3 out of 5
Started as it meant to go on, which makes this run of progs very satisfyingly consistent, but also without surprise: once you get the flavor of each thrill, it stays at about that level, no surprises.
In the Dredd slot, some fun Ken Niemand singles break up an ultimately underwhelming – sorry, which is par for the course, per my opinion of the writer – Rob Williams tale. Niemand and Nick Dyer do a very funny alien invasion tale in Grinder – the alien possesses a garbage can, good call – and then Niemand pairs up with Dan Cornwell in 2295 for the return of Moe Hallam, “psi” who can see folks naked. The humor in this one feels a bit forced (both in the text and visually), but it’s a funny concept all the same. Inbetween: Williams and Patrick Goddard string us along on a very confusingly time-hoppy telling about a conspiratorial overtake of the Black Atlantic-positioned Atlantis complex. There’s definitely modern day commentary none-too subtly wound in here, and I do appreciate Rob’s dedication to his own ongoing Dredd threads, but his approach always feels like a build up to a whimper – lots of important moments that ultimately are just to get the story from A to B plot-wise, and don’t do much for character. That, plus the quite large cast at play here and the timey-wimey telling left me pretty unengaged, though Patrick Goddard’s art was really phenomenal throughout. I would’ve pegged him as too “heavy” for this type of Dredd stuff – which is more conversational, to an extent – but he did bring a nice noir / thriller mood to things.
Hope: I have not liked Hope, ever. That’s still in place. I would say this run is even worse than usual, though it started out intriguingly – our spirit P.I. tasked to a movie set, which vibes with the strip’s noir atmosphere and Jimmy Broxton’s love for drawing characters from classic actors – but this shit wanders all over the place without any sense of focus, just seeming like writer Guy Adams wants to try to keep things edgy, but not actually having much of a story to back that up. So Hope finds himself in various scenarios with ghouls and snuff-y fetishes, and I guess we’re concerned about how he survives, except, y’know, magic, so he can just kinda bullshit his way out. Again – my dislike is pretty firmly lodged in place here, sorry. I admittedly don’t see much love for this strip on the forums / in the letters, but it continues on, so my opinion is solely that – meaning if you liked this, I imagine you’ll continue to do so; if you haven’t, I doubt this one will change your mind.
And I’ll extend that vibe to James Peaty’s Skip Tracer, although this is less offensive and just… generic. Dude has some special powers that he initially put to use as a Skip Tracer – hence that title – but now… now he’s just “the right man” for various jobs that pop up in each iteration of this strip. Here, Blake has to return to The Cube that was the initial setting, and it’s more of the stereotypical same, akin to a late-night DTV action flick. That should be “fun,” except Peaty (and artist Paul Marshall) don’t lean into it; Peaty keeps trying to insert actual characters and emotion, but then his dialogue is cookie cutter and doesn’t support that, and Marshall isn’t very cinematic, making some of the action scenes feel a bit lackluster. Again, though, nothing has changed, really, so how you feel about this one should remain pretty even.
Aaand the rest of the progs belong to Dan Abnett: Dexter (of Sinister Dexter) and Brink. Brink finishes a loooong 24-part run, and this goes along with my opening statement: it starts as it ends, with extended conversations and deep dives into the politics of the world, via reporter Maslow, his investigations happening concurrently with the first chapters of the story. While I found some of the text excessive – and I really don’t think INJ Culbard is great at making talking heads super engaging, though their art style has become much more consistent and a bit more grounded in a desirable way to me – and I think the conclusion was rather inevitable, I cannot wait to read this collected, and I love that the strip is established enough to afford Abnett / Culbard a big, extended swing like this. In the moment, a bit dry, but conceptually an exciting expansion of the Brink-verse, that will make for a great trade. And Dexter – oh man. I realize SinDex will likely eventually go back to a status quo (currently Sinister is, uh, an AI-infested killer, out to destroy Dexter), but I am loving how long Dan has been diving into this split, and the way he’s bounced it through various genres is evidence of his incredible range as a writer. Tazio Bettin is also proving to be a wonderful match for this relatively grittier version of the SinDex world, especially when paired with Matt Soffe’s earthy, warm colors. ‘Malice in Plunderland’ was hilarious, and exciting, and one of the best SinDex strips in forever (I mean, maybe they all have been pretty great lately, though?), as Dex and his current crew insinuate themselves into the middle of a gang war, playing both sides, both anted-up with Dan’s very self-aware genre scripting.
Lastly, Rennie’s / Coleby’s Jaegir returns, seemingly prepping for an endgame: Atalia has been through the shit, y’all, and is possibly aiming towards an endgame, dead set on procuring the final cure for all Southers. The art here, I’ll say, feels a little weird – I don’t know if it’s Coleby, or Len O’Grady’s colors, but it’s a bit “cleaner,” which makes Atalia look inhuman, but not in a way that vibes with the narrative, necessarily. It might be purposeful, as some of this takes place in hallucinations, but it still looks / feels off. And in general, Coleby’s somewhat non-descript style of drawing people makes it hard to differentiate the cast at points. And, uh, I’ll keep the criticisms rolling: Jim Campbell’s font is a bit too comics sans-looking for something gritty, like Jaegir. Still, with all of that, the thrill has a unique look and continually bleak tone, and I’m eager to see if Rennie is actually leaning towards a conclusion, or if Atalia’s plans will fall flat in some other way.