2000ad: prog 1535

21 05 2007

After a slightly nondescript Simon Davis cover, prog 1535 opens with the climax of the Judge Dredd: Origins mega-epic. This last installment is a fairly breathless sprint to the end, and having not read the preceding twenty-three episodes I can’t help feeling that this part zips by too fast. There’s some nice details though: I like the arc followed by Logan, who started the story with a bad hip and ends up by this point with just about everything else wrong with him, the payoff being that his hip is fixed along with the rest of his wounds when he returns to Mega-City One. I really like the evocative future-medical concept of a ‘paper lung’ (or do they already have those?).

There’s a lovely gnomic Dredd moment on page two. Joe asks the newly-arrived rescue party how they found him, and gets the reply: “Just followed the smoke.”

I have to admit at this point a certain blasphemy, a dirty little secret I have borne with secret shame for most of my life: I don’t really like CarlosEzquerra’s style. While I acknowledge his incredible body of work, his important place in comics lore, I just don’t like his lumpy shapes or scratchy hatching. And his women look awful (what is going on with Hershey’s fringe?). But his Judges in full gear do look wicked.

Heresy I know. Don’t mention Ron Smith or Mike McMahon either.

If the first few pages race by, the last three screech to a halt with the shattering meeting between Dredd and Fargo on the old man’s long-deferred deathbed. There’s a double revelation of Fargo’s regret, and Dredd’s concealing Fargo’s dying wish. It’s a Pyrrhic victory to say the least, and definitely the sort of moral and narrative ambiguity I want to see in action comics. The last three panels are a moment of stillness but possess a real punch that resonates forward and backwards through theDredd mythos: Was it all a lie? And what will Dredd do now?

More hard-hitting ambiguity in the climax to Savage: Double Yellow. Charlie Adlard’s wetter, high contrast black and white art has a real feel of solidity. It’s richly contemporary stuff from Pat Mills, with insurgent groups threatening to behead hostages, popular demos turning into armed revolution, and talk of ‘blood for oil’. Only the oil comes from the North Sea, not the Middle East. The oppressive armed forces are overthrown in the West End, not the West Bank. There’s a message of hope in the realisation by fanatical revolutionaries that popular uprising (“This really is ‘our finest hour’!”) is better than extremism (“For an eye – both eyes. For a tooth – the whole jaw.”) Then there’s the great little moment of unreconstructed ‘ard man Bill Savage delivering a message to the US president that “nobody like armed missionaries.”

After all that breathless social comment Detonator X seems a bit vanilla. Alright, there’s an environmental message in there, but aren’t warsuits vs intradimensional monster invaders a bit old hat? I haven’t read the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic regularly for years, and even I’ve seen it before. Yowell’s art is a bit insubstantial and the colours are too pastel. And the warsuits look lame. We’ll see if it gets better.

You can, of course, always rely on Sinister Dexter. Not sure about Finnigan’s new look (I liked it when he looked like Ginger Wildheart) but I do like Simon Coleby’s chunky, dynamic art that keeps things ticking even when not much is actually happening. I actually prefer this kind of flowing, subtle narrative development to the choppier, tie-things-up-quick bang-bang-bang-the-end of the Savage andDredd stories.

The Nikolai Dante strip is a bit like that. Another final part, it’s not much more than a scrap with a werewolf, and as such doesn’t really have a huge amount of storyline to draw together, so you can forgive the simplicity. There is a touch of depth in the Christian iconography and John Woo-esque church setting which could have been teased out more. Still, I love John Burns’ work, especially his mad-eyed loonie priest here, but I wish he’d put borders on his panels. The speech bubbles are too incongruous without similarly weighted frame borders.

I zipped through this prog faster than I wanted to. But I’ll be coming back to the last three frames of Origins again, I suspect.




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