Two stories come to an end in this week’s prog: one just in time, and one too soon.
The former is “Ulysses Sweet, Maniac for Hire: Psycho-Therapist” (writer: Guy Adams; artists: Paul Marshall and Chris Blythe), which relied too heavily on flippant discussions of violence that were clearly aiming for a Warren Ellis/Si Spurrier-esque tone but never got there. I wasn’t sad to see it end – although “If there’s one thing people will always love, it’s extreme violence in a good cause!” is this week’s standout quote.
If I’m honest, another of my problems with “Psycho-Therapist” is that it wasn’t weird enough. This may sound like an odd criticism of a story featuring an infant hitman named “Joe the Fetus,” but my initial encounter with Ulysses Sweet was in an early Grant Morrison-authored story where Sweet runs into a group of potato-like aliens and, after wreaking unnecessary havoc, spends the final panel stuffing his face with chips. “Psycho-Therapist” had too much human blood splatter and not enough starch-based extraterrestrials.
By contrast, the ending of “Orlok, Agent of East-Meg One: Euro-Zoned” (author: Arthur Wyatt; artist: Jake Lynch) was overly abrupt, and seemed most interested in tying up loose ends than in letting the story reach a natural conclusion. Espionage stories tend to benefit from a slower pace, since they often contain a lot of information and the reader needs time to see how all of that information fits together. It’s why movies (and, I’m told, books) like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy work so well. Spy-ish stories that are focused on someone trying to shoot as many people as possible and have cool car chases don’t need so much breathing room, but “Euro-Zoned” wasn’t shaping up to be one of those stories. There were a number of characters whom I would have enjoyed seeing develop, especially Orlok himself. Here’s hoping his next story gives him more room to show off his complexities.
“Judge Dredd: Dark Justice” (author: John Wagner; artist: Greg Staples) continues with some good old-fashioned Dark Judge violence and the classic line, “Foolllsss! You cannot kill what doess not live!” on the first page. That line, combined with a later panel in which Judge Death whips out his signature hand-through-the-chest move, clearly aims this story arc less at Dark Judge newbies and more at readers who got hyped up about seeing the Dark Judges come back to hiss dramatic pronouncements and murder a load of people. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m one of those hyped-up readers. Also, Judge Fire gets a whole page for his antics which is almost all reds, yellows, and oranges, and it looks awesome.
If it’s wrapped around the back of his head, at that angle it would just slide off. Or is the bottom bit attached to his collar? If so, how much give does the cord have? Is his head stuck in that position all the time? And what is the top bit attached to?
“The Order” (author: John Burns; artist: Kek-W) continues to look great, and protagonist Anna is as tough as ever. One question: does this world not have female warriors? I thought it was just crazy conservative guys who were against women fighting, but one of the (elderly) male supporting cast to says that Anna fights well “for a – (hff!) – girl.” If warriors are of any gender in this setting, then fighting “like a girl” wouldn’t be mentioned as an insult or an accusation of weakness. The mystery surrounding Anna’s past is ramping up at a nice pace, neither too slow nor too quick. Plus, who could object to a story about a woman blasting the heck out of horrific worm creatures with a medieval laser gun?
I’m still unsure as to what is going on in “Savage: Grinders” (author: Pat Mills; artist: Patrick Goddard), although with some 2000AD archives and a fair amount of time I could probably figure it out. The black-and-white art really works for this story, giving it a starkness that takes its visuals back to the early days of 2000AD, albeit with grittier shadows.
This review wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to two of 2000AD’s veteran female creators in lettering: Annie Parkhouse, making the dialogue in “Dark Justice” look amazing and everyone’s speech in “The Order” look exactly right, and Ellie DeVille doing the same for “Psycho-Therapist” and “Grinders.” In fact, only one story – “Euro-Zoned” – is lettered by a man (Simon Bowland, who does an equally great job). It’s the kind of thing that uplifts me. Without these women, the Dark Judges wouldn’t be able to say “ROT in peaccce!” Anna couldn’t call anyone a “boastful old fool.” The 2000AD roster may come across as manly, but it’s women who enable its characters to speak.
NEXT WEEK: A story with bright colors in it!