judge-child

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 3 (October 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #3

A lot of the issue is rough going. Wagner tries out a few things on the second two planets–Dredd and company go to three–and has some success. But the adventure on the first planet, which has a bunch of different alien species at war, but as televised entertainment, is tedious.

Still, Wagner somehow distracts from Dredd not getting any clues about the location of the Judge Child. It’s just a trip through the galaxy, really.

The second story is more horror-influenced, which leads to some silly elements (like a giant monster in outer space grabbing Dredd’s spaceship), but the stuff in the scary castle is good. McMahon’s art on this section is utterly fantastic; he revels in the creepiness.

The last planet is prehistoric cavemen, with Wagner narrating from a storyteller’s song. It’s a cool little digression. Nice art from McMahon too.

That first story hurts though.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

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wool

Wool 1 (June 2014)

Wool #1

Wool opens with one protagonist, then moves on to another, then promises a third. It’s a novel adaptation, which might have handled the transitions smoother, but writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are a tad abrupt. They do well establishing the setting–a post-apocalyptic future where everyone lives in a huge silo underground and can’t go outside–but the characters and their relationships are confusing.

They don’t, for example, explain how people communicate with one another in the silo. It’s vaguely manipulative writing, intended to create drama instead of be reasonable.

Most of the issue follows the mayor and a sheriff’s deputy on their way to hire a new sheriff (the original protagonist being the previous sheriff). Gray and Palmiotti do a decent job establishing the mayor character, but at the end it’s unclear if she was worth the investment.

It definitely engages and Jimmy Broxton’s art is fantastic.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist, Jimmy Broxton; letterer, Bill Tortolini; editor, Matt Hoffman; publisher, Jet City Comics.

judge-child

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 2 (September 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #2

Wagner takes Dredd and company–though the company is rather indistinct–on an intergalactic quest. They’re in pursuit of the Angel family, who have kidnapped the Judge Child. There’s not a lot on the pursuit, but rather a series of imaginative sci-fi encounters.

The first has Dredd encountering a space station where the computer has taken over. Kind of 2001 with a lot of action. Not entirely original, but it works.

The second encounter, on a planet where the humans can download their consciousness into chips to live forever (another person loans out their body for the consciousness’s usage), is the best. This section is where Dredd gets a sidekick and Wagner gets to write the most.

Since Dredd is hopping from planet to planet, it never feels episodic.

The finale has him against a living, hungry planet.

Some great art from McMahon, Bolland and Smith throughout.

Excellent stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

kinski

Kinski 6 (November 2014)

Kinski #6

Hardman brings the story to a satisfactory, if somewhat unreasonable conclusion. He jumps through time a lot–a year total–and skips over the more interesting parts of his protagonist’s experiences. He also stops with the character study aspect of Kinski and treats the whole issue as an epilogue.

So while the narrative has a neat tie at the end, Hardman never really did anything with it. The point was the reading experience, something he succeeded executing. But the comic often feels like it could go further–and not explaining means Hardman can’t fail. However, as a narrative where he never tries to explain, it all feels too traditional.

Still, it’s a beautifully illustrated, often really well written comic book. Hardman got six issues out of a relatively slight idea–one he never significantly expanded on. It’s just a little too bad he didn’t try for more with the series.

B 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

judge-child

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 1 (August 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #1

Judge Dredd heads into the Cursed Earth looking for a mutant child who’s going to have to save Mega-City One, or so one of the pre-cogs says. Writer John Wagner comes up with some decent encounters for Dredd–this issue’s primary villain is a “garbage god” who has thousands of slaves mining antiques from pre-apocalypse Memphis for him. There’s an ancient Egypt thing too; it doesn’t make much sense, but the Brian Bolland and Ron Smith are is excellent so it doesn’t need to make any.

The series is more compiled entries from 2000 AD but never feels too bumpy–with Wagner so focused on Dredd trying to find the child, it’s mostly action. The biggest bump comes after the end of the Garbage God episode, with Dredd continuining his hunt into Texas.

That finale, which leads to the cliffhanger, makes the issue seem a tad bloated.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, McMahon; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

kinski

Kinski 5 (October 2014)

Kinski #5

Hardman finds a better mix of the character work and the action, with his protagonist sharing a car ride with the dog’s owner and finding out a little more about her life. There’s nothing more about the protagonist (except his willingness to talk himself into bad situations). Instead, Hardman expands the supporting cast through the protagonist’s journey.

It’s almost a soft boot of the series, which started as the protagonist’s story, moved into more action oriented episodes and is now a look at the dog’s actual owners and their lives. Though Hardman does manage to get in some more action at the end of the issue.

Whether or not there’s a satisfactory conclusion, Hardman has definitely shown he can get a lot of mileage out of a simple idea and a good setting. His dialogue and character work this issue are phenomenal. And his action composition is masterful as always.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 13 (November 1984)

Judge Dredd #13

Wagner finishes the Chief Judge Cal storyline. There are a couple surprises before the end, with Wagner in something of a hurry. Smith doesn’t get much space on the art, which is unfortunate, but he uses the space he gets really well at times. It’s a satisfactory conclusion, but the denouement is way too abrupt.

The next story has Dredd contending with a block where people are reverting back to apes. Wagner gets a lot of good jokes in, especially with how he writes the misadventures of the affected residents. But he’s just as sympathetic when things go really bad. It’s an excellent story, with wonderful art from McMahon. He does well with the ape people in action.

The last story, with Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell writing, is a little obvious. Dredd is suspicious of an amusement center where people act out their violent urges.

Overall, it’s fine stuff.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell; artists, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

kinski

Kinski 4 (February 2014)

Kinski #4

So now the action moves to the RV park, or RV gathering–it’s unclear how it’s working but the RVs aren’t parked in any sort of sensible way. Not to harp on it, it’s just strange. And the sidekick even says he needs to leave to get back to real life.

