Wednesday, 30 September 2015

2000AD Prog 1950

Prog 1950 Cover by Chris Burnham & Nathan Fairbairn

As previewed at the end of last Prog, this is a lovely Judge Dredd cover image from Chris Burnham, who having drawn Batman for DC Comics has an experience with chin-focused protagonists that shows in his artwork here. Burnham's art style reminds me of Frank Quitely and really suits the Judge Dredd universe, adding a distinct flavour to the character. I really like the use of peach in the image – it's a bold choice of colour and it works well for the image, adding a western tone to the shoot-out. Burnham has provided interiors for Judge Dredd before in the 2014 FCBD Special, but based upon this cover, I hope that Tharg brings him into the main Prog soon.


JUDGE DREDD - SERIAL SERIAL (Part 1)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After his brief appearance in “Dark Justice” which saw him disappear without a trace, readers have anticipated the return of PJ Maybe to find out how he escaped the wrath of Judge Death and the Dark Judges. Rather than spending time on explanations of his survival, John Wagner dives straight into a new PJ Maybe storyline, which has the serial killer offering Dredd assistance on hunting down another of his kind. There's a Silence of the Lambs feel to this storyline as Maybe offers Dredd an insight into the mind of a serial killer, especially one who is able to elude detection through the changing of his identity. It's an interesting direction to take the PJ Maybe character in, further complicating the relationship between him and Dredd.


As always, Colin MacNeil's artwork is fantastic. I really enjoy his portrayal as Dredd, which is up there with Carlos Ezquerra as one of the definitive interpretations of the character. While not much happens in this opening chapter, MacNeil's artwork helps establish the mood perfectly. MacNeil's previous Judge Dredd stories,  “Mega City Confidential” and “Blood of the Emeralds”, also revolved around a central mystery – a genre of storytelling that suits his artwork as each panel, rich with shadows and darkness, instills a film noir atmosphere to the storyline and demonstrates why he is one of the masters. While it may be a slow-burner, I am looking forward to seeing this one develop over the coming weeks.



DEFOE - THE LONDON HANGED (Part 1)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Like with any good horror sequel, Pat Mills picks up events several years after the climactic events of the last series of Defoe, with our titular hero once again experiencing an ordinary domestic life, unaware that things are about to turn nasty again. Mills' script masterfully sets the scene as the reader witnesses the horde of undead awaken and swarm towards Defoe's home, before giving us a glimpse at the retired Defoe and his new wife, as they attempt to bury the past with oblique references to “you-know-whats”. Deep down even they know it's only a matter of time, as evidenced by the stock of weaponry kept close to hand for the resurgence of zombies. Given the tragic end to his last family unit, I don't hold out much hope for Defoe's second chance at happiness.


It's hard to imagine this series drawn by anyone else but Leigh Gallagher – his artwork manages to capture the truly grotesque nature of this zombies. There is a genuine sense of unease as Defoe's newborn baby is in the arms of a ravenous Reek, and Gallagher's representation of the warped creature reminds me of the zombies from The Evil Dead – especially the illustration from the classic VHS copy from the 80s. There's something so horrific about the blank-eyed fury that Gallagher brings to his black and white pages that I think might be lost if the series was in full-colour. I really like the epic sense of scale that he brings to his full-page spreads, riddled with Reeks as they head towards their victims. With a strong opening installment that resurrects both the series and the undead threat, Mills and Gallagher seem set to take us on another thrilling journey through a zombie-infested 17th Century London and I couldn't be more excited!



BRASS SUN - MOTORHEAD (Part 1)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

While there have been time-jumps in-between previous chapters of Brass Sun, none of the have been purposefully disorientating as this one. Ian Edginton plays with our expectations and showcases a sequence, which the eagle-eyed reader will recognise as taking place within Wren's mind, however, it is the transition back to the outside world that is the most shocking. Somehow, both Wren and Septimus are shaven, beaten and prisoners of what appears to be the Brotherhood of the Cog from the first series. Given Septimus' ramblings, it appears that he may have inadvertently betrayed her and led her back to her enemies? It's a brutally shocking opening to this fourth chapter in the series, which appears to be getting increasing dark as it proceeds.


Yet again, INJ Culbard demonstrates his versatility as an artist as he creates a range of different locales for this story, opening with a recreation of Wren's dream version of New York, before moving onto the dank metallic dungeon that both Wren and Septimus find themselves in. It's a lovely juxtaposition of settings and Culbard's wonderful sense of architecture and design shines through his panels. I also like the appearance of the pixellated creatures, metaphors for the electric-shock treatment, as they pursue Wren and the Blind Watchmaker throughout the dreamscape. Brass Sun remains a favourite of mine, and this installment is no exception as Edginton's script continues to surprise and Culbard's artwork continues to delight. I have no idea where this story is heading (not for the first time!) and I am eager to see what happens next!



BAD COMPANY - FIRST CASUALTIES (Part 1)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo & Jim McCarthy
Letters - Simon Bowland

This return visit to the world of Bad Company is tinged with sadness following the death of the series’ original artist, Brett Ewins, in February this year. As tribute, Peter Milligan, Rufus Dayglo and Jim McCarthy have come together to tell another tale of Danny Franks, Kano and the rest of the Bad Company. It’s clearly a labour of love for the creators involved, as evident from the little annotations in the margins, subtle reference to Ewins’ home of Hanwell, and the attention to detail to recreate his unique artist style.

In terms of the plot, Milligan focuses on a retired and nightmare-riddled Danny Franks, haunted by his time on Ararat with Bad Company. The trauma that Franks is experiencing over his past is a nice subversion of the nostalgia that many classic 2000AD fans must be feeling at the strips return. While we relish seeing the classic characters reunited on the page, those moments torment the character within the story. Much like Pat Mills’ script over in Defoe, Milligan wastes no time in thrusting Franks back into the war and reuniting him with his old comrade, Kano…although cryptically, it seems he has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past ten years.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

As a jumping-on point, I’d say that this Prog was aimed more at lapsed readers, rather than attracting new ones. Each of the stories contained within were continuations of plot-lines that have been slowly building over the last few years – that’s not to say that it’s impenetrable to new readers, but compared to previous jumping-on Progs, there was no ‘brand new’ thrill to cater to a fresh audiences.

Defoe was a major highlight for me, thanks to Leigh Gallagher’s fantastic artwork and Pat Mills’ fast-paced script. In fact, it was tough to decide amongst the stories in the Prog, and I picked the one I was most eager to read the next installment of. With Sinister Dexter appearing in the line-up next Prog, there will be an interesting mix of different genres catering to all tastes. With each new milestone issue, Tharg seems to surpass himself with the quality of stories and artwork that he brings to our optical receptors. Looking back at the past few years, it’s clear that we’re in the midst of a golden age for 2000AD – one that shows no sign of stopping anytime soon!


