Tooth Review: 1555 (obligatory spoiler warning)

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Prog 1555Spoilers below…

The Cover: Deadlock from the A.B.C. Warriors, as drawn by Clint Langley. A strong image, but rather dark – it didn’t exactly leap off the shelf.

Judge Dredd: Mandroid/Instrument of War Part 1. A sequel to the original Mandroid story which was chronicled a couple of years ago. In this story Nate Slaughterhouse, a cybernetic ex-soldier, goes ballistic after his son is murdered and wife is kidnapped. A fairly simple story about a decent man destroyed by the casual cruelty of the city. This story picks up with Nate in prison receiving the news that his wife – whose brain was destroyed by her kidnappers – is to be used for transplant surgery. He doesn’t take it very well. The episode ends with a legless and armless Nate attempting to escape.

While the original Mandroid story was fairly predictable, it is not at all clear what is going to happen next here. John Wagner’s script weaves a complex backstory by combining flashbacks with dream sequences. Simon Coleby’s art is strong and dynamic. All round, this is a great start.

Stone Island: The Harrowers Part 6. I’m afraid this strip just gets worse for me. Yet another episode of mostly exposition, this time explaining where the aliens came from and why they’re invading Earth. This is punctuated by one of the characters – Gail – warping out and damaging their equipment before she gets shot. It turns out she’s a he, as graphically illustrated by “her” erect penis – possibly the first one to ever appear in 2000AD. Kudos to Edginton and Davis for making a small bit of history therefore, but it is all getting rather tiresome. At least we’re promised a fight scene next week.

It occurs to me that I must seem bloodthirsty by constantly complaining about the lack of violence in this strip. The truth is, I don’t mind whether it is violent or not, so long as it is action. The comic is a fundamentally dynamic medium. It is at its worst when it amounts to little more than talking heads. If you are going to have a strip about humans versus ugly space monsters, then punch ups is what you have to deliver. I’m only evaluating it on its own terms. End of.

A.B.C. Warriors: The Volgan War V.2 E.6. A brief interlude in the present – Mek Quake has freed Volkhan (the Big Bad) – before commencing with another flashback, this time of Deadlock. This one will be potentially interesting as Deadlock is the most mysterious of the Warriors. Mills will have to retrofit an occult character into his new version of the Volgan War – a war fought by all-too Earthly neo-cons (frankly I was never that convinced that Deadlock fitted that neatly within the old version of continuity).

Thus far it has been quite interesting. In common with the other robots in the other flashbacks, the early Deadlock is presented as having only a limited understanding of human mores. Programmed to have a strong sense of justice, he is bemused when a human basically orders him to ignore it. The moral lesson kids is that Mills is holding these robots up to be paragons of human virtues only for the humans themselves to end up coming up short in comparison. The conceit of making the robots more human than the humans goes back to the earliest days of 2000AD starting (I think) with the first Dredd multi-parter the Robot Wars and continuing through to A.B.C. Warriors‘ predecessor Ro-Busters. 2000AD’s “heroes” are always inhuman in some way, be it clones, mutants, aliens or droids. It’s a refreshing change from the Ãœbermenschen that US comics companies shove down our throats.

Caballistics, Inc.: Ashes Part 5. One of the problems I’m finding with this strip is that I can’t remember much of the backstory. I can’t remember why, for example, the Caballistics team seem to have it in for their boss Ethan Kostabi. As such, I have to admit to being a bit bewildered by this latest plot.

Nonetheless, Rennie delivers a compelling episode, in which the main action is recounted in flashback. This latest story has been moving along at a fair old pace when you consider how it has developed. I love the idea of the British Government secretly holding an angel that has crashlanded to Earth and perfectly preserving the 18th century church which it landed on, and Reardon’s art captures the incongruity of this old building being kept in an anonymous looking warehouse perfectly. Still enjoying it, but I suspect that if I reread the strip from scratch again, I’d enjoy it even more.

Button Man: IV, the Hitman’s Daughter Part 5. It turns out that the private detective that Harry Ex despatched in the last episode is a Voice who wants to bring him back into the Game. Again, as with Caballistics, the plot moves on incredibly quickly as Harry tracks down the Voice – who turns out to be a judge called Stephen Horus – with remarkable ease.

One gets the sense that Wagner is presenting Harry here as a force of nature rather than a human being we are to particularly sympathise with. He’s ruthlessly, shockingly efficient – it is now the Hitman’s Daughter we are supposed to care about. Yet at the same time, he’s also after nothing more than to be left alone. Realising that isn’t possible, he hatches a scheme to re-enter the Game on his terms.

Still loving it.

Before I go onto the next prog preview, a quick plug for the latest Megazine. The final part of The Gingerbread Man has profound implications for the Dreddverse as Dredd’s greatest Nemesis gets elected Mayor of Mega City One. Bear in mind that in 2000AD Wagner has been setting Dredd on the course for wanting to bring back true democracy (Fargo’s last words, his realisation that mutants deserve to be treated with respect, his mentoring of America Beeny), and we have the makings of a fantastic storyline. I just love the way Wagner appears to want to set the world he’s spent 30 years developing on fire to watch what happens.

It also includes an interview with Simon Spurrier who is becoming alarmingly successful. I remember Si from my days back on alt.comics.2000ad (where he coined the term arsegike, which has appeared in the comic regularly since). Petty jealousy aside, I’m delighted to see him making the first tentative steps into the big leagues and going all literary on us. Well done, mate.

Next prog: Slaughterhouse makes good his limbless escape in Dredd, the aliens finally deign to turn up in Stone Island, Deadlock does a bit of judging, the Caballistics open a can of whup ass and anything can happen in Button Man at this point. Tune in next week!

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