Judge Anderson: The Psi Files Volume 3 (2013)

“You’re willing to kill Grud knows how many of our own children to get at people you don’t even know are our enemies?”

The latest volume of collected Judge Anderson stories from 2000AD, Judge Dredd Megazine and various annuals and specials was written in the main by Alan Grant – two illustrated prose stories are provided by Peter Milligan and Andy Lanning/Dan Abnett. The majority of the art in this volume was by Steve Sampson with another longer story being illustrated by Arthur Ranson and the single issue stories being illustrated by a variety of artists including the great Ian Gibson.

The book contains 4 longish stories, a couple of shorter stories and 7 single issue stories.

Something Wicked carries on from the end of volume 2 and sees Anderson on probation with Judge Dredd after going AWOL. A series of crimes where the perps were possessed, leads Dredd and Anderson to suspect the charismatic leader of a cult who is about to leave Earth with his followers to set up a new life on another planet.

Satan, illustrated by Arthur Ranson, sees the arrival of an omnipotent being to Mega-City One. It believes itself to the Devil incarnate and seeks the destruction of Mega-City One.

Wonderwall is an Alice in Wonderland inspired story that sees Anderson probing the defensive constructs of a young girl’s mind as she tries to understand why she is catatonic and who caused her condition.

Crusade carries on the theme of the life of children within Mega-City society and, in a tale reminiscent of the Pied Piper, Anderson and the senior judges must formulate a plan to save the city’s children when they follow a series of angelic child prophets on the promise of a new life.

Grant again uses Anderson to explore the more social side of Mega- City One. The main stories deal with the lot of children in the sprawling urban decay – abandoned without any parental control to run wild and their eventual slide into crime and abuse. While I love Judge Dredd, it is the more human side of the city revealed by Anderson and her outlook that really appeals to me and this collection is a good example of that. Although the stories carry on from what has gone on before and there are some fleeting references to past events, I think an interested reader could pick this volume up and give the world of Judge Anderson a go without too much of a problem.

The New Deadwardians #1-8 (2012)

“One day I recall, I had to re-kill my entire platoon.”

The New Deadwardians #1 cover

This recently finished 8 part mini-series from Vertigo was created by writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard. Abnett has had a long career as a writer of prose books, most notably a large number of Warhammer 40K novels, and comics books mainly for Marvel and 2000AD. Ian Culbard has illustrated a number of adaptions of literary works including  Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, H.P. Lovecraft stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars.

Set in an alternate history London of 1910, a curse has spread across England since zombies (known as the Restless) first mysteriously appeared in 1861. Attracted by the living, the only cure is to become a vampire (known as the Young) an option taken up mainly by the wealthy and privileged members of society. The rest of the human race (known as the Bright) live in barricaded zones surrounded by hundreds of the Restless pressing in attracted by the living. In this setting, Chief Inspector George Suttle is called on to investigate the murder of a Young aristocrat who death is made more mysterious by not being due to one of the three ways to kill the Young. During his investigation, Suttle has to cross into a Bright zone and deal with the reawakening of long dormant desires as well as secret societies and pressure to close the case quickly without any scandal.

Abnett has taken some very old (and possibly tired) supernatural species and managed to weave a fresh story full of intrigue. The zombies are mostly background threat with a couple of incursions in the living zones of London. The most interesting relationship is between the Young and the Bright and the simmering resentment that pervades the whole series. Suttle goes through a transformative experience when made to interact with the Bright that challenges the life (or unlife) he has been leading for nearly 50 years. I liked the art by Ian Culbard and the subtle colour palette used throughout the book. Worth a look for a different take on some classic horror tropes.

Wardog (2004)

[ Listening to BBC Radio Scotland Currently: Listening to BBC Radio Scotland ]

This is a story that was first published in Judge Dredd: The Megazine 4.01-4.10 – a sister publication to the long running 2000AD. It was written by Dan Abnett (who has written many stories for Marvel UK and 2000AD) and it was drawn by Patrick Goddard and Dylan Teague (who have also had art duties on other 2000AD characters).

The story concerns Jack Wardog who is a bombhead – he has no memory of his past life but has had a bomb surgically implanted in his head that is connected to a countdown counter that is activated, as an added incentive, when he sent on a mission by the mysterious Endtrail Enclave. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world – it could be Earth or another planet there is no real clue –where humans live and trade alongside autonomous mechanoids. When he is not on missions Jack is free to earn a living doing jobs for the general populace. As a result of one of these he finds himself investigating why a populated area has become deserted with the human population missing and the mechanoid population destroyed. This leads to an enclave ruled by mechanoids who want to take on the attributes of humans – including harvesting skin for themselves – whilst destroying mechanoids who will not join their band.

This is a story with very little context given within it – the blurb on the back sets out the world and the role of bombheads much more than the story does and so is essential reading. Part of the reason for this may be that the story is based on a game produced by Rebellion – the publisher of both 2000AD and The Megazine. This may explain why the plot in the story has no real connection to the fact that Jack Wardog is a bombhead – he only goes on one short mission where he is on a time limit within the book – that narrative may well have been saved as part of the play within the game. Whatever the reason it is a weakness of the book that Jack’s condition is not really addressed and is virtually immaterial to the story. However it is a fairly typical example of sci-fi storylines produced by 2000AD and so if you like that kind of story you will probably enjoy this one.