This issue is when Kinski goes from being real and strange to just being strange. It’s a tragedy now, with contrivances just to make the plot move. Bad luck following around the protagonist, who gets almost nothing to do this issue–except his action scenes. And an issue like this one, set over a half hour or less, it just… it’s too slight again.

There’s a good scene at the open with the dog owner, with Hardman taking a moment away from the missing dog (in the RV park) main plot. Its writing has personality, the rest… far less.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 12 (October 1984)

Judge Dredd #12

It’s a surprisingly awesome issue, with Wagner giving Dredd a big dumb sidekick, but one with a lot of character and comic relief value. They have to get back to the surface (Dredd and company escaped underground), so there’s a decent action sequence when Wagner brings them up against some other judges.

He also explains why the rest of the judges are falling in line with evil, crazy Chief Judge Cal. It’s sort of obvious and should have been handled better, but once Wagner has it out of the way, the rest of the issue’s smooth.

Especially once the focus turns to Dredd’s annoying robot. Wagner is able to follow it through the evil judges’ side of the story and since Chief Judge Cal is crazy, it’s very amusing. His jokes are a lot less forced now.

There’s some great art from Ewins at the end too.

Real good issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Garry Leach, Ron Smith and Brett Ewins; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

kinski

Kinski 3 (September 2013)

Kinski #3

It’s the equivalent of an action issue for Kinski. Hardman resolves the previous issue’s cliffhanger, putting the protagonist and his friend back on the road. There’s some slight character drama–and a way too obvious plea for exposition from the friend–before Hardman gets to the rest stop.

Because they’re stuck in traffic; I forgot they were stuck in RV traffic. It’s a little much, though the image of the one car amid a bunch of RVs does seem like a gritty Far Side cartoon or something.

Hardman doesn’t have much in the way of character work or action this issue. All the character stuff is forced and when he finally does get to a silent scene, it’s the action scene. There’s no talking, but there’s no character work in the art, just running. Lots and lots of running.

Hardman’s timing for the panels is great… the issue’s just slight.

B 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 11 (September 1984)

Judge Dredd #11

Somehow, even though Bolland and McMahon alternate the chapters in this issue–so it’s always very clear when moving from one to the next–the story flows a lot smoother. Maybe because Wagner has gotten into the middle of the story, he’s established the lunatic rule of Chief Judge Cal. He’s moving through instead of building up.

He also focuses a lot less on Dredd and his plans. Instead, it’s mostly Cal and his lunacy, though without as many new absurd jokes. Or, if there are absurdities, Wagner backgrounds them instead of bringing them out front as his focus. It works much better.

And Cal’s lunacy gives McMahon a real chance to show off. In the craziest parts of the issue–usually involving Cal having an episode, sometimes on the air, sometimes just for his weary supporting judges–McMahon just goes wild. It looks great.

It’s a sturdy, steady issue.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; pencillers, Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon; inkers, Bolland, Garry Leach and McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

kinski

Kinski 2 (June 2013)

Kinski #2

The strangeness of Kinski continues. Hardman sort of wraps the narrative around itself, with the protagonist going back to the same motel from the previous issue, having another encounter with one of the dog’s actual owners. But these similar situations play fresh, thanks to all the character work Hardman does on his protagonist.

And that character work, which Hardman is doing mostly in art, not in dialogue, is one of Kinski’s most striking qualities. It’s a character study masquerading as a more traditional epical story, with Hardman doing the former in the art and the latter in the narrative. Hardman’s not a mad scientist, but he’s definitely experimenting with traditional comic storytelling.

For the most part, the art is outstanding. Hardman never rushes himself; the panel compositions and layouts are great. Until the last scene, where he ends with a full page spread after rushing the previous page.

Still….

A- 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 10 (August 1984)

Judge Dredd #10

This issue reads a lot smoother, with Dredd again a fugitive, leading the revolt against the crazy new chief judge. Unfortunately, Wagner goes for absurdity at every turn–the new chief judge is so crazy he appoints a fish as his deputy–and it’s never believable the other judges would follow the new leader with such blindness. It’s almost like Wagner saw he couldn’t make the story work straightforwardly, so he introduced the lunacy to at least make it funny.

And there are a couple decent comic moments but there’s also a lot of laziness.

Of the three pencillers, Brett Ewins does the best on his pages. He captures the mania of Wagner’s script and the enthusiasm helps a lot. The pacing gets the better of McMahon, who handles the beginning of the issue (and the setup); he can’t keep up.

If Wagner had fuller scenes, it’d probably work better.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; pencillers, Mike McMahon, Brett Ewins and Brian Bolland; inkers, McMahon, Ewins and Garry Leach; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Jack Potter; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

drifter

Drifter 1 (November 2014)

Drifter #1

After one issue, all Drifter has done is establish itself as another sci-fi Western. It’s not a new genre. Nic Klein clearly works at the art, so while the design work reminds of other sci-fi movies, TV shows and comic books going back forty years, at least he’s visibly committed.

And writer Ivan Brandon seems committed too. Unfortunately, he shows that commitment with truncated narration and dialogue–Drifter reads like a pulp novel with its tough guy (and girl) dialogue. Ditto the protagonist’s narration. Instead of establishing characters, Brandon goes with caricatures.

Only the comic is about some guy who wakes up in a settlement on an unknown (to him) desert planet. Without Klein’s illustration–which seems fit more for covers to old science fiction paperbacks than it does to sequential narrative–Drifter wouldn’t have much going for it. It’s blandly inoffensive, unimaginatively derivative. There’s just no meat.

B- 

CREDITS

Hanging On; writer, Ivan Brandon; artist, Nic Klein; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.