I said a few weeks back at the time of the 35th anniversary issue that it should have been a jumping-on point for new readers. Now, one month later, we get just such an issue. Better late than never? Let’s find out.
The cover, courtesy of Edmund Bagwell, isn’t going to win any prizes for innovation. It’s a character roster cover but it’s well drawn and very nicely coloured. Will it draw in new readers? I don’t know. Probably not – there’s no action, everyone is just striking a pose.
The opening story is Judge Dredd, as usual. It’s the start of the much-touted Mega-City Confidential, which sees the welcome return of John Wagner. It reads well – very well. There’s something ominous going on and readers will be left wanting to know more. Is this a story where Justice Department is the bad guy, rather than a monstrous new enemy to fight? Maybe. I’m looking forward to finding out!
Colin MacNeil’s artwork is wonderfully murky – there’s a real ominous feeling to it. Dredd looks imposing, which is great, but not too muscular like some recent depictions of him. He fits the part of anti-villain, which it seems he’s playing here, very nicely. I’m looking forward to seeing more.
Pat Mills is back on Slaine and I have to admit, I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen here. The pacing is slow, as is Mills style these days, but it doesn’t go anywhere. I’m willing to give it some time to see if it develops but it’s been a long time since I was properly impressed by a Slaine story and this one hasn’t won me over.
Simon Davis’ artwork is lovely. I’m still not sure what his obsession is with painting people various unnatural skin colours (today, everyone is blue) but he’s a brilliant artist despite that and it’s always a pleasure to see his work back in the comic.
Next up is a new story: Butler by T.C. Eglington. This is a detective story with sci-fi trimings and as these things go, it’s quite interesting. The main character (or at least the person we are presented with as the main character. It’s too early to tell and the man on the cover is not the guy we are focused on in this episode, so I’m leaving who is who open to debate right now) has a literal Sherlock Scan ability, so we get a nice treat to the usual wonder detective dialogue. So far, so par for the course. It’s good writing (the silly World of Warcraft reference on the final page not withstanding) and it will be nice to see where this is going.
Art-wise, this is good stuff. Karl Richardson’s line work is beautifully clean and his colours are wonderfully muted. There’s plenty of detail here and some excellent shading; all of which makes the blood and gore stand out all the more. Normally that’s a bad thing but here it only serves to reinforce how violent the crime under investigation is, which is excellent.
Turning the page to find Sinister Dexter rendered like something out of a punk era fanzine is therefore quite a surprise. Smudge’s artwork is beautifully old school – this could sit right next to McMahon’s original run on Judge Dredd and nobody would bat an eyelid. I love it! Well, except for the part where Dexter suddenly looks white. I’m not sure what’s going on there.
Story-wise, this is clearly going to be an interesting run. Although half the middle pages are taken up by people repeating variations on “we should start work on Tracy’s plan”, eventually they actually get their act together and do something. It’s not the best pacing ever but at least things are moving along by the end of the episode. I’m looking forward to next week’s issue, to see just how the gun-toting duo and their lady friends get out of their latest predicament.
Now we come to our final strip and it’s another newcomer: Jaegir, by veteran writer Gordon Rennie, artist Simon Coleby and colourist Len O’Grady. It’s a story set in the Rogue Trooper universe, which makes me wonder if we are due a cross-company tie-in with IDW’s latest new title. Perhaps that’s a little speculation on my part, or perhaps not. Time will tell.
The art is lovely – everyone looks suitably war-damaged and repulsive. My only qualm is with the gratuitous fanservice pose the main character, Atalia Jaegir, is striking on page three. It’s totally unnecessary and she’s not even looking at the people she’s speaking to. Very silly.
The script is decent, however. Enough backstory and characterisation to get a feel for everyone, but not so much that you’re left wondering what is going on. The plot moves along at a decent pace and the set-up for the rest of the story is well handled. This may well be one to watch.
As jumping-on points go, 2000AD Prog 1874 is a good one. There are good stories here, some very good indeed, and some excellent artwork. If you haven’t already started reading 2000AD, this is definitely the issue to grab to get you going. Roll on next week’s issue!