3 out of 5
On the one hand, these progs are filled with some fan-favorite strips – Scarlet Traces returns; Rennie’s Caballistics spin-off The Diaboliks; the next run of The Out – but I feel like they all come with caveats.
In the Dredd spot, that amounts to whether or not you’re a fan of Rob Williams’ Dredd, whose style I see here moreso than co-writer Arthur Wyatt. While I like Williams’ ideas, his execution never really lands for me, somehow zooming past the points of impact. The writing duo followup on La Reine Rouge business by sending several crazy-ass assassins after Dredd and Maitland, and, in theory, this should be a hard-hitting six-parter of non-stop threats on Joe’s life from unbeatable foes, with stylized awesomeness from Jake Lynch. On the art front: yes, Lynch delivers big and bold and dynamic pages, with standout colors form Jim Boswell. But as per my hot take on Rob, even with some really wild enemy designs and the possibility of surprise attacks and team-ups, the story doesn’t really hit a stride – it feels like the attacks haven’t really started, even when we’re right in the midst of them. The strip has a convincing aura of being action packed, but once you’re in the nitty gritty of reading it, you don’t get feel it.
Rennie’s Diaboliks is solid, though: we’re paired with my preferred of the recent art twosome on this title, Antonio Fuso, and we get, essentially, a heist from the Vatican. The writer and artist are having a great time with their trio of a demonness, a zombie, and a straight man, and it comes across in every beat of this strip, with Rennie also obviously pleased with setting up the Church versus, essentially, the Church of Satan, as two required sides of the business of managing good and evil.
Roger Langridge’s Pandora Perfect makes an, er, imperfect transition to an ongoing from the Regeneds. I love Brett Parson’s art, but extending this out gets us away from the more free-wheeling nature of Pandora’s previous hijinx, and also splits her from Gort for most of the strip. Since he makes for a great part of their dynamic, it’s an odd way to start things off in 2000 AD – this feels like the kind of arc you’d do a couple entries down the road. Which I realize you could say this is, post her Regened appearances, but I suppose I mean after some further multi-part arcs. It’s still a fun read, absolutely helped by Parson, and I’ll give Langridge credit for a pretty funny gag regarding where the strip eventually takes place.
Scarlet Traces is another thrill which I think has fantastic visuals, from the ever-progressing D’israeli, but I just cannot get into the story. That’s a lame caveat, but it is what it is: Edginton’s work doesn’t have a good learning curve for new readers, so every time I feel like I get my bears with Traces, there are suddenly more characters and callbacks and I get a little lost again, not really understanding – beyond a high level – who’s fighting for what. I mean, our leads are shooting Martians, and to that extent, there’s some good fightins to witness, but I couldn’t get much more invested than that. However, I’d have to assume that Traces fans are plenty happy.
The Out – Cyd connects with some other humans, prog by prog. Abnett is taking it a little easier this arc; it’s a bit less revelatory as a result, and more focused on exposing Finlea (and us) to further cultures and creatures. We’re wrapping around to a point about how inhuman humanity becomes when separated from their fellow humans, but it’s played rather for comedy at this point. Still delightful? For sure, just something of a softball after the first storyline, though that’s not a bad way to sequence things, as I’m sure there’s heavier stuff to come.