Wednesday, 31 August 2016

2000AD Prog 1996

Prog 1996 Cover by Paul Davidson

Heralding the return of Jaegir to the Prog is this wonderful cover from Paul Davidson (last seen on Aquila) which captures the polluted neo-industrial nightmare that is Nu-Earth. You can almost taste the rust in your mouth as you look at this fabulous image of Atalia standing in front of a landscape made up of twisted metal and an army of Nort soldiers, set against the smog of a blood red sky. Davidson also manages to highlight the scarred nature of her face, combining the character’s beauty with her battle-scars. It’s a really impressive and evocative piece, and I’d love to see Davidson take a crack at the main strip one day.


JUDGE DREDD - LADYKILLER (Part 6)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After his threats to hurt Dredd on a personal level, PJ Maybe implements his plan and in a surprising twist, his target is Mrs Gunderson – formerly Judge Death’s landlady. Gunderson has been a long-running character since her appearance in Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend and was one of the only people whom Death considered innocent. Now paired with Dredd’s former robot, Walter, the pair usually appear in humourous stories involving her hearing impediments. While it was great to see Gunderson and Walter again, I was worried that she might be the long-running character whom John Wagner planned to kill off this year. Considering her association with the humour-led tales, it would be quite a kick to the gut to see her murdered by PJ Maybe in a plot to hurt Dredd.


Not content to surprise us once, Wagner pulls a double-bluff in the final page by revealing that the Gunderson kidnap was a misdirection to make Dredd lessen his protection of the real target – his niece, Vienna. In a wonderful cliff-hanger ending, Wagner has Maybe heading towards the apartment to kill her – however, I strongly suspect that Dredd has replaced Vienna with an imposter, probably the alluring female Judge Morgan seen at the beginning of the episode. With each new Prog, it becomes more and more unbearable to wait for the next installment as Wagner and Ezquerra really ramp up the tension to unprecedented levels. With the ‘grim reader’ hovering over at least one character since Wagner’s tease in the 2000AD Thrillcast, this story has been absolutely electrifying from the beginning and shows no sign at letting the reader loose from its uncompromising grip.



JAEGIR - WARCHILD (Part 1)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

In an effort to avoid contact with her father, Atalia opts for the alternative of getting blind-drunk and getting into fist-fights. Gordon Rennie returns with Jaegir and picks up where he left off, with the promise of a reunion between Atalia and her exiled father, Josef Jaegir. The lead character’s relationship with her abusive father has been the driving force behind the series, and many of the character’s decisions as Rennie gradually reveals the extent of her abusive childhood through her present-day adventures. Character development has been the main strength of this series from its beginnings as Rennie establishes Atalia Jaegir as a strong female lead and a worthy successor to the Rogue Trooper crown. Scarred both physically and mentally, she makes for a fascinating protagonist and an excellent departure from typical glamourous female leads seen in the genre.


Surprisingly for a Rogue Trooper spin-off series, Jaegir moves away from the typical ‘gung-ho’ war stories and instead focuses on the horrific aftermath of war, and how it turns people into monsters. Centred on the Norts, the ‘bad guys’ of the Rogue Trooper universe, Rennie shows us how much humanity soldiers are willing to lose in an effort to win the war – it’s a great analogy for war as a whole, placing a science-fiction twist of having soldiers become actual monsters. It’s such a tightly written series and it’s clear that Rennie has plotted this all way in advance as seeds planted in the initial adventures begin to bear fruit in this story-arc. Simon Coleby’s artwork is simply fantastic on this series, fabulously evoking the ash-filled, burnt-out war-zones of Nordland to the point where you can almost taste the sulphur in the air. Jaegir represents a mature take on warfare and is a natural progression for the Rogue Trooper universe in this modern age.