Thrill of the Week: Defoe


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1950 will be available in stores on Wednesday 30th September - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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

Review - Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor # 12

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor # 12
"The Hyperion Empire" - Part 1 (of 4)
Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Daniel Indro
Colours by: Slamet Mujiono

After working together on the Tenth Doctor story, “The Weeping Angels of Mons”, Daniel Indro rejoins Robbie Morrison for the final story-arc of the Twelfth Doctor's first year of comic stories. Indro's grittier art-style, which wonderfully recreated the atmosphere of Belgium during World War One, is a perfect fit for this darker, more brutal storyline. Within the initial few pages, death and destruction rains down from the skies. It's an effective cold open, showcasing Morrison's skill at quickly building up three-dimensional supporting characters, as well a creating a genuine sense of tension and foreboding. I've said it before but Morrison's script manages to tap into those same story beats from the show, giving the comic a really authentic feel.

When the Doctor and Clara eventually arrive on the scene – they found themselves in a charred, ruined version of London covered in ashes, in the wake of an extraterrestrial attack. It's during this sequence where Daniel Indro's artwork comes into its own, drawing parallels with the war-torn streets of Mons. Watching the Twelfth Doctor and Clara exploring an abandoned London reminded me of the opening episode from “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” which saw the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane doing much the same, also encountering looters. It's interesting to see Morrison play up the similarities between Capaldi and Pertwee's Doctors here, referencing the 'Venusian Karate' and the Twelfth Doctor's grumpiness.


Initially, I was dubious about revisiting the Hyperions so soon after their initial story-arc, which wasn't the strongest of the Twelfth Doctor stories seen so far, but I have to say that I really like this 'slow burn' approach. With the Scorched, Robbie Morrison has created a quintessential Doctor Who monster – not only does the name feel like vintage Doctor Who, but the concept of undead zombies, made up from ash, is just fantastic. Unlike some of the other alien races invented for the Titan Comics series, The Scorched feel ripped straight out of a Doctor Who TV script and I would love to see them appear in the series proper. At the end of this first episode, it certainly seems that the stakes have been raised high and I am very intrigued to see where this 'season finale' goes. It's also interesting that the time-line has been shifted to inbetween “Last Christmas” and ahead of Season 9 – allowing Morrison to reference Danny Pink's death, and provide a more up-to-date take on the Doctor and Clara.

Filled with foreboding and mystery, this was a fantastic opening episode to a story-arc, evoking the Third Doctor's era with a modern twist. I was a huge fan of “The Weeping Angels of Mons”, so the prospect of another Morrison/Indro partnership does fill me with excitement, especially since the rather bland and boring Hyperions have evolved into a far more intriguing threat with their army of Scorched. For me, the benchmark of a good Doctor Who comic is how closely they captured the essence of the show onto the page, and this comic is so reminiscent of the TV show, you'll be reading it from behind the sofa! Once again, Titan Comics are producing some absolutely astounding work here, with stories that are simply pitch-perfect Doctor Who!


Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth 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!

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 1

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 1
"The Singer Not The Song" (Part 1 of 2)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Eleonora Carlini
Colours by: Claudia Iannicello

While the majority of the Tenth Doctor's adventures from “Year One” revolved around past and present Earth, Nick Abadzis bucks this trend for his “Year Two” season premiere, which takes place on the rich and vivid alien world of Wupatki, allowing both him and new series artist, Eleonora Carlini, to flex their imaginations and bring this world to life. Tonally, this episode reminded me of the Tenth Doctor story, “New Earth” - coincidentally, a second season opener itself. The sequence where the Doctor and Gabby observe the beauty of Wupatki from afar reminded me of a similar sequence in the episode where he and Rose take in New New York from a hill-top.

Unsurprisingly, this opening issue to the second volume is accessible to new readers with no real prior knowledge needed to follow the story, but fans of the first volume will notice some recurring themes in Nick Abadzis' work, such as living art, emotions, symbiosis and ethereal beings. For example, the Shan'tee and their dark versions, the Nocturne, remind me of the same duality seen in Abadzis' first story with the Cerebravores and Pranavores. Also, the concept of living music nicely supplements the living sculptures seen in “The Arts in Space”. These connections and parallels seem to suggest that Abadzis has a over-arching plan revolving around Gabby Gonzalez and her attunement to both the arts and the psychic world. It definitely feels like foreshadowing for some eventual plot development regarding her.


Eleonora Carlini's artwork is simply breath-taking in this issue, really capturing the beauty of Wupatki and yet, managing to create a sense of darkness with her depiction of the deadly Nocturnes. I'm amazed at how closely her art style resembles that of Elena Casagrande – with both artists alternating between story-arcs, this series will see a consistency in its artwork that the other Titan Comics series lack. I also liked the colouring in this issue with Claudia Ianniciello delivering some fantastically subtle colours that really enhanced the issue, such as the slight blue hue on the Doctor's face as he looked at the hologram of the planet. It's a small touch, but it really emphasises the quality of the art. I also enjoyed the Alex Ronald cover, although I'm not sure why there are two TARDISes in the background – perhaps this was meant to be a cover for the multi-Doctor “The Four Doctors” series, or maybe it's one of those connecting covers that joins up with the other “Year Two” premiere issues.

Overall, this was a strong opening to this second volume of Tenth Doctor stories. Once again, Abadzis is able to channel the essence of the Tenth Doctor era, in this case “New Earth” and use it to build new and exciting stories. I really love the immersive and imaginative world that Abadzis and Carlini have crafted between them, especially the designs of the Bovadrines (flying tree cows!) and the Shan'tee (who look like the Phantos from Super Mario Bros. 2). While this first issue was largely world-building, the strong cliff-hanger at the end suggests a more action-packed concluding installment to come. While the first year of the Tenth Doctor adventures had its ups and downs, this season premiere suggests a great deal of promise for the series' sophomore year.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 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!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Review - Gotham: 2x02 - "Knock, Knock"


Gotham
Episode 2x02 - "Knock, Knock"

Synopsis

The escaped Arkham Asylum inmates continue to run amok in Gotham, drastically changing the status-quo of the GCPD during one of their attacks. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne's quest to find out more about his father's secret investigations is interrupted by an unlikely source.

Review

After a near-perfect premiere episode, Gotham continues to forge ahead with a self-confidence that felt missing at times during its inaugural season. The decision to move away from organised crime to focus on the “rise of the villains” has allowed the show to embrace its dark and Gothic roots, and this episode certainly benefitted from focusing on Jerome and the rest of the self-dubbed Maniax. It all flowed so well, that it wasn't until the end credits that I realised that there had been no trace of the Penguin or the Gotham underworld in the whole episode. While I suspect that Theo Galavan's storyline will soon tie back into the organised crime aspects of the series, it was really fun to see Gotham cut loose and embrace the weirder side of criminal activity.

