3 out of 5
The usual song: if these particular strips are your cups of tea, then I think they’re fairly good outings. Newbie Skip Tracer didn’t go in the direction I would have preferred, and I perpetually cannot get on board with Kek-W’s unfocused writing style and thus his Deadworld, but maybe you liked how ST developed, and I at least felt forward momentum with Kek’s entry (which hasn’t always been the case).
The Dredds: Michael Carroll offers the five part Paradigm Shift to tie into his recent novel, which explores the very first judges. The story is split between something that went down in the past and its ramifications in the now. Carroll is a proven, reliable factor nowadays, and Jake Lynch really reigned in his style (appreciably) to match the more down-to-earth setting of the tale, but it reads too much like a prequel: it’s holding back. Not quite enough to make one pick up the book (although I have, giggle), and not quite enough to stand on its own. A Rory McConville palate cleanser follows, and then Rob Williams and Chris Weston (whom a letter writer amusingly describes as out-Boltoning Bolton, and I’m totally agreed) offer up an amusing two-part monkey heist. It’s slight, and I’m back and forth on Williams writing, but there are some damned funny panels in this one.
Skip Tracer by James Peaty and Paul Marshall. Marshall has a somewhat stiff style, but I do love seeing him on the book: his work has this very grounded feel to it that’s equally very comic booky. Peaty I’m new to (and I think he’s new to the mag), and it’s cool that he was able to offer up the rare non-Dredd strip, although it’s maybe kinda just MC1 in space. What starts out as a nifty sci-fi noir ends up leaning a bit too much into the high-falutin’ sci-fi to keep me hooked, but I’ll still be keeping an eye on Peaty.
Survival Geeks: The usual (fantastic) team of Rennie, Beeby, Googe, and wonderfully poppy colors from Gary Caldwell. What I said above about cups of tea applies here: I love Survival Geeks, and this riff on cons and Doctor Who was pure entertainment to me. But it’s very Survival Geeks, through and through, and some people just aren’t on board with that.
A Deadworld strip in which we get closer to the reality of the Dark Judges and certain people flip-flop sides is all well and good. It’s readable. But see above regarding the tea.
A Durham Red strip closes things out, by Alec Worley and Ben Willsher’s. Ben’s art is welcome in the mag, bringing a little Tony Harris into things and a nice middle ground between the painted mush of Deadworld and the more comic-y stuff from the Dredd pool. Similar to Skip Tracer, this is a strip that I started out digging – Red is hired to track down someone, which leads to various kerfluffles – but, I dunno, the motivations started to get completely lost to me. It’s a turn that happens sooner than it did in Skip Tracer, meaning I also stopped caring sooner. I don’t associate any particular writer with Red, so I have no idea if Worley did her justice, but she didn’t end up having much personality to me.
A new “The Order” starts up at the tail end of this set (…more painted Kek-W stuff, yay…), which I’ll touch on in the next review of progs.