Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lenny Zero and the Perps of Mega-City One

(Reprints Lenny Zero stories from Judge Dredd Megazine #3.68, 4.01-4.02 and 4.14-4.15, Bato Loco stories from Judge Dredd Megazine #208 and 229-230, and Judge Dredd stories from 2000 AD Prog 505, 1279 and 2002, as well as from Judge Dredd Megazine #2.34-2.35, 202 and 258-259)

The U.S. and U.K. 2000 AD reprint programs have generally been closely synched up over the past few years, but occasionally they clash a little bit. The first Mega-City Undercover volume, published in the U.K. a few years ago, included all three Lenny Zero stories, as well as the first few years' worth of "Low Life." That got redistricted for the American market: Low Life: The Deal includes all but one of those "Low Life" stories, and the Lenny Zero material was moved over to this "Mega-City One's criminal underworld"-themed volume, filled out with all the appearances to date of Bato Loco and Slick Dickens, plus a couple of unrelated Robbie Morrison-written Dredd stories that involve, you know, criminal activity.

The selling point, obviously, is the Andy Diggle/Jock team that created Lenny Zero: the cover text suggests that the volume was put together to capitalize on the Losers movie that was based on their incarnation of the long-running DC franchise. (There wasn't much capitalizing to be done, but never mind that.) Diggle and Jock have also collaborated on a pretty good Green Arrow miniseries, and their new project "Snapshot" is about to debut in Judge Dredd Megazine.

"Lenny Zero," though, was their first work together. That first story, in particular, is just terrific: it follows Diggle's "shot glass of rocket fuel" editorial directive, frontloading a series of plot twists that would each be the concluding surprise in a lazier story, and getting through an enormous amount of story in ten pages by establishing relationships very quickly with dialogue and judiciously compressing anything that doesn't involve violence.

Its two sequels, though, aren't nearly as neatly constructed--which may be the peril of an editor writing for himself. As clever an invention as that easygoing robot truck driver is, his scene is spoiled by the lazy stereotypes of the hijackers (see also: Bato Loco later in the volume). What is it with comics writers who think an accent and a few Spanish phrases are surefire comedy, or that they're funnier if loud patterned shirts are involved? (Okay, I'm always a sucker for "madre grud.") The final twist--Lenny erasing Little Caesar's memory--is more or less set up from the beginning of the first story, except that it's only mentioned in passing that Caesar's susceptible to that.

And the fact that the Judge who comes to arrest Lenny is Dredd (rather than somebody from SJS, which would make much more sense in the context of this story) is a recurring problem with Dreddverse stories: that guy is everywhere, to the point that if we're introduced to a Judge who isn't him, it's a pretty safe bet that he or she is about to be shoved under a bus.

Then we get to the Slick Dickens sequence: three brief John Wagner-written stories, initially published in three different decades. (Honestly, about once every ten years is just about right for this particular character: he's good for one joke, and that's it, but the joke improves by going back to it once enough time has passed for everyone to forget it. Which is why compiling these stories might not be in their best interests.) The second one, 1993's "Dressed to Kill," is the reason I'm covering Lenny Zero this week, incidentally--after that, this volume jumps to the year 2000.

In theory, I dislike the vaguely gay-baiting tone of the smirky "boys at the gym" innuendo. But it sort of redeems that idea that maybe Truman Kaput doesn't realize that that's what he's doing (and naming Slick's absent partner "Leslie" is a nice touch). Not to mention that Truman apparently has unusual ideas about what "cross-dressing" involves--this page cracks me up every time I see it:

Wagner's writing is also pleasantly smart-assed, especially in the later stories. You can tell he's relishing the opportunity to write Dredd dialogue that sounds completely off ("No! I have to go! And I have to go alone--or I'll never be able to hold up my head as a Judge again!"). I'm not sure what the "Harvey Pica" shirt in "Slick on the Job" is about, but I bet it's a Harvey Pekar allusion of some kind. Also, God, Greg Staples is good: of all the Dredd artists who combine that sort of post-Bisley modeled painting with comedy, he's the one who understates the jokes most, but he delivers them.

Gordon Rennie and Simon Coleby's three Bato Loco stories are kind of a wash for me, unfortunately. I get the principle of what Rennie's trying to do--a variation on the Damon Runyon narratorial voice that Wagner attempted years earlier in "Little Spuggy's Christmas"--and it's a promising idea at its core. But the earring and goatee and constant exclamations of "Madon'!" and gold-digger girlfriend and so on leave a bad taste in my mouth, and Coleby rarely finds the balance between superdistorted wackiness and legibility.