ANDERSON, PSI DIVISION - THE CANDIDATE (Part 4)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - Nick Dyer
Colours - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

The Candidate” subverts reader’s expectations as the story-arc continues to deviate away from what initially appeared to be a straight-forward assassination storyline into something more personal, and related to the Psi Division. Focusing on Carol Smart and her mute brother, Emma Beeby peels back some more of the mystery but stops short of revealing who the villain of the piece is. It appears both Smart and her brother have the ability to influence people, but the Mayoral candidate requires a handshake, or touch, to perform her mind manipulations. I suspect that she initially used her powers to create the Citizen Army assassination attempt to boost her standing in the election, but this has caused her brother to break out and potentially expose her. I’m not quite clear what the endgame is in this scenario as Smart leaves to address her fans after sending Psi-Judge Flowers to find Anderson. It’s an intriguing mystery and Nick Dyer’s artwork helps anchor the adventure in Mega-City One, ably capturing the archetypal urban nightmare vibe. The more complex this story becomes, the more I am enjoying it, and while it might not deal with heady themes of religion and the afterlife seen in past Anderson, Psi Division adventures, it is still a strong outing for the Justice Department's lead telepath.



SCARLET TRACES - COLD WAR (Part 9)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Crash-landing in a dense jungle, this episode of Scarlet Traces allows D’Israeli to showcase the varied ecosystem present on the planet Venus as our heroes find themselves up against some indigenous threats. The change in location not only allows D’Israeli to flex his creative muscle, but also evokes memories of those classic sci-fi adventures such as The Lost World, Land of the Giants and even Honey, I Shrunk the Kids with the appearance of giant insects to plague our heroes. It helps cultivate that heavy sense of nostalgia that Ian Edginton and D’Israeli have maintained throughout the length of this story – it feels like a Saturday Morning serial and I’m instantly transported to my six-year old self bewitched by the television.

Edginton’s script continues to deliver fast-paced action as our heroes deal with a different type of enemy, demonstrating just how dangerous the planet can be, even without the Martians. I am really enjoying this portrayal of Venus and how our heroes flip-flop between danger and safety in equal measure. The reveal of the Theed is an effective cliff-hanger, and despite looking like killer lizard men riding evil Chocobos from Final Fantasy, I suspect they will offer our heroes sanctuary and a healthy dose of exposition. While elements of this series feel somewhat formulaic, the end result is no less amazing, thanks to Edginton’s tight scripting and natural dialogue paired with D’Israeli’s tremendous visuals. Everything these two work on together turns to gold, and Scarlet Traces is no different – it’s a great old-school romp through alien planets and deadly civilisations, and remains a highlight of the Prog each week. 



OUTLIER - SURVIVOR GUILT (Part 7)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

While the events of last Prog had me reconsidering General Sornell’s position after he permitted Luthra and Jess to head directly to the Hurde with their evidence of in-fighting, this installment firmly re-established the character as a dick. Despite seemingly giving permission for them to undertake a dangerous journey into enemy territory, the warmongering General had in fact lined the ship with explosives, planning to use the characters as an unwilling decoy explosive. Hopefully, a gory death awaits Sornell, as he has set himself up as that irritating misguided idiot in action movies who ends up causing more trouble for the heroes than needed. Given the close proximity of Carcer to his position, I suspect that his comeuppance is on the horizon.


T.C Eglington continues to push his characters towards their endgames, and I did enjoy the ongoing in-joke of the two ladies knocking Caul out each time he got unmanageable. While the series isn’t going to go down in 2000AD’s Hall of Fame, it has been a solid and enjoyable science-fiction war story that deserved to be fleshed out over the course of three chapters. I particularly like the way that the Hurde are kept to the shadows with their avatars (Caul and Carcer) used as the figureheads of their campaigns. Karl Richardson remains the heart and soul of this story, providing much of the tone through his distinctive and brutal artwork. As we approach the grand finale, I do wonder how Eglington plans to wrap up an intergalactic war in the next three episodes – the pieces are in play, but will there be enough time to provide a strong resolution to wrap up the entire series.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

The return of Jaegir is a welcome surprise, although given the short time frame available (four episodes), I wonder whether this particular storyline will feature Atalia coming face-to-face with her estranged father. Within the space of a few years, this Rogue Trooper spin-off has become a firm-favourite and a wonderful spin on the established continuity of its mother series. However, the honour of “Thrill of the Week” must once again go to Judge Dredd as the series’ original creators continue to tell a rich and rewarding tale which promises to put an end to a long-running rivalry from the strip. Each episode is absolutely nail-biting stuff and now that the focus has moved inward to Dredd’s own family, the stakes have been raised even higher. The ‘wind of change’ is definitely in the air, and I excitedly look forward to the next installment to see where Wagner and Ezquerra intend to take this storyline. Rather than limping towards the finish line, this current line-up of stories strides triumphantly towards the iconic Prog 2000!

