Cover: A fantastic painted illustration of Demon Jenny from Caballistics, Inc by Dave Kendall.
Droid Life: A welcome return after an absence of some weeks. Droid Life is a short strip which irregularly appears on the inside front cover of the comic. Think Roasted from the Observer Magazine, but with robots. Written and drawn by Cat Sullivan, it takes the long running in-joke about the comic being produced by robots and gives it a Gen X twist which fits in well with the generally ageing demographic of the comic’s readership. Apparently, Rebellion are going to reprint these in book form soon. Good luck to them, although I’ll be slightly surprised if there is a market for it. We shall see.
Judge Dredd: Test Flight. In keeping with the ongoing problem with the Dredd strip – namely that there is very little you can do with it that hasn’t been done before – Gordon Rennie and Colin MacNeil here produce an entertaining story which nonetheless feels vaguely familiar. One of the features of the Dredd strip is its occasional indulgence in tech-fetishism (I first got into Dredd via the Games Workshop role-playing game which was basically entirely designed around the neat gadgets that Judges get to play with: guns that fire 6 types of ammo, turbo charged motorbikes, etc.), and this story neatly fits into that sub-genre.
This is a sequel of sorts to Rumble in the Jungle (Progs 343 to 345) which introduced the fan favourite Manta Patrol Tank (basically a riot control vehicle that resembled a cross between a flying saucer and a Ferrari). Here we get to see the Blackhawk (or Manta 4-V prototype) put through its paces by Dredd. So far, so yawn. The twist is, it turns out the vehicle’s designer has some kind of ulterior motive. Clearly this is the set up for a new ongoing plot thread.
Of course, the last time we had a techno-fetish episode, it was when they introduced the new Lawgiver gun. That turned out to be a ploy by some sinister criminal mastermind to undermine the Judges as well. Like I said, nothing new under the sun as far as Dredd is concerned.
Still, the story is enjoyable enough and I never complain when Colin MacNeil is on artist duties. Plus, on page 3 they fit in a small cameo by the girl who may or may not be Chopper’s daughter (as seen in the strip “Direct Action” last year). It is clear that Rennie is trying to eke out for himself a little corner in the Dreddverse he can call his own, instead of always having to play second fiddle to John Wagner.
Stone Island: The Harrowers Part 5. I have to admit I’m getting bored of this strip. It lacks the surprise of the first series and just seems to be a retread of the plot from Aliens. Simon Davies seems to be getting bored as well. Some of his non-photo referenced drawings here really are quite lazy. Anyway, this week they continue in their mission to blow up the alien homeworld, it turns out that at least one human has been there before and that Harry, the ex-con who now looks like he put his skin on back to front, starts getting psychic messages from a mysterious tower. Still nothing like enough action. Ho hum.
A.B.C. Warriors: The Volgan War V.2 E.5. In the flashback, Lara – wearing an extremely short skirt and top that leaves nothing to the imagination – kicks Blackblood’s arse and drops him at the bottom of a swamp. Back in the “present” Mongrol expresses his misgivings about having to work with the droid who murdered his creator’s parents. Much more entertaining and less predictable than Stone Island and even if the photographic models that Clint Langley uses to look stiff and lifeless, it all looks beautiful. I’m getting a little weary of the flashbacks though. Hopefully this will be it, but with Steelhorn and Deadlock yet to have one, I may be unlucky.
Caballistics, Inc.: Ashes Part 4. Demon Jenny enters Magister’s mind with a view to discovering where the British Government are apparently keeping an angel which, among other things, has been providing a quarter of the energy on the national grid. Plus, she’s pregnant. Caballistics, Inc. takes a couple of unpredictable left turns here which is great fun. The scenes set inside Magister’s head are delightful. It all feels as if it is coming to some sort of conclusion.
Button Man: Book 4, The Hitman’s Daughter. The return of Harry Ex, now hiding out in Cornwall and being tracked down by a private detective. Harry, of course, makes short work of the detective and discovers that he knows about Harry’s past as a Button Man. Who is hiring him however remains a mystery.
Not much to add to that except it is still the strongest strip in the comic at the moment, both art and scriptwise. Obviously, the revenge plot isn’t the most original ever, but it is well executed in a new and appealing way, and it is quite clear that there is more than meets the eye going on here.
Next Prog: Dredd returns in “Instrument of War”, they hopefully get round to having a fight in Stone Island, we either get a bit more plot development or yet another flashback in A.B.C. Warriors, Caballistics, Inc. go angel hunting and Harry Ex answers a telephone (presumably) in Button Man.