Sunday, 25 October 2009 00:00
Synopsis by Gavin Hanly
Review by Robert Cornell & Floyd Kermode
Cover by Ben Willsher
Robert Cornell: A money shot of a major character. Nicely done but so generic it hurts. Could be one of hundreds down the years.
Floyd Kermode: First off - Short review which may be copied for Twittering purposes: Yay! Yeehah! Woo-hoo! Alrighty! Oh.
As for the cover - not electrifying, but a good solid cover.
Judge Dredd - Tour of Duty - Snake
Script: John Wagner - Art: Mike Collins - Colours: Chris Blythe - Letters: Annie Parkhouse
Snake meets the real man in charge...
Synopsis: The mutant Snake always found a way to get what he wanted. He was one of the first mutants into the Mega City One when the laws were relaxed, killing and stealing to get ahead. And he was one of the first into the townships when he could see the opportunities there. But after his first fight, he is thrown out of the township by Dredd as a lesson to the others. He's found by Pink Eyes' crew who kill and eat him...
Robert Cornell: We’re well into this long anticipated mega-epic and so far Wagner has surprised me every step of the way, not least by relegating Dredd himself to a sub-plot. The main story is being kept at a tantalising distance.
In fact, Dredd himself can go missing altogether. This week he’s relegated to a cameo within a vignette within a digression within a sub-plot. And it doesn’t matter. We’re treated to a classic “citizen shafted by the City” one-off. Or, as Snake colourfully puts it, “browned on from on high.”
It gives us a new angle on things we’ve already seen and quietly nudges the story along. Snake is a great one-off character and his fate is genuinely horrible.
Mike Collins’ artwork goes a long way towards selling the story. He does good mutie.
I can’t wait to read the collected edition.
Floyd Kermode: Yay!
Art aside, all is praise here. The art’s okay really. I’m tired of reading that Wagner is a legend who relentlessly pumps out brilliant comics ideas, but for this story that’s pretty much what he does. He’s in fine form.
First up, this is a story which is a detour from the big story, but which helps carry the main yarn, 'Tour of Duty' along. It supports the main thread without being tiresome about it. You could read and enjoy this without having read any other Dredd at all. There's a new baddie who seems conventional but isn't, so there’s a rare treat. Dredd is hardly in the story but does some tough stuff. We're well set up for more ratbags confronting Dredd in the next prog.
I'm not crazy about the art, which reminds of Colin Wilson at his all-too-frequent corniest. I gather from the pages of the Judge Dredd Megazine that Wilson is a legend amongst 2000AD artists, but to me he ranges from adequate to ‘everyone snarls as though living in the future causes constipation’. The art on ‘Snake’ does the job well enough while not being Wilson, which is a good thing.
Strontium Dog - The Mork Whisperer - Part 8
Script: John Wagner - Art: Carlos & Hector Ezquerra - Letters: Ellie De Ville
Johnny comes out fighting...
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Shakara - The Destroyer - Part 9
Script: Robbie Morrison - Art: Henry Flint - Letters: Ellie De Ville
Shakara plays galactic pool...
Synopsis: Shakara is repaired just as the attacking fleet arrives. While Shakara uses the asteroids to destroy some of the oncoming ships, Brenekka uses this opportunity to scan for whatever is controlling them. He locates the base and the attack begins...
Robert Cornell: Bottom line: Shakara is repetitive but visually mind-blowing. Does Morrison’s script exist only to provide cool things for Flint to draw? Well, yes and no. We’ve moved away from mysterious avenger (Book 1) and Warlord of the Week (Book 2) but as a character, there’s not much to Shakara. These days, he’s talking a bit but doesn’t have a lot worth saying.
On the other hand, this is the only strip I’ve ever liked purely for the artwork, which is beyond cool, it’s ultra-cool. Huge fleets of alien ships, battles fought with asteroids, our hero falling to his certain death… Er, what… again?
Floyd Kermode: Woo hoo!
Shakara! Creepy alien things a go-go! More cogently, we get a well graded mix of exposition and space action stuff here. It's about a thousand times more exposition than most Shakara stories, which, unless I've been missing something, mostly boil down to:
- evil freaky alien does some evil stuff and brags a bit
- Shakara gives them a violent futuristic clip round the ear
- - Shakara says 'shakara'
....all of which goes on against a background of brilliant Henry Flint artwork that makes you feel funkier for just having looked at it. I find the above recipe quite addictive and have occasionally worried that it couldn't last. Just as Sinister/Dexter became way less enjoyable when they stopped being amoral slobs and got into all that defending the values of their loveable mid-European dystopia, so too I thought would Shakara one day disapear in a mire of boring plot niceties and character development. It's a hazard of comics that characters who are just awesome for being there have to go on and on.
Well O Me of Little Faith! This week's YouKnowWho-ara is expository as buggery but still brimming with Shakaraish goodness. Shakara even says a few extra words, but he's still got it although we have to wait to next week to see if he gets it, boom boom.
Kingdom - Call of the Wild - Part 9
Script: Dan Abnett - Art: Richard Elson - Colours: Abigail Ryder - Letters: Simon Bowland
Gene takes a side...
