Tooth Review: 1561 (obligatory spoiler warning)

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Best issue in a while as the new strips get into their strides.

Prog 1561Cover: A great painted Dredd by Boo Cook. Boo’s art has been coming on in leaps and bounds in recent years and he really captures Old Stony Face here. It’s all in the chin.

Spoilers below…

Judge Dredd: Mandroid – Instrument of War part 7. Finally, this story starts to get interesting. Thus far it has all seemed a bit lacklustre, with little real bite.

That all changes as soon as the reader flips over to page 2 this week. The revelation (I told you there was spoilers!) that Kitty is still a brain dead zombie and is being operated by the dying granddaughter of General Trig is outstanding. It’s just so dark. I was kind of expecting something along these lines, but what gives it an edge is that the granddaughter is unswervingly loyal and has been promised Kitty’s body so she can continue to live, yet at the same time empathises with Nate.

Suddenly the whole emphasis of the strip changes from a rather predictable drama about rampaging man-machine into a subtler tale in which it becomes entirely clear that Slaughterhouse is regarded as simple cannon fodder by the General.

The subplot about Dredd’s investigation is also strong. The interrogation of Nate’s friend Lefty is equally brutal and humourous. And I like the ongoing theme of Dredd making the subordinate Wittle feel about six inches high as he excoriates him for botching the investigation.

Overall, this strip as perked up enormously. It’s now my top strip at the moment.

Nikolai Dante: The Chaperone part 2. This strip has turned out better than I was expecting. First of all, Dante doesn’t sleep with Arkady’s not-so-blushing bride-to-be (who goes by the name Sonja and wears scarlet – geddit?), at least not yet. Secondly, it holds out the possibility that Elena – Dante’s heroic but rather bland batman – might be fleshed out a bit in this strip as they travel through her native Mongolia.

John Burns delivers on the T&A this week (let’s not forget he drew George and Lynne in The Currant Bun for years), and there is a good mix of humour and action. Overall, this is light stuff, but by no means the worse for it.

Sinister Dexter: Life is an Open Casket part 2. It turns out that Dexter isn’t the picture of good health that he is claiming to be. Finnegan, suspecting something is up, calls Dex’s ex and tries getting her to meet him, but get’s the wrong cab (driven by the hitman Charon). Meanwhile, Apellido meets up with the three GM persons from Brazil that he has hired to dispatch The Finder.

Dan Abnett is essentially mixing it all up again in preparation for a grand showdown between Apellido, The Fixer and Our Two Heroes. It’s all very twisty, turny. In the past, sadly, the promise of these strips have often been greater than the delivery (a flaw that Abnett shares with John Wagner were one to be brutally honest), but it at least keeps things interesting. Anthony Williams does competent art chores, an okay artist who it appears has been around forever (I forgot about Babe Race 2000). Overall, highly readable, but doesn’t do much for me.

Future Shocks: Yggdrassil. The first thing that struck me about this strip was “is that Vince Locke?” And lo, it is. Locke, among many other things, drew John Wagner’s A History of Violence which as you should know by now was filmed by David Cronenberg. You don’t expect to see veteran US artists in the Tooth, and I had forgotten that this is actually Locke‘s second strip.

The strip itself, written by Arthur Wyatt, is a good mix of sci-fi and body horror, but lacks a proper Future Shock-style wrench at the end. It’s good fun though. His fifth one-off, Arthur has yet to hit Spurrier levels of big time-ness. Good luck to him.

Button Man: Book IV – the Hitman’s Daughter, part 11. When you get this far on in a strip, there’s not much more to say. Essentially, Adele confronts her uncle and begins a murderous rampage to wipeout all the Voices. To nobody’s even vaguely mild surprise, the surviving Voices decide to sic Harry Ex on her. Finally.

Of course, from this point on, it is hard to tell exactly what will happen. The finale should be good.

Next week: Dredd versus the General, Harry versus Adele, Finnegan versus Charon, Apellido versus The Fixer and Dante versus a big Mongolian bloke with a pet pteradon. And presumably another Future Shock. Still six weeks ’til Prog 2008!

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