4 out of 5
Liam Johnson and Duane Redhead take over the Cadet Dredd slot with The Block With No Name – Joe going undercover in a youth gang to help clear out a building cited for destruction. The setup feels a little rough around the edges – i.e. “The only way to catch these crims is for this needlessly complex setup!” – and the ending feels similarly forced to work in some action, but Johnson ultimately keeps it flowing with fun dialogue and a chipper pace. Redhead’s lively art (with John Charles’ provenly always-fantastic colors as fantastic and popping as always) helps to give the talking-head heavy paneling a lot of spice, with good eye direction and lots of attitude. This is a good balance of “mature” Dredd-type action with a kid cast.
Michael Carroll and Simon Coleby return to Mayflies – youngster Genetic Infantrymen, trying to find their way out of the war. While that high level premise is pretty much the setup for any given PG action adventure, this still feels like an odd fit for the Regeneds, and I’d almost it rather get fleshed out in the regular mag. It’s an intriguing twist on the Rogue Trooper world, but for a quarterly installment, the cast is way too big – I don’t even know who’s narrating – and Carroll is writing maybe a bit too lore heavy to make this an easy pickup. Coleby continues to try to find ways to lighten up his art for the book’s tone, and Dylan Teague assists with some pastel colors, but Coleby’s style just feels rather inherently dark and moody to me. I feel like this will read better if / when collected, but despite being conceptually sound and interesting – though a tad cluttered and thus confusing – it sticks out as an ill fit.
Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, and Neil Googe… it can only mean… Survival Geeks!! …Or ‘Splorers, as some of the Geeks’ offspring get in on the family “business” of multiversal funsies. Geeks, geekly references aside, always had a bright and ridiculous tone that would lend itself well to a younger audience – if stripped of its drug paraphernalia and innuendo, of course – and so for those of us who dig the original strip (e.g. me), this is really great. The team already knows the vibe and works well together, and this really doesn’t miss a beat in returning us to silly adventures with chunky lil’ Cthulu tagalongs.
Karl Stock and Steve Roberts on Future Shock Trash Culture. This is a little cheesy, but in a good way; I’d even stretch to say that it’s cute, which is a crazy ass term to use for any 2000 AD strip, but here we are. And I don’t mind! The mag – Regened or not – can be home to all sorts of different styles, and I like that Stock and Roberts went for something that feels like a Saturday morning cartoon, albeit taking place in a trash-strewn dystopia. Roberts’ art definitely adds to this vibe: very expressive; very animated. Again, it’s a bit cheesy, but Shocks sort of are good for that anyway, with their required final panel zingers.
And now our inspired entry: Chopper! Set right after the character’s prison sentence from way back in the day, David Barnett’s juggling of scrawler Marlon Shakespeare’s internal monologue + the actual dialogue gets a little confusing, but the overall fun of this strip blows past that. Barnett’s doing 4th-wall breaking cheek to appeal to the youngsters, and while that’s a little eye-rolly, I think it’s ultimately a good approach for giving the entry some teenly ‘tude. Nick Roche’s art is all bold, sharp lines, well balanced with details to keep us focused on the continual visual humor, and colorist Pippa Bowland does a great job of setting an acerbic tone – fitting to Barnett’s writing – while also allowing for some good pop colors.