After achieving such distinction in his initial appearance as a possible Joker, it seems that the writers are keen to play to audience expectations with Jerome Valeska, making use of Cameron Monaghan's fantastic medley of previous Joker actors in one body. There's elements of all the iconic portrayals of the Joker in Monaghan's acting – from Mark Hamill's voice, to Cesar Romero's campiness, Jack Nicholson's showmanship and Heath Ledger's unpredictability. I particularly loved the Russian Roulette scene which really showcased Jerome as a potential candidate to the Joker name. The show-writers certainly seem to be having fun with the whole “is he or isn't he” angle, riffing on classic Joker moments to get fans excited. For example, the scene where Jerome terrorised the cheerleaders on the school bus felt very “The Dark Knight” in tone and the moment where he gleefully tormented a tied-up Essen definitely had echoes of “The Killing Joke” about it, although I'm guessing Fox wouldn't allow things to get too dark with Essen's fatal injuries occurring off-screen.


The Maniax plot-line dominated this episode and it felt like Jerome and his fellow inmates received equal, if not more, screen-time than Jim Gordon. The supporting story-arc revolving around Alfred and Bruce Wayne also worked well, even converging with the main Maniax plot with Bruce's appearance at the GCPD in the aftermath of the attack. While previous episodes of Gotham would have felt compelled to shoe-horn in The Penguin, Catwoman, Fish Mooney and other side-characters; this season, the show-writers are content to leave supporting characters in the wings to concentrate on the main plot-line. The only real divergence in this episode was the sequence with Nygma and Miss Kringle, but that had some pay-off during the GCPD attack, and will no doubt lead towards developments in that plot-thread in later episodes.

Another example of the show's willingness to learn from prior mistakes and rectify itself was the Bruce Wayne / Alfred storyline, which would have been run over several episodes during Season One, but was instead nicely condensed. As with Gordon's dismissal from the GCPD last episode, Alfred's unemployment barely lasts the full 45 minutes and is instead a spring-board to more interesting developments. Along with the Russian Roulette sequence, the scene between Alfred and Lucius was absolutely fantastic writing and a highlight of the episode. The dialogue was pitch perfect, and I suspect that Sean Pertwee had a hand in writing some of the lines himself, achieving authentic British slang such as “tuck you up like a kipper”. With Pertwee often paired up with David Mazouz, it was nice to see him acting against someone closer to his age range and peeling back the “butler Alfred” to reveal the “hard-nut Alfred” underneath. With the threat of danger on the horizon, I look forward to seeing a grittier, less-formal version of Alfred in future episodes!

The show-writers have billed these opening episodes as a trilogy, much like impressive “Ogre” storyline that closed off the previous season. With next episode entitled, “The Last Laugh”, I am worried that Jerome may be finally revealed as a Joker red-herring and killed off to shock the audience. While this would shake up the viewers, I hope that it isn't the case, as Cameron Monaghan's portrayal rivals the cinematic versions of the Joker character and it would be a waste of his talents to just shock the fans and generate buzz. I am also intrigued to find out more about the Galavan's and their plans for the Gotham underworld and their captive, The Mayor. While I am thoroughly enjoying the more manic pace to the start of this season, I am looking forward to seeing criminally insane and the organised crime worlds collide, forming the Gotham we all know and love from the comic books.


Score - 10 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Last Laugh"
Gordon and Bullock hunt a nemesis from the past, which leads to a stand-off between Jerome and Gordon; and a magic show at a Gotham Children's Hospital gala results in a hostage situation.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Review - Doctor Who: The Four Doctors # 5 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The Four Doctors # 5 (of 5)
"The Four Doctors" - Part 5 (of 5)
Written by: Paul Cornell
Art by: Neil Edwards
Colours by: Ivan Nunes

After last issue's devastating cliff-hanger which saw the Voord-Doctor successfully defeating his earlier incarnations and sending them back to their own time periods with subliminal messaging to ensure his own creation, not to mention the apparent deaths of both Gabby Gonzalez and Alice Obiefune, it was clear that short of a last minute save by the Ninth Doctor, things were going to take a turn for the “timey wimey” to resolve this storyline. The reveal that the package of old French comics contained a miniature Weeping Angel that was predisposed to send Gabby back in time specifically to the moment depicted in the first issue did border on the unbelievable (even for a series that frequently features convenient deus-ex-machina) but I did enjoy the added level of time-travel goodness, almost Inception-like in its approach, that occurred as a result as we witnessed an alternative, abbreviated version of the first three episodes.

Fans of Steven Moffat-esque paradoxes and self-fulfilling prophecies will love this issue, which becomes pretty dense and almost riddle-like in its explanation of the Doctor's escape from the Voord-Doctor. Cornell's script is deliciously complex and rewards the most ardent of Doctor Who fans with a complicated narrative that doesn't condescend to its audience. It definitely feels reminiscent of those “high concept” Doctor Who episodes like “The Big Bang” or “Blink” where past, present and future converge in a tangled knot of narrative. With all of the extra characters involved in proceedings, it may require a few read-throughs to fully grasp what is going on, but I really liked this unapologetically mature approach to the story-telling. My only quibble is the fact that while all of the Doctors returned to the time-streams with hazy memories of the adventure, thus allowing the timeline to continue without any paradoxes, both Gabby and Alice retain their memories of the adventure. I'm not sure I'm that keen on this plot development, unless there are plans for future team-ups between Ten and Eleven that require both companions to remember meeting each other.


As with all four preceding issues, Neil Edwards' art is absolutely amazing and really accentuates the cinematic tone to this event series. There's some great full-page splashes, such as the opener on Gabby's face as she warns the trio of companions against returning to Marinus, or the Twelfth Doctor's return to the pocket universe as he attempts to infiltrate the Voord hive-mind. Moreso than any previous issue, this concluding installment features a wide variety of locations as the action dips amongst numerous time-lines, planets and eras – each of which are stunningly realised by Edwards' pen. Praise should also go to colourist, Ivan Nunes, who manages to bring out the best in Edwards' work, shading each character and panel background with a rich colour palette that really goes towards building up that cinematic mood. I'd love to see both Edwards and Nunes return for future Doctor Who comic stories – possibly another event series or maybe a War Doctor mini-series?

