Friday, November 27, 2009

Review - Unknown Soldier #14 (Vertigo, 2009)



Moses, aka The Unknown Soldier, returns his young charge, the liberated child soldier Paul, back to his family. Before he does that, in a stunning opening sequence, he must traverse deadly terrain and avoid hostile Fighter Aircraft to get Paul there. These scenes, played in deafening confusion and the horror of being within the grasp of death, are amazing - with full credit to the art of Pat Masioni, who conveys the sheer terror with maximum impact.

Once arrived safely, the elder of the village does not want Paul welcomed back, despite pleas from the boys extended family stating that these 'lost children', these abandoned, brutalised victims of circumstance - these child soldiers - are ' a tribe of their own now'. It is only when Moses, in a stunning single panel, confronts the elder, burning wih indignation and desperation, that Pauls fate is decided.

That fate is the that Paul must break an egg, a symbolic breaking away from his past, a reassurance to the cmmunity that he evil of death and destruction that the child was witness to does not infect them. For Moses, his fate is more unclear. Paul wants his rescuer to stay with him, and the elder offers hope in the ritual of 'mato oput', the blood of the lamb mixed with the bitter root, to celebrate the passing of hate a ceremony of forgiveness and peacemaking.

The elder, the lawi rwodi, sees the blood of many upon moses, and the 'mato oput' is the only ceremony that will cleanse the 'Unknown Soldier', and exorcise the ghosts of these dead. Once it is done, Moses seems to undertake redemption, symbolised beautifully as a barren tree laden with skulls giving way to the tree, free of their grim cargo, the skulls disapearing like blossom into the air.

Paul urges his protector to stay and help his people during the dry season - this coming season 'is not good', and Paul, who knows the value of having this resourceful man around, sees the Unknown Soldier as a great asset in troubled times ahead. Is this a further invitation for Moses to change his life? Away from the killing and destruction, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to this challenge.

As a bridge into the upcoming 'dry season' arc, it is a powerful reminder of why this series works so well. It is not just about the terrible conflicts in Africa, but also the power of man to change, sometimes for the better. A message of hope here, as well as an insight into a peoples culture and rituals.

Verdict. Another vital issue in a vital series. A consistent highlight of 2009, and one that promises much as we head into 2010. I must admit this issue took me a couple of reads to actually get the full implication of what is happening, but when it hits home, these themes of redemption and forgiveness, the pay off is beautiful. 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review - Die Hard Year One #3 (Boom! Studios, 2009)



Like all good stories, some elements need to be teased out as the reader goes along with the plot. With this issue of Die Hard Year One, some of the pieces start fitting together until, by the time we get to the final pages, the picture is looking more and more complete - and it is not a pretty scenario for John McClane and Rosie Haskell (the girl who, in issue 2, was in the worst place at that the worst time).

McClane tends to make a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the movies have more than demonstrated. In this issue, just by doing his job, he finds himself in a deadly scenario with a frightened young girl to try and protect. The plotting builds this up nicely, and the finale, with McClane striking back against a team of crooked cop hijackers, is claustrophobic and tense. And pretty exciting too...

One slight negative is the rendering of Haskell - she constantly seems to have her mouth agape, for no particular good reason, and seems more of a 'dizzy blonde' than she really needs to. Sure, she is a 'damsel in distress', but the rather vacant expressions she pulls is a bit of a distraction - and slightly comedic (surely not the intention). Some nice retro fashion depicted in the art though - and those hairstyles (all flicks and bangs) are great.

Verdict. Another strong episode. Not a lot more to say than that. I will give it an 8 out of 10 happily.

Die Hard Year One #3 is out today (25th November) from Boom!

Boom! Studios kindly provided a digital copy of this issue for review.

Friday, November 20, 2009

5 Page Preview - Die Hard Year One #3 (Boom! Studios, 2009)

DIE HARD: YEAR ONE #3
Written by Howard Chaykin
Drawn by Stephen Thompson
24pgs, FC, SRP: $3.99
COVER A: Dave Johnson
COVER B: Jock
Diamond Code: AUG090718


John McClane didn’t think patrolling New York City’s Bicentennial celebration would be easy…but he didn’t bank on an eco-terrorist plot! Is the na├»ve young blonde McClane met the key to unraveling it all? Does that make her a target? Find out in this issue!






