I was aprehensive about the new look and when I first saw this week's prog I have to say I was less than impressed. Sure the logo looks good - it's dynamic but looks like something straight off a website, certainly not futuristic and nowhere near as in-your-face as the old one, which is not good for a comic struggling to be seen on the newsagent shelves. Maybe it'll grow on me, but I doubt it.
The artwork on the cover is better, though. The orange background catches the eye well and it's a good picture of Dredd. The cover screams "action"; which is, after all, what the comic is supposed to be about.
Judge Dredd: SABS, part 1 - I'm undecided about this artwork. While the faces are drawn really well, giving everyone a distinctive look (and Dredd a massive chin that I'm not all that sure about), the rest doesn't often look right - it's too cartoony. The Mega City blocks look suitably futuristic and also rather large, as does the Statue of Judgement, the rest doesn't often look quite right. I think it's the lack of detail and heavy reliance on the colourist for extra details brought out by shading.
The story is great, which more than makes up for any problems with the artwork. Both sides' morals are a little ambiguous: the Judges are the good guys, but they're spying on everyone in the city every second of their lives while the SABs are just ordinary citizens who are unhappy about the spying, yet they become bad guys by going out and destroying cameras. Who's right? You be the judge. Brilliantly written and thoroughly enjoyable.
Sinister Dexter: Feeding Frenzy, part 1 - I love this artwork - it's packed with detail and looks great. The colouring has a tendency to make people look a little plasticy but aside from that it's good. Not sure why Sinister has lost his red nose though. Maybe it's just for continuity with the last couple of artists - his hair is short now, too.
The story is silly. It's got far too many stupid suggestions from Sinister, backed up with the line "no it couldn't", said too many times. Still, it could be worse - could have been as bad as Slaine, although that would be a feat. Not one I'd like to see, though.
Red Fang, part 1 - I'm not all too sure about this. It seems to be going somewhere but feels a little too slow. There's also a lot of dialogue and the little action there is is confined to a page-sized frame and a couple of frames on the final page. Maybe it'll improve, maybe not. I certainly hope the artwork does - it's got little detail and heavy use of large blocks of computer colouring, by which I mean there's little variance in tone, just a block of colour next to another block. Not good.
Nikolai Dante: Love and War, part 1 - Powerful storytelling. Whereas book one focused on the plight of the Romanovs, this book looks to be focusing on the Tzarist forces, in particular Jena Makarov. It's compelling reading and the magnificant artwork serves to add another layer to the depressing story, by clearly showing the devastation wrought by the war, in rather graphic detail at times. The single frame on page three is breathtaking. While the ship floating in the foreground doesn't look quite right (it seems like it was drawn in a way suggesting it should be coloured - there is a lot of linework that doesn't suit colouring), the rest of the frame, showing a burned-out city with people fighting in the foreground and fires burining in the background, harks back to images from the second world war. It's a very moving story with incredible art.
When I saw the cover I thought "Oh no, they've brought back Glimmer Rats!", a story that could have been good but was brought down by it being slow and dull. However, the text soon allayed my fears by announcing it was a Future Shocks story; so that's alright. It's a pretty good cover, and one that will no doubt attract readers to it because there's an army man in a futuristic space suit in it and he's shooting creatures that look like the Xenomorphs from Alien. There's a fair amount of detail to this picture and the dark colouring adds to the overall effect to produce a grim picture. Very nice.
Judge Dredd: The Island - This is great. The story flows well and keeps up its pace. It seems to go on for much longer than 6 pages though but it's good, so that's a bonus. Thoroughly enjoyable. The artwork is great too - it looks like it was drawn as a black and white strip but was then coloured, although the colours do add to its effect instead of detract from it; as would happen with most black and white drawings which are subsequently coloured. It's atmospheric and although for the most part its coloured like an old Spectrum game (one main colour with a few similar shades here and there) it really does work well.
The only grievance I have with the artwork is that the left shoulder pad on Dredd and the other street Judges is far too big and just makes them look stupid. Other that that it's great.
Sinister Dexter: Shrink Rap, part 1 - This strip looked to be getting samey but maybe this is the start of making it better. This week we get the first in what looks to be a series detailing Ramone Dexter's session with a psychologist (following last week's "Maybe you need your head checked" comment by Sinister, no doubt). I've got a suspicion that maybe we're going to find out that Dexter isn't really at a psychologist's at all, as when he's flicking through the magazines in the waiting room their titles are 'What Fact-Totem', 'What Headcase' and 'What the funt are you doing here? I'm talking to you, Ramone!!!' (with accompanying cover photograph of Sinister, looking rather bedraggled). Gives me a feeling that Ramone's either dreaming or he's suffered a breakdown or something.