Synopsis: Gene breaks out Paul Numan who has told him that he can take Gene and Leezee somewhere safe. They go to a network hub to search for Leezee and find her chained up elsewhere in the city. However, Dingo Star has found them and attacks Gene...
Robert Cornell: Although it made its debut in early 2007, I still think of Kingdom as a new story; it seems pretty fresh and it’s rapidly become one of my favourite ongoing stories. There are no big surprises: Gene rescues Numan and then we have the anticipated dust up with Dingo Star. (Sorry, I still love those names.) This isn’t the time for surprises; it’s a gear-change week, when the pace picks up ready for the big finish.
One of the main reasons I like Kingdom so much is Gene. I like Gene. He’s a likeable guy. He has all the positive canine virtues: he’s loyal, protective, resourceful and good in a fight. He can even use a toilet. Probably.
Could anyone other than Richard Elson draw Kingdom? It’s hard to imagine. He’s gone from strength to strength as the strip has progressed.
Floyd Kermode: Alrighty!
There's a pun, a poignant kid in peril and a fight between dogs who work out here – what's not to like? Like Shakara, this weeks Kingdom has me guessing what'll happen next week. That's not essential; I'm next to completely sure of what's happening in the next Strontium Dog, which doesn't stop it from being awesome, but it's nice to have your curiosity tickled a bit.
Dunno about you, but I’m really interested in answering the various questions that are raised here – ie, what’s with the giant tick in the girl’s side? Do humans have a future or will it all be giant insects and dogs with punny actor names? These aren’t things I normally wonder about. The art is gorgeous and in saying that, I honestly forgot my personal interest in seeing Richard Elson do well.
(Reviewer’s declaration of interest: Richard Elson once emailed me to ask me to get him something from Japan. No it wasn’t schoolgirl undies. Ever since then, I’ve felt star struck about his art and wanted his work to rock).
Necrophim - Hell's Prodigal - Part 3
Script: Tony Lee - Art: Lee Carter - Letters: Ellie De Ville
Uriel lays a trap...
Synopsis: Uriel and Neberon fight until Lucifer asks for proof of Neberon's deceit. Uriel leaves to frame Neberon, taking his feather and using it on a knife that he kills Ezerat with - knowing that this will enrage heaven. Meanwhile, Cythea decides to betray Uriel to Neberon...
Robert Cornell: Necrophim has its virtues but pace isn’t one of them. The “you’re a traitor! No, you’re a traitor!” stuff continues this week. And they’re working for Heaven, or Hell, or both or neither. Oh, if only I cared just a little bit. Necrophim is one of those stories I want to like more. It’s something a bit different in the Prog. The hook sounds pretty good but doesn’t quite do justice to it.
It’s as if Lee can’t quite adapt to the 2000 AD style, especially the short, short episodes. A reminder of what’s happened before: Excellent. Taking a whole episode doing it: Not so good.
As for the characters; I’d be hard pushed to tell you their names.
Lee Carter’s artwork is excellent; detailed, eye-catching, goes well with the mood of the story. I’m not keen on the way the panels are arranged. Usually the three times two layout, with a few variations. It’s probably that way for a reason but it just seems unimaginative to me. Picky? Who, me?
There’s still time for this to catch fire. It needs that little something extra.
Floyd Kermode: Oh.
Satan speaks for this reader when he says 'bored of this now' in panel 4. I feel for you, O vaguely Keith Richardsy, lethargic Lord of the Underworld, really I do. Necrophim is working on me the same way that Stalag 666 did* The story has lots of interesting elements, even if here they're a bit over done. Just imagine, factions in Hell! Just imagine, demons from different cosmologies meeting! All done elsewhere a lot, all potentially interesting, none interesting here. If the story were riveting, the fact that all this has been done before by Garth Ennis, John Milton and, no doubt, countless others, would only increase my admiration. As it is, I just wished I was reading Ennis instead.
This weeks Necrophim had a fairly clever bit of sneakiness on the part of the main character. I found that interesting as a piece of plot and then realized I couldn’t remember who the supporting character being sneaked on was. A demon working for Heaven undercover? An angel working in Hell undercover? Just some demon who is tired of the hero? I don’t know because the story hasn’t made the distinction between these characters interesting enough for me to bother remembering. There is more potential interest in the idea of a demon who is really, really into loyalty, but it goes nowhere.
To be fair, the story does feature a lady’s bosoms and possibly the first appearance of mobile phones in Hell. The art, even when not involving those elements, is pretty Hell-appropriate.
*for those who came in late, this was basically the Great Escape in space, with lizards instead of Nazis. Potentially interesting but by the end I had trouble caring about the characters or even telling them apart.
Robert Cornell: The Prog is strong at the moment. Necrophim and Shakara suffer in comparison to two big hitters and a personal favourite but contribute to nice range of styles and genres. Strontium Dog and Kingdom would go head to head in a normal line up but Wagner’s writing on Dredd is simply invincible at the moment.
Best story: Judge Dredd.
Floyd Kermode: Fantastic, apart from Necrophim. With four such satisfying strips, who cares what Tharg does with the other pages?
Best story:This is a tough one. The story for Dredd is more interesting, but Strontium Dog has Ezquerra too. Aaargh, I’ll go for Strontium Dog, by a whisker, with Dredd very close behind, followed by Shakara and Kingdom, both also in a photo finish.