Thursday, November 19, 2009

Solicitation for The Walking Dead #70 (Image, 2010)




THE WALKING DEAD #70
story ROBERT KIRKMAN
art & cover CHARLIE ADLARD & CLIFF RATHBURN
FEBRUARY 10
32 PAGES / BW
$2.99
Behind these walls everyone has their place; everyone has their job. There is no danger, there are no threats... everyone has hope. Will it last?
RETAILER WARNING: MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES

Review - Victorian Undead #1 (Wildstorm, 2009)


Ian Edginton, the man behind the likes of the excellent Stickleback and The Red Seas for 2000AD, lends his voice to the burgeoning zombie / history mash-up with his self explanatory 'Victorian Undead' - with Sherlock Holmes & Watson at the heart of the matter.

What's it like? Well, if you have a passing interest in Steampunk or Zombies then this is going to be right up your street, though nothing in it is going to convert you if you are a fan of neither (and maybe you need to be a fan of both to really get it). I liked it - the art gave us a feel for the Victorian era but with maybe a little to polish - I did not feel the grime and dirt at all. The rendering of the zombies was a bit perfunctory, but maybe you just get a bit desensitised to zombies in comics if you read a lot of these sorts of titles. I do read a lot of these genre titles.

Edginton has an ear for the mode of speech of the time (not that I am any authority on the subject) - it felt authentic enough. The plot was easy enough to follow and built up nicely to a simmer - with the promise of more intrigue in issue #2. Is it worth your time? As i said previously, if you like zombies or steampunk then I recommend it. I will be around for issue 2 for sure.

Verdict - The title 'Victorian Undead' sums it up in the way the best high concept ideas do - and this title is a high concept idea that works. A good debut, with the promise of good things to come. One to watch. 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review - Nola #1 (Boom! Studios, 2009)



A real mystery, this one. The solicitation for Nola #1 gives more away than the actual comic itself. For instance, the solicitation states that

"After cheating death, Nola Thomas wakes up alone in a deserted New Orleans hospital. Bruised, broken, and badly burned, she emerges from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina with one thing on her mind...revenge"


Well, you get some of this information drip fed throughout this first issue, with the use of cuts between the present and recent past, but Nola does not wake up in a hospital. The first pages begin with a showdown between a masked woman and 2 police officers in what might appear to be a post-apocalyptic scenario. We later learn that this is New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, and the post-apocalyptic mood to the piece is justified. This stand-off between Police and the solitary woman is continued later on in, ending in a way that is both shocking and unexpected, but before that we have some backstory on Nola Thomas and her life in New Orleans.

It is her life prior to Katrina that gives this story depth and warmth to the otherwise brutal and sparse beginning and ending of Nola #1. We know that Nola has a close relationship with her Mother (and her Mother has the best line - something about wheelchairs and geriatric shenanigans that was delivered with sly wit and made me chuckle). Nola is having an affair with a married man, and that relationship seems destined for heartache - but actually turns into something darker and is the catalyst for Nola's shocking transformation.

To say more about the plot would ruin a great debut issue - it has some great elements that make me want to read the next installment, the art delivers appropriately and the dialogue is smart and believable. I like it. I think it has the makings of a great series. One to watch....

Verdict. Intriguing, highly readable and one that you may find putting on your pull list if you give it a chance. I recommend it. 8 out of 10.

Nola #1 is out tomorrow (18th November) from Boom!

Boom! Studios kindly provided a digital copy of this issue for review.

Solicitation for Unknown Soldier #17 (Vertigo, 2010)



UNKNOWN SOLDIER # 17
On Sale February 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • MATURE READERS
Written by Joshua Dysart • Art by Alberto Ponticelli • Cover by Dave Johnson
The world is becoming as hot as the barrel of a spent gun, and Moses feels it most of all. Now he’s making a mad play, falsely aligning himself with everyone in hopes of figuring out who killed the camp doctor before one of his new “friends” puts a bullet in his back.

Solicitation for Sweet Tooth #6 (Vertigo, 2010)



SWEET TOOTH #6
On Sale February 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • MATURE READERS
Written by Jeff Lemire • Art and cover by Jeff Lemire
“The new ‘must-read’ book.” – Geoff Johns
“Like a Coen brothers road trip drama... a fantastic post-apocalyptic comic.” – AM New York
“In Captivity” part 1! A new storyline begins for one of the most talked about new series. After the twisted conclusion to the previous issue, take a look back at the first days of the apocalypse and the lengths to which Jeppard is forced to go in order to survive. Plus, discover more details about the disturbing fate of the young hybrid

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review - The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft #4 (Image, 2009)



A rather exquisite mini series comes to an end. The Strange Adventures of HP Lovecraft has been a cut above most comic book titles, with every detail - from the distressed, pulp novel feel of the cover, to the Jung quotes and the the obvious love and knowledge of Lovecraft - meticulous.