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1996 will be available in stores on Wednesday 31st August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 12

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 12
"Kill God"
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: INJ Culbard
Colours by: Marcio Menys

Taking the narrative baton from his co-writer, Rob Williams returns to the Eleventh Doctor comic series to continue the flashback tale from the Time War started by Si Spurrier last issue. INJ Culbard's beautiful artwork remains the backbone to this story-arc, offering a visual 'breath of fresh air' that suits this change to the series' timeline. The decision to send Alice back to the Time War to learn about (and potentially influence) the events that led to the Cylors becoming the Malignant has been an inspired one, riffing on Back to the Future by having Alice interacting with the past. Rather than a staid 'two-dimensional' flashback, the inclusion of a present day Alice adds a whole new element to proceedings and a touch of the 'timey wimey'. Williams' script maintains the pace set in Spurrier's initial installment, and he captures the world-weary nature of the War Doctor and the craftiness of the Master – even though these two are working together, the Master remains out for himself and quick to cause havoc. The sequence where the Master summons the Time Lord army, only for them to be wiped out by the Cylors, is a perfect example of his duplicity and is subtly showcased in the episode by Williams and Culbard.


There's some really great moments in this issue, especially the sequence that sees Alice pitted against one of the Volatix Cabal. Williams and Spurrier have created a really menacing set of creatures here, taking the genocidal efficiency of the Daleks and adding a dash of 'mad scientist' to the mix to create something truly ungodly. Given how the Daleks themselves have yet to be seen in a Titan Comics' comic, I'm guessing there's a rights-issue that prevents them from being shown. If this is true, then it may be a blessing in disguise as it has allowed Williams and Spurrier to create this wonderful subversion on the traditional Dalek. The highlight of this issue for me was the mischievous nature of the Master, and how his actions seemed to have caused some sort of paradox which presumably leads to the creation of the Malignant. As this series hurtles to its conclusion there's still plenty of unanswered questions left to go and I am hungry for answers! I've loved every moment of this dense narrative that refuses to compromise and instead has delivered a solid, twisty-turny plot rewarding those loyal readers who've stuck with it. While it might be a tough task for new readers to jump in at this climactic stage, I strongly urge any Whovians suffering from the Doctor Who drought to go back and pick up the collected editions to catch up. Doctor Who or not, this is some of the best science-fiction storytelling in comics today!


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 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, 24 August 2016

2000AD Prog 1995

Prog 1995 Cover by Jon Davis-Hunt

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


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

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


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



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

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



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

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


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



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

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


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



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

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



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

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

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


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

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

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

2000AD Prog 1994

Prog 1994 Cover by Ben Willsher

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


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

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


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



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

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


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



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

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



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

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


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



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

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


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



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

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



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

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

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

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd (Megazine)


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

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

Review - Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 2 (of 5)

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 2 (of 5)
"Supremacy of the Cybermen" - Part 2 (of 5)
Written by: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Art by: Ivan Rodriguez & Walter Geovanni
Colours by: Nicola Righi

Cavan Scott and George Mann’s second issue of their Doctor Who epic event “Supremacy of the Cybermen” continues to weave its multiple narratives together, making use of dual artists to distinguish between the ‘present day’ events of the Twelfth Doctor and the Cyber-President Rassilon, and the altered timelines of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. The pair have also written short one-page prologues featuring the other eight incarnations of the Doctor having encounters with the Cybermen which contradicts the established timeline, hinting at some time-travelling manipulation on the part of the Cyber-army. This suggests that unlike last year’s event “The Four Doctors” which took the form of a traditional multi-Doctor serial, Scott and Mann intend to keep the various incarnations of the Doctor separated throughout the duration of this event and will focus on the alternate timelines each of them find themselves in. This is a great decision and allows Titan Comics to present a different approach to the multi-Doctor story-arc and keeps the action shifting between narratives.

