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Home ¦ Reviews ¦ Progs 1439 - 1444 ¦2000AD Prog 1442

Prog 1441
2000AD Prog 1440
2000AD Prog 1442 - 08 June 2005
Judge Dredd (Rennie / Currie)

Slaine (Mills/Langley)

Shakara (Morrison / Flint)

Synopsis and review by David Knight
2nd Opinion by Paul White

Summaries and reviews contain spoilers for this issue.

Cover: Clint Langley

DK: I’m no great critic when it comes to covers. It seems to me the cover should do two things: present a very nice piece of artwork, and sell lots of copies of 2000ad. Neither one makes much difference to me, because I read comics for more the stories on the inside pages, and so long as I’ve got my copy, sales aren’t my biggest concern. That said, it’s a nice cover with a very respectable piece of artwork. It’s got to be worth a 9 or a 10 out of 10. With any luck it will bring in a few sales from occasional readers who only like Slaine, and maybe a few Warhammer fans too.

PW: Slaine's looking all mean and moody, staring into a future that he takes no part in. It's an improvement on previous stock covers, if only because he's posing side-on. The usual obligatory firey colours are replaced by more muted hues of brown and green, and you know something? I think I like it. It must be his imminent departure that's making me feel this way...

2000 AD: Judge Dredd
Script: Gordon Rennie
Art: Andrew Currie
Letters: Tom Frame
Colour: Chris Blythe

Blood Trails - Part 3

Judge Dredd
Rico makes use of his daystick...

Synopsis: Judge Dredd interrogates a perp arrested for printing seditious literature, and finds that a known democracy activist, Myron Loont, financed the operation. Dredd orders Loont’s arrest under the Security of the City Act. Outside in the corridor, Dredd upbraids two off-duty judges standing around chatting about the sitcom his niece Vienna appears in. Through his helmet radio, Dredd contacts his fellow clone, Judge Rico, who is in the middle of breaking up an illegal fight meeting. Rico has heard nothing from Vienna. Dredd authorises Rico to track her down using the Public Surveillance Unit.

Meanwhile, Vienna is talking to her friend Renee on the vid-phone. She has been seeing a new boyfriend, Travis, who is in fact an undercover assassin named Pasha assigned to get close to her, but Vienna doesn’t know it. When ‘Travis’ arrives at Vienna’s apartment he places a bug next to her vid-phone console that allows Pasha’s accomplice to remotely access her address book. Travis and Vienna go out to dinner. When they emerge from the restaurant, Vienna is met by Judge Rico, who checks out Vienna’s boyfriend on his bike computer. Vienna divulges to Travis that Rico is a sort of relative, and Travis’s accomplice discovers that the ‘Uncle Joe’ in Vienna’s address book is none other than Judge Dredd.

Blood Trails has been an enjoyable thriller from the first part, and if Judge Dredd was always as good as this I would have few complaints. The incidental references to Vienna’s Tri-D show have been funny and have built up the sense that Mega-City One does pay attention to what’s fashionable at any given moment. So often it’s dropped into a story that some celebrity or popular cultural phenomenon is ‘huge’ without there being any background detail in addition to the authorial voice to support the claim.

The efforts of the apparently Soviet undercover agents to get close to Vienna have been amusing, and at the same time created a nice sense of imminent danger; and finally they’ve got what they were after: the truth of Vienna’s relationship to the Dredd bloodline, and a potential hostage.

PW: This is chugging along nicely at the moment, with Gordon Rennie doing the usual good stuff with "his" characters (well they're not really his, but you know what i mean... characters he's been entrusted with, then). Not much happens, which is fine, because we're actually getting some kind of story here and not simply a slug/bullet fest. Although Rico does take his turn in the semi-regular talking-in-radio-while-fighting-bad guys sideshow. I'm happy that we know that "Travis" is a baddie, because we then won't have to suffer the "shock" of being told later on. Instead the suspense is building with regards to what exactly *is* going to happen. I've no idea, but do have a feeling that this isn't going to be a complete story, but a bridge between what has gone before and what is to come.