In this final part, Howard Lovecraft battles the unthinkable and unknowable horrors, while trying to rescue the (unrequited) love of his life. At the same time, the police are closing in on Lovecraft, while his ill Mother and elderly Aunts (who again put in a brilliant cameo appearance) strive to protect their son and nephew. The art is absolutely stunning, with Tony Salmons lavishing us with several splash pages that give full reign to the horror of Lovecraft-ian imagery. The story, courtesy of Mac Carter, celebrates Lovecraft's journey from weak and fragile, self-loathing failed writer to heroic warrior, battling shocking supernatural horror and emerging as a celebrated, empowered novelist of the unimaginable. The plot rattles along as the art - all muted tones and sombre or rain sodden locations - propels the reader into the dark heart of the madness.

My one criticism is that this final issue has took several months to appear (in fact, the last one was out in July) and that has detracted from the overall impact of the series. However, it will make one amazing trade when it gets collected and published (no doubt in plenty of time for the movie release).

All said, in a year of some fantastic comics (Unknown Soldier, Sweet Tooth, Walking Dead, the final issues of Brubakers Daredevil) this 4 parter is right up there with the very best of 2009. A fantastic, intelligent and artistic triumph.

Verdict. The complete package. It treats the readers with respect and provides, over 4 issues, wonderful art and a thrilling story. I think it has the ability to turn a few people on to the thrilling imagination of Lovecraft and may well inspire readers to check out the source material. Not bad for a comic book.....9 out of 10 for the issue, and 9.75 out of 10 for the series as a whole. This will be a must-have trade when it appears in the book stores.

Friday, November 13, 2009

5 page preview - Swordsmith Assassin #4 (Boom Studios, 2009)

I gave a review of issue 3 of this title - it is here. Issue 4 (the final issue) is out next week (18th November 2009), and here is a solicit and a five page preview, along with the (frankly, rather stunning) cover art;

SWORDSMITH ASSASSIN #4
Written by Andrew Cosby, Michael Alan Nelson
Drawn by Ayhan Hayrula
SC, 24 pgs, FC, (4 of 4), SRP: $3.99
COVER A: Dennis Calero
COVER B: John Nofsinger
Diamond Code: SEP090697



Toshiro Ono has spent his life making the best swords that have ever been forged and selling them to the highest bidder. When his family is killed by a blade of his own making, master swordsmith Toshiro promised to do whatever it took to make sure none of his swords ever kill again. Now that promise comes to the test in this stunning conclusion! Andrew Cosby, creator of EUREKA, and Michael Alan Nelson, creator of HEXED, bring feudal Samurai Japan to life like no other comic has done before.

5 Page Preview - Nola #1 (Boom! Studios, 2009)

This title really caught my eye amongst the releases due next week (18th November 2009). The fact that Chris Gorak, who gave us the tight and tense 'Right At Your Door', makes this one to watch out for. Here is the solicit and a 5 page preview;

NOLA #1
Written by Chris Gorak, Pierluigi Cothran
Drawn by Damian Couceiro
SC, 24 pgs, FC, (1 of 4), SRP: $3.99
COVER A: Erik Jones
COVER B: Chris Brunner
Diamond Code: SEP090694


After cheating death, Nola Thomas wakes up alone in a deserted New Orleans hospital. Bruised, broken, and badly burned, she emerges from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina with one thing on her mind…revenge. From Chris Gorak, the writer/director of the critically-acclaimed film, Right at Your Door!


Review - Resurrection #5 (Onipress, 2009)



Wow - this is more like it. After a run of interminable issues (beginning with #1 of this reboot of the title), #4, reviewed last month, began to pick up the pace. This time round we get the goods right from the start....

Kicking off with a flashback to 1998, with the White House under alien attack, Benjamin Delacroix makes a fateful decision. The tension and drama are fantastic, really cinematic with a feeling of time running out and quick decisions having to be made. Delacroix's choices on that day directly effect the way this issue plays out, as the survivors in 'Red Lion', including Bill Clinton and Delacroix, try to plan an escape after 'Road Agents' (a cross between the Dawn of the Dead Bikers & Mad Max 2's Humongus-led band of savages) invade. What follows are a series of running battles as those under attack try to get to a security van that can get them away from the Road Agents.

