¦ Reviews ¦ Progs
1439 - 1444 ¦2000AD Prog 1443
Cover: Simon Davis
Prog 1443 - 15 June 2005
review by Richard Pearce
2nd Opinion by Leigh Shepherd
3rd Opinion by Sam Wilkinson
and reviews contain spoilers for this issue.
Davis turns out a typically attractive cover that is clearly inspired by film
posters for the 1970s film versions of Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile"
and, more relevantly, "Murder on the Orient Express". It's a smart decision
that sets the tone for the story beginning inside and introduces the key players,
and the careful use of appropriate typefaces is a welcome touch that finishes
the cover nicely.
LS: SB Davis
is good at heads, so when he draws seven of them, you know he isnt going
to make too many mistakes. The train is a bit wimpy though, and not particularly
impressive. Still, it's another in a run of covers that are trying something a
bit different and as such, it's hard to hold such nitpicking against it.
somewhat in two minds about this cover, and can't put my finger on exactly why.
Simon Davis's picture is an effective one, succeeding in its task of making us
all think about murder mysteries on trains and the like, but as a cover I don't
think it's all that effective; it fails to grab one's attention and demand 'buy
me' in the way that a cover really should, possibly due to the rather bland background
Trails - Part 4
er... I mean Travis, takes aim
At a retreat in the Black Sea Sov Southern Territories, Anatoli Kazan - Warlord
Kazan's crippled clone (last seen in Gulag)
- meets with his aide, Yuri, to discuss their investigation of Vienna. Based on
what Yuri tells him Kazan determines that Vienna is Dredd's niece and tells Yuri
it is time for Pasha to "engage fully with the target".
is with a team of Judges in the basement of a Mega-City car park waiting to arrest
Myron Loont. Rico reports to Dredd with what little information he has found on
"Travis Cole", Pasha's alias. Dredd tells him to contact Brit-Cit's
Justice Department to find out more. Loont emerges from the car park lift and
confronted by Dredd and his team. After a brief gunfight, Loont is subdued and
In a restaurant,
Vienna and Pasha are having a meal with Renee and her boyfriend, Colin. Colin
is from Brit-Cit and asks Pasha what part of the country he comes from. Pasha
tells him he's from Oxford Sector, but almost has his cover compromised when he
doesn't recognise a pub that Colin asks him about.
After the four
finish the meal and say their goodbyes, Pasha takes a taxi to Colin and Renee's
home in Joe Madden Block to take care of his earlier mistake. He surprises the
couple by bursting into their apartment, then shoots Colin in the face and guns
down Renee. As a final touch he places his pistol in Colin's hand, then calmly
leaves the block...
Trails moves along briskly, revealing - for anyone who hadn't already guessed
- who is behind the investigation of Dredd and Vienna. As always with Gordon Rennie's
Dredd tales this story shows that he has a firm grasp of Dredd himself, but I
have my doubts about exactly where this story is heading. Perhaps the reader is
being carefully misled, and the story so far will be turned on its head in the
next few weeks, but at the moment this tale is well written and crafted - but
completely safe and predictable. Andrew Currie is still producing polished, professional
art, but it just isn't a style that suits this story, or Dredd in general.
It's perhaps also
worth mentioning that this is the third story in Rennie's "Clone Kazan"
arc with a different artist. I appreciate that the pressures of weekly publication
and artist availability mean that a single artist can't always be called on for
each story in an ongoing storyline, but when stories like Savage, Slaine and Caballistics,
Inc. are clearly being scheduled so that that can be arranged, I would like to
see more care being given to Dredd, especially with Rebellion's new focus on reprinting
recent Dredd stories.
