Lawless Book Two TPB: Long Range War – Dan Abnett

4 out of 5

I’m sure you can toss some Wild, Wild West at me when I say what I’m about to say – that you can’t go too wrong with sci-fi Westerns – but I (perhaps shamefully) recall not being bored by that movie, so until I rewatch it, I’m standing by that statement.

You can’t go too wrong, and when they go right, then they are damn good.  Take Dan Abnett’s Lawless: a Dreddverse saga set in the dusty backwater of Badrock, with mechanical horses, a big ol’ corporate meanie named Munce tryin’ ta’ take over the land, and a tough-as-nails marshall (a Judge) named Metta Lawson, and shootouts galore – this is a prime creator leaning in to tropes from both genres to craft something genuinely fun and rewarding.  In volume 2, Badrock is in the midset of a slowburn Munce siege, fending off resource restrictions and direct attacks, with Lawson and deputy Nerys managing to get robots and mutants and humans to play together well.  Meticulous-liney artist Phil Winslade has gotten better than his already-awesome here, learning how to balance his black-and-whites with tones so foreground and background don’t blend together, and Abnett builds up to a rousing and breathless battle at the end of the book’s second arc.

Some of the subplots don’t fare too well with the monthly Megazine format, in that the compressed time of reading the installments in one go means that dramatic arcs develop seemingly too quickly; on a macro level, and as a result of stringing a year’s worth of art and story together, the two storylines contained in the trade can too easily be seen to follow the exact same beats.  Neither of these qualities derail how rich and rewarding this little burgh and cast o’ characters have come to be via Dan’s pen, and awareness of how 2000 AD / Meg stuff has limited pages in which to tell its bits each week or month makes one rather forgiving.

But with an uplift gorilla named Kill-a-Man Jaroo – who’s also an awesome deputy – there’s not much to forgive, eh?