October 4th, 2011
Welcome back to my bi-weekly review of the Galaxy’s Greatest/attempt to disprove that you can never go home… For a lengthy rationale for my return to Tharg’s bosom, go read the first post here.
Now let’s get busy with Progs 1752 & 1753…
Hey D’israeli? Nice cover!
First things first. After my failure to locate a newsagents in Central London that sells 2000AD, I had to settle for a comic shop, thus breaking the first of my silly self-imposed rules before I even began this endeavour. Then the self-same comic shop didn’t get Prog 1752 in the week before, meaning that I got both that and 1753 last Wednesday. So the whole ‘weekly’ thing kind of got blown out of my ass. Tracking down this ‘British weekly comic’ is proving bloody difficult. You’re breaking this Squaxx down Tharg – I’m trying to love you but you’re making it difficult. Can’t we all just…get along?
So the boys at Orbital Comics were telling me that apparently 2000AD will sell significantly better if it has a great cover, which kind of surprised me. I assumed that the loyal Squaxx would buy the comic religiously regardless of the aesthetic appeal. Don’t get me wrong – the comic at some points has had a superb design sense – the work of Steve Cook and Rian Hughes in the 80′s and 90′s was examplary, cutting edge stuff. Check out these scrotnig examples:
Still it suprised me that 2000AD buyers could be so fickle. Luckily the cover to 1752 by D’Israeli, Demon Draughtsman (ooh, a hot Deadline check, bitches!) is pretty boss – striking, funny and with a nod towards the highbrow – that’s a Hokusai reference after all.
It’s certainly the most visually striking of all the covers I’ve seen since I started buying regularly again. More interesting than the soft core quasi-gothic Angel Zero one on the previous Prog, or the totally bland PJ Maybe cover for Prog 1753.
So anyway – the stories:
Okay so in 1752 we’ve got a Dredd tale ‘guest-written’ by Michael Carroll. Now I think we all know my feelings on the matter of Dredd. Dredd = Wagner. Everything else is shadow-puppetry. But to give him is due, this wasn’t too bad. I mean, it’s coherent at least. Basically it’s a downtime episode that plays on Dredd’s elderly status in the Big Meg, that also doubles up as a little morality play on slack parenting and rather bizarrely ends up as a recruitment drive for the army/Police Force. Not sure if the writer was aiming for that.
It’s cute enough but I thought the characters’ voices were kind of ‘off’. They were lacking the ugly future Big Meg patois that Wagner excels in (seriously, the lumpiness of Dreddverse language is one of the best things about it – a synthesis of Burgess’ Nadsat from Clockwork Orange, and the tongue-twisting of Stanley Unwin). In ‘Downtime’ the characters sound like the bickering troglodytes that populate the Jeremy Kyle show.
But really. No Wagner = fake Dredd. It’s fan-fic. Sorry.
Wagner’s back in 1753 along with Henry Flint. I see now that the ‘Day of Chaos’ tag is a kind of umbrella title to indicate an overarching narrative arc. This episode deals with the hunt for notorious Mega City psychopath, PJ Maybe. It’s great to see Maybe – he’s been knocking around the Dreddverse for years, graduating from junior murderer to full blown serial killer. He’s constantly eluded JD, and when you consider how many top draw bad guys have still ended up with a bullet in their brain-pan on the way to Resyk after tangling with Old Stony Face – well, you have to admire the pluck of Maybe. Part of his appeal is his relentlessly sunny demeanor. His terrible spelling make his diary entries almost endearing despite the litany of atrocities contained therein. Anyway it’s great to see the scamp still up to his old tricks – a quick skim through his wiki page tells me that he even got elected Mayor – go Philip Janet! (Go take a look yourself – it’s great read).