But I digress. The story itself is good. The doctor seems a little strange to me, which seems to link in with my theory that what we're seeing here isn't real. Either that or he's genuinely odd; only time will tell on that. The writing is good and the story flows pretty well, although the frames depicting what's going on inside Dexter's mind make it jump a little. We're seeing some background and characterisation being brought in for Dexter in this series, which is good because up until now I don't think he's had much of either.
The artwork is very good here - I like the fairly clean lines used in each frame and there's a fair amount of detail, which is great. However, the detail is where the problems with the art arise from. We see the hands of both Dexter and the doctor in high detail - not something I'd normally whine about were it not for the fact that we see far too many veins and tendons shown underneath the skin - it makes their hands look much older than the rest of them and so doesn't work. Also, the furniture on page 5 looks like it's supposed to be either leather or plastic but for the first few shots of it I get the impression that it's marble, because of the way the cracks and creases are drawn. Other than these few points the artwork is great and the whole strip is very enjoyable.
Red Fang, part 7 - This strip is starting to bore me now. It's gone on for too long without anything really happening. The artwork remains bland and not that well detailed, plus I'm starting to get the feeling that maybe the artist has become tired of it too - the characters don't look quite the same as they did at the start, which suggests to me that maybe he's tried of drawing them week in, week out.
However, the final frame suggests that maybe something is about to happen that will make this strip interesting. We can but hope.
Future Shocks: Dwellers in the Depths - My first thought about this was "It's glimmer rats rehashed!". As you'll be able to tell from my reviews of Glimmer Rats from the issues it was in, I didn't like it then - and I don't like this story much either. The artwork is good, once you get used to the lack of backgrounds on page one followed by the use of black as a background in many of the frames on the following pages, and the story isn't all that bad really. I thought it would end up with Peterson killing everyone because his mind had been taken over by the aliens but when you find out what really happens all I was left with was a feeling of "Oh, surprise, surprise". Maybe I'm cynical or maybe these stories just aren't that good.
Nikolai Dante: Love and War, part 7 - Following last week's feelings of "bloody hell, he's going to kill her!" I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Jena wasn't killed and even more surprised to find out what Dante's troops were up to! If this book is, like book one, only 8 parts then roll on next week 'cause I want to see how they're going to resolve blowing up the Imperial heavy weapons units in only one 6-page story.
Link this great piece of writing with damn realistic painting and you've got a great strip. If the story continues on this form then it'll be a classic.
What a stilly pun on this week's cover - and the "100% Prime Beef" bit is just silly. The artwork's pretty good though and although it doesn't appear anywhere in the strip is could well have, which is something I like - instead of going for the shock factor of the main character being eaten by something they've gone for taking an aspect of the strip and sticking it on the cover. Could have been more detailed though and the colour scheme doesn't make it just out from the shelf, either.
Judge Dredd: Turned Out Quite Nice Again, part 1 - When I first looked at the artwork on page 1 I was stunned. It's like looking at something lifted from the older issues of 2000 AD, going by what I've seen of those older issues from Judge Dredd: The Mega History. It's a little messy, which I like - it gives a feel of realism to the work and looks great.
The story is good too - it's got practically everyone you could want in it: Mean Machine, Walter the Wobot, an actor playing Judge Death - plus loads of others I get the feeling have been in the series before, but I've not been reading long enough to know who they are. It's quite a funny story too but with tension building on the last two pages that makes me eager to read the next installment now - right now!
Sinister Dexter: Shrink Rap, part 2 - Using the same system of low colour for the psychologist's office frames and high colour for the flashbacks, this story continues smoothly. My thoughts that maybe Dexter was suppering from a breakdown quickly abated this issue as the psychologist seems to have relaxed now and so isn't jumpy and odd.
We're told about where Dexter's speed and part of his aggression come from, which really does add to the character - he's no longer seeming like a 2D figure to me anymore but instead he's a man who's seen many bad things at a young age and his sensibilities have been warped. Who knows, maybe they're being unwarped now? Although I'd like to see a break for Sinister Dexter for a while I'm now wanting to see what will happen after Dexter's head is cleared up by these psychologist sessions. Will he still be able to work with Sinister if he loses his aggressive tendencies? Probably not but only time can tell.
The artwork is still a little too flat for my liking but it works pretty well for the flashbacks, where the high colour fits in well with the lack of detail in order to present a feeling of clouded memory. The frames depicting Dexter finding his dead father and killing the bull were well done and actually moved me somewhat. I think it's the wordless way all but one of the frames play out. It's very good.