Including the Sontarans and Silurians in the event is another master-stroke, which not only demonstrates the extent of the Cybermen’s influence over the time-stream but also offers recognisable secondary threats for each Doctor to deal with. The one nit-pick of having four narratives running concurrently throughout the comic is that it does feel slightly cramped at times and there isn’t a great deal of advancement made in each section. While the initial issue had a great deal of shock value by throwing the readers (and the Doctor) into the deep end, this follow-up feels a bit slower in pace and focused on explaining the situation each Doctor finds themselves in. That said, the connections to the television show are the strongest they’ve ever been as this story acts as a direct sequel to Season 9’s closer “Hell Bent”, following Rassilon after his exile from Gallifrey and giving readers more ‘screen-time’ on the Doctor’s home planet. As such, this whole story-arc feels more integral to the continuity of the series, picking up directly on loose plot threads from the show itself.


Ivan Rodriguez continues to provide art duties for the ‘past Doctors’ sequences, whilst Walter Geovanni stands in for Alessandro Vitti on the ‘present day’ Twelfth Doctor story-arc on Gallifrey. Despite the use of two different artists, this series flows together nicely and could have even benefited from four different artists working on one Doctor each. That said, Rodriguez does a brilliant job on the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctor narratives, bringing both the Silurian and Sontarans to life on the page. Geovanni’s take on a Cyberman-infested Gallifrey is equally impressive and reflects many of the visuals introduced in “Hell Bent”, even providing a brief flashback to the events from that key episode. While Geovanni’s panels lacks the same grittiness and intensity seen in Vitti’s artwork from the previous issue, it is still a strong showing from the Brazilian artist and suits the change in scenery from Karn to Gallifrey well.

Overall, this was a worthy follow-up to the series’ amazing first issue and it certainly maintains much of the momentum and pace from the Cyberman’s invasion of time. At times, the comic does feel a bit dense with four narratives competing for prominence but that just adds to the ‘season finale’ feel of the series. Scott and Mann have both proven themselves to be consummate fans of Doctor Who and its lengthy history, and that shows in their energy and desire to push the boundaries in their storytelling. This is a storyline that could only be told in the comics, reaching far back across all of the Doctor’s past incarnations and changing history with alarming levels of destruction. Sure, there will probably be a cosmic reset button at the end of this adventure, but its great fun to watch two die-hard fans of the series play about in the Doctor Who sandbox with such glee.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 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 mini-series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

2000AD Prog 1993

Prog 1993 Cover by Christian Ward

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


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

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


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



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

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



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

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


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



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

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


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



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

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



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

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

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

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


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

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

Review - Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 8

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 8
"The Twist" - Part 3 (of 3)
Written by: George Mann
Art by: Mariano Laclaustra
Colours by: Carlos Cabrera

George Mann’s three-part introductory story-arc for the Twelfth Doctor and his new companion, Hattie, came to an end with this issue as the Foxkin revealed themselves to the human colonists aboard The Twist. After centuries of hiding in the shadows, the Doctor’s interference brought the creatures out into the public eye, but rather than being reviled and feared, the Doctor was able to convince the colonists to accept the secondary race. I must admit that this didn’t quite ring true to me and it felt like a slightly rushed ending that wrapped up the various plot threads into a neat bow. That said, this storyline worked well as an introduction to the Doctor’s latest comic-book companion as Mann tapped into the punk-rock persona of the Twelfth Doctor and paired him with a musician for his pre-Season 10 adventures. Hattie seems like a great fit for this incarnation of the Doctor and I appreciate Mann’s attempts to provide the Doctor with unconventional companions, as evidenced from his Eighth Doctor miniseries featuring Josephine Day.