My previous criticisms of this series included the art. Maybe I am just getting used to the style, or because the plotting and pacing is so exciting this time round, but the art actually worked. The illustration of the flashback scene is especially well executed, especially the perspective of the devastating attack on the White House.

The other criticism, the lack of 'character' in the characters, is not as prevalent. Delacroix comes across as a man who under extreme pressure made a choice that, depending on your moral compass, was either justifiable or reprehensible. His actions invest him with more humanity, and make him a more compelling character. Brad, meanwhile, one of the White House staff who was with Delacroix on that fateful day in 1998, reacts in a very human way, his motivation completely believable. His actions lead to a shocking conclusion, where the art really comes into its own, with effective use of panels on a gripping final page.

I have stuck with Resurrection, did not take it off my pull list, even when I could barely get through issue 3 (it was really bad, I could not even muster a few bad words to put in a review). However, this series seems to be on track now. I am glad I stuck with it. Exciting, tense and action packed, Resurrection is a title I am going to be looking forward to next month. If you have not checked it out, then issue 5 is probably a good jumping on point. In fact, I urge you to check out Resurrection. Issue 5 is where it gets very good indeed.

Verdict - It's smashing. Really. This is as good an issue of Resurrection I have read, and I am taking into account 'Volume 1' and 'Volume 2'. Action packed, tense, gripping and superbly paced, with some great twists and a fantastic ending. Brilliant! 9 out of 10.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review - The Walking Dead #67 (Image, 2009)



The brakes are being applied in this issue as our group of survivors resume their daily mundane existence, the 'Hunters' barely merit a mention. Rick & Carl get to do another father & son heart-to-heart, and while I am usually a fan of them, this time I just felt that Carl was speaking in the exact same voice as Rick and it did not really work. Carl was speaking the words of a man, and no matter how much he has had to grow up, his reasoning behind why he had to kill Ben was too lucid and too sophisticated.

The need for food plays an important part in Walking Dead #67, and it has been touched on before, but I liked the way it dominated the early part of this issue.

True to the solicit, we do find out the truth about Eugene, and I was quite surprised when it was over within a couple of pages - no long lyrical explanations, no soliloquy, just a rather mundane man with a mundane excuse. It rang true, as did Abraham's reaction, which was far more interesting.

The art is, as ever, pivotal to the success of this book, as much as the writing is. Charlie Adlard gives some of the cast a more unkempt look this issue, especially Rick who is now sporting longer hair and a beard. These subtle changes Adlard introduces also gives a feeling of momentum,of moving on from the 'Hunters' arc.

This issue felt like it was over too soon, but it was essentially a holding installment for a big reveal at the end, which is going to lead into a whole new set of variables into this most brilliant of dramas / zombie soap operas. Speaking of the undead, there were a few around in this issue, but only in the distance, an indication, if any is needed, that although the title speaks of them, zombies play less and less of a role in these recent installments. What I am trying to convey is this - 'The Walking Dead' does not actually need the walking dead as a focus. The human drama effortlessly grabs your attention, leaving you wanting more.

Verdict. Although the issue felt slight for some reason - maybe less dialogue, a few less panels - it is still full of quality, although the truth about Eugene felt a little flat. Regardless, this is still a top quality title. 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Review - The Anchor #2 (Boom! Studios, 2009)



Heaven’s hulking enforcer is on the hunt for both demon blood and the truth about his origin. His never ending battle takes him to a wild horse preserve in England where he must destroy or be destroyed by a hellish, bestial huntsman who feasts on unwitting campers.

Well, the art is great - Churillo gives some great page art, especially when the huntsman arrives and a battle royale breaks out between him and The Anchor. The story is a bit bewildering at times (I did not pick up issue 1 for review - but I am going to go back and rememdy that), and there are a lot of panels in this issue, packed full of dialogue and action. There is a lot to get through, and you certainly get your moneys worth in terms of story.

By the end of the issue I was pretty impressed - I loved the fight scenes, and the panels set out in space have a Ditko & Dr Strange quality that is slightly psychedelic and quite engrossing. This is a comic book stuffed full of little treats - I liked the fact that I have now read a comic book where 'Strathclyde' is mentioned (and I learned today that it was the old name for Scotland!). One to watch - it is finding its feet, but 'The Anchor' could quickly find a home in the hearts of those who hanker for Dr Strange and Hellboy type thrills. And did I say the art is great? Not only that, but the colours, by Matthew Wilson really bring out an old-school Marvel feel to the proceedings....