Red Fang, part 8 - At last, something's beginning to happen. Fang and Phoenix are arrested but then, like all the 'cliffhangers' from previous episodes, this cliffhanger abates and they go back to their HQ, debating who needs to die and killing one of them. Then we reach another cliffhanger: "In the next day or two, this planet is going to run red....Whose side are you on?". Let's hope this time the cliffhanger isn't brushed under the carpet and we actually get some action! And stop finishing sentences from one frame in another frame, Mr Moore!
The artwork is still rather flat, with the artist relying too much on the colourist to add details with colour tones. I really don't like it and it detracts somewhat from the little enjoyment I get from this flat and slow story. Hopefully if the storyline picks up this will be brushed aside a little but right now the artwork is not helping at me enjoy the strip at all.
Future Shocks: The Petition - Finaly! A future shock with an ending I didn't see coming! This is a brilliant story - well written and with great artwork. There's something Matrix-like about the look of the humans which help to set the scene well. The aliens look very alien - why they have massive skulls is unknown but at the same time, who cares? It's brillian artwork and the texture of the aliens is really cool.
Nikolai Dante: Love and War, part 8 - A brilliant conclusion to book two of this five-book saga. Once again we see that Dante hasn't become a totally loveless monster as he spares Jena's life; but we see that he's also very determined to end the war, and as soon as he can. We get a fitting ending to the story with his message to the Emperor: "Tell him Nikolai Romanov's coming for him.". Dante has finally accepted his place amongst the Romanovs. The war has changed him, but we've yet to see by just how much.
The artwork is, again, brilliant. It's lacking the background detail of the first book but this detail has been replaced what appears to be rain. The dark skys give the whole piece a depressing tone, which really adds to the overall effect of the story. Frame two on page three shows us that the old Dante is still there - his eyes are wide with shock as Jena's blade slices the skin on his chest. He's obviously still got that "I'm too cool to kill" attitude.
I picked up this week's issue with a little trepidation - after all, what could possibly replace Dante after such a magnificent run? Looking at the cover I wasn't all that surprised at what I saw - after all, we could see that a fight between Mean Machine Angel and Judge Dredd would be on the cards for this week - they were about to meet at the end of last week's Dredd. The detail in the picture is high and overall it's a good picture, except for a few points.
Firstly, Dredd doesn't seem right to me - he looks too young. This is a man who's about 60 years old yet here he looks like he's in his late 40s. This isn't completely the fault of the artist, however, as most artists draw Dredd younger than he is. The second point is that Mean Machine's shoulder is far too wide - the man looks top-heavy! His left shoulder extends out way to far compared to how close his right shoulder is to his neck. It makes the character look wrong and is the only thing that really spoils the picture. Well, that and his jeans, which are lacking in detail.
Judge Dredd: Turned Out Quite Nice Again, part 2 - Once again we're given a veritable treat with this fantastic artwork. After reading this week's Nerve Centre and finding that Henry Flint will be drawing the forthcoming Deadlock series I'm beginning to look forward to it. He's got just the right amount of detail to keep the story flowing while making it a delight to read. The only fault I can find with the work is a slight continuity error: Mean Machine cracks Dredd's helmet yet the next time we see Dredd his helmet is uncracked and continues to be uncracked throughout the story. Aside from this I really can't pick fault - the artwork is superb.
The story is great, too. The humour from last week continues, making the story a thoroughly enjoyable romp. However, the tension is lost somewhat as the second Dredd enters the Quite Nice Bar we know it's not going to blow up; or he'd not be in it. That doesn't really matter though as this week it's the comedy and the punch-up between Dredd and Mean Machine which takes centre stage. It didn't seem to be 6 pages long though, as it runs very quickly; not that this is a bad thing, of course. After all, a long, drawn-out episode wouldn't have seemed as good - the flow would have been off.
Sinister Dexter: Shrink Rap, part 3 - This episode lets this story's run down somewhat. It's basically one joke used over and over again with few funny parts (the repetition of Sinister's reponse to being hit in the face made me giggle a bit: "But it's a great moment to dwell on, don't you think?" "Absolutely! Let's dwell... and then let's move on." - it just works). Let's hope the series picks up again next week as it really could be a good run if it doesn't stick to the slowed-down format of this issue's episode.
Once again, the artwork is good, but the colouring in the flashback sequences is beginning to grate. There just isn't enough detail on the characters in this sequence. Okay, it's highlighting the lack of detail that will be present in most memories (can you remember exactly what something looked like - I mean exactly, not "Well, he was 6 foot tall and wore a biker jacket with "Born to Ride" on the back" from something that happened 10 or so years ago? Most can't) but at the same time, we're talking about a 21st century metropolis where people are allowed to kill each other for money. Realism can be suspended a little, just like reality can.
