3 out of 5
A couple solid entries, several caveats.
We start off strong: Liam Johnson has given Cavan Scott a rest from the Dredd spot, paired with Ben Willsher on art – who looks phenomenal, doing big and bold figures with bright colors – and though I could’ve done without the Vin Diesel / Dwayne Johnson F&F lookalikes, Johnson doesn’t overplay it too much, and we get a really solid chase sequence with Joe and Rico on their bikes and laying down some law. It’s supremely arted action, and Liam’s take on the Joe / Rico banter works well, giving the former his terseness and the latter his snide, but maintaining a brotherly bond.
Next: James Peaty gives us a new strip – Scooter & Jinx. I give Peaty a lot of shit in the regular prog because I don’t find his writing to be very unique – his stories are often constructed (to me) out of generic ideas and predictable dialogue. I will say that Scooter & Jinx is very fun, and Steve Roberts’ art + Jim Boswell’s colors are a dream, giving us a loose, cartoony look that has the stretch and squish of Lew Stringer, but with a sketchier edge, like Nick Brokenshire. However, still bent on giving Peaty shit, I feel like he aims too young with this one – it’s a meet cute between the two titular characters, when the latter gets the former mixed up in a heist-gone-wrong kinda thing, but it lacks any bite. It’s a Beano strip, not a 2000 AD. I mean, it’s a very good version of the former, but I don’t think it has the kind of edge that good Regened strips walk on.
That edge does exist in Cavan Scott’s Enemy Earth, in which an orphaned teen is fighting back against the malevolent, mutant plant life that has overtaken the planet. Scott’s internal monologue for his character is gripping, and I dig the way he dances around the What of it all, putting just enough detail in to keep us in the story, but leaving mystery for some potential followup entries. Unfortunately, Luke Horsman’s way stylized, blocky look just isn’t a good fit on this for me, even when supported by John Charles’ popping colors. I do think the action was clear, and maybe I’ll get used to Horsman’s look if there are further entries, but it was just a bit too cartoonish for the tone for me.
Colin Harvey, artist Tom Newell, and colorist Gary Caldwell are next up in this Regened’s best: a Time Twisters. I rolled my eyes a bit at making an “influencer” the focus – that’s a very “now” concept for a future strip – but Harvey doesn’t do this for any excessive commentary on a tired topic, and instead just uses it as a funny springboard for the concept: our influencer travels through time to gain followers across the decades. While the concluding joke is pretty obvious, that’s totally fine, because it’s entertaining as heck – in the same way that a good Tales From the Crypt or Twilight Zone might walk a familiar path, but you enjoy every moment of the journey: that’s the quality of the presentation. Newell nails the tone and timing, and Harvey lands the right balance of having fun jumping through history while also delivering his punchline.
Lastly: Strontium Dug. I was really looking forward to this, even if I’ve been iffy on David Baillie’s work thus far. And for the most part, I was really pleased! Dug (sorry – Dougal IX) does the perp hunting when his owner – McNulty – cannot, and it’s funny Mr. Magoo stuff, where the dug stumbles into the solution somewhat accidentally. I also liked that Baillie didn’t “cheat” – Dougal only knows what a dug can know, but sometimes that’s all you need. My complaint on this one comes from an odd direction: Colin MacNeil’s art. Colin is very reliable in the progs, but Baillie’s action is very cluttered on this – there are a lot of concepts to sift through – and I think the dialogue tells the story well, but the art… doesn’t, frankly. That is, without the description, I’m not sure I’d know what was going on. Now that could still be partially blamed on Baillie, not toning things down to fit his artist, and that’s fair, but I guess because I trust MacNeil, my more critical eye went toward the art.