4 out of 5
Solid Dredds, a fun bit of Cursed Earth goop from T.C. Eglington and Boo Cook, and a masterfully awesome Lawless. The other rotating spots include a modern Surfer entry from John Wagner – which was, at worst, incredibly interesting – and the only real knock on this run comes from the final couple stories: Diamond Dogs part three (James Peaty / Warren Pleece) and the modern day Anderson scribe, Maura McHugh, does some big moves in the Psi world, but her writing still feels a bit stuttery to me, and Lee Carter’s stiff art doesn’t help.
But, starting off in the Dredd spot: Ken Niemand and Steven Austin spin a pretty great, compressed, Dredd-take on government interference, proving that such political commentary is always ripe for new approaches. After this, Rory McConville and Staz Johnson do an extended take that also hits on similar subject matter for satire: puppet governments. The setup gets a particularly Dreddversed skew, using a faux-religious leader, and while the execution on this never quite hits its stride, it always feels conceptually funny, which makes it enjoyable. Next, Arthur Wyatt – between artists Ian Richardson and Jake Lynch – sets up a really fascinating bit of intrigue, first in an underwater, undercover mission with Brit Cit (with Richardson’s bright, chunky art, looking somewhat Richard Elson-y), then some really mind twisty Orlok stuff (with Lynch, solid and limber as ever) that feels very weighty, but also has some good cheek to it – a very Wagner style tale. Lastly. Niemand returns with Neil Googe – it’s hard to say if this is a cliffhanger for something, but regardless, this comedic bit was a great “return” for Judge Death.
Death Cap: Boo Cook and Eglington are still exploring strange growth in the outer reaches of the Dreddverse, this time tying it to a very hard-edged, Western / revenge tale. I’ve commented previously that Eglington’s stories often wander a bit for me, starting strong then spiraling out, but this really had me gripped the whole while, perhaps thanks to keep focused on a singular character throughout. We really feel for the lead, and Cook’s bubbly, goopy style keeps evolving, such that it’s really working a unique vibe of looking pretty and vile at the same time; very controlled.
Diamond Dogs: I do dig attempts to bring “regular” crime into MC-1, and the Brit-Cit gang networking happening in Diamond Dogs should be a good way to explore that, especially when James Peaty brings Armitage into the mix. I also like seeing Warren Pleece again; there’s a nice Yeowell-like workmanship to his style that feels very unique to 2000 AD / The Meg. However, Peaty’s one of the scattered new-ish writers that I just can’t get into, as he tends to write – by my opinion – in complete cliche, making characters hard to build up much feeling for (since they’re all walking cutouts spouting action movie / noir phrases you’ve heard before), and scenarios rather predictable. All the Diamond Dogs arcs have admittedly provided some good twists, but because all of the surrounding elements don’t immerse me much, they don’t hit. But: there’s a predictability here, so if you like what you’ve read before, you should like this run as well.
Anderson: Anytime a writer takes ownership of a character, I approve. Ales Kot with Devlin Waugh is a good example, and Maura McHugh being the go-to on Cass is another. Now, mind you, I’ve gotten a bit tired of Kot’s take, and I mentioned above that McHugh’s runs haven’t been great to me, but I still dig the ownership – it makes me feel like the writer likes the character, and that’s worth a lot, even if I don’t vibe with their writing. And McHugh in particular keeps coming up with some great ideas, such as this shake-up bid for a new Psi leader, replacing Shenker. That’s a big deal! And the trials McHugh imagines (at least, I assume they’re her creation – I haven’t read all of Grant’s Cass stuff, though) are really fascinating, but, again, things jump around a lot, and artist Lee Carter just isn’t a good match for the more surreal elements. Still – I’m all about this: McHugh continuing; taking big story swings.
Surfer – Wags and MacNeil, back in the world of Chopper… or a sky-surfer influenced by Chopper, at least. The tone on this seemed, perhaps, dimmed by the passing of Ezquerra? Wagner’s writing just felt awfully morose, when the story itself seemed pretty punchy – following a new surfer who gets mixed up in a supposed “film shoot,” chronicling Supersurf 7, behind which there are some problematic things going on… I quite love the legacy of Chopper, and I know John does also; there’s the weight of that behind this, which makes it feel important, and, again, it reads kinda that way, though it’s also somewhat just Mega City nonsense as usual. I dunno – this was a weird one, but as with several of the stories above, I looked forward to it, even if / when it was ultimately off.
Lastly – Abnett and Winslade’s Lawless. There’s no more to say about how consistently good this is, except that if you were worried that Metta’s withdraw from the law and into politics was going to be a drag… well, no. Dan still knows how to mash-up commentary and the fantastic – serious action and serious drama – expertly, and he and Winslade just know this world so, so well. Because Brink had kinda been (purposefully) twiddling its thumbs over in the progs, I was worried the same was happening here – this is a long arc – but Dan kept adding in wrinkles, leading up to a killer cliffhanger ending.