A load of great art and original stories make the last few issues since the new year worth jumping on for. The very first thing you'll notice flipping through the Prog this week is the new, stellar art team of Mark Sexton and Len O'Grady (lines and colors, respectively). Sexton is perhaps most well-known for drawing a Mad Max comic that drew some ire for its extensive depiction of sexual abuse. That's unfortunate, because Sexton is a talented artist, both within the panel and sequentially. My biggest problem with his work on Mad Max, aside from a script that didn't do him a lot of favors, was that the intentionally muddied colors of the apocalyptic Mad Max world didn't do his tight line work justice.
Here, Len O'Grady really augments Sexton's eye for detail. Sexton and O'Grady make up one of those creative teams we often see in the Progs where a line artist with an eye for detail puts the challenge to a colorist, and the colorist meets that challenge with flying... well, you get it. O'Grady's palette is extensive, as it should be in the Meg, but he maintains full control of it, making Sexton's details pop without overwhelming any given scene. The best Dredd chapters, visually, are often an exercise in how to make a page as busy as possible without overwhelming the reader: I think this week’s chapter is a great example.
Just as Simon Davis (the artist who paints the absolutely gorgeous Slaine) is a master of depicting the viscerality of organic matter, Clint Langley is a master of breathing harsh, writhing life into the inorganic robots of ABC Warriors. I draw that comparison specifically because the caliber of Davis' art is often worth just opening up the Prog to stare at. Langley, with whom I am less familiar, is quickly setting himself apart as a similar artist. And just as Davis depicts organic things with analogue drawing techniques, Langley is a digital maestro of the cold and metallic. What impresses me about Langley is that his art radiates a similar warmth, such that the life inherent to his robotic creations is readily apparent in more than just their speech bubbles. Art like this is great on its own, but it's especially valuable for resuscitating old story arcs that might not otherwise appeal to new readers of the Progs.
Yes, my darling The Order has returned to the pages, but while it is still gearing up to give us context for its time-skippery, I want to sing the praises of this arc of Strontium Dog. One of the challenges of Strontium Dog is in finding original stories that make sense for the shoot-first-ask-questions-later main character of Johnny Alpha, without the comic being too similar in tone to Dredd. Obviously there will be (and ought to be) some similarities between the titles, but even despite the current sharp difference in visual styles on the titles, readers need a reason to go from the front of the Progs to the back.
That reason is John Wagner. Ezquerra is at all-times excellent at building the worlds according to the blueprints that Wagner gives him. The originality of Wagner, however, is at least an equal boon to the series. First, he's clever enough to give Ezquerra any excuse to draw massive spaceships, something that I absolutely love to see from Ezquerra. Second, he packs big sci-fi concepts into short chapters and quickly juxtaposes them against the no-nonsense attitude of Johnny Alpha. The Galanthan race of this "Repo Men" arc is one of those inherently interesting sci-fi concepts. Throw in a twist of heist movie with a dash of "how are these morons going to pull this off?" and you've set up a fun little caper told in a visual language Ezquerra was built for.
2000 AD - Prog 1963 Writers: Various Artist: Various Publisher: Rebellion Price: £4.99 Release Date: 1/13/16 Format: Weekly; Print/Digital