Saturday, December 22, 2007

Random Christmas Prog Review: Prog 815

Jingle Borags, Earthlets! It's the time of year when squaxx like to see Dredd in a Santa hat:

The Christmas comic is an essential part of UK culture. Well, when it comes to weekly anthology comics, anyway. Certainly in terms of the Beano with its annual snow-encrusted logo. Tharg doesn't quite go the whole way, but more often than not there's at least one christmas-related tale each year. Dredd is the staple for this treatment, but really any strip enjoying a one-off episode has no excuse not to be a little bit seasonal. Nikolai Dante and Caballistics, Inc have been good at this in the recent past, but back in 1992 it was up to Judge Dredd to carry the can, with a little help from Brigand Doom, in his best tale.

Let's curl up by the fire, and have a look at the contents, shall we?

Judge Dredd: Christmas with attitude by Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra
A genre-blending spoof of the classic scrooge story coupled with imagery from Scottish family comic the Broons*. With Ennis Dredd ultraviolence and nastiness thrown in. Sure, as Dredd goes this is Dredd-lite, but it's absolutely perfect for the Xmas prog. Ennis often says he wasn't that good at writing Dredd, but having re-read a few of his more recent efforts, I'd say he was spot on with the dark comedy angle. Ezquerra, of course, is awesome at this kind of broad comedy.

Verdict: good tidings!

Dead Meat by Michael Cook and Simon Jacob
No Christmas for Inspector Raam, just really cheap jokes and some great drawing from the much-missed Simon Jacob. Really, this story is poor. I'll have to savage it at some point when I've got facts from the first series. But when your highlight is a Lethal Weapon 2 reference (and yes, there is only one such thing), it's not looking good for your future commissioning...

Verdict: forget turkey, eat Lamb for Christmas, I beg you.

Finn written by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner, drawn by Jim Elston and Kevin Wicks
In which Finn kills a God, becomes a God, explains where mankind went wrong all those years ago (mainly by subjugating women), and generally feels good about himself. I suppose you could argue it's a nativity story of sorts, which is therefore well christmassy. Here's his message of festive cheer for the readers:

Verdict: Absolutely, genuinely, mind-blowingly cool. Why I didn't really appreciate this strip at the time is beyond me. The art is pretty sweet, too.

Brigand Doom: Spirits willing by Alan McKenzie and Dave D'Antiquis
I have no idea if people generally liked Brigand Doom. I thought he was a great creation, served by a handful of good stories, a couple of not so good ones, and a mixture of excellent stylistic choices coupled with some pretty silly ones. Anyway, this story is I think the best of his shortish run, and the whole ting captures the premise expertly. Doom is a future urban Robin Hood, robbing from the rich to feed the poor - in this case, literally. The city he lives in is a sterile ultra-controlled place, where the haves don't acknowledge the existence of the have-nots, which annoys Doom quite a bit, in straight 2000AD tradition. In this seasonal outing, Doom robs a catering truck and serves its Christmas meal to a horde of have-nots.

And in a twist of poetic justice, he forces the guests at the party where the food was intended for to eat the food that the have-nots would have eaten. Simple, effective, and D'Antiquis makes the whole thing delightfully chilling.

Verdict: A classic slice of retributive Christmas

Robohunter: Ace of Slades by Mark Millar and Anthony Williams
Yes, by Mark Millar. Ironically, this story is an absolute screamer of an archetype of everything most squaxx hated about Millar, but also turns out to be quite good. I'll explain more another time. This episode focusses on evil Sssa'am S'laydde, the indestructible killing machine who kills a lot of people without being destroyed in this episode:

Not exactly sophisticated, but it works for me because in this case it's the entire point of the story. Anthony Williams is clearly also having fun, and he draws a great set of Slades.
Verdict: read it again, creeps. But obviously it's not a patch on TB Grover's Robohunter.

And there you have it. Two tales of Christmas joy, and one tenuous nativity (and hey, if you don't believe that Finn was christmassy, you can at least laugh at the back cover poster, in which they show a stock Finn pose with the legend 'peace and goodwill on earth' - proving that it doesn't take much to put a festive spin on things. Also of note - every strip in this Prog is intentionally funny.

*amongst other regular features, the Broons and indeed many British comics would end their Christmas special around a groaning dinner table to enjoy a slap-up feed. Not usually of human flesh, mind

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dreadful Dredd

The other day I came across the 1996 Judge Dredd Action Special. And oh my God is it amongst the very worst of all 2000 AD-related things I own. Just as the Daily Star Dredd managed to be the perfect distilled essence of all (or at least, nearly all) of why Judge Dredd is a world-famous comic strip, so this is the imperfect essence of why stories about tough neo-fascist future cops are few and far between.

I think this was the last hurrah of the short-lived 'Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future' series that tied in with the film, and was aimed at younger children. Based on this reading experience, I am never going to seek out those particular back issues.

There are some reasonably big name writers involved in the special - Alan Megazine Barnes gives us a Wacky Races spoof with Spikes Harvey Rotten, Simon Transformers Furman has fun with Fink Angel and some Cursed Earth rats (it's the shortest and least worst story) and Robbie Dante Morrison gives us yet another Angel Gang run amuk in the City story. They're aided by a bunch of artists I'd barely heard of but who were all quite good, and all a little bit McMahon-y. Not good enough to be a saving grace, mind. I couldn't say why it turned out so horribly, but it did. Look, here's an example of how to suck the genius out of the Judge concept:

You've got Dredd looking OTT tough but spouting ludicrosities. And Hershey being so liberal it's as if she was a well, I don't know, but certainly not a goddamned Mega City Judge.
Rather than post any more scans from the comic, I need to unleash a 2000 AD 'The Pain' special, charting the course of my reactions to this evil tripe...

ps at least this comic knows it's for young children. So it's still better than drokking Crusade.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jigsaw Comics 10: Forbidden Fruit

You know what 2000 AD occasionally does really well? Creepy, creepy horror. There haven't been all that many pure horror series in the comic's 30 year history, but sometimes the match of the right artist and writer can bring it home in a very satisfying way. Here's another jigsaw comic to pick out some examples...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Daily Star Dredd

I never read the Daily Star, so I never knew that Judge Dredd had a regular strip in it, until I stumbled across a copy of the 'Judge Dredd Collection' from Titan, which reprinted a handful of them (many of them twice, for some reason, unless I got a duff copy). Anyway, some of them were truly fantastic, and arguably the Wagner/Grant/Ron Smith years on this strip are the archetypal Dredds of all time. Ian Gibson came aboard for a few longer stories, many of them reprinted in 2000AD and the Megazine at certain times. You might remember his 'Bride of Death' or 'The Mean Machine', which concentrated on two of Dredd's most beloved villains. Fun, but these are less satisfying on the whole than 2000 AD stories with the same characters. For Daily Star Dredd, it's all about the one offs.

I guess anything that's been printed in a public Newspaper is now a matter of public record and available to all in a Library. Nonetheless, I feel a little bit guilty about presenting full strips. Hey ho. Here are just two examples of solid comedy gold, in which we find out about life and mechanics in Mega City 1, see Dredd interacting with the cits, and of course getting the final word.