When the “Four Doctors” storyline was initially announced, I figured the focus would be more on the various characters interacting with a relatively 'light' plot connecting things together, but instead Paul Cornell delivered a fantastically complex storyline that validated the convergence of the Doctors and embraced key moments from each of their eras. I also liked the misleading title that led many to speculate that the Four Doctor would be John Hurt's War Doctor, but he actually played a relatively minor role compared to the evil future incarnation of the Voord-Doctor. There was even a brief cameo from Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor explaining his absence from the tale – wonderfully summing up the character using his catchphrase. Ultimately, this five-issue mini-series has been a tremendous success and I am already anticipating Titan Comics inevitable follow-up in 2016 to cap off the Year Two stories. If I am permitted to put on my speculation cap for a moment, I foresee modern and classic Doctors meeting for next year's event series.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Four Doctors # 5 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 mini-series when you pick up your copy!

2000AD Prog 1949

Prog 1949 Cover by Dave Kendall

Saving the best until last, Dave Kendall has provided us with another cover for his haunting Dreams of Deadworld series, this time focusing on Judge Death himself. With a Gothic take on the iconic Game of Thrones Iron throne, Kendall's cover nails the mood of the series completely, giving the alien super-fiend a truly menacing aura as he sits as ruler of a world devoid of living things. I really like how Kendall has subtly redesigned ol' Sidney, giving him sharper teeth and allowing the reader to glimpse at his skeletal face from beneath his helmet. The cover also features an excellent choice of font which is etched onto the page like a maniac's ravings carved in the stone wall of an asylum...


JUDGE DREDD - GHOST TOWN (Part 2)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - Dave Taylor
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

With another double-sized episode, Ian Edginton and Dave Taylor deliver a substantial ending to their two (or four) part Judge Dredd storyline, “Ghost Town”, which is a lot more action-packed than its preceding installment. Edginton continues to use the character of Jane Doe, a doubting ex-Judge in the ranger programme, to re-evaluate Dredd's role in a post-DOC Mega City One. There's the familiar argument of the Judicial system that has rattled around since “America” and even before that, but with the Judges so heavily depleted after Chaos Day, it really does feel like a revolution is on the horizon. With the recent announcement that Total War were returning to the pages of Judge Dredd Megazine # 365 – that time might be sooner than later, and could explain why this four-part storyline was squeezed into these two Progs.


Once again, Dave Taylor's artwork is staggeringly good with his magnificent attention to detail showcased through the hordes of robotic assailants that he pits against Dredd and his rag-tag team of rangers. There's a beautiful intricacy to Taylor's panels that extends beyond his vision of the Mega City One architecture and into the action of the storyline too. This impromptu shoot-out is wonderfully choreographed by both Edginton and Taylor and really gives the feeling that Dredd and his rangers are woefully outnumbered, not only by the robots but the Black Atlantic pirates too. There were quite a few panels that stood out during this skirmish, but it was Dredd's ingenious use of the ricochet bullet that really caught my eye. While I was expecting filler material to plug in this two-issue gap until the next John Wagner story in Prog 1950, this was a wonderfully dense adventure that gave readers a refresh on the dire situation that the Judges have found themselves in after all of the recent traumatic attacks on their city. Edginton really nailed that sense of foreboding and I am genuinely nervous (and excited) to see what lies ahead for both Dredd and Mega City One.



THE ALIENIST - THE HAUNTING OF HEX HOUSE (Part 6)
Script - Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art - Eoin Coveney
Letters - Simon Bowland

With this concluding episode, writers Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby deliver a thrilling climax to The Alienist's first fully fledged story-arc. While the initial chapters didn't quite catch my interest, these last few installments, which saw the true menace revealed, were much more engaging and I found myself thoroughly enjoying this final episode. I quite like the way that Miss Vespertine and Reggie's relationship is a reversal of the Doctor Who mechanic, with an all-knowing female and a supporting male companion. One of the most intriguing elements of this initial storyline was the relationship between the two, so I hope this is something which is expanded upon in future serials.


Eoin Coveney's artwork reaches a new peak with this action-packed conclusion, with the artist let loose from his reins as he distorts reality and reveals the true threat at the heart of Hex House. I really like the reptilian look of the snake entity which confronts Vespertine – it reminds me of some of those early black and white Slaine stories from artists Glenn Fabry and David Pugh. With a smidgen of foreshadowing at the end, it appears that Rennie and Beeby have more plans for The Alienist with a general sense of prophecy hanging over future stories. I would definitely like to see more, although the series will need to capitalise on its unique hook of the relationship between Madelyn and Reggie if it wants to achieve distinction amongst other 2000AD historical fantasies.



DREAMS OF DEADWORLD - DEATH
Script - Kek-W
Art - Dave Kendall
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Introducing new Dark Judges to the roster has always been a risky task, especially after the success of the original foursome, however in February 2014, IDW attempted to do so with its own Judge Dredd title bringing nine additional Dark Judges into its non-canonical version of Mega City One. While this move angered some fans, I was quite impressed with the designs for the new villains and happy to accept them in an alternate version of the Judge Dredd mythos. Here, Kek-W and Dave Kendall introduce some new Dark Judges into the 2000AD continuity, revealing a much larger group of Dark Judges prior to the invasion on Mega City One. Unlike the IDW additions, these characters are merely window dressing with some interesting, evocative names and hideously brutal designs from Kendall's sub-conscious. Ultimately, these new Dark Judges are removed from the playing field as quickly as they're introduced, but it would be interesting if Kek-W and Dave Kendall were able to focus more on this new characters in a second series of Dreams of Deadworld.


Kek-W's script captures the slyness of Judge Death's personality and his warped sense of law and order, as he murders one of his lieutenants and frames another in order to teach his sub-ordinates that without their ethics (as twisted as they are) they would be monsters. It's an interesting exploration of the character's motivations, because Judge Death is not a cardboard cut-out villain, but a twisted reflection of Dredd himself – committed to upholding the law, but to an extreme level that goes far beyond reason. While he is out to commit mass-murder, it is all based on his belief that only the dead are truly innocent – he's a surprisingly complex character and it's good to see Kek-W tackle him in this manner, rather than as a B-movie  monster. While this series has been brief, it has certainly made an impact and I really hope that Kek-W and Kendall reunite in the future to deliver some more Dreams of Deadworld!



FUTURE SHOCKS - RE-INCARN-8
Script - David Baillie
Story/Art - Nick Brokenshire
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Filling in the space left by Grey Area is this fun little Future Shock from David Baillie and Nick Brokenshire which takes the concept of reincarnation from a science-fiction perspective. Like all strong Future Shocks, Baillie and Brokenshire manage to quickly set up the status quo, in this case the Re-Incarn-8 programme, before throwing in a curveball twist that forces the reader to rethink their initial preconceptions. To achieve this within the space of four pages is always an impressive feat, and Baillie’s tightly written script ensures there are no wasted panels or erroneous dialogue clogged up the story.

