remaining until the end of this volume, I am expecting the storyline to increase in scale as it builds up to the “season finale”. The most thrilling aspect of this storyline is that I have absolutely no idea where it is going to go next – for all I know, we could have a few issues of the Ninth Doctor running about, or he might continue to de-regenerate until he can solve the problem – racing against time before he returns to his first incarnation and then, baby-Doctor... The blurb for the next issue promises “bigger things” in store, and I literally cannot wait – If you're not reading this series now, you're missing out on some spectacular Doctor Who adventures!


Score - 9.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor # 11 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, 3 June 2015

2000AD Prog 1933

Prog 1933 Cover by Richard Elson

It’s a solid cover from Richard Elson this week, capturing his art style from the interior Judge Dredd strip but infusing it with a more polished painted look, with enhanced colouring and shading. I'm not entirely sure about the angle of Dredd’s arm though, as it does look like his twisting his arm backwards to shoot behind him, rather than facing the perps directly. Perhaps altering the perspective of the image would have made it seem less awkward. However, I do appreciate the dynamic pose and sense of action Elson brings to the page. On a side-note, Tharg’s cover-pun droid continues to be on top form with “Tempus Fugitives” to describe the trespassing time-travellers from the future.


JUDGE DREDD - BREAKING BUD (Part 5)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Richard Elson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Even though it seemed inevitable that both the time travellers and the wristbands would escape Mega-City One before the story’s end, John Wagner managed to throw a curve ball into proceedings by having the two time cops getting apprehended by Dredd, but later escaping through the interference of the third. Surprisingly Bud Biggard is given limited focus in this concluding episode, brushed aside with a cursory thirty-year sentence so Wagner can tie up the loose ends with the imprisoned time cops. Overall, though, this was a fun story which rewarded loyal Megazine readers with a bit of cross-continuity which wasn't too dense for us non-Megazine readers to grasp. It also seemed like a nice way for Wagner to tie up a loose-end without being too perfunctory about it, introducing the Bud Biggard sub-plot to put a human element to the story.


The other major development in this strip was the cameo appearance of comedian and avid 2000AD fan, Johnny Vegas. While I'm not a fan of including real-world celebrities in the world of Judge Dredd, this little nod to a genuine celebrity fan was actually quite well done and a nice “thank you” to the social media promotion that Vegas has provided the magazine with in recent times, including his  appearance on the 2000AD Thrill-cast. I just hope Tharg isn't contemplating a Judge Vegas spin-off partnering him up with one of Don Uggie Apelino’s apes and following them about as they go around solving crimes and drinking Synthi-Caff…

Richard Elson’s artwork continued to impress, especially with this more action orientated installment. The scene where Dredd pummelled the invisible time cop into the ground was excellent and helped showcased Dredd’s bad-ass nature. I also enjoyed the blue tint he used on the flashback panels, clearly indicating which events occurred in the past. It’s this solid, clear-cut approach to storytelling, mixed with a flair for action, which makes Elson such an excellent artist for both Judge Dredd and Kingdom



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PRIMORDIAL (Part 10)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Pat Mills opens this chapter with another flashback, setting up doubts within Gort's mind regarding his allegiance to the Drune Lords and placing him under a similar hypnotic trance to the one Sinead underwent. This feels like foreshadowing for Gort to break free of their control, possibly at the most crucial moment for Slaine. Returning to the present and the action-packed escape of Slaine and Sinead from the Trojan army, Mills makes use of his earlier foreshadowing and has Slough Feg using the death of Slaine's mother to goad the barbarian into revealing his location. Unfortunately, this tactic has the unforeseen side-effect of causing Slaine to warp-spasm in front of the remainder of the Trojans, promising a bloodbath next Prog.


It was teased earlier in this storyline, but now we're finally getting the chance to see Simon Davis bring one of Slaine's legendary warp-spasms to life, and judging from the last panel (and the preview of next Prog's cover), it is absolutely beautiful in a horrific flesh-tearing kind of way. Unlike the other thrills in this Prog, Slaine is continuing on through the “jumping-on point”, presumably leading up to the reveal of the oft-mentioned Primordial. While it would be nice to have a fresh line-up for Prog 1934, it does also feel quite close to the last “jumping-on point” of Prog 1924, so it makes sense to have a secondary wave. Besides after its many weeks of build-up, Slaine has hit its stride and promises some beautiful axe-rending action in the coming weeks rivalling that of its preceding chapter, “A Simple Killing”.



FUTURE SHOCKS - THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BOB
Script & Art - I.N.J. Culbard
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This great little Future Shock was written and drawn by INJ Culbard, known for his artwork on the magnificent series Brass Sun. I've been a big fan of Culbard's distinctive art style for a while now, but had no idea that he enjoyed writing stories too. I absolutely loved the central concept of a machine that rewrites reality somehow picking up on the “white matter” of a compulsive liar and making his lies come true. The whole story is so vivid that it could easily be a short film, or possibly even stretched out to a full-length feature. Heck, if The Invention of Lying could do it, why couldn't “The World According to Bob”?