Thor (2010) – Part 3

The third and final part of the round up that I am doing consists of spin-off comics where Thor shares the spotlight with others or is just a peripheral figure to the story.

Thor and the Warriors Four (cover date: June 2010)

This is a four issue mini-series written by Alex Zalben with art by Gurihiru. We all know, I assume, Thor’s friends and comrades the Warriors Three (more of whom later) but this story concerns the Warriors Four who turn out to be Power Pack. The story has the Power family worried for their grandmother who is lying at death’s door in hospital. Being heroes they do not want to accept their grandmother’s fate but try to do something about it. Reading a book on Norse myths, Julie Power has the idea of contacting Thor to try and obtain the legendary golden apples that keep the Norse gods young and healthy. In trying to do this they run into the pet Avengers (?) and frog Thor opens a portal for them to travel to Asgard on wargs. This is a fun, cutesy story aimed at younger readers, I would guess. The art is nice and clean with an Americanised manga look to it. Not one for me to buy for myself but might be a nice introduction to Marvel for a younger relative.

Chaos War: Thor (cover date: January 2011)

This is a two issue mini-series that is part of a bigger multi-title crossover from Marvel called Chaos War. The typically restrained Marvel blurb for Chaos War #1 says:

 

Quote:
Bigger than THE INFINITY GAUNTLET! More cosmic than ANNIHILATION! Since the end of SECRET INVASION, the CHAOS KING has amassed his army of alien slave gods — and the time to strike Earth is NOW! Only the greatest Marvel heroes can oppose him — all led by the newly-returned god of heroes … HERCULES! But are even his incredible new powers enough to stand against the greatest threat the Marvel Universe has ever seen – a mad god who seeks to destroy Reality itself?

 

The comic is written by J.M. DeMatteis who I know best from books published in the late eighties and early nineties such as Moonshadow, Blood: A Tale and an excellent run on Doctor Fate where he reinvented the character. The art is handled by more unknowns to me – Brian Ching and Rick Ketcham. The story starts on a cosmic scale with Thor battling a powerful god called Glory but then both combatants neutralise each other and fall to Earth. Thor reverts to human form and is found by a troubled woman living alone searching for answers to the death of her family. When Thor comes to he has lost his memory and spends some time with the woman before being found by the reawakened Glory. I’m not really a fan of big event storylines that crossover into books that I would never normally read – especially when books I do read get caught up in them. The question is really can this book be written so that it satisfies as a standalone story without getting tied in knots with the continuity in the wider story? Well probably not is the answer. DeMatteis does a good job of turning a large scale cosmic event into an insular search for awareness and spiritual enlightenment – themes he explored in the books I read in the eighties – but in the end it would have been better if he could have written his own standalone story and not have the Chaos War backdrop. So an oddity within the continuity of the Chaos War but it did leave wanting more of those stories I remember from 20 years ago.

Iron Man/Thor: God Complex (cover date: January 2011)

This is a four part series written by long time collaborators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – stalwarts of various Marvel UK titles and 2000AD – with art by Scot Eaton and Jaime Mendoza. This is a strange book to me because it involves a number of characters that I am not familiar with not being a huge reader of Marvel comics – such as Baron Mordo, Crimson Dynamo, Ulik and the High Evolutionary. However having spent most of the first issue cutting from scene to scene to finally set up the premise to looks as though it might well be very entertaining. I think I would need to read issue 2 to get a better feel if I really want to pursue it to the end. But I can’t help being cynical in thinking that Marvel have brought these characters together now (outside of their being team mates in the Avengers) to associate the successful movie franchise, Iron Man, with the forthcoming Thor movie.

Warriors Three (cover date: January 2011)

 

I had high hopes going into this one as it is written by Bill Willingham, whose Fables series for Vertigo is fantastic, and I thought the pairing of Willingham with the characters of the Warriors Three would be perfect. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out like that straight from the off. The story starts with a killing spree by Fenris Wolf in which a small town is slaughtered. Then we are introduced to each of the warriors in turn – first the philanderer Fandral who is pushed out of a window before the return of a husband; next Volstagg who has cleaned out a diner an all you can eat for $14.99 lunch as a challenge; and finally Hogun who has laid out most men in a bar for laughing at his hat. The Asgardians are summoned back to Asgard to learn the news of Fenris Wolf’s escape and to be sent off to hunt him down and place him back into captivity. Thor tells the three that he would understand if they stayed behind to safeguard Asgard rather than join the hunt but they reject this and go to the place where he was held prisoner to find clues only to be overrun by trolls. The story was good enough but it didn’t have the same spark as his own series does – maybe he doesn’t have enough freedom to play with the characters or maybe the story is just slow getting started. It is a four issue mini-series so I would be interested in reading it all when it is complete but it will be somewhere in the middle of my list of things to buy.

Loki (cover date: December 2010)

This is another four issue mini-series featuring Thor’s jealous half-brother Loki. The story starts with Loki in hiding from Asgard but he is found and Thor comes to speak with him. Thor wants to discover why Loki has done his latest misdeed but instead Loki talks of past injustices and resentments that have helped shaped his character. Again the story and art are fine enough without being exceptional. Loki is portrayed at his lowest ebb and so is not as fiendish and tricky, or so it seems, as he is in other stories where he has the upper hand. I usually like Loki as a villain but he needs to have more energy about him than he has in this story. Another one to keep an eye on and see how it develops before buying, I think.