I'm also really liking Andrew Currie's art - it's not as cartoony as some of his previous outings, but he sure does a sexy version of Vienna (or any of the other babes in the backgrounds) and a particularly good George Clooney. Top stuff.

Script: Pat Mills
Art: Clint Langley
Letters: Ellie De Ville

Odacon - Part 6

Slaine heads off into the sunset...

Synopsis: Slaine and his company of demon hunters pursue the Fomorian Odacon on horseback through the forest. Odacon uses his magic to put illusions in Slaine’s path to slow him down. At the edge of the forest, Slaine catches up with Odacon at last. Slaine strikes the demon first with the Sword of the Moon, and then with his great axe. Wounded, Odacon throws Slaine off, and gallops his horse over a cliff into the sea to escape. However, the tide is out, and Odacon and his horse lie broken on the rocks at the base of the cliff. Odacon pleads with Slaine - his final request is to be allowed to die in the sea. Odacon begs for water, and Slaine urinates over him. Odacon curses Slaine as a filthy animal, and Slaine slices off Odacons head with his axe.

Days later, Gael is crowned the High King of Ireland, and becomes the founder of the Gaelic race. Slaine visits the barrow where his lost love Niamh is entombed. The affection between Amergin and Fais deepens. Slaine departs to search for his son, Kai, asking those who remain behind in Tara to always remember the Tribes of the Earth Goddess Danu.

I haven’t been a fan of Slaine for many a year, but I have enjoyed this series since he came back from that Other Density, restored to his old warp-spasming self, and then started giving the Witch Finder General a run for his money. As it happens, that whole short-lived cleansing and purifying things seems to have paid dividends in terms of exterminating the sea demon threat to humanity.

This double-length episode rounds the series off nicely, giving us a good few more pages of chase before Odacon plunges to his doom in a most unseemly way for a sea monster. It’s a very minor niggle that a sea demon must surely know the ebb and flow of tides just as land-dwellers must know when the sun rises and sets. Never mind: the important thing is that Odacon meets a gruesome comedy ending, which is surely better than Odacon and Slaine having yet another fight. Slaine piddling on his enemy wasn’t something I’d foreseen, and even a glance at the page didn’t tip me off ahead of reading the speech bubbles. Beautiful though Clint Langley’s artwork is, the meaning of the pictures and the relationship between the objects on the page aren’t always apparent until you read the words that go with them.

It was a fitting ending to the series, as the threat from Odacon escalated with each episode since his defeat at Tara, first with the parasitic Spawn, and then with the Fomorian queen Magenta Chill (seemingly named for early eighties punk rock). After that titanic underwater struggle, Odacon was on the run, his threat dwindling to nothing.

Then all the loose ends are tied up: Gael becomes king, Slaine visits Niamh’s grave, Amergin and Fais get all lovey-dovey and Amergin looks better without the straggly beard. Not only that, but the seeds are sown for Slaine’s next adventure: finding his son. I will watch for the next series with great interest. I do hope that too will be drawn by Clint Langley. I’ve got quite used to Slaine looking this way now.

One final quibble. What is that halo effect round the setting sun? Does the sun really look like that when you glimpse it through tree branches, barbarians’ crotches, etc. or is it just an artefact caused by pointing a camera lens at it? If so, whose lens are we looking at Slaine’s adventures through?

PW: If this was your regular 5-story prog, then I'd be inclined to write "praise the goddess for that!" and be done with it... However, as the barbarian-who-has-outstayed-his-welcome takes up 42.86% of this progs strip-page count, it would be rude of me to do so. Instead, here's my slightly more objective than usual take on things.

Slaine was better suited to 12 pages this week to allow for a more rounded conclusion to his latest tale. Page 3's usual battle with insults was both typical and overused, but as it progressed I particularly enjoyed Odacon's sudden realisation that he wasn't going anywhere. The tide was out, and Slaine was getting the last laugh again. It was prolonged *just* long enough to taunt the dying Fomarian - who wouldn't take pleasure at seeing the suffering of someone/thing who had caused you great pain?