Mariano Laclaustra has been an absolute revelation over these past three issues as he brings The Twist to life with such rich and evocative backgrounds. His artwork has been stunning throughout this storyline, thanks in part to Carlos Cabrera’s awesome colouring. Laclaustra’s artwork just exudes a cinematic flavour and his design of Hattie, Jakob and the rest of the punk-rock inhabitants of The Twist is just fantastic! Even the lupine designs of the Foxkin were enchanting, and offered a refreshing take on the werewolf myth.

Overall, this was an excellent debut for George Mann as he quickly makes the Twelfth Doctor series his own by introducing a bold and exciting new companion and grasps the post-Season Nine persona of the Twelfth Doctor instantly. While there were some minor problems with the ease of the solution to the Foxkin dilemma, the story as a whole held up really well and showed plenty of promise for the further adventures of the Doctor and Hattie in this title.


Score - 8.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 8 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) # 13

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 13
"Old Girl: Aftermath" - Part 1 (of 5)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Eleonora Carlini & Giorgia Sposito
Colours by: Arianna Florean with Adele Matera

After the emotional trauma of the previous story, writer Nick Abadzis adopts a fairly low-key approach for this first episode of his Year Two 'season finale'. Starting off with his characters touching base with their families in Brooklyn, Abadzis skillfully begins to build upon the plot threads he has sown throughout the past twenty-plus issues. Clearly, something isn't right with Cindy Wu, and Abadzis hints at an alternate motivation behind her joining the TARDIS aside from wanting to help Gabby. Dropping hints about parallel universes and course-correction, I wonder if Cindy will attempt to Dorothy's alternate universes to save Roscoe from death. Also interesting to note is that the Doctor and Cindy have travelled to the Primordial times, which is the same time period that the Time Lord children were thrown into the untempered Schism to become the Wishing Well Witch – it seems as if Abadzis is going to weave that seemingly separate plot thread into his grand tapestry after all. While this issue was largely set-up for forthcoming events, it was wonderfully written and flowed perfectly. It actually felt longer than usual, and I had to double-check the page count to see whether Titan Comics had slipped in some extra pages.


Eleonora Carlini and Giorgia Sposito team-up on art duties for this issue, and the result is as spell-binding as you'd imagine. Both artists are absolutely spectacular and their art styles complement each other perfectly – it's hard to tell the difference at times! The pair manage to infuse their panels with such emotion, and the sequences with Cindy manage to convey her grief and anger at the universe perfectly. It's also fantastic to see the transition from the real-world of Brooklyn to the extra-terrestrial gardens of Anubis. The Tenth Doctor series has been blessed with an absolutely wonderful creative team over the past two years, all of which have maintained the series' distinctive visual flair throughout. As the introduction to this year's 'season finale', this issue does a terrific job of returning to the ongoing Osirian sub-plot that has overseen the whole of Year Two. Ultimately, I'm not the greatest fan of this Anubis storyline, but Abadzis ensures that the series remains engaging throughout and even throws in some potential tangents to explore in his five-episode season finale. With such rich character development at the heart of this series, Abadzis and his brilliant creative team have managed to create a Doctor Who comic series where the reader cares more about the companions than the Doctor himself.


Score - 8.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 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 # 4

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 4
"The Transformed" - Part 1 (of 2)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Cris Bolson
Colours by: Marco Lesko

With a dash of “timey-wimey” goodness, Cavan Scott has created a fantastic scenario for fans of the Ninth Doctor era by bringing Mickey Smith back into the Doctor's life – unfortunately for the Ninth Doctor, this is a Mickey Smith ten years older than the one he is familiar with. The antagonistic relationship between the Doctor and Mickey was a strong element of the Ninth Doctor's era, and the way the two built up a level of respect for each other was a great piece of character development throughout the Tenth Doctor's era, so it's great to see Scott play with the Doctor / Mickey relationship, and in typical Doctor Who style, perhaps this encounter is what leads the Doctor to begin to respect Mickey more in the first place. It's also great to see some more of Mickey's post-Doctor Who life after the brief glimpse seen in “The End of Time” as he and his wife Martha Jones remain protectors of the Earth. Despite the historical setting of this ongoing series, Scott has found some wonderfully inventive ways to keep things fresh and exciting – referencing the Time War, Jack's missing memories, and now his very own “Time Crash” between Nine and Mickey.