As for the two Robbie Morrison-written stories that round out the book, they're decently constructed, but also the kind of between-the-Wagners filler that turns up a lot in latter-day Dredd: "Street Fighting Man" is a "criminal tries to go straight but falls foul of old gang obligations" formula whose form is barely modified by draping a thin veneer of Mega-City One over it, and "Wallcrawlers" is a thin little idea that probably would have worked just fine as one of the old Daily Star weekly strips. For that matter, constructing a story around a character spraypainting anti-Dredd graffiti can't help but call Chopper to mind--maybe not a reference point it's wise to invoke.

Next week: the complete Mechanismo collection, in which Dredd fights a great big robot for many, many episodes. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Muzak Killer

(Reprints: Judge Dredd stories from 2000 AD Progs 746-748, 760, 810-814 and 837-839)

My, it's been an interesting few days on the Dredd front--the big deal being, of course, the announcement that IDW will be publishing both a new monthly series and vintage Dredd reprints of some kind in the U.S. I'm curious to see how it all pans out (and if this will be simultaneous with the Simon & Schuster reprints), and am crossing my fingers that IDW--who are so good about honoring the original presentation of newspaper strips in their reprints--will be reprinting the older material in a format that doesn't butcher its layouts like the '90s U.S. versions.

In the meantime, this is going to be the most filler-y Dredd Reckoning to date, because our final encounter with Garth Ennis's Dredd run for the moment (we'll have at least two more before we're done) contains very little new-to-this-blog material--just the three-part "Muzak Killer - Live!" from Progs 837-839. It's also got the original "Muzak Killer," plus "Raider," "Teddy Choppermitz," and the unusually straightforward Brendan McCarthy cover seen above.

The Muzak Killer stories are interesting to me mostly because they're among the very few Dredd stories to directly assert the correctness of a particular set of tastes in another medium. Marty Zpok is a deranged serial murderer with whose aesthetics we're supposed to directly identify: what music critics refer to as "rockism," roughly. (That's kind of a contentious term, but it basically means the idea that guitar-based rock music is normative, and that any other kind of popular music is good and meaningful to the extent that its interests overlap with rock's.) So he's pro-Smiths, pro-Carter USM, pro-Clash--but he rejects the tastes of Robert Smith lookalike Indiana "Indy" Saddoe, shoots a Sinéad O'Connor lookalike, etc. "Music is only cool when it's old," he says in "Live": I have to suspect Ennis developed a little more distance from Zpok in the two years between the two stories.

The textual punch line is that once Marty Zpok's been lobotomized, he totally loves "I Should Be So Lucky," which is supposed to serve as the epitome of lowest-common-denominator pop. The extratextual punch line is that, almost 25 years after "I Should Be So Lucky," it's effectively "classic" in the same way that "These Boots Were Made For Walking" is in the original "Muzak Killer." Music is always cool when it's old. Then add in the fact that this story's set 122 years in the future, and all of a sudden value judgements become completely impossible. Come on: can you identify which of the hits of 1890 were cool and which were lame? Which is obviously more 2000 AD-reader-friendly, "The Thunderer" or "The Laughing Song"?

I will say, though, that the Richey Edwards lookalike's fatal demonstration of "authenticity" is pretty much on the mark (it'd be a lot funnier if Richey were still with us, though).

This is probably the most appropriate place to offer a quick gallery of Dredd-inspired songs, in anticipation of Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury's Drokk. Dredd himself arguably got his name (in a roundabout way) from the Judge Dread who was the first white artist to have a reggae hit in Jamaica (that would be "Big Six"); he, in turn, got the name from Prince Buster's 1967 "Judge Dread." But as far as I can tell, the first pop record to allude to the 2000 AD version of the character was the Human League's "I Am the Law," from their 1981 album Dare. Who knows: that might be at least covertly a Dan Dare reference!

It wasn't until 1985, though, that there was a blatantly Dredd-based song: the Fink Brothers (a.k.a. some moonlighting members of Madness) recorded "Mutants in Mega-City One," whose Brian Bolland-drawn cover image was repurposed for a 2000 AD cover. Not their finest hour, honestly. 

And Anthrax's "I Am the Law," from 1987, is the veriest heavy-metal-Dredd song released to date--not their best song either, and it takes its subject a little too seriously, but they get points for namedropping Anderson and iso-cubes.

In 1989, the Screaming Blue Messiahs recorded "Mega-City One," whose lyrics revealed a decently deep knowledge of Dredd lore (nice reference to "The Graveyard Shift") when they weren't pointlessly quoting "Sex Machine." Pity about the total tunelessness, though. 

