Another quarter of a year has passed, and it's time for another seasonal "offensive" from the long-running SF weekly in the world. Or something. Worryingly enough, mention is made in this issue of some of the constituent parts of the next offensive, due in three months' time (it's a female-centric set of stories)...almost as if Rebellion are saying "you've only got three months of this crap to wait for the good stuff..."
Shame, really, because none of the three stories in this launch-pad issue are sloppy, all have their moments and rock the boat, and the comic is finally, finally, the best it has been in years.
We kick off with Judge Dredd: The Satanist, Part 1, by John Wagner and Charlie Adlard. Wagner is the most experienced Dredd writer by some way, and it shows in his sympathetic treatment of Dredd growing old in a violent world, with the weight of expectation of all the other judges on his shoulders. Adlard is no slouch in the art department (even if he seemingly can't settle down on any one particular series) and puts in fine work here, complementary colours from Chris Blythe finish the mood nicely. The twist Wagner gives to what could be a standard Dredd plot this time around is he has made it personal - Dredd is getting tired of the excessive violence of certain perps and when he finds out his niece is caught up somehow in all this...he's not happy. Wagner tops it off with a few sly humourous mentions in the backgrounds, there if you look for them (check out the theatre hoardings and the upcoming play on the life of Thatcher); there's almost no action in this episode but it rocks hard.
Slaine: The Books of Invasions by Pat Mills (who else?) and Clint Langley, continues the storyline from the Moloch story earlier in the year - Slaine and Moloch have descended to hell, fighting all the way, after Moloch had raped and murdered Slaine's wife. As a rule I'm no fan of Mills' work, but here Moloch is dispatched in short order so we can get on with the plot - Slaine's homeland is about to be invaded from mainland Europe, where the tribes have enlisted help from a dodgy source (sea demons of some sort) and worry about losing control of them...from the looks of them, control has gone by the wayside already. Dark times ahead, three or four intertwining plot threads to keep track of, and great art - less muddled than before from Langley, good job that man.
Strontium Dog: The Tax Dodge, Part 1 by Wagner & Ezquerra brushes over the fact of Johnny Alpha's death years ago by placing this episode firmly in the middle of his partnership with Wolf Wossname...the story is preceeded by a James Norton one-pager tax-invoice from Mr OJ Paxman, the Inspector of Taxes - okay, so the gags in this will zoom right over the heads of anyone not familiar with the UK tax system, but I'm a sucker for these scene-setting devices, this one gets you right into the story from the word go and despite the awful caricature that is the tax inspector himself in the story, and clunky introduction of what will presumably be Alpha's salvation by story's end, this story feels like a comfortable Strontium Dog classic, with many modern trappings.
A hell of a good start for this set of stories, one worth checking out for half-a-dozen issues to make sure the quality continues.
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