Keeping on the right side of a universe-destroying paradox (or a continuity headache), Scott manages to keep the unlikely team-up of Nine and Old-Mickey engaging throughout the episode. The scenes between the two are what drives the issue, and at times they even overshadow the main plot of superheroes and gargoyles fighting about the San Francisco skies.  Even Martha Jones makes a cameo appearance in the episode, although carefully concealed so the Doctor won't meet his future companion ahead of time. It's fun to see Scott dance through the constraints of continuity to deliver such a great story that works on multiple levels. The story could have been told with the Tenth Doctor, but it would have lost that whole clash of the egos element. That said, it would have been fun to see a later Doctor meet up with Mickey and Martha, given how “The End of Time” put an end to the Russell T Davies era of companions. Maybe the characters will reappear in some of the other Titan Comics series down the line – I've always thought they'd be a great fit for Torchwood, especially after Martha Jones guest-starred in the second series.


Guest-artist Cris Bolson is on art duties for this issue, alongside colours by Marco Lesko, and the pair do a fantastic job at bringing modern-day San Francisco to life onto the page with the Golden Gate Bridge, trams and steep hills all featuring. Bolson excels at capturing the actor's likenesses, especially Noel Clarke's turn as Mickey Smith – showcasing the character's evolution from Rose's goofy ex-boyfriend to a genuine protector of Earth. His Doctor, Jack and Rose are spot-on as well, ensuring that the series maintains its strong connection to its source material. The Gargoyles are well-designed by Bolson too, and its cute to see Mickey initially mistake them from the Krillitane, referencing his encounter with them in “School Reunion”. The issue flows along nicely with some nifty aeronautical battles set against a mysterious Northern Lights sky. It's a solid artistic job, and a worthy addition to the ever-increasing roster of Doctor Who artists.

After the cliff-hanger ending of Issue 3, I had high hopes for this encounter between the Ninth Doctor and an older Mickey Smith and Cavan Scott delivered on every aspect. The script bounces along with that energetic enthusiasm that has become a trademark for Scott's writing and his love for the source material shines through on every page. Much like with the Eleventh Doctor series' creative team, Scott is having great fun at playing with the constraints of continuity and crossing narrative streams that could never be done in the TV show. In some ways, its bittersweet as the television show itself seems to have lost the unpredictability that comes out in Scott's work. I'd love to see Peter Capaldi's Doctor cross over with some of his past companions, perhaps in a Back to the Future manner, avoiding making contact and causing a paradox. With no Doctor Who expected on our television screens until Christmas, Titan Comics' current crop of series' are the perfect antidote to a Time Lord-free diet! Fresh, inventive and unpredictable, the Ninth Doctor series is an absolute must-read for old and new fans alike!


Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 4 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

2000AD Prog 1992

Prog 1992 Cover by Alex Ronald

Alex Ronald delivers an absolutely spell-binding cover to commemorate the conclusion of the latest Black Shuck storyline, depicting the titular character in all his ferocious glory. Ronald captures the animalistic fury of the character perfectly, offering an interesting contrast to Steve Yeowell’s more restrained interior artwork. The attention to detail, particularly the way that the fire lights up the characters, showcases Ronald’s immense skill at designing these wonderful covers. With the full moon framing the character as he leaps onto his prey, it’s a beautifully evocative image and much like Yeowell’s artwork on the strip itself, it transports the reader to the series’ Anglo-Saxon setting in an instant.