I particularly liked Brokenshire’s film-reel styled panels that depicted the various prior lives of the strip’s protagonist unravelling from the confines of his mind. Until now, I was unfamiliar with Nick Brokenshire’s work, but I really like the clear linework used in its art – it feels like a blend of INJ Culbard and D’Israeli’s art styles, and really suits the greyscale colour scheme used. I could definitely see Brokenshire’s art used in future storylines – in fact, both Baillie and Brokenshire deserve a longer comic strip to showcase their talents in 2000AD and I look forward to that eventuality coming to past in the near future.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Overall, this was a great final issue to the current line-up with The Alienist, Dreams of Deadworld and Judge Dredd all finishing on a high note. However, it is Ian Edginton and Dave Taylor's fabulous Judge Dredd story which earns the title of “Thrill of the Week” this time around. It was just a fantastic blend of story and art, which was really enjoyable!

Prog 1950 is literally around the corner and boasts four new stories to delight even the most discerning reader's palate. PJ Maybe is back on the scene in Judge Dredd storyline, “Serial Serial” by the legendary team of John Wagner and Colin MacNeil; Pat Mills and Leigh Gallagher return to the Prog with more zombie action in Defoe; Ian Edginton takes us back to the clock-punk universe of Brass Sun with the excellent artwork of INJ Culbard; and finally, we have a classic thrill reborn with the return of Bad Company from Peter Milligan, Rufus Dayglo and Jim McCarthy. It looks like a truly zarjaz line-up and one of the best jumping-on points yet!


Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1949 will be available in stores on Wednesday 23rd September - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Review - Gotham: 2x01 - "Damned If You Do"


Gotham
Episode 2x01 - "Damned If You Do"

Synopsis

One month after the Penguin’s take-over of the Gotham Underworld and both Gordon and Bullock find themselves on the outside of the GCPD, leading the erstwhile detective to question whether it is worth committing bad deeds for the greater good. Meanwhile, Barbara Keen finds herself embroiled deeper into madness as she finds herself in Arkham Asylum alongside some familiar faces.

Review

Following on from its fantastic Season One finale, this premiere episode of Gotham’s second season demonstrates a real sense of confidence and direction that was missing from some of last year’s earlier episodes. With show-runner, Bruno Heller, scripting this episode and Danny Cannon directing, it comes as no surprise that there was a real cinematic feel to proceedings as the show once again evoked memories of the Tim Burton Batman films, especially during the Arkham scenes. With this season promising to showcase the “rise of the villains”, I imagine we’re going to see some of the more manic and unhinged criminal elements in Gotham city – a departure from the organised crime-lords that ruled over Season One. In fact, this new direction is so engaging; I barely missed the previous “big bads” of Maroni, Mooney and Falcone.

The main thrust of this episode was the relationship between Gordon and the Penguin. While previous episodes have flirted with the idea of Gordon being beholden to the Penguin, this is the first time that Cobblepot has actually wielded any significant power and as such, the dynamics of the Gordon/Penguin relationship have completely changed. It was quite unsettling to see Gordon compromise his ethics for “the greater good”, even committing murder (albeit in self-defence) and further putting himself in the Penguin’s pocket. It’s ironic to see Gordon taking up the role that Bullock had in the early days of Season One – a good cop, but with a skeleton in his closet. I’m guessing this growing corruption within Gordon and his relationship with Cobblepot will be the driving force of this season.

While this episode depicts the Penguin in a position of power, surrounded by henchmen including Zsasz and Butch, there is the hint that he isn’t commanding the same level of respect and reverence that his predecessors once did. I have a feeling that this will also be a recurring plot thread, especially with outside threats, such as Theo Galavan and his sister, challenging his position as Gotham’s only crime-lord. It’s interesting to see Selina gravitate towards the Penguin, suggesting that her brief turn as a villain in last Season’s finale will carry over here. I wonder how Bruce will react when he discovers how much she has changed since they last saw each other.


It was great to see Arkham Asylum heavily featured in this episode, as the show built up a new supporting cast with the five escaped (or kidnapped) maniacs that fell under the employ of what appears to be the season’s new “big bad” of Theo Galavan. It was good to see both Jerome and Barbara together, as well as Richard Sionis (last seen in the episode, “The Mask”) although judging from his fate, this particular Sionis isn’t the Black Mask from the comics. I really enjoyed this particular sub-plot and seeing the show form a “super villain team” – mirroring a similar approach in Agents of SHIELD. I also liked the escape method, which reminded of that moment in The Dark Knight where the Joker hides explosives in a GCPD prisoner’s stomach, except there was a Tim Burton vibe to the poison gas Trojan horse that the Galavan’s implemented.

Judging from this premiere episode, this season of Gotham promises to be a lot darker than its predecessor – with a greater focus on madness and Jim Gordon’s potential descent into corruption. Even the moments between Bruce Wayne and Alfred seemed to have a more mature edge to them, demonstrating David Mazouz’s growth as an actor. While it was hard to see this scared kid as a potential Batman during the first season, his determination to get into the “proto-Bat Cave” gave the character some great moments that really helped connect the two versions of Bruce Wayne together.

Learning from the success of its multi-episode story arcs in Season One, it seems clear that the show’s writers intend to let storylines breathe more going forward, moving away from the “villain of the week” format that plagued early episodes and creating a more organic and flowing narrative. While some Batman purists may dislike the show based on its loose handling of the comic book’s canon, those who can see past that and recognise the show as an “else worlds” tale will discover a lot to enjoy here. With a strong premiere under its (bat) belt, Gotham’s second season certainly looks set to surpass its first, focusing on the more flamboyant and insane elements of the Gotham underworld to capture the essence of the Batman mythos, even if it isn’t ruled by its continuity.


Score - 9.9 out of 10

Next Episode - "Knock, Knock"
Gordon investigates the inmate escape from Arkham Asylum while Galavan plots his next move. Bruce's quest to unlock the secrets of his father's office leads him to an old family friend.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Review - Until Dawn

Until Dawn
Available only on Sony PlayStation 4

[Please be aware, this review contains huge story SPOILERS!]

I’ve been a massive fan of the “point and click” genre since I first laid eyes on Broken Sword and over time, my appreciation for the genre has grown and grown alongside the technology enhancements that led to 3D environments and more cinematic storylines. For me, the pinnacle of these is Quantic Dream’s absolutely superb Heavy Rain, which blended third person exploration, interactive conversations and Quick Time Events (QTEs) into a wonderful branching narrative, in which the player could weave multiple plot threads together to create their own tapestry of a story, even killing off the main protagonists and shifting the story in a different way. Tackling the film noir genre, Heavy Rain was a cracking detective story that gripped the player from the beginning and took them on a grim hunt for a child serial killer, echoing films like Seven and 8mm.