As with every story in the prog, this tale demands that you've been paying attention
for the past couple of years. Thankfully, the synopses above should be pointing
you in the direction of the previous tales this ties in with. Thought you could
live without 2000AD Review's handy recaps? This prog begs to differ! Most immediately,
the aftermath of Total War and Vienna's trip to Hospital are relevant, as are
recent Democratic Terrorist tales and the one from a while back with Kazan's (oddly
All these strands
mix together with a new Vienna in Peril subplot to try and create another "Dredd
as thriller" tale. It's not a bad move, as Wagner has been very successful
with these kind of Dredd strips in recent years. For me personally, too much of
this seems to cover old ground, either in terms of the previous Dredd stories
(Sovs, Vienna as pawn to get to Dredd) or previous thriller clichés (Pasha's
removal of Colin). The stories certainly building up to something, or so were
told. Actually, I wish they wouldn't keep telling the readers when someones
due to die, or how major a story is going to be, as all it does is ruin any surprise
when the person dies or the world shaking event arises. I'm old enough to remember
the shocks of Block Mania, where Giant died and half the Meg evaporated without
so much as a warning!
One thing that
I found a bit unlikely was Pasha's decision to off Colin. Surely that's more likely
to blow his cover anything Colin might do - Couldn't he just avoid Colin until
his job is done?
I liked Andrew
Curries art on Doomsday, but I'm not quite as impressed with this outing.
The caricatures are a little too obvious, and his Vienna is a bit too cute given
the more masculine jawline other artists have given her. Beyond those quibbles,
it is pretty decent Dredd art.
As the story picks up the pace, and Gordon Rennie reveals that this is, as we
all suspected, a crazy Sov plot, he magnanimously throws us a handful more clues
and leads to keep us all guessing. The oft-used 'Ah, you're from <x>? Me
too! Don't you remember <y>?' routine is used particularly well here, letting
Rennie start the killing off of people close to the Dredd family, as well as demonstrate
what a clever and dangerous bastard Pasha is. Why, though, did he use the Clooney
face to do the job, despite his general affection for swapping faces a lot?
art is lovingly detailed and effectively drawn, crisp and clean while avoiding
drawing any more famous people. Or, at least, I never noticed any.
One question, though: how, on panel two of page two, does a security robot not
notice half a dozen judges hiding rather conspicuously a matter of feet away?
Ellie De Ville
2. In the depths of the Lumin Sphere, Imoti Landual Shra awakens. Shra
is a member of an alien species known as the Riders: curious, multi-limbed beings
who appear to be searching for some kind of change in the universe outside.
Fitting a mask
to its face, Shra sets out beyond the Sphere to seek "the Death". As
it drifts across strange, barren landscapes it detects something and moves closer
to investigate. It finds a humanoid figure wielding blades and a cannon, battling
a swarm of creatures...
RP: Atavar was a story hardly crying out for a sequel, let alone two. The
first "book" struck me as little more than an extended Future Shock,
while its sequel was cut so far adrift from the original as to be almost a separate
strip. On the strength of this opening episode, it appears that the final installment
of the saga is going to follow the same pattern. Time will tell whether Dan Abnett
can bring this "trilogy" to a satisfying close.
art is as solid and well realised as ever, but strikingly conservative in a series
that focuses on the bizarre and alien.
As Tharg seems well aware, this strip is the worst offender in terms of "previously
in 2000AD" syndrome. He was a man, who died, and came back, and fought robots,
then didnt, but should have, then a big space cancer came along...I think.
Luckily, The Mighty One is willing to sell you the answers in his future shop!
Not that reading
it would give you much more insight to what's going on if your experience of the
strip is anything like mine. A Flying alien goes out into the big bad messed up
universe, and bumps into (presumably) Atavar. Perhaps a double length episode
might have disguised the slightness of these 6 pages, as it did with the return
of Shakara a couple of weeks ago (Five pages of Shakara.... draining!).
similarly universe spanning Durham Red, I feel a bit lost in the epicness
of it all to be particularly engaged.
Abnett's space opera begins afresh, with an opening episode in which not very
much happens. I'll be frank: Atavar has always been something of a closed book
to me, another vaguely interesting space story among hundreds. This first episode
of the third book does little to dissuade me, though I am willing to accept the
possibility that the series might progress beyond 'Atavar finds things to fight,
talk to, and then fight again.' Unfortunately, that's just what I fear will happen
in this upcoming storyline.
art is, as ever, well suited to this kind of story, and he clearly gets a kick
out of visualising a variety of alien creatures and situations. Unfortunately,
it's also something of a downfall for him: he tends to utilise the same imaginative
techniques for stories like this and A.H.A.B., for instance, which means that
there's always an element of similarity between alien or robot characters in otherwise
Assassin - Part 3
unleashes his speciality...
the planet Azaki 12, a castle is being laid siege by a warlord and his army. From
out of the hordes surrounding the castle, a huge figure bounds toward the keep.
