Taking the last page of the issue first, Tharg the Mighty makes a brave decision to run a highly critical letter of comment. Unusually, the letter moans about all the stories in a recent issue – not unwarranted in some cases – but then closes with that groan-inducing line “you won’t have the guts to print this”. Why do people do that? It’s a painfully obvious, transparent ploy to see one’s words in print, and in fact it renders much of the letter irrelevant, as if the writer only wrote a complaint to see his words in print. As if seeing his “name in lights” was more important than what he actually had to say. You certainly couldn’t accuse any reviewer at SBC of the same thing….er…ahem…I’ll come in again.
Judge Dredd kicks off the issue, as is his prerogative, with the concluding episode of “Brothers of the Blood”, by Wagner and Ezquerra. It’s a look at three “generations” of Dredd – the man himself, the clone Rico (now a fully fledged Judge), and Cadet Dolman, yet another clone feeling the pressure of the Dredd lineage. The key to this storyline has been “will Dolman decide to leave the academy” as he’s having his doubts; a nice change from the usual “will Judge X graduate”. Whether deliberate or not, Dolman’s quandary echoes that of Dredd from some years ago – is Judging right? Does he believe in it enough to continue? Dolman’s answer comes at the end of an impromptu mission with Dredd and Rico, and although not a surprise, it’s handled adroitly.
There’s a Future Shock next, a one-off short story with a twist in the tale, by Clayton, Dows and Burrows, but it seemed a bit of a confusing mess to me, on the first and second runthrough. A superstitious pilot-cum-navigator for a ship which scouts out rare drugs on alien planets finds a new planet, but they’re beaten to the punch by a rival scout – of course, there’s more to this planet than meets the eye, and the fact it’s the thirteenth in the system sets alarm bells ringing. On the third go I got what happened at the end, but I still didn’t like the jarring scene shift from the opposing team on the planet to “our heroes” having it sussed – feels like a page went missing.
Sinister Dexter by last year’s UK Best Writer Dan Abnett (with artist Andy Clarke) follow in part two of a minor tale of hitmen training up a rookie. Rookie gets involved with a beautiful girl, who just happens to be their next target. Obviously she’s not as innocent as she seems; it just feels like filler material from the back of the drawer.
Part five of Valkyries arrives with much less gratuitous nudity than in previous issues. Ironically, this just detracts from Steve Moore’s SF plot, revealed as being somewhat mundane I’m afraid. Nice spaceships from John Lucas, more his forte than women it seems, but it’s hard to get excited about this future-world when all the characters are so unsympathetic.
Rounding off the comic is Rogue Trooper’s latest mission, set during the Nu-Earth war at some point…it’s a major-league storyline in relation to that war, although it does owe a great debt to the classic Dredd Apocalypse War storyline (War Marshal of the bad guys launches an insane assault against the good guys, the bad guys want him ousted yet have to use a good guy to do it). Rennie provides good dialogue although (especially from Rogue’s chums) and PJ Holden’s troopers actually look like they’ve seen serious combat…good work.
Apart from Dredd and Rogue Trooper, the issue feels like it’s coasting along to the next relaunch; this is not atypical of 2000AD, but it would be nice if plans were afoot to address this…after all, do the quarterly relaunches work in terms of boosting sales, or would more fuss about new series by established creators have a greater benefit?
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