Only three years later, in 1992, there was a proto-drum-'n'-bass act called Mega City 2, who recorded the cult-item track "Darker Side of Evil"--those samples are from Predator 2. Presumably, they named themselves that before "Judgment Day."

A song called "Mega City 3," though, had come out in 1982--as a Rough Trade single by Spizzenergi:2. It's by far my favorite of these songs, because I am an Indiana Saddoe type.

Finally, there was Mega City Four, who made a whole mess of records between 1987 and 1996; here's their first single, "Miles Apart."

If that's not enough music for the moment, I put together a little playlist of Dredd-related (or not-actually-Dredd-related) songs over at Spotify. Next week, we get back to comics we (mostly) haven't seen yet, with the curious omnium-gatherum Lenny Zero and the Perps of Mega-City One, collecting the intermittent appearances of Lenny Zero, Slick Dickens and Bato Loco. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Missionary Man: Bad Moon Rising

(Reprints: Missionary Man stories from Judge Dredd Megazine #2.29-30, 2.43 and 2.50-59, and Judge Dredd Mega-Special 1994)

Before we get started this week, I need to tip my hat to the wonderful Sarah Glidden, of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less fame, who painted this Dredd commission for me! If you happen to be in Germany this week, she's doing commissions of both super-types and actual people...

OK--now down to our featured book this week, Missionary Man: Bad Moon Rising, and our conversational guest: please welcome Mr. Evan Narcisse! I had the pleasure of working with Evan at Techland; these days, he’s blogging over at Kotaku, and also Twittering up a storm.

DOUGLAS: Evan, I think your initial reaction to this material was “These stories are weird. It’s Quitely, but also not.” True enough. When Missionary Man first appeared in 1993, it was Frank Quitely’s first comics work beyond the Glasgow underground comic book Electric Soup. (I’ve heard rumors that a couple of other artists in Electric Soup were also pseudonyms for Vin Deighan, but “Frank Quitely” was the one whose style caught on.)

Quitely only got to draw the first two episodes of Missionary Man before he did the first Shimura story with Robbie Morrison a few months later (then returned to Missionary Man for “Bad Moon Rising” in 1994); one more Hondo City Law one-shot, and that was it for his 2000-related career, aside from a lovely cover for the Megazine in 2010. By 1996, he’d formed his enduring partnership with Grant Morrison for the about-to-be-reprinted-at-last Flex Mentallo miniseries, and he’s been drawing American comics ever since.

Missionary Man was also very early work for Gordon Rennie—he’d previously published a couple of one-off stories and the miniseries White Trash, with Martin Emond. (The latter is a particular favorite of one of the guys who runs my local comics store.) Rennie went on to write pretty extensively for 2000 AD and the Megazine, both in Dredd’s world (“Cursed Earth Koburn,” “Mean Machine”) and outside it (“Caballistics Inc.,” the current serial “Absalom,” and many others). And, for the past decade, he’s been one of the go-to guys for Dredd-when-John-Wagner-can’t-write-it; 2005’s “Blood Trails” and its sequels “Matters of Life and Death” and “Burned Out” got to do more with Dredd’s supporting cast than almost any other non-Wagner story in the current century. (He also posted last week that he thinks Missionary Man's time has passed.)

The Missionary Man feature itself was remarkably long-lived for a premise that was so slight and so strongly associated with an artist who’d only drawn it for a few months; beyond the material collected here, it ran another 57 episodes between 1994 and 2002. But yeah, it is really slight, a very straightforward bunch of Western clichés (by way of earlier Westerns in the same Dredd-universe setting, like “The Cursed Earth” and Helltrekkers and The Dead Man) and things-a-hellfire-preacher-would-say clichés, with monsters thrown in to keep it visually interesting. There’s a germ of a clever idea in there—the sci-fi Western with the “sheriff”’s civil authority, as in Dredd, replaced by religious authority—but that doesn’t really go anywhere. Dredd alumni Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher, which started only a few years later, is a much more interesting take on the same basic elements. The end of “Bad Moon Rising” has the one really good Christian joke in this book—Legion, about to be thrown into the pit of fire, yelling “I can see my house from up here!”