This is Fist, a cyclopean berserker with a monstrous artificial left arm. He pounds
the base of the castle causing it to collapse, much to the displeasure of the
warlord who had hired him. He hurls insults at Fist, who turns and crushes him.
Valentine D'eath has been watching all of this and now he steps forward to reintroduce
himself to Fist.
Valentine is recruiting
old accomplices to help him with the assassination of Shakara, and next on his
list is Phaze. Phaze is a Shifter, a creature who can summon versions of her self
from across the multiverse to fight in this dimension. She's initially reluctant
to help, but Phaze and Valentine used to be lovers, and Valentine uses all of
his charm - and a spot of flattery - to tempt her back.
recruit is Void, a sentient, psychotic Dwarf Galaxy. He's scornful of Valentine's
request, asking him why he shouldn't just kill him right there. Valentine has
a proposal for Void: if he wins a card game with him, he can take everything he
owns and kill him; if he loses, he has to do one last job for Valentine. Unfortunately
for Void, he's an inveterate gambler and can't resist Valentine's gambit. He loses
and in a fit of rage demolishes the casino. Standing in the wreckage, Void asks
Valentine who they're going to kill and Valentine tells him:
that should've died a long, long time ago..."
return of Shakara to the pages of 2000AD in prog 1441 was a welcome antidote to
the tiresome adventures of Sláine and Dan Abnett's reimagined V.C.s, and
in the weeks since it's become the first story I turn to. That's due in large
part to Henry Flint's remarkable art, a style that echoes two of my favourite
2K artists, Mike McMahon and Kevin O'Neill, without ever simply aping them. His
design work here is striking, from the alien-bondage-freak look of Shakara itself
and the raging, one-eyed Fist, right down to small touches like images on playing
cards and slot machines.
seems to be riffing off classic 2000AD strips like Nemesis the Warlock and ABC
Warriors, and there is a slight feeling of déjà vu to this "recruiting
the team" passage, but it's handled lightly enough to overcome this sense
of familiarity. The focus on D'eath himself has clearly paid off; he's strange
enough to fit in to this universe, but his very human character and motivations
give him an appeal that the wholly alien Shakara lacks.
Now Shakara on the other hand, does epic quite well. Certainly it was one of the
plus points of the original run, beside Henry Flint's gorgeous art. Set against
these positives were the repetitive nature of Shakara's exploits and the invulnerability
of its star. The fact that the plot of Shakara could be boiled down to mysterious
Alien freedom fighter travelling the universe in his spacecraft and uttering only
one word also meant it had to brave a few comparisons with the superior Nemesis
For all that, the
original run was a fair stab at trying to do something different yet at the same
time old school. The new run seems to have learnt from past weaknesses, adding
in some back story to Shakara and developing some (hopefully) credible foes for
him to face. In doing so, the alien angle to the strip has suffered (all of the
villains have very human traits - gamblers and lovers, even the sentient Galaxy!),
but it does seem to have gained a bit more depth.
to say about the art, that hasn't been said before - Henry Flint is 2000AD's premier
artist from the last decade, and never knowingly undersells a panel, let alone
Imaginative, original story and characters, fantastic art courtesy of the
talented Mr Flint, and a man with a giant hand. Where can you go wrong? Well,
with the current series of Shakara, it seems you can't. The first single-length
story of the run doesn't suffer from the cut in page length; instead it allows
a focus on the elements of the story which don't involve Shakara, but rather the
creations who populate his universe. It's these that I'm loving about this series
- just as Joe Dredd is really a tool to show us Mega-City One, Shakara is just
a means for us to explore this war-torn universe through him. There are a number
of highlights in this episode, but among them has to be the sight of Valentine
De'ath in a tux. The man has style.
Train to Kal Kutter - Part 1
Fuscus gets mussed...
aboard a train in Indian National Territory.
Isobel - last seen
Business, apparently shot dead by Kal Cutter - is hiding in a carriage.
