4 out of 5
Said whilst shaking fist: Skip Tracerrrrrr!!
I’ve expressed dislike for James Peaty’s / Paul Marshall’s psi-cop procedural Skip Tracer previously, and in a prog that contains a fantastic Dredd tale, Jaegir and Grey Area – both of which I’m admittedly a biased fan – and a fun 3riller, that dislike makes it stick out like a sore thumb. I hate outright trashing something, accepting that it certainly works for some people and that there’s effort that goes into making it, even if I don’t like the end result, but there does seem to be a consensus in the printed letters that there’s a general lack of understanding of the strip’s appeal. (Although it had enough appeal for a sequel…) At best, it’s just completely undistinguished: we already have psi-cops in the Dredd world, and there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about lead Nolan Blake (he’s rather a faceless action star), his bad guys (terrorists, I guess?), or the psi-blast-first-ask-questions-later approach he takes. Paul Marshall, who is capable of adding mood when needed by a script, treads water with the generic ‘Cube’ setting and cookie-cutter action. Peaty offers us petty one liners when Blake knocks someone out. As noted, this all works for some, I’m sure, but I struggle to understand how, and I hope this is the last we’ve seen of the strip.
With the recent passing of Carlos Ezquerra, I’ve been wondering if it would affect John Wagner’s writing, so aligned was the artist with some of Wagner’s best 2000 AD offerings. The Dredd tale Machine Law – in which new Chief Judge Logan appoints robo-judge Harvey to his council, inciting mass riots amongst not only the populace but resistant judges as well – concludes in these progs, and it’s one of the most balanced and interesting things Wagner has written in recent past, which, for a dude who’s offered us consistently great tales, is not a small taters compliment. I bring up Ezquerra because it’s possible to read a layer of transition in the way the story unfolds: change is introduced; people revolt; Dredd has his own disagreements but holds true to the law. Wagner writes a fascinating set of back-and-forths between Logan, Harvey, and Dredd – and dying judge Hershey – such that we can’t be sure, exactly, how Joe is going to act in response to the debate. The ending John went with was brilliant: not a cop out, and offers a conclusion while allowing for the discussion to continue…
Grey Area: Mark Harrison’s page clarity is tough to parse when the action heats up, but I can’t imagine this thrill without his characterizations and the generally mucky environment he’s designed. Abnett carried on his secret op for an impressively long time, and it was exciting to see how Kymn and Bitch could find their way back into the fold. Especially telling of the strip’s longevity is the thrill in 2122, which is literally just a long conversation discussing, essentially, what happens now. Harrison’s acting, panel by panel, is fantastic, and Abnett’s scripting of the exchange makes each word required reading.
3riller Tooth & Nail: I think the ending of this was sort of predictable, but Andi Ewington’s script found a bouncy, interesting way to present this 3-part tale of a mob interrogation. This is one of those perfect uses of a 3riller, in that it gives us a completely different 2000 AD vibe, but in a bite-sized format, letting us know whether or not we should keep an eye out for other offerings from the talent without having to subject us to some multi-part thrill if’n we don’t like it. Since Ewington spun something relatively generic into a thrill I looked forward to continuing, that’s a definite ‘yes’ on wanting to see what’s next.
Aaand Jaegir, Gordon Rennie’s / Simon Coleby’s ongoing punishments of tough-as-heck Nort Atalia, as she and her crew investigate wartime abuses. In Bonegrinder, she’s been sent out to mete out the law in a region constantly under assault by Southers, and which turns out to be inescapable. So: she figures a way to escape, but it’s not without consequence… for her. Jaegir and Klaur are such strongly defined and brittle characters (defined in both writing and art), that I could just read scenes between the two of them and enjoy my time with Jaegir. Rennie gives us that, but has also added to the nuances of Atalia’s lineage, and found new damning threats to throw her into the midst of along the way, and Bonegrinder tops the list of high-stakes thrills. It ends on quite a cliffhanger.
Lots to love in these four progs, fist-shaking aside.