Red Fang, part 9 - The artwork is its usual, not-all-that-good, self and the plot is disapointingly slow. There's not a lot more to say except "Where the hell did that telikinetic hand come from?". Talk about random plot twists...
Future Shocks: Home From The War - Are we seriously expected to just accept that a routine medical wouldn't have picked up the nuclear bomb Ellis' stomach? Very poor.
I love the artwork though. In fact, when I saw Boo Cook's art in the TUWS fan art gallery the day before this issue came out I remember thinking "This stuff is good - they should draw for the comic!". The detail level here is high, the people are well defined and that nebula in the last frame of page three is breathtaking. It's wonderful.
Roadkill, part 1 - The art in this strip made me think it's been written to give unsuccessful Red Fang applicants something to keep them occupied. It's basic and looks like it should be in a fanzine. The flat colouring doesn't help it either - D'Israeli is being wasted here.
The story more than makes up for poor artwork though. It's slow and tense, which is a great (yet, admittedly, unexpected) combination. I'll admit that I was a little eager to find out what Dante had been replaced by as I thought it would be something poor to fill the space until his return in prog 1213 but this looks to be a series that's going to be very enjoyable.
With it only being 5 pages instead of the 6 used on Dante, the extended Input and Red Fang's apparent build-up to a finale suggests to me that maybe this strip will move into the centre of the comic and run for longer than 4 episodes. I hope it does as, if this issue's offering is the shape of things to come, 4 issues doesn't seem enough.
Wonderful cover by Frazer Irving, coloured well by Chris Blythe. Frazer's love of using lots of lines is something that makes his artwork easily identifiable when flicking through a copy of 2000 AD and here it really works well in making the dead pilot's skin look shrivelled and lifeless. Wonderful artwork.
Judge Dredd: Dinner At Shapiro's - At first I agreed with the restraunt manager when he asks dredd to "... just use the drive-thru" next time, as any time Dredd goes into a café, restraunt or whatever, there's always someone in there that starts trouble. Then I thought about it more and came to the conclusion that he does it on purpose, knowing there'll be a criminal in there that he'll then arrest.
The script is good, with the right amount of homour and a bit of action thrown in too. However, the artwork lets the story down and when the firing starts all those 'bdam!'s make it very hard to see what's going on - in fact they come close to masking the action completely in the first two frames of page 5. Link this with art that is pretty well drawn but coloured in such a way as to give the impression that the artist used felt tips to do it goes to make an annoyingly drawn episode.
Sinister Dexter: Shrink Rap, part 4 - Back on form with a great episode that shows just how much Dexter had to sacrifice in order to get revenge on the man that killed his father. It's well written, has just the right amount of humour ("He'd pinched it [Sinister's minigun] from his father's sock-drawer. Never gave it back, neither.").
The artwork is the same as last week: detailed but let down by a colouring system that starting to get to me somewhat. The flashback colouring is starting to look better than the low-colour psychologist sequences and young dexter's face has too many straight lines. He hasn't got a headcase then so why does he look synthetic - more synthetic than the present day Dexter?
Red Fang, part 10 - At last, some action! The first few frames really annoyed me. Where the hell did that short-range matter transmitter come from?!! Okay, I'll admit that it works in the context of the story as Fang explains Pheonix's home exploding earlier in the series using this but its sudden appearance was akin to the telikinetic hand thing last week.
Aside from this, the episode is good - it flows well and has enough action to keep my interest; which is a change. The artwork remains poor, with the characters looking plastic and a lot of the floors and backgrounds being flat and lacking in any detail. The aliens look cool though - they're detailed and have texture, just as everything else should.
Future Shocks: Skeleton Crew - The artwork here is great - detailed, easily-recogniseable charaters and great machinery. The first frame on page 3 is great - loads of honeycombed flooring and cool bits of machinery. Nice.
Unfortunately, the script is basic. I'll admit I wasn't sure what was going to happen at the end but, to be honest, I didn't care either. It was somewhat dull.
Roadkill, part 2 - With Tharg's announcement of 2 new strips beginning in 1212 (Vanguard and Deadlock), the probability of this strip lasting more than four weeks doesn't seem likely. The artwork is still reminiscant of what I'd expect to see in a children's comic but the plot is great and keeps up the tension that began last week. I still haven't worked out what's going to happen at the end, which is great and is also making me wish the next installment was here already.
Nob T Mouse
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