As the current season winds to a close (in two or three issue's time) we start to see the end of the second tier of stories, and a few one-offs to fill in the gaps. It is here that new or less-established writers and artists have their chance to shine, tucked away where almost no-one will notice them. No-one except me, of course!
The mag starts very well. Judge Dredd in Meet The Flooks, possibly the best story Gordon Rennie has ever written (ably drawn by PJ Holden). The Flook Family like entering competitions. In newspapers. On the radio. On television. Anywhere. And wouldn't you know it, but they seem to have more than their fair of luck - as one character puts it, a bad week is when they only win ten out of twenty competitions in any one particular day. Is this all a flook (sic), or is there some sinister conspiracy behind the scenes? Dredd investigates, and although the ending is obvious from the moment Dredd says "Got a better idea than that...", it is executed with aplomb, and the scripting in particular on the last page is perfect. P-E-R-F-E-C-T. Very funny, excellent story.
A one-off Future Shock is next, The Burning Deck by Jaspre Bark and Rufus Dayglo. Who? Well, yeah, the names looks like pseudonyms to me too (sorry, guys, if genuine), but these guys have a sterling future in comics presuming they are new. The "Deck" in the title refers to a special set of Tarot Cards, these are temporary time portals which show a small glimpse of the immediate future of whomever the reading is about. A young Commando Monk approaches the seer and asks for a reading before commencing his quest for the Star of Chronos, stolen from his order some years previously. The final twist is not entirely as expected, and the ideas behind the cards are refreshingly new. Good job.
Voted "Best Writer - Now" at the UK Comic Con last May, Dan Abnett pens part four of the latest Sinister Dexter tale, Junk Bond, where the eponymous bounty hunters are in Mangapore (think Madrijpoor from Wolverine, except the ruling crime boss is one of their ex-wives) and get themselves captured by her chief rival...who is not above using them to depose her and put him in the hot spot. Interesting, but you've got to care about the characters...and I don't.
From Grace by Simon Spurrier and Frazer Irving is up to part three, it's a new feature for 2000AD, set in a typical post-apocalyptic future, where a race of winged people live in ruins on the edge of an irradiated wasteland; they live in fear of regular attacks by humans, who raid their dwellings, steal food, and rape anyone too slow to fly out of their way. The progeny of one such rape wonders why the flyers don't fight back...and shows the way forward in rectifying the situation. It would seem that this can only end in violence, in a mass assault by the humans on the winged chaps, but we shall see. Good, brooding script by Spurrier is accompanied by moody, atmospheric art by Irving - possibly the most under-rated artist in comics (give him an exclusive contract now, DC!). It's atypical of his usual stuff (you know, black and white with lots of lines as shading) and is maybe a tiny bit too green, but it's great anyway.
Finally we come to Leviathan part nine, by Edginton and D'Israeli. Edginton is doing better work at CrossGen now, this is a very slight derivative tale of a lost spaceship hijacked by a nasty demon in the engine room (or is it?), but the art is awful. The outlining style used looks rushed and unfinished, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The sooner this one is over, the better.
Three excellent tales, one so-so and one poor get 2000AD a better than normal review; this is an excellent issue to try as a sampler, the best in some weeks.
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