Verdict - Mystical, colourful, sometimes bewildering - and with great fight scenes! 7 out of 10.


'The Anchor' #2 is out tomorrow (11th November) from Boom!

Boom! Studios kindly provided a digital copy of this issue for review.

Monday, November 09, 2009

5 Page Preview - The Anchor #2 (Boom! Studios, 2009)

A promising new title from Boom! Studios - 5 page preview with both covers previewed here, and a review to follow in the next couple of days....



The Anchor #2
Written by Phil Hester
Drawn by Brian Churilla
SC, 24pgs, FC, SRP: $3.99
COVER A & B: Brian Churilla
Diamond Code: SEP090680


Heaven’s hulking enforcer is on the hunt for both demon blood and the truth about his origin. His never ending battle takes him to a wild horse preserve in England where he must destroy or be destroyed by a hellish, bestial huntsman who feasts on unwitting campers. On a scale of 1 to 10, this comic goes to eleven. Retailers — clear racks on either side of The Anchor for the safety of lesser books.















Friday, November 06, 2009

Skin - Milligan & McCarthy (1990 / 1992)




If you were to think about a list of 'lost' comic books that really need - in fact, demand - a reprint, what would you come up with? Alan Moore's 'Miracleman'? Morrison's 'Flex Mentallo'? Ennis' 'Hitman'? A reprint of IPC's 'Scream' title from 1984? The heavily politicised UK title 'Crisis' from the late 80's? What about Marvel Comics 70's / 80's Science Fiction titles like 'Micronauts' and 'Rom'?

Some of those would be near the top of my list (and the good news is that we should be getting the full Marvelman / Mircaleman story from the 80's reprinted. If you need more history on the convoluted and painful tale of Marvelman / Miracleman, see here.

However, top of my list would be an excoriating attack on Corporate villainy and cowardice, and its effect on one tragic, angry young man. At the top of my list would be 'Skin', by Pete Milligan & Brendan McCarthy.

Skin is a 48-page graphic novel written by Peter Milligan, from an original story from the illustrator of the book, Brendan McCarthy, with stunning colours by Carol Swain. Within those seething 48 pages is some of the most angry, poignant, bitter and tragic comic literature ever published. And it was thanks to an unlikely source, Kevin Eastman, creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that this story ever did get published. Originally destined for the Fleetway title 'Crisis' in 1990, it was rejected because of objectionable content. With the stories controversial subject matter potentially making it unpublishable, it was Eastmans Tundra Publishing that eventually picked up 'Skin' in 1992, putting it out as a graphic novel.

It tells the story of a young skinhead, Martin Atchitson (aka Martin 'Atchet), a 15 year old with Thalidomide birth defects (clearly seen in the image above), growing up in early 1970s London. He is a 'Skin', or Skinhead, a predominantly white youth cult (though influenced by Black / Afro-Caribbean culture) that was mainly active in the 1960s and 1970s, before its style was appropriated and politicised by right wing extremists who believed in anti-immigration and carried out ethnic violence and football hooliganism.

The depiction of this subculture is authentic, with all the Skinhead style on display - Cherry Doc Marten boots up to and covering the shin, Braces over the top of a Mod-ish shirt (like a Ben Sherman) or Fred Perry, with tight jeans rolled up to show off the full boot. Martin is accepted as a member of a local Skinhead gang, led by the violent, unpredictable Johnny Gorman. That acceptance is limited though, with the likes of Gorman and other gang members Steve Bennet and 'that prat O'Donnel' all, to some degree or other, bullying Martin because of his disability.

Martin himself is also unpredictable, a mix of adolescence and impotent fury at his condition, leads to violent rages and his sexual urges manifest themselves in near sexual assault. A lot of this content can be uncomfortable to view, but none of it is ever gratuitous. When 'Cross-Eyed' Ruby, a girl Skinhead who obviously has feelings for Martin, educates him on the drug Thalidomide and its terrible effect on him, his rage becomes focused, crystallised, and a terrible denouement to this affecting story is set in motion.

Sadly, as mentioned earlier, this profoundly affecting comic is out of print, and unlikely to reappear any time soon. However, copies do turn up from time to time on Amazon and ebay. Also, a group, Modern Life is War, produced a song called 'Martin Atchet', which is a tribute to this fantastic piece of work. There is a link to a youtube video here, which includes some of the artwork from 'Skin' - be aware that it is not for the young or anyone who is likely to be offended.

