Downlode Tales vol. #1 – 3 (pkgd. w/ JD Megs #330, 334 – 335) – Dan Abnett

4 out of 5

I starting reading Sinister Dexter way late – sometime in the 20teens or thereabouts – but one of the things I’ve found most fascinating about it is how both story-rich and standalone it is. I suppose a lot of 2000 AD is like that, especially Judge Dredd, but even amongst Dan Abnett’s other ongoing titles, something about SinDex makes it just eminently accessible. And as I’ve caught up on past progs, I find I can read them in any order, and somehow, the story just slots together, regardless of where I am in the timeline. Perhaps it’s that everything within the world of Downlode is both stereotype and original: that SinDex and its character function almost wholly within action movie cliche, but are then also stuffed to the gills with personality and detail.

Downlode Tales, collected across 3 Megazine floppies, occurs at a point where the death of Demi has split Ray and Finn onto separate sides – the former now working with the police, the latter putting together a new “whack pack.” Of course they come into conflict, and of course there are double-crosses, but Dan knits it all together with that same amazing bravado, initially swirling around in one-shots that introduce / reintroduce some characters, and how they factor in to the current status quo, then kicking the plot into high gear and Ramone’s cops and Finn’s killer converge on similar targets. It’s wonderfully violent, and silly, but then also interjected with sparks of emotion, and great patter throughout – SinDex sounds like no other title.

The mixed artists are used perfectly, making sure to lock in a consistent artist for ongoing storylines, and otherwise letting people like Sean Phillips, Siku, Greg Staples, and more, handle individual slices. Simon Davis ends up taking over the bulk of the work, and he’s one of the few paint-based artists that works for me, able to actually interject a painted comics page with insane energy, especially impressive given the scope and pace of SinDex’s antics. (This also seems particular to how Dan writes, because Davis’ style is maybe too flourished for me on, for example, Slaine.)

Downlode Tales proper is an epic, with a slam-bang conclusion that hits all marks satisfyingly, and a well-paced buildup of Sin vs. Dex tension. Volume 3 of this set also contains The Off-Lode Experience, in which Dan goes into full silly mode as our gunsharks take up an outer-space hit job. The various aliens with which they come into contact make for hilarious single story slices, but the tossed off tone does make the conclusion feel especially hasty, and Davis loses a couple of steps here when arting the action, not able to clearly capture the dynamics of the scenes.