Tooth Review: 1552 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Cover to 2000AD Prog 1552Spoilers below…

The Cover: Staz Johnson does a perfectly adequate picture of Dredd looking out over the City, combined with an old school “YOU ARE BEING WATCHED, CITIZEN!” caption. Fine, but nothing special.

Judge Dredd: Trial by Dury, part 1. No actual appearance by Ian Dury himself, so very little excuse for me to point out that the Blockhead himself had a small cameo role in the Judge Dredd movie. Instead, the punnage in the title is courtesy of the Ian Dury Block Justice Club deciding to mete out some justice of their own on a fugitive.

The script is courtesy of Gordon Rennie while the art is by Paul Marshall. Gordon is generally regarded as the best and most consistent non-Wagner Dredd scribe (personally I always look forward to John Smith’s scripts but they come few and far between) and this is a definite improvement on his 1550 story. Paul Marshall has been an occasional contributor to 2000AD since, like, forever (well, the late 80s anyway) and for me will always be remembered for Firekind. He does a good Dredd too, and his style switches seemlessly between cartoonish and lifelike, which is perfect for this series.

There are some great touches in this episode. I particularly liked the way that the killer who the Block Justice Club put on trial is captured and Dredd’s late appearance in the strip is all the more memorable for the way he is shown going about his ‘reasonable business’.

Overall, this is solid Dredd. Funny, vaguely political (the Block Justice Club remind me of a lot of the Tories who appear on 18DS), and with lashings of ultraviolence. That we haven’t – quite – seen it all before is an achievement in itself after 30 years.

Stone Island. The Harrowers, part 3. The expository episode. Here we discover that the incidents of the first series were part of a wider alien invasion, meet lots of new characters and one more familiar one. The script is fine, although the background could have been explained in half the space and been combined with more action with a little more creativity. Still, at least the talking heads aren’t taken to Rowling-esque extremes. Sadly though, it does rather expose the weaknesses of Simon Davies’ reliance on photo-ref.

A.B.C. Warriors: The Volgan War, V.2, E.3. Talking of photo ref… I’m afraid I’m going to have to risk the wrath of Cllr Radcliffe by pointing out the weakness of Clint Langley’s use of this here as well. Langley’s robots are terrific and even if the art lacks a certain dynamism, it looks luscious. But as with his work on Slaine: The Books of Invasions, the human figures are retouched photographs, which for me simply doesn’t work.

Plotwise, the strip switches halfway through from the battlefield – with Zippo attacking Blackblood – to a robotics factory – with Blackblood investigating the possibility that his own robots have been sabotaged. In doing so, his story is tied in with Mongrols, with the saboteurs emerging as the parents of Lara (Mongrol’s creator).

Caballistics, Inc: Ashes part 2. The action switches to a devastated Glasgow, where the villainous Magister has been bringing down passenger liners (it must have been Smeato‘s day off). Nice touch: the American “bomb ’em to heck!” strategy contrasted with the British concern for national heritage (“We’d never hear the end of it from the Jocks!”). The action then switches to Kelvingrove Art Gallery, which suggests that Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross will be making an imminent appearance. Overall, solid, and reminiscent of Zenith Phase 1 for some reason.

Button Man: Book IV, The Hitman’s Daughter part 2. For me this is the highlight of the week. John Wagner’s taut script shows Edginton’s flabbier Stone Island a thing or two about how to do exposition, with decades of back story summed up in backstory over just six pages combined with the main action. To no-ones surprise, it turns out that the daughter in question, Adele Minton, has grown up to become a sexy assassin with a thing for figure hugging catsuits (this is a boy’s comic, after all). By the end of this episode, she’s already tracked down one of her father’s murderers. It makes you wonder how Wagner’s going to fill the rest of the pages.

Frazer Irving’s art too is a joy. He manages to do sexy while avoiding bland US-style athletic physiques and perfection. His Adele looks cool, but also human and vulnerable.

It’s clear that there is much more to come, not least of all the reintroduction of the Button Man himself, Harry Exton. In two episodes this has quickly become the best thing in the comic and the only one I’m really itching to find out what happens next in.

Next week: The Dury trial looks set to end messily in Dredd, our heroes are set to jump dimensions in Stone Island, Lara’s parents are doomed in ABC Warriors, Caballistics, Inc visit an art gallery and the hitman’s daughter continues her rampage of revenge. In the meantime, here’s a classic piece of children’s television to keep you occupied:

It’s mullet-tastic!

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