I absolutely loved Heavy Rain, especially the bonus DLC content which acted as a prequel and had the female protagonist, Madison, trapped in a serial killer’s home and attempting to escape the danger. It offered a completely different twist on the detective noir tone of the main game, evoking memories of films like The Silence of the Lambs and Halloween. So when I came across Until Dawn and saw that it took the same Heavy Rain formula and adapted it into a “Cabin in the Woods” horror movie storyline, my interest was immediately piqued. The trailer showcased a scene from midway in the game where Hayden Panettiere’s character, Sam, is being chased by a masked serial killer and the player must navigate her to safety through a blend of QTEs, split-second choices and motion-sensitive controls. It looked absolutely fantastic – just like being in a schlocky horror movie – and with just one trailer, I was determined to buy the game on release day.


From here on, I am going to discuss the game’s plot in detail, as there is a major plot development that occurs midway through the game that directly influences my feelings on the title and also some of the gameplay elements. Until Dawn is a game of two halves – the initial chapters follow the traditional horror tropes to the letter – horny teenagers, mysterious masked murderer and even a smidgen of “torture porn” popularised by films like Saw and Hostel. However, there is a twist that renders the peril and danger that the characters face in the entire first half of the game to be completely moot. Those decisions and QTEs that you thought mattered, well, they didn't – your characters were never really in any danger.

Ultimately, some of the more minor choices do carry through to the final act, but when it came to replaying the game to kill off all of the characters (one of the hidden trophies), it turned out that I could start the game from Chapter 6 (out of 10) to do so. Whatever decisions I’d made in the previous five chapters had been purely cosmetic and only gave the illusion of free choice. The characters are only in danger when the game wants them to be and that is surprisingly few times. There are only a handful of actual moments where the player can kill off the characters, which dramatically lessens the tension of the game. For example, it is impossible to kill Sam (Hayden Panettiere) until the final scene of the game, no matter how many QTEs and bad decisions you make. I’m guessing this was due to the game developers not wanting players to experience an incomplete play through – although personally, I think the game would be MUCH stronger if the characters were always at risk and it was possible to cut short the story and eliminate all the teens early on.

Despite this fundamental flaw, Until Dawn is still a strong game, albeit consigned to second place against the superior Heavy Rain. The script balances a love for the “Cabin in the Woods” sub-genre of horror and the more self-aware, subversive humour of post-modern horrors like Scream. Despite a sizeable cast of ten core characters (two of which are doomed from the start), the game manages to develop each one sufficiently, building stereotypical horror personalities (the jock, the nerd, the bitch) into something more. The eventual reveal of the true threat is also well done, seeded throughout the narrative by the optional collectibles before being revealed in gory fashion. I really enjoyed the animation of the Wendigo creatures, whose unpredictable skittish movements induced a genuine sense of fear into the QTE confrontations, making those split-second decisions even more urgent.


Graphics - Graphically, this game is absolutely gorgeous with some of the most realistic facial effects I’ve seen in a game. There are some moments, however, when the characters suffer from ‘glassy eye syndrome’, which seems to be pandemic of this current generation’s graphics. As a fan of both Brett Dalton and Hayden Panettiere, it’s quite impressive to see both their likenesses and facial tics perfectly recreated on these animated characters. It’s also worth noting the truly fantastic snow effects that help capture the isolated feeling of the Canadian woods.

Gameplay - The game has been described as an “interactive movie” and I agree to that definition to an extent. Most of the player-controlled action is through third person exploration of Blackwood Pines Lodge and the surrounding woodland. While these moments did evoke memories of classic survival horror games, there is never any danger or peril during these sequences as it is impossible for characters to die unless they fail a QTE or make the wrong decision when faced with a choice. This makes it an ideal game for novice players as there is no controller skill required to progress through the game – it’s purely based on button pushes or motion control.

Achievements / Trophies - Until Dawn’s trophy list is a blank slate of “secret trophies” which are linked to major plot points throughout the game, often awarding trophies for contradicting choices meaning that multiple playthroughs are needed to get the full roster. Unfortunately, basing these trophies around the game’s branching moments just draws attention to the mechanics behind the game’s narrative. 

Longevity - As with other games of its kind, Until Dawn is best played with a single play through, allowing the player’s choices to form the definitive narrative to the game without seeing the other versions of events. Upon replaying the game, it becomes clear where the various divergent moments are and how little difference some of the QTEs make the overall storyline. Unfortunately the trophy list and collectibles encourage repeat playthroughs for full completion, ruining some of the cinematic magic of the game.

While Until Dawn falters in providing the ultimate horror movie simulator, it does deliver a strong, cinematic narrative experience. Straddling the line between game and interactive movie, this sub-genre still has a lot of potential that has yet to be explored and I really hope other game studios see what Supermassive Games and Quantic Dream have done with their titles and push the boundaries even further, providing players with even more control over the narrative. Part of Until Dawn’s problem was its grandiose statements regarding its “butterfly effect” system and its claims of “hundreds of different endings” – every other element of the game is near-flawless; graphics, sound, voice acting and atmosphere. I do feel that I’ve been slightly harsh in my criticism of the title, as up until two-thirds of the way through, I was really enjoying the title – it was upon completion and getting a glimpse “behind the curtain” that soured the experience for me. I still recommend this title for “point and click” enthusiasts and even horror buffs, as it is a really enjoyable tale – it just fails to capitalise on the same potential that I glimpsed in that Heavy Rain DLC, “The Taxidermist”.

Score - 8.1 out of 10

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

2000AD Prog 1948

Prog 1948 Cover by Dave Taylor

I like a bit of variety in my 2000AD covers, so I was initially a little bit disappointed to be getting a second Judge Dredd cover in a row, but this is almost the complete opposite of Henry Flint's work last Prog, giving it a refreshing sense of differentiation. Whereas Flint's Dredd cover focused on the man himself, almost revelling in its simplistic granite background to make its lead character pop off the page, Dave Taylor provides such an amazing level of intricate detail in his depiction of the wasteland city limits that Dredd almost comes second to his location. Rich in atmosphere, Taylor's cover really gives a sense of scale to Dredd's world – similar to the Prog 1942 cover by Glenn Fabry, but with a better handle on the size proportions. It's a great piece of art, and one that really shows off Dave Taylor's talents as an artist.


JUDGE DREDD - GHOST TOWN (Part 1)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - Dave Taylor
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Rather than resetting the status quo back to normal after the devastating effects of “Enceladus: Old Life”, this double-sized instalment of Judge Dredd sees writer Ian Edginton tackling the recurring theme of an over-stretched justice department struggling to maintain law and order in the wake of apocalyptic threats such as Chaos Day and the Titan inmates attack. It is a bit jarring to see a return of the more fascist elements of Dredd’s personality as he coldly deals with the mutants and the cryogenically frozen eldsters, especially after his more heroic actions in the previous storyline. I guess this exemplifies the complexities of the character – able to be both hero and villain, dependent on whose perspective you’re viewing him from.