'Skin' is an affecting experience. Once read, and it can be easily done in one intense burst, it stays with you. Not easily forgotten, 'Skin' needs to be reprinted, so a new generation and a new audience can appreciate an important piece of comic book fiction.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Review - Judge Dredd Complete Case Files 02 (Rebellion Books, 2006)





This second volume detailing the chronolgical adventures of 2000ADs star in the ascendant is a real eye opener. The shift in quality from the earlier Dredd adventures is powered by one major change - Dredd goes epic. Twice. Consistency is another factor to the rise in quality inside this volume. Just two writers (John Wagner, Pat Mills) and a handful of great artists (Brian Bolland, Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy) produce over 300 pages of work, and there is very little in the way of filler.



The Pat Mills epic 'The Cursed Earth' (with more than a nod to Roger Zelazney's 'Damnation Alley') is first, as Dredd and a motley crew of aliens, punk criminals and Judges try to deliver a vaccine to the ailing Mega City 2, and this journey across the radioactive wasteland between the 2 Mega-Cities provides the breadth and scope for Mills imagination to run riot as devastated communities in the wastelands, mutated flying rats, and gambling-obsessed mafia judges are all encountered by Dredd.



By the time of the finale, when a robotic army (a legacy of the Atomic War attacks what remains of Dredds convoy, the pace is relentless and absolutley gripping. This is a tale of heroes and sacrifice, with artists McMahon and Bolland giving this tale a suitably epic feel to match the text. Apart from the 'Apocalypse War' and 'The Executioner' storylines, I don't think any other Dredd story has gripped me as much.

John Wagner's immediate follow-up, another epic entitled 'The Day the Law Died' puts a (plainly insane) Deputy Chief Judge, Cal, in charge of Mega City One after the brutal assassination of the ailing Chief Judge, Clarence Goodman.





What follows is a battle for the soul of Mega City One as Dredd, a fugitive framed for a crime he did not commit, leading a rag-tag resistance army against the dangerous, murderous Cal and his fearsome SJS troops (an obvious nod to Hitlers SS).



Like 'The Cursed Earth', in this second epic it is the most unlikely who step up to be heroes - for Fergee in 'The Day The Law Died!', read Spikes Harvey Rotten in 'The Cursed Earth'.



'The Day The Law Died', while not as diverse and without the same amount of all-out action, is as gripping, though it does suffer slightly from the fact that there were several artists working on this arc (some McMahon, some Bolland, some Ewins / McCarthy, some Bolland / Leach, and finally, the introduction of the mighty Ron Smith to the Dredd art roster). It loses a little consistency, especially in the various depictions of Cal (McMahon giving him by far the most terrifying look of a lunatic, whereas Smith made him look dashing in a Frank Hampson / Dan Dare style. The finale, with Cal ready to put the whole City to sleep forever, while Dredd and his gang of resistance fighters race against time to stop him, is a classic.

So, in summary, this second case file is much better than the first compilation - in fact it's a huge leap in quality, undoubtedly bolstered by the chronology which saw one epic follow another. The world of Dredd expands with the inclusion of some memorable characters - Tweek, Spikes Harvey Rotten, Judge Giant, Fergee, Judge Griffin - and we (thankfully) see a lot less of some others who were heavily featured in Complete Case Files 1 (Maria, Walter). Dredd himself is a lot less whiny, looks more grizzled, and in both epics actually comes across as a proper action hero. How Dredd is placed in these stories - as the saviour / hero of a whole Metropolis - suits the context. Things would change over the years, as Dredds position in his world would shift, but the stories in this volume of Complete Case Files place Dredd firmly as the man of the moment, unwavering in his faith in Justice and the right of the Judges to dispense it. And it really works well in these stories. In fact, it keeps getting better, as further 'Case Files' will prove. If you want an introduction to Dredd, and you are not bothered about being completist, then this is the volume to get - skip the first one, it is a bit of a chore to wade through.

My only gripe is that we don't get the 2 (subsequently) banned episodes from the 'The Cursed Earth', or the bizarre, grovelling apology to the Jolly Green Giant in another prog after threats of legal action. We do, however, get a description of the Burger Wars and Green Giant episodes (but here below is the sort of stuff we don't get to see, and a Dredd cover of 2000AD that details the 'Burger War');