Ugh. I really fucking hate this and am increasingly realising that Simon Davis’ stiff, horrid art is the main culprit. There are no backgrounds, everyone has a preposterous photo realistic face pulling a goonish expression, and it’s all just…blugh. I can’t even work out who the main character is. I think he’s done a lot of Sinister Dexter, who as any good Squaxx knows are one of the shittest creations to regularly soil the magazine’s pages, so he get’s a double NO! from this angry Beast. I can’t tell if the story might interest me if it had a better artist, but I suspect that it’s derivative nature and bland protagonist would bore me either way. Go away now.
The revamp of Indigo Prime continues apace, with the introduction of new agents – best new names are Crippen and Kiss – and a suggestion of the Big Bad (in true Smithian fashion it’s someone/thing called ‘The Nihilist’. Slightly reminsicent of the Herod, the terrifying antagonist from ‘Sirius Rising’, an unholy fusion of The Fury from Captain Britain and an Easter Island head…) and his/it’s brief appearance at the end of 1753 certainly suggests that he’ll be a top bastard – hopefully it’ll be as cruel and sadistic as any of the rotten meat demons, and unborn foetus bombs that populate John Smith stories.
The scripting is joyfully dense and filled with his sci-fi poetry/jargon. This is most definitely a different vision of Indigo Prime – more corporate and recognisably hard sci-fi, lacking the psychedelic grotesquery of the early 90′s version (that said, the whole idea of a ‘Spore War’ is a nice nod to that). This whole initial arc has been very much a world builder, and if I have one criticism it’s just that – I still feel like we’re in the prologue.
Purplewatch: JS delivers the goods. Let’s see now..
“…they ungrafted me from my slathersuit – plus I’ve already worked a double shift..”
“…you know how shonky the Calabi-Yau systems are since the upgrade..”
“…we got a rogue Bewilderbeest grazing down there…”
Great stuff! 7 out of 10.
Now for the bad news – the strip is on hiatus for two Progs. Goddamnit! Now this is really bringing back memories of how it used to feel reading 2000AD. The exquisite agony of finding that Zenith Phase 3 was going on a leave of absence to be replaced by some infantile bilge like Chronos Carnival (don’t…just don’t ask) or rambling horseshit like Junker or the revamped Harlem Heroes…look if you haven’t had to endure that kind of thing then you just haven’t paid your dues, okay? That said it doesn’t make it any less shit that Indigo Prime is leaving the comic for a couple of weeks. It was, you recall, the main reason I returned to the fray. expect slightly bad tempered reviews from this week onwards…
Hmm. Difficult to say still. It’s certainly keeping it’s hands close to it’s chest at the moment – we know that our heroine is hiding something, that she’s got more powers than her friends and family know…so far so ‘Long Kiss Goodnight’. There’s an evil bastard in a white suit, references to ‘building angels’… I’m going to give it some leeway simply for being somewhat intriguing, and for the pleasant retro feel that John Burns is giving the strip. It feels like it’s fallen from a worm-hole in 1976. (That said it is occasionally a little confusing what’s going on or where characters are) We’ll see I guess.
Right, I officially fucking LOVE Low Life. Dirty Frank is a great, great character. Script Droid Rob Williams and Art Droid D’israeli imbue him with pathos, whilst constantly reminding the audience that he is (in the words of one character) “pungent, overweight, slow, mentally ill, one-eyed and pungent”. But beating beneath this shambling frazzled exterior is also a man with pride, someone who values being a Judge more than anyone gives him credit for. Williams has a deft comedic touch, and gives Frank some great zinging lines. Combined with D’israeli’s subtle character work and some impeccable timing the whole thing reads like an absolute treat. Plus we have some excellent Sumo wrestling dinosaur sequences.
“Dirty Frank ascends! Whoopee!”
So I’m still on board, still really enjoying most of the comic. It’s solid, and occasionally inspired stuff for the majority, and the diversity of strips is refreshing. Let’s see how it fares minus Indigo Prime…
See you in two weeks. If not Tharg’ll be sending a Rigellian Hotshot straight up your collective arses.
Borag Thung Toodle Pip!