Dave Taylor’s artwork on this storyline is absolutely superb, especially the way he draws the skyline of Mega City One, focusing not only on the buildings but also the smattering of aircrafts above them. It’s this master-like attention to detail to the city and its architecture that really brings Dredd’s world to life, balancing the two extremes of Mega City One – the sprawling futuristic metropolis and the ruined sectors, devastated by tragedy. Aside from his wonderful backgrounds, Taylor also has a knack for great character design, evidenced by his motley crew of mutants. I particularly liked the leader who had fingers for hair – such a dynamic mutation! Rather than a few single episode stories to bridge the gap until Prog 1950, I’m glad that we’ve got a tale with a bit more substance behind it, and I look forward to reading the conclusion next week.



THE ALIENIST - THE HAUNTING OF HEX HOUSE (Part 5)
Script - Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art - Eoin Coveney
Letters - Simon Bowland

After a few episodes adhering to the standard 'haunted house' trope, this Prog's episode of The Alienist blows off the cobwebs by introducing the twist of the house itself being a sentient being, luring innocent people into it so that it may feed on them, much like a Venus Fly-trap or as Madame Vespertine herself suggests, “an angler-fish”. This concept reminds me of the animated kids film, Monster House, which featured a similar plot point albeit in a much more child friendly manner than what is shown here.


With most of the supporting cast removed from the equation, Beeby and Rennie are able to focus more on the relationship between the two leads – establishing a telepathic connection between the pair which demonstrates the pseudo-symbiotic nature of their relationship. Moving the plot away from a homage to The Haunting of Hill House has definitely revitalised the storyline, injecting it with a shot of excitement that wasn't quite there beforehand. With one episode left, I am suddenly invested in the series again and interested to see how Reggie and Vespertine escape this escalating danger.



DREAMS OF DEADWORLD - FEAR
Script - Kek-W
Art - Dave Kendall
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This third installment of the Dreams of Deadworld mini-series sees Judge Fear undergo a slight redesign at the hands of Dave Kendall, who amplifies the medieval knight aspects of the character's existing design to create an even more Gothic look for the Dark Judge in his early days. I also noticed the use of a more grey-heavy colour palette for this story, which really brought out the bleak nature of Deadworld, emphasising the fear and despair of the dying populace. I also liked the moments of violence where Kendall depicts the savage nature of Judge Fear's man-traps as they crush the skulls of his victims, once again tapping into that Gothic atmosphere for the story.


I've always thought that Judge Fear was the weakest of the four Dark Judges, ever since that iconic panel where Judge Dredd gazed into the face of fear and responded with the “fist of Dredd” instead. Kek-W's script taps into that feeling of doubt and inadequacy that fuels the character, focusing on the psychological elements behind his need to be feared, and his complete inability to cope with the fact that there might be people out there who are unafraid of him. As foreshadowing to his eventual encounter with Dredd in “Judge Death Lives”, this story works brilliantly, exposing the fears of a character who is completely dependent on the fears of others. This has been the most enjoyable installment of these vignettes so far and easily the best examination of the Judge Fear character that there has ever been. I really hope that Tharg commissions a second series of Dreams of Deadworld as I feel we've barely scratched the surface with these prequel stories.



GREY AREA - DEADLINE
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This “season finale” of the current run of Grey Area sees one of the supporting cast make a dramatic sacrifice – the grumpy and somewhat xenophobic Manners. It's this gesture that prompts the Harmonious Free to use their equivalent of nuclear weapons on the God-Star's drones, but it's too late to stop the eventual destruction of Homeworld. Given this apparent failure to protect the planet, I'm assuming the next focus for the ETC team is to find a way to return back to Earth, possibly even facilitating a mass exodus for the displaced aliens of Homeworld's Grey Area. I am curious how much mileage this God-Star storyline has left in it, and whether the ETC team will continue to jump through parallel universe after universe in a Sliders-esque style.

Mark Harrison's artwork continues to be a bit harder to follow during these action sequences, particularly the moment where Manners sacrifices himself. I think it's the heavy use of digital lighting effects to symbolise the ethereal nature of the parasitic angels and the gargantuan God-Star that causes Harrison's artwork to appear harder to read. However, these effects does give the art a really unique “deep space” feeling that most traditional artists struggle to capture. There's no denying that digital artists, such as Mark Harrison and Clint Langley, are able to imbue their artwork with such strong futuristic overtones, be it the outer space dogfights of Durham Red: The Scarlet Cantos, or the robotic cyber-punk of The ABC Warriors. If the trade-off is the occasional dark and unclear panel that takes a bit longer to process, then it's worth every additional second.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Rather than introducing a one-shot Future Shock, Tharg gifts us with a double-sized Judge Dredd that gives us a meatier story than I expected in the lead-in towards Prog 1950. However, it was this Prog’s Dreams of Deadworld that stood out for me, providing a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of Dredd’s oldest enemies. Kek-W and Dave Kendall have just been fantastic with this series, offering a truly fresh perspective on the Dark Judges and their origins that supplements their previous origin story in “Death: Boyhood of a Super Fiend”. With only four short stories, I do wonder how Rebellion intends to collect this story – maybe repackaging it with the aforementioned Judge Death storyline, or perhaps as a one-off US format comic?

I look forward to reading next week’s climactic Prog, which presumably will see another double-sized Judge Dredd episode to conclude the “Ghost Town” storyline, and perhaps a Future Shock or Terror Tale to replace Grey Area. With Prog 1950 peeking around the corner, there’s still plenty to look forward to with Brass Sun, Defoe and Bad Company all making a welcome return to the magazine! It’s truly a great time to be a 2000AD fan!


Thrill of the Week: Dreams of Deadworld


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1948 will be available in stores on Wednesday 16th September - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

2000AD Prog 1947

Prog 1947 Cover by Henry Flint

Henry Flint delivers a powerful image of Dredd riding his horse into danger for this final “Enceladus: Old Life” cover. Rather than a complex snow-covered background, the decision to use a simple granite background makes the cover pop, placing all of the focus on Dredd and his loyal equine companion. There’s an iconic feel to this cover and I can see it being replicated again and again, possibly as a subscriber incentive art print, or even a t-shirt further down the line. It would be awesome to wear a pale grey tee with this image emblazoned across it – I’m sure Tharg’s merchandise droids are already on the case!


JUDGE DREDD - ENCELADUS: OLD LIFE (Part 8)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

And so, Rob Williams and Henry Flint'sTitan” saga comes to an end with a beautiful climax that once again sees both artist and writer crafting a truly cinematic tone for this storyline. For me, the highlight has to be the moment where Dredd refuses to escape in the H-Wagon and turns back to face Nixon and her icy horde is absolutely fabulous and just encapsulates the character as a whole. Whether he's going back to be the hero, or out of a personal vendetta following his ordeal on Titan, Dredd just exudes bad-ass when he steps off his horse and challenges Aimee Nixon to a fight to the death.