JUDGE DREDD - LADYKILLER (Part 2)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

With this second episode of “Ladykiller”, the story’s title becomes clearer as it transpires that PJ Maybe has become a transvestite to avoid being caught by the Judges, since he is unable to have any more face-change surgeries due to his skin becoming ultra-thin. This little plot-wrinkle seems to suggest that John Wagner plans to end the PJ Maybe story-arc once and for all, cutting off the character’s usual escape route and ending any speculation that the master-manipulator can ‘face-lift’ his way out of trouble. Budley’s confession fills in the blanks of PJ Maybe’s movements after Chaos Day as he alternated between his Roberto Smith persona and his new female disguise. Wagner makes Budley a surprisingly sympathetic figure as he is poisoned by the man that he loved, unaware that he was a serial killer. The poor character meets an undignified fate as he is strangled by his former lover, but the damage is done – it seems that the Judges have a strong lead on PJ Maybe.



Carlos Ezquerra’s impeccable artwork continues to fuel this story-arc and despite the majority of the episode being expository in nature, it never feels slow-paced in the slightest. I loved the bizarre contraption on Budley’s face, keeping him alive as the Rad-Rot ate away his body – it reminded me of the long-nosed masks that Doctor’s would wear during the Plague. One highlight for me was the final sequence as PJ Maybe, dressed as a demented nurse, silenced her former lover with a bandage pulled tight around his neck – it’s such an eerie sequence and Ezquerra’s artwork just captured the creepiness perfectly. With only two episodes down, this is shaping up to be a brilliant “cat and mouse” game between the two arch-enemies and I wonder how messy things are going to get – given the increased stakes, and Maybe’s desperation, this storyline certainly has the potential to be a ‘edge of the seat’ read for the next few weeks. If my suspicions are correct, it might lead into an iconic landmark tale in Prog 2000. This has certainly been a strong year for Judge Dredd stories so far, and it seems to be getting better and better with each new Prog!



BRINK (Part 15)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Simon Bowland

With the food-poisoning conspiracy exposed to the HSD, this episode initially opens as a denouement to the series, although there are a few niggling plot details brought up that stick out, such as “Weird Life” and Kurtis’ vision of Brinkmann after his death. Throughout this series, Dan Abnett has remained purposefully oblique about whether there was a supernatural element to the Sect activity or whether it was madness caused by the dismal living conditions that the people found themselves in – even in this final episode of the series, he maintains that ambiguity as Kurtis attempts to tie things up neatly in a bow. The final page reveal that solar flare activity has seemingly destroyed the planet Mercury seems to lend some sort of credence to the bizarre theory that there is something living inside the sun, potentially validating some of the Sect’s beliefs. Could the poisoning of the Brink’s food supply be awakening some deep-seated supernatural awareness?


Abnett ends this chapter of Brink on a wonderfully vague cliff-hanger, suggesting a completely different landscape for the series when it eventually returns. This has been an absolute gem of a series, continually playing with the reader’s expectations, pulling the narrative rug from out under my feet several times across the past fifteen weeks. Both Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard have created a tense, sci-fi thriller that is quite unlike anything I have ever read before – transcending genres at a moment’s notice to build up a truly epic tale. This series is proof that 2000AD is still capable of creating rich and vibrant worlds for readers to become lost in, and exemplifies how important the magazine is, not just for British comics, but for the comics industry as a whole. This is possibly Abnett’s finest work to ever appear in 2000AD, and I will be eagerly awaiting the second chapter when it returns.



BLACK SHUCK - SINS OF THE FATHER (Part 10)
Script - Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art - Steve Yeowell
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Despite the frequent portends of doom, this concluding episode of Black Shuck actually ends on a positive note as King Eadwald’s forces, along with the Black Shuck’s army, fight back against Coenwulf and drive him away from Dunwich. Throughout the series, John Reppion and Leah Moore have made reference to the present-day in a framing sequence, and this narrative technique bears fruit in the final pages of this adventure as the writers chart the various plot threads (The Scucca, Black Shuck, Eadwald and Dunwich) as they evolve over the centuries. While Black Shuck may not have captured my imagination as much as Brink or Judge Dredd, it has been a solid read over the past ten weeks and Steve Yeowell’s brilliant and dynamic artwork has been a joy to see in the Prog. The ending of this installment leaves it unsure as to whether Black Shuck will return, mentioning ‘further adventures’ but leaving no plot threads to be tied up. I do hope that the series does return for a third outing, as there is plenty of untapped potential here to develop a new ‘franchise’ for 2000AD, but perhaps the series needs to move away from his historical roots and delve further into fantasy. 