What also impressed me was the way that Culbard managed to tell such a rich story in such a short space of time – I had to check again to confirm it was only four pages as it felt much longer. As an artist, he obviously has an affinity for panel layouts and how to make scenes flow, which he put to good use in this story as he made the narrative move seamlessly between scenes, never taking the reader out of the story. Quite honestly, it's one of the better Future Shocks I've read in a while, with the added benefit of Culbard's amazing artwork. I hope he tends his hand to writing again in the near future, as he certainly has a knack for it!



THARG'S 3RILLERS: COMMERCIAL BREAK (Part 3)
Script - Eddie Robson
Art - Mike Collins
Colours - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Ellie de Ville

There's an infectious sense of fun about the conclusion of this Tharg's 3riller, as our protagonists make use of the Brixels to come up with an array of materials to protect their town from the alien attack. While it does seem a bit hard to believe that they would become so adept at using the alien technology so quickly, it does have that 80's children's movie charm about it, with a group of hapless heroes bound together to save humanity; kind of like The Goonies meets Batteries Not Included.

While I really enjoyed this little three-parter, I do think it would have benefitted from a larger episode count. The small scale approach of the alien Invasion (just two aliens – really?) was obviously due to the need for brevity in this final chapter – perhaps if Eddie Robson had more page space to expand upon that sequence, it could have flowed a bit better. Even though the Molotov cocktail 'deus ex machina' was a bit of a weak resolution to the story, I did like how it tied into Daisy's job at the Chinese restaurant and used the Brixels to an extent. Another little touch I enjoyed was the final page, showcasing the Brixels being used to repair the damage of the alien invasion. I didn't notice it on the first read-through and spotted it on the second. Overall, this was another Tharg's 3rillers success from Eddie Robson, supported by Mike Collins' excellent and well-coloured artwork. I look forward to seeing more from both creators in the future!



STRONTIUM DOG - THE STIX FIX (Part 10)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

Last Prog's episode of Strontium Dog promised some high-octane action as Johnny Alpha boarded a spacecraft full of NKD agents and straight off the bat, Wagner and Ezquerra deliver with an amazing full-page panel of Johnny taking out some of the soldiers in low gravity, spraying gold bars, rare jewels and half a pint of blood about the place. This is largely Ezquerra's episode with his wonderful panel work showcasing the solo Strontium Dog furiously taking on the ship full of soldiers.


Once the action has abated, Wagner brings all the pieces together and gives a satisfying conclusion to all the main players, setting Johnny loose on the world as he escapes to Freedonia rather than returning to Earth. I loved the “bait and switch” with him seemingly honouring his deal with the murderous Stix brothers, but then blasting them out of the sky without warning to avenge the innocents they murdered in their pursuit of Jim Jing Jong. Ezquerra's stark black and white image of the Stix's ship exploded certainly delivers an impact and resolves the story in epic fashion.

I've been raving about this storyline for most of its duration in the Prog and with this conclusion, Wagner and Ezquerra put the final touches on one of the best Strontium Dog stories of the last decade. Maybe it is because it has been so long since Johnny has been in his bounty-hunter role that it felt so nostalgic and exciting, but this was ten weeks of excellence. There's not much to say apart from the fact that it's been thoroughly enjoyable to watch two masters of their crafts at work and I cannot wait for the series to return for more. 



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

If you'd had asked me what my “Thrill of the Week” was going to be before I opened the pages of this week's Prog, I'd have said Strontium Dog. I've been enjoying every installment since it begun, so it seemed like a foregone conclusion that I'd love the finale too. And yes, I did love the finale, but the old masters were usurped by the newcomer that is INJ Culbard with an excellent self-contained Future Shock that dazzled me. Equally as fantastic was Eddie Robson and Mike Collins' concluding episode of their Tharg's 3riller, which just goes to prove what a wealth of amazing new talent that 2000AD is fostering between its pages.

Next Prog offers a somewhat fresh slate of thrills with a brand-new Judge Dredd story from Michael Carroll and Colin MacNeil, the return of Absalom from Gordon Rennie and Tiernen Trevallion and the brand-new series Helium from Ian Edginton and D'Israeli. It looks to be an exciting mix of stories and judging from the title of the Judge Dredd story, “Blood of Emeralds”, it might be related to Judge Joyce and his Murphyville roots. Oh, and that Slaine cover from Simon Davis looks absolutely amazing!

Thrill of the Week: Future Shock


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1933 will be available in stores on Wednesday 3rd June - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can now be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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