She's startled by gunfire outside, and when someone opens the door and says her
name she looks up - into the barrel of a gun.
The previous Tuesday.
Somewhere in the Balkan wastelands.
Ramone and Finnigan
skid to a halt at the end of a car chase. Smoke and flame rises in the distance
from the vehicle they were pursuing. As they go to check the crashed vehicle a
figure emerges from the flames. The duo recognise him just as he opens fire on
them. They take cover behind the Edsel to return fire, and Sinister tells Dexter
that the "kid's really dropped us in it this time!"
Downlode. The previous
Ramone and Finnigan
arrive at the Belle Epoch, a glitzy Downlode restaurant, for a meeting with Senor
Apellido (last seen in Just Business). They're met by his henchmen, Mr Albus and
Mr Fuscus, and led to Apellido. Apellido is furious, telling the pair that he
has a problem - and that means they have a problem.
Kal Cutter is aboard
the Suleiman Express, a luxury train bound for Mumbai. He's talking on the phone
to his brother, Sanjeev, telling him that he's messed up and that he's on his
way home. He returns to his carriage, where Isobel is waiting for him
RP: I'm firmly of the opinion that the duo are long past their use-by-date,
but very occasionally Dan Abnett writes a story that reminds me of what was exciting
about the strip in the first place. It's clear from the outset that this will
be a more tragic story than we've been used to from Sin/Dex recently - possibly
harking back to Eurocrash - and this, coupled with the focus on Kal Cutter, promises
something more substantial than the filler that this reader has come to expect
from the series.
It helps that Simon
Davis - the definitive Sinister Dexter artist, in my opinion - is back on the
strip. The series has never looked better than it does in his hands, and the promise
of exotic locations ahead on this adventure should give him the opportunity to
equal his work on Gunshark Vacation.
this is an intriguing opening episode that bodes extremely well for this adventure.
LS: As was
speculated at the time, Kal Cutter didn't shoot Isobel all those progs ago, and
it seems Apellido has found out. Setting aside the incompetence of Sinister and
Dexter in allowing this to happen in the first place (wouldnt Apellido have
wanted some evidence of her death at the time?), the story promises to be less
throwaway than many previous tales, and may be all the better for it. SB Davis
art always adds a bit of class to the strip that he's made his own, so we can
but wait and see how this one develops.
Typical. Dan Abnett gets two strips in the same prog, and I've never had one.
I'll forgive Tharg, though, because it looks like this run for the hitmen might
well be quite enjoyable. Abnett's decision to give us a story told in a series
of flashbacks, feeding us the story jigsaw-style may well work out, especially
for a story that's beyond the typical 'let's whack someone' guff. If the rest
of the story's written as well as this opener, I might actually be looking forward
to reading Sin/Dex every week, instead of treating it as the chore it can often
Simon Davis on
art duty is, of course, excellent, and it's good to see Tharg making sure the
best stories are matched with the best artists. One puzzler, though. Whatever
happened to the 'this is Downlode, the city that forgot to pay its dry cleaning
bill' bits? I quite liked those.
Dark - Part 1
goes out for a spin
Continues from the end of Safehouse.
At the Caballistics, Inc. headquarters, Jenny is meant to be recovering from her
battle with the angel in Safe House. Instead, she's preparing for a night on the
Verse and Brand are in Inverness-shire investigating the latest in a string of
brutal murders. Brand suspects that something supernatural is responsible for
the killings, and uses his slightly rusty geomancy to pinpoint a nearby stone
circle. The three go to investigate, while in the woods nearby several bestial
figures watch and wait
Ravne and Ness are in Fleshmarket Close in Edinburgh. Ness notices that Ravne
seems to know his way around, and asks him if he's been here before. Ravne tells
him he has - though not since 1737. They arrive at a pub called The Resurrection
Man's Rest, but when the pair step inside they're met by an angry
mob, all of whom seem to recognise Ravne
Back in London,
Jenny is drinking in a Soho pub. A man approaches her and asks if she's looking
for some company. She tells him no, but that she's looking for some fun and suggests
that they go somewhere quieter to talk about it
RP: The fifth and final strip in this week's prog, and a welcome return appearance.
