Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, returning today for a special edition focused on the “Villains Takeover Special 2019.” Our regular MC-1 crew is pulling double duty this week, so that you can enjoy all the evil goodness!
THIS YEAR IN THE VILLAINS TAKEOVER SPECIAL
Judge Death: The Judge Who Laughs
Credits: Rob Williams (script), Henrik Sahlstrom (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Rowan Grover: Aside from the fantastically biting title of this story, “The Judge Who Laughs” takes a close look at the relationship between Judges Death and Dredd, specifically from the former’s point of view. Williams has a great way of showing how terrifying Death can be, simply by having him trying to do mundane tasks. When Death sits down with the psychologist Doctor Hiser, he reveals that he’s “…HAVING TROUBLE SSSSLEEPING.”. It’s both chilling and entertaining to see that such a grim force of nature still feels human emotions. Then Williams deconstructs the relationship between Death and Dredd in a simple, concise manner that feels perfectly in character for our protagonist. Death realizes that the reason he hasn’t killed Dredd is because of innate respect for the amount lives his foe has taken. The prog ends in a chilling face-off between the two judges where Death summarizes the point of the comic in one perfect line: “THE DARKEST JUDGE…”.
Henrik Sahlstrom has a style here that uses heavy inking to fit well with Death’s tone but still feels nicely action-oriented and buoyant. He illustrates the terrifying claustrophobia of being locked in a prison with Death, with narrow corridors dimly lit by aggressive red lights. Sahlstrom’s rendering of Death is well executed, with the first panel of his full appearance showing him dominating the camera with exaggerated upper body proportions. Not only this, however, Sahlstrom also illustrates Doctor Hiser as balancing a placid calmness and forgivable discomfort with being in the presence of such a villain. I love how we start to see her let down her guard, smiling more once she gets to Death’s problem, before promptly paying the price for entertaining him. Sahlstrom manages character acting superbly, delivering a subtle performance that feels natural for our protagonists.
“The Judge Who Laughs” is a great look into the warped mind of Judge Death and his relationship with Dredd, in a hauntingly satirical manner. Williams delivers a concise but entertaining tale, with Sahlstrom bringing it to creepy, yet nuanced life.
Brass and Bland: The Professionals
Credits Karl Stock(scrip) Kael Ngu(art) Barbara Nosenzo(colors) Oz Osborne(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Mr. Brass and Mr. Bland are at it again, enjoying the high life in the peaceful sanctuary of Overmountain before business interrupts. Kael Ngu’s line art is interesting in how it lacks hard lines in some cases and interacts with Barbara Nosenzo’s color palette. Together they meet to and give the strip a surprising softness for the hardened dystopia. Despite the softness, the character designs of Brass and Bland make for easy little gags and physical comedy. It’s like Abbot and Costello but merciless scrapers.
The first pages of the strip aren’t all that eventful, rightly so. Overmountain is the hidden sanctuary from the Nort-Souther conflict, things should be quite. As they stroll about with their clients, members of the elite Condo-TR unit, the creative team tries to distinguish the cruelty of the unit from the scavenger lifestyle of Brass and Bland. The Condo-TR unit isn’t that well defined, they come off as bland jerk kinds of evil as they casually exert themselves on the populace.
Once the twist occurs, however, everything comes alive. More defined linework can be seen and backgrounds are dropped out to emphasize the violent dispatching that is taking place. It also features some plainly funny commentary from Brass and Bland, and actually does a good job of distinguishing them from the Condo-TR unit.
With one more twist still to come, “Brass and Bland” is a solid little strip, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them in the future.
The Lord Weird Slough Feg: Lord of the Hunt
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Kyle Hotz (art), Ellie De Ville (letters).
Tom Shapira: I always loved The Lord Weird Slough as a villain, especially in the now classic “The Horned God” serial; a great mix of utter creepiness (his vile design, the way the stories describe his presence) with a right dose of being a pathetic mess. He wants to rule all but he is long way down from his prime and he’s as much a figure of pity as he is of terror. It takes a good artist to depict that right mix, and Kyle Hotz, in what I believe to be his first 2000AD inside-work, proves more than able to the task.
Depicted in powerful black and white we see Slough Feg striking fear into the heart of children, sent to him as part of ritualistic sacrifice before having some fear struck back into him. Hotz is the star here, his villainous figure as good as (almost) any previous depiction – vile and rotten, constantly on the move yet never in full control of his limbs; like a puppet whose strings have tangled. Some of the shots of his face are nearly Bernie Wrightson-esq in the way they showcase the ugly details. Hotz has been an active artist for quite a long while but I have to say this might be my favorite work of his (granted, I didn’t see it all) and I wish he could do more in this vain, and hopefully in this world.
The story itself is rather slight, and being that we all know Slaine is the main protagonist I didn’t quite need him to show-up (which takes the focus away from the protagonist of this strip), but it does well in servicing the art and playing-along with the mood. All in all – a fine piece of comics-making.
Strix: Sleeping Dogs Lie
Credits Matt Smith (script), Chris Weston (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Lincoln: This spin off the old “Strontium Dog” strip is a loving homage to the memory of Carlos Ezquerra who died last October. Familiarity with the adventures of Johnny Alpha and the other outcast mutants or their version of mutant discrimination isn’t really necessary to getting the just of the story. Knowing that the odd Strix clan of Strixville on Freedonia are know for their tendency to double cross their allies if they aren’t Strix isn’t even relative. The story is framed Princess Bride style as a tale told to a child but with way more violence and much less kissing. Tyrus Strix is pained as the rough anti-hero of the tale and acquires a most likely fictitious nickname in the finale. We get Johnny Alpha’s version of the story to in brief. One gets the suspicion that both stories twist the truth of things.
The story itself is pretty standard fare for a one off not bad but doesn’t stand out except for the art which really shines a light on the loss of Ezquerra. Chris Weston adopts much of the late artists style into his own for this story. You can see the spirit of the co creator of Strontium Dog strip and many runs of Judge Dredd in Weston’s linework. This Strix focused story that is dedicated to Ezquerra shows much love and respect for his memory. Weston’s art shows a lot of effort went into creating the details of the worlds he shows in this short story. Everyone feels lived in and the characters he chooses to show seem to be more then members of central casting. It’s a solid one shot that shows a lot of love and respect for the Carlos Ezquerra’s creation.
Tharg’s Terror Tales: The Last of the Hellphibians
Credits: The Feek (script), Henry Flint (art), Ozvaldo Sanchez (colours)
Kent Falkenberg: Henry Flint finds a hearty vein of vintage Vertigo and taps it for everything it’s worth in ‘The Last of the Hellphibians.’ And The Feek pairs this tasty throwback with a lean, mean script that is devilishly fun.
Right off the hop, Flint scribbles those fiendish Hellphibians emerging from a dank swamp with the right touch of murky atmospherics. All the while, an overly-ornate narration spreads this murk out even thicker – “From the gloomy depths, unholy humanoid shapes slowly rise.” It’s a tone pitch perfect for reading by flashlight, under a blanket deep into the small hours of the night. It’s deliciously reminiscent of those horror comics we all steeled ourselves against as kids.Continued below
But The Feek has a comedic edge every bit the equal of his mean streak. A collection of nuns coming back from the cricket pitch is crammed into a mini-van for the sole purpose of watching them bloodily dispatch a bog monster with their own broad-faced bats. And the strip as a whole is basically one giant setup to a punchline that plays like a ripping counter-point to The Shape of Water.
‘The Last of the Hellphibians’ is lives up to every bit of ridiculous fun that that title implies.