The remaining 6 pages simply look very pretty, with only the poignant farewell to Niamh breaking it up. I'm tempted to say that the last 2 pages are the best we've seen in the books of invasions and would make a great poster. A poster with a huge banner "THIS IS THE LAST YOU'LL SEE OF SLAINE" - alas this is not very likely...

Script: Robbie Morrison
Art: Henry Flint
Letters: Tom Frame

The Assassin - Part 2

Valentine prives his worth...

Synopsis: Shakara returns to its base, where the group mind of the exterminated Shakara race ponders why it hesitated to execute their killer, Dr Procopio. The Shakara gestalt should not have felt any compassion toward Procopio; it should not have been affected by her expression of remorse and regret. Shakara was born only to kill as a weapon of vengeance and has no free will. This message is reinforced in the creature by the group mind. When at rest, Shakara’s suit opens up and its essence, a red substance, leaks out into the floor of its retreat.

Meanwhile, the greatest freelance assassin the universe has ever known, Valentine D’eath, is writing his memoirs. While trysting in his apartments with Katya the Insatiable, D’eath simultaneously assassinated Katya’s people’s enemy, the Growllian President with a psionically controlled bullet fired from his balcony moments earlier. Katya attempted to silence the assassin she hired for the hit by beaming a heavily-armed Strike Squad into the room to kill him, but their weapons were rendered useless by a nullifier D’eath had rigged up. He then killed the two-man Strike Squad with his bare hands.

Valentine D’eath’s reminiscences are interrupted by the arrival of Karnak Bleed, Master Inquisitor for the Federation of Psionic Powers, who has come to tempt the assassin out of retirement with the challenge of killing Shakara.

It’s great to have Shakara back in 2000ad again, and fantastic to get two double-length episodes in a row. The present series of Shakara brims over with neat ideas, from the fussily-detailed and bewildering war machines to the Cenobite-looking Doctor Procopio last issue; and this issue not only seeing Shakara leak out of its suit, but also the introduction of a great new character in Valentine D’eath via a sexy encounter with a cat-like alien. Valentine D’eath is pretty darn good value for a new character. He’s got a striking appearance in the same way as the ABC Warriors, the iconic character designs from Nemesis the Warlock, and Carlos Ezquerra’s aliens and mutants in Strontium Dog.

The lascivious bits in the story were similar in style to the saucy capers of Nikolai Dante, but whereas Dante’s escapades are almost always tongue-in-cheek, you can tell Valentine D’eath is supposed to really mean it, even if Robbie Morrison quite possibly doesn’t. There’s a slight danger here that Shakara has been upstaged by its new adversary, so it’s just as well D’eath is knocking on a bit and it’s probably best Shakara kills him off quickly.

But then, please Tharg - can we have the archive adventures of Valentine D’eath in a series of short spin-off tales?

PW: Another double-parter. We're simply being spoilt here with Henry Flint's art, because it's a treat to behold. In this kind of story, for me, it's much better to enjoy the backgrounds and the detail that's gone into them. Nothing really happens in the first part of the episode (which is probably why it's double-length), and to be honest the rest of it is pretty bog-standard stuff we've seen many times before. I have a feeling i'm going to enjoy this 100 times more when I read it in one go and try to appreciate the story (should one exist). It's still beautiful to look at, though not as good as last week.


DK: The new Dredd series continues to interest and impress me, and keeps me entertained. It was nice to see Slaine going out with a bang and getting the space he needs to properly grab the reader’s attention. Shakara is a modern masterpiece in the making, and must be set to become something like the top thrill of 2005. Much as I may stress the importance for my own reading pleasure of the story over the art, Henry Flint’s artwork on Shakara is sensational; and it’s not wasted on a shoddy script either.

It was a real pleasure to read a Prog with two double-length stories in; I sincerely hope Tharg is going to do more of this in the future. It makes for a more balanced reading experience than when only one stories is given a double episode.

PW: I'm so glad we have no more Offensive's/Assaults with dropping in/off points for readers... this means that even with only 3 stories, there's something for everyone here and - despite my slightly negative attitude towards Shakara, and my wholly negative attitude to Slaine - this is a good-looking prog with the promise of better to come

Best Story

DK: Shakara
PW: Judge Dredd

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).