Tooth Review: 1560 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Three old staples return. Dredd and Button Man are on good form as well.

Prog 1560Cover: Nikolai Dante by Kev Crossley. Competent but nothing to blow you away.

Spoilers below…

Judge Dredd: Mandroid – Instrument of War part 6. A slight return to form for Carl Critcholow – last week’s art looked a little rushed. We finally discover General Trig Vincent’s plan and why he feels he needs Slaughterhouse, and the judges investigate the Freetown massacre.

The General’s proposed coup looks interesting but seems big and insane enough to carry with it the chance of an anti-climax. Overall, this is a bit of a slow episode.

Nikolai Dante: The Chaperone part 1. Dante is forced to serve as Arkady’s chaperone and take him to meet his bride to be in Mongolia.

One thing I’ve noticed about Dante stories is that, since the end of Tsar Wars, John Burns has tended to do the ‘fillers’ while Simon Fraser draws the stories that have bigger significance for the over-arching metaplot. With Davis on extended leave for about four years until about a year ago (how time flies!) that includes the major subplot revolving around Dante’s mother on the high seas. I notice that the next Dante collection is to be Sword of the Tsar for instance, suggesting that a hefty chunk of the strip is not to be collected (at least in the short term).

The fact that this strip features Burns artwork, a plot that will inevitably focus on Dante’s priapic inclinations, fantasy creatures and a backwater part of the Empire all suggests we’re looking at something more akin to Deadlier than the Male than Hellfire here and I’m afraid I’m a little bored of such plotlines as they all seem to end up the same. It’s not that I don’t like Burns’ art, it’s just that I love Fraser’s.

Too early to say how this story will go however. We’ll just have to see.

Sinister Dexter: Life is an Open Casket part 1. The boys are back in Downlode and the Mover and Appellido (who are the trans-dimensional counterpart and the clone of Holy Moses Tannenbaum – SD’s arch nemesis – but don’t know it yet) continue their war for control over the underworld.

I’ve always felt a bit ambivalent about Sinister Dexter. Born out of a one-note gag to do a sci-fi version of Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction, the strip has always struck an odd note for me. How do you make heroes out of hired assassins? At least Dredd is ambivalent. At least in Strontium Dog the main character is a bounty hunter because that’s all he can do – and follows a moral code. Still, the strip has been going for nearly 12 years now and, like Simon Davies (the artist which it is most closely associated with), has become an established part of 2000AD. Dan Abnett always gives his strips a certain flare meaning that even if I rarely rave about the strip I nearly always enjoy it on some level.

This is the first regular Sinister Dexter story since the convoluted Malone/prison break story arc resolved itself, and it isn’t clear where the strip is going or if it still has anything new to say. Again, too early to tell this week.

Future Shocks: A Terrible Hunt. Future Shocks are generally filler and try-outs for new artists and writers. In this case the strip is a chance for Alec Worley – a stalwart of Megazine articles but thus far without a strip to his name – to shine. And he doesn’t do too badly, although this is no Alan Moore classic by any means. I could see the twist coming from page 2 (lack of heir… final hunt…), although the final gruesome denouement is fun nonetheless. One to watch.

Button Man: Book IV – the Hitman’s Daughter part 10. Still going and still the strongest strip of the week. The payoff at the end was worth waiting for (why did Uncle Max send her to ninja school…?) and as always Fraser Irving’s art adds that little bit extra; I loved the closeup on Adele’s eyes at the bottom of the last page for instance.

On the down side, it is perhaps starting to drag a little. Hopefully the inevitable showdown between Harry and Adele is not too far off.

Next week: Slaughterhouse is made an offer he can’t refuse in Dredd, Dante and Arkady travel to Mongolia, Sinister and Dexter kill some people (they didn’t this week so it’s bound to happen), no idea what might happen in Button Man and presumably another Future Shock is in store.

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