5 out of 5
It’s not that I found every thrill in these progs to be perfect, but I think that the assortment offered, and the way the tales ended up being divvied up was perfect. The high-level is that we had several stories ongoing at the same time, with a couple of rotating slots for one-shots or 3rillers. While the benefit of anthology mags is that offer the potential to have something new every week, I have found that with mags like 2000 AD, in which several strips are multi-parted and running at once, I do prefer for them to start and end fairly close together, as opposed to all of them being staggered; something about this makes it easier for my brain to keep the storylines straight and enjoy them.
It certainly also helped that all of these main thrills were above average, so that the okay-ish rotating spots were totally tolerable, and added flavor to each week.
In the Dredd spot, two pretty stunning runs: Ken Niemand is accompanied by the moody, weighty art of Tom Foster on Penitent Man, and then Mike Carroll and Simon Fraser offer the short but effective Easy Money. The former was really fascinating, tracking the efforts of an ex-judge to reform himself after returning from Titan duty – something that apparently never happens, and, as Joe discovers, this might be because SJS arranges for that to be the case – while the latter is a great example of masterfully condensed storytelling, positioning JD as a side character in favor of exploring the ups and downs of a lead who’s inherited a criminal family.
The return of Feral & Foe, by Abnett and Elson! The first run of this was a little uneven, with tons of world-building up front that felt a little hard to track, but for that same reason, it felt very promising, and I was hopeful it would be back. Elson and Abnett have formed a great artist / writer bond over the years, with this run becoming another highpoint in that collaboration, as Elson gets to experiment with all types of scale and creatures, but also has plenty of character work to fiddle with. More specific to the writing, Abnett’s “cure” for the initial go’s complexity is to lean this heavily toward humor, pulling a mind-swap on our two leads as they’re tasked with tracking down magical whatsits in order to put them back in their proper bodies. The pacing is rather surprisingly rapid fire, but it’s a pleasing mish-mash with the high fantasy / sci-fi look and feel of the strip, and now I’m looking forward to – ideally – the whole thing being collected so I can experience it in one go.
And then we had another round of Thistlebone, by T.C. Eglinton and Simon Davis. Although Eglington’s folk horror tale – ancient entities in the woods; modern day cults; the reporter looking in to both – often ends up feeling like it’s not quite achieving the levels of tension and fright for which the creators are aiming, I have to admit I’m greatly enjoying reading it, and Davis’ work has never looked better to me, settling on layouts that allow for his open style, but are a bit more linear and more effective for a proper reading pace. In this arc, we explore some mysteries regarding oddities that may have occurred to a pack of Boy Scouts, and these flashbacks are done up in a childish, cartoony style, offsetting the present day realism. Again, it’s a bit style over substance, but it’s done in a satisfying way so that I don’t really mind that there’s ultimately not much to the story.
To the 3rillers and whatnot, though only a couple really stood out as above average, the art – specifically on the 3rillers – was worth the price of admission each time; additionally, I found all of them inventive, and so not uninteresting or bothersome to read. As pauses between the ongoing stories, they were perfect.