I've made no bones about my appreciation of this strip: it's one of a handful
of stories from the past five years that can stand comfortably alongside other
2000AD classics, and that can lift a prog whenever it appears.
This episode is
no exception, and we're launched straight into the aftermath of Safe House. Rennie
deftly handles several strands, as three of the team head to northern Scotland
to find out what's been killing people in Inverness-shire, while Ravne and Ness
visit Edinburgh for what appears to be another revelation about Ravne's origins,
and Jenny continues her own little adventures back in London.
It's this smart
juggling of multiple storylines, posing and answering questions in equal measure
that makes Caballistics, Inc. so compelling. The reader is fed just enough to
intrigue and solve some minor mysteries, but is always left wanting more. It stands
in stark contrast to other ongoing stories in the prog, and indeed to Gordon Rennie's
other contribution in this prog, Blood Trails. From the very first episode several
years ago, there has been a feeling that anything could happen, that any character
could be introduced or removed at a moment's notice, that gives Caballistics a
power that other tales lack.
Of course, Dom
Reardon's deceptively simple art is a large factor in the appeal of the strip.
His work here is as enjoyable as ever, and I'm particularly looking forward to
seeing more of the grotesque beastmen glimpsed on page three.
seems to be the name of the game in Caballistics again, with Jenny recovering
from being sliced and diced in the previous tale fairly quickly. You have to question
why the "good" members of Caballistics Inc hang around, teaming up with
the greater evil in order to defeat the lesser doesn't seem to me the best career
move. When even the Lord Almighty is after your work colleagues (haven't we all
been there?), you just know it's time to update your CV. As it is, they seem quite
happy to be chums with the Damned and it would be nice if the story could touch
on this seeming incongruity (especially the God Fearing Lawrence Verse, who witnessed
the Angel attack on Jenny).
Even with those
thoughts nipping away at the back of my mind, Caballistics continues to be a worthy
strip, always pushing forward (sometimes a little too quickly) and developing
the characters and their back story. Dom Reardons art continues to improve
week on week
Cabs return for another of Gordon Rennie's excellently scribed tales, so I
won't begrudge that he gets two strips as well. As is his wont, he's got the team
handily broken down into a few groups, so that we can not only get three times
the tension at the end of an episode, but he can also give each of his characters
the dialogue and development they deserve - there isn't room for them all to be
squeezing around the corpse of Tom Baker, for one thing, and the sharing of dialogue
wouldn't function at all.
Nice to see Dr.
Brand doing some magic of his own, instead of being a walking encyclopaedia or
gawper as he's occasionally in danger of becoming. The closing with two separate,
contrasting bar scenes is a particularly nice touch, I thought.
Circuit Breakers is
a welcome addition to the prog, let down by terrible design. From the awful Tharg
head and the ugly typeface to the messy layout, this section is a real disaster.
Why is the Flint's "droid name" hidden at the bottom of the page? Why
is so much space wasted by huge pictures of album and book covers? How did this
design get into the prog?
I'd love to see
this become a regular feature, but I think a serious reconsideration of the page
layout is needed. Dropping the book, album and DVD covers, as well as the Tharg
illustration, streamlining and simplifying the layout and making the droid illustration
larger would be a good start.
Droid Life is an
amusing nod to 2000AD history, and always welcome, and the plug for the collected
edition of Atavar is timely.
It was a close
race for best story this prog, and while I was tempted to single out Caballistics,
it was a quiet opening episode and D'eath and co. were so entertaining that it
has to be...
LS: A better
prog than we've seen for a while, with two stories (Shakara and Caballistics)
holding my interest and nothing too dull making up the numbers. Art wise, its
a consistent standard with flashes of brilliance from the Flint droid. It's still
a prog that would benefit from a Wagner or Mills script to balance things out
for us old fogeys, though.
SW: A solid,
reliable prog, with the only weak point for me being the reappearance of Atavar,
but I'm sure he's got enough fans to warrant it not becoming a black mark on an
otherwise classic example of how a prog should be put together. Even Sinister
Dexter manages to be interesting and worth reading, which Dredd, Shakara and Caballistics
are all top-notch.
LS: Shakara (the
art just swinging it)
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