I also enjoyed the moments with Judge Sam as he was in awe of Enceladus' icy core, although I did feel that element of the ending was slightly abrupt. While Henry Flint's lovely visual of Dredd trampling down on Aimee Nixon's snowy avatar was a great metaphor for her death and defeat, it did feel that we'd missed out on a proper goodbye for the character, with her “death” taking place off-panel. I guess part of me was expecting a Wicked Witch of the West-esque “I'm melting...” monologue as Aimee Nixon dissolved into snow.

Overall though, this has been a really enjoyable storyline, with Williams and Flint confidently taking both the reader and Dredd on a fantastic journey to Titan and beyond. It's easily been some of the best Judge Dredd work I've seen from either of them, and yet, I suspect that there are still more great stories to come from this dynamic duo! I am particularly looking forward to seeing some of the fallout explored in later Judge Dredd and Low Life storylines, especially the mystery surrounding Dredd's coincidental horse companion.



THARG'S 3RILLERS: APOCALYPSE ANONYMOUS (Part 3)
Script - Robert Murphy
Art - Sean O' Connor & Jake Lynch
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Sometimes a Tharg's 3riller will attempt to cram in a lot of information into the three-part format, often resulting in a rather dense or rushed storyline. With “Apocalypse Anonymous”, Robert Murphy provided a fairly straight-forward and uncomplicated storyline that teased a more dense and involving mythology behind this inaugural tale. I actually quite liked the simplicity of this series and while Murphy only scratched the surface of the concept and characters, I am certainly intrigued to see more about this hybrid of religious and military forces.

I'm not sure why Sean O' Connor was unable to complete the art for the storyline on his own, but both he and Jake Lynch managed to work well together to create a relatively consistent approach across the three episodes. Hopefully, if the series does return for a second run, it'll be with a single artist, or rotate its artists per storyline, much like Grey Area and Damnation Station have done. If Apocalypse Anonymous does return in its own series, I hope it continues to bring to feature that interesting blend of religious iconography and modern warfare. This “pilot episode” feels akin to a US TV drama – you could almost imagine this running on HBO or AMC, and it definitely has the potential to run alongside 2000AD's own episodic series' such as Caballistics Inc, Grey Area and Survival Geeks.



THE ALIENIST - THE HAUNTING OF HEX HOUSE (Part 4)
Script - Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art - Eoin Coveney
Letters - Simon Bowland

The supporting cast of The Alienist continue to drop like flies, adopting a convenient 'one death per episode' schedule – however, this time it is Lady Vespertine's attempts to conceal both her and Reggie's identities that results in the elderly man's death. While well-written and atmospheric, I must admit I am finding it hard to fully engage with this storyline – perhaps its the use of stock characters as a body-count and the homage to both murder mysteries and haunted house storylines that isn't drawing me in. I do quite like the characters of Vespertine and her actor “beard”, but the actual story seems more focused on the plot and riffing on its influences, rather than developing their relationship.

Eoin Coveney's artwork remains top-notch, really channeling that aura of eerie Victorian haunted houses. I especially like those moments where he is able to unleash the supernatural and go crazy with huge headed apparitions pouring out of dead bodies. Even though this storyline isn't fully grabbing my attention, I do think there is potential for The Alienist to become a recurring series, even against similarly themed series' such as Dandridge and Ampney Crucis, thanks to its unique set-up and strong, female lead. Hopefully in future storylines, Rennie and Beeby focus more on the series' two protagonists, developing them and their relationship before introducing a supporting cast of occult cannon-fodder.



DREAMS OF DEADWORLD - MORTIS
Script - Kek-W
Art - Dave Kendall
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This second installment of the nightmarish Dreams of Deadworld focuses on Judge Mortis, and once again tells a darkly macabre vignette of the character after the total annihilation of the Deadworld populous. Dave Kendall's redesign of Judge Mortis, shows the decomposing Dark Judge with a bit more meat on his bones than we've seen before, fitting in with this early vision of the characters before their official debut. As with last Prog, each fully painted panel is wonderfully evocative, immersing the reader in the cold darkness of Deadworld. I wouldn't be surprised if some readers end up experiencing their own vivid dreams of Deadworld based on this haunting images.


Providing Kendall's stunning art with a solid story, Kek-W's script focuses on the boredom that must come in the aftermath of a complete planetary extinction, with Judge Mortis killing nothing but time, even attending to a garden of corpses. I really enjoyed the grim nature of the storyline which sees Judge Mortis leading a group of alien survivors to their eventual doom. There's no glimmer of hope in these storylines, these hellish visions of Deadworld give the readers a glimpse of the apocalyptic horrors that could occur in Mega-City One if Judge Dredd ever failed to stop the Dark Judges in their attempt for global genocide.



GREY AREA - FEEDING FRENZY
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This episode of Grey Area brings some of the team into combat against the God-Star drone, whilst exploring the main recurring theme of this series, which is the Harmonious Free's reluctance to defend themselves against outside threats and how their “enlightenment” actually blinds them to danger, even going as far as to put those species under their protection at risk. Dan Abnett effortlessly weaves in humour, action and religious satire into his story, whilst ending on a brilliant cliff-hanger. It's a master-class in writing short episodic fiction and other writers should take note! I'm really enjoying the culture clash between Bulliet, Resting Bitch Face and Bulliet's clashes with Resting Bitch Face and Compelling Male Musk Odour, and hope that Abnett doesn't decide to kill any of them off in this storyline!


Evoking memories of Aliens, Mark Harrison's artwork brings this rag-tag squad of soldiers to life, before promptly killing several in some action-packed combat sequences. I must admit that there were moments where there seemed to be a lot going on in one panel, but that helps communicate the frenzied nature of the battle. With two episodes remaining, I am curious to see how Dan Abnett plans to conclude this current run of Grey Area – hopefully he doesn't try to rush things and get the ETC team back to their home world too soon as I've really enjoyed this diversion to the alternate Grey Area. I honestly think that this is one of 2000AD's most versatile new series, and due to its relatively short form episodic nature, it works well as “filler” in the lead-ups to new jumping-on point Progs. 



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

The conclusion to “Enceladus: Old Life” lived up to the high expectations set in place from the preceding chapters earning Judge Dredd the top spot as “Thrill of the Week”, although the unsettling menace of Dreams of Deadworld comes a close second. I’m looking forward to a fresh new Judge Dredd story next Prog, as well as whatever replaces “Apocalypse Anonymous” in the lead-up towards the jumping-on point of Prog 1950.


Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1947 will be available in stores on Wednesday 9th September - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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