SCARLET TRACES - COLD WAR (Part 5)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Scarlet Traces continues to move at a gentle pace as Ian Edginton and D'Israeli take their time to introduce their latest protagonist, the Venusian Ahron. It's great to see the colourful and Indian-inspired sub-community of Venusians within Smethwick as D'Israeli's artwork brings the area to life onto the page. It feels deeply reminiscent of the 'real 1960s' as immigrants settled into London and made it their own, and the clever adaptation of Enoch Powell's infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech draws further parallels between reality and fiction. Ahron's family set-up reminds me of the classic British film East is East, albeit with the Venusian twist of multiple husbands to one wife. Still, Edginton communicates Ahron's relationship with his elders perfectly in such a short period of time, and the affection the character has for his home and his family is evident. Edginton has done a great job at making Ahron relatable and down-to-earth (or should that be down-to-Venus) yet the final panels of this installment suggest that he is more than he seems. My initial guess would be that Ahron is a descendant of the Venusian Royal Family, but perhaps he is something more? His father is conspicuously absent during this sequence, and perhaps he would hold the key to his heritage. Even though this adventure is advancing at a leisurely pace, I am absolutely enjoying the world-building at work here as both Edginton and D'Israeli manage to charm me once again with yet another brilliant series.



OUTLIER - SURVIVOR GUILT (Part 3)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With the Humans gaining the upper hand on the Hurde, thanks to their reverse-engineering of the Armourgami technology, it feels like only a matter of time before the Hurde unleash the full extent of their alien forces onto humanity. T.C Eglington’s script seems to luring the Humans into a false sense of security, and it seems like only a matter of time before the smug grin is wiped off General Sornell’s war-mongering face. Despite painting the Hurde as a massively overpowered threat to the Human Race, Eglington does provide a glimmer of hope with the revelation that there is a conspiracy amongst the Hurde to unite the two warring castes against humanity. Think of it like Ozymandias’ plot in Watchmen, but in reverse – instead of uniting humanity against aliens, it is aliens uniting against humanity!


The interstellar conflicts of this series are beautifully brought to life by Karl Richardson, who seems to delight in drawing destruction onto the comic page. Once again, the unique design of the Armourgami Droids is a visual treat for the eyes and allows Richardson to create some amazingly complex battle sequences. While this final chapter of Outlier seems to be more operatic and epic in scale than its predecessors, I am eager for the focus to return onto the dual protagonists, Caul and Carcer, and the more personal story that has been at the heart of this series since its inception. While it might not be remembered for innovative storytelling, Outlier has been a fun science-fiction techno-war series with some interesting protagonists and spectacular alien designs. 



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

The “cat and mouse” chase between PJ Maybe and Judge Dredd is beginning to heat up in “Ladykiller” as Maybe switches genders to escape the Law. Wagner and Ezquerra are on top form with this storyline, which feels like the prelude towards big changes in the Judge Dredd universe. Elsewhere, both Brink and Black Shuck come to triumphant endings, with the former offering a cryptic cliff-hanger that implies a more supernatural element when it returns for Book Two. Despite the slower pace of Outlier and Scarlet Traces, both series show real promise and offer readers two complete different types of adventure.

It really is an eclectic mix of stories with two more waiting in the wings to debut in Prog 1993. Replacing Brink and Black Shuck, we have Anderson, Psi Division returning to 2000AD after a lengthy absence and a Tharg's 3riller from Rory McConville and Colin MacNeil. It's great to see Judge Anderson returning to the Prog after many years appearing in Judge Dredd Megazine, and Rory McConville has provided some excellent Future Shocks since winning the ThoughtBubble Portfolio competition last year, so I am intrigued to see what he can bring to the Tharg's 3riller format.

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1992 will be available in stores on Wednesday 3rd August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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