So that leaves Quitely’s artwork as the particularly interesting thing about this. For me, it definitely looks like the Quitely we know, right from the outset: micro-detailed, texture- and topography-minded drawing on faces and figures, coupled with compositions that are so strong and use negative space so well that they let Quitely get away with drawing practically nothing in the way of backgrounds; action shots that look like something frozen in place for a microsecond instead of suggesting movement (the explosion on the last page of the first episode seems sculpted rather than kaboomed); very carefully considered choreography (the tier with Cain being dragged behind the horse in “A Town Called Intolerance” is almost a straightforward zoom-in, but not quite). It’s not quite as bogglingly masterful as the Quitely of We3 or All-Star Superman or even Flex Mentallo, but for a mainstream debut, it’s striking and impressive. It has character; it doesn’t look like anybody else’s work.

The other artists who drew the series in this period aren’t quite as exciting, in part because Rennie doesn’t give them a lot to work with. I like Garry Marshall’s color sense a lot, but “Legend of the Unholy Drinker” is basically just a talking-heads story with a monster in it—Marshall’s sunset palette is the most exciting thing about it. “Sanctuary,” besides being a big pile of unaltered Western and horror tropes, has artwork (by Sean Longcroft) that looks like it was aiming for a comedy strip or a Richard Sala book and got lost. And “The Undertaker Cometh” was yet another professional debut, this one Simon Davis’s: he went on to draw a handful of other Missionary Man strips, and is still drawing for 2000 AD now, but in this one he looks like he’s trying to impress somebody with how many tiny little dots he can squeeze into each image.

I’m curious, Evan: what did you make of this stuff, as someone who’s coming into the setting more or less cold but has been following Quitely’s work for a long time?

EVAN: This book also reminds me of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher, a twisted Americana opus created by two Brits. The Missionary Man could be a conceptual grandfather for Preacher’s Saint of Killers, with his white hair, brown duster and proclivity for God-sanctioned ultraviolence. Ennis and Dillon are products of British comics publishing who wound up as American comics superstars, and the back-and-forth exchange of inspirations reminds me of my first encounters with Judge Dredd.

Judge Dredd—and the 2000 AD plane he comes from—hold a weird significance for me. I think I came at Mega-City’s top cop via annuals solicited in old Bud Plant mail oreder catalogs. The exact years and content escape me, but I remember Brian Bolland making that sneer come to life really clearly.

What I found in my first readings of Dredd comics was a sense of politics seeping into fiction, in a way that I rarely encountered in American superhero comics. The Earth of Dredd's sci-fi was one that would exist as the ultimate end of 1980s geopolitical jockeying. The Cold War would fuck us all, in other words. It’s how I was able to access the mood of Thatcher-era England, and now that I look back at it, that work on the ultimate authority figure was probably done by people who were punks in their day. Through the fractured lens of various creators, I learned about English slang, caste systems and attitudes by reading the 2000 A.D. reprints I encountered as a teenager.

I bring all this up because the Missionary Man comics read like the work of folks who absorbed Western genre tropes from outside the bounds of those ideas’ motherland. You’ve got a guy lynched at the beginning of “A Town Called Intolerance,” which nods at the institutionalized racism in the U.S. after the Civil War, and the religious fervor that runs through the whole strip references the itinerant preachers and revivalism that gripped America in the 19th century. The weight of Sergio Leone and spaghetti westerns is heavy here, but without the morally grey heroes of those movies.

What’s interesting to me about Preacher Cain’s stories is that—even while they’re pretty straightforward—they represent the other side of the crypto-fascism seen in Dredd comics. Dredd’s an avatar of man-made law-and-order imperatives. When he bellows, “I am the Law,” you know where he gets his power from. Missionary Man’s orneriness comes from super-religious singlemindedness, but all those Bible quotes don’t make for very good catchphrases.

Rennie’s writing is, like you say, serviceable. He seems to have fun mashing up blood-and-bits sequences with Bible-thumping, but there’s not much depth beyond that. Quitely’s the real appeal for me here, and what you say about how he renders details in this early stage of his work rings true. But his body types look different: slimmer and not as bulked up as in his later work. The faces of the background characters look cartoonier, too, and feel like the work of a younger man.

When I’ve read Dredd, I could always tell myself that some kind of other real-world commentary was going on in those stories, simply by virtue of where they were set. "Missionary Man" doesn’t have that sense of intent built into it, and the material ultimately feels less memorable because of it.


Thank you, Evan! Next week, we return to the Titan-era Ennis collections for Muzak Killer, and maybe a discussion of Dredd’s relationship to pop music. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Judge Anderson: The Psi Files Volume 02

(Reprints: Judge Anderson stories from Judge Dredd Annual 1985, 1986 and 1988, 2000 AD Annual 1987, 2000 AD Progs 700-711, and Judge Dredd Megazine #2.08, 2.10, 2.11, 2.14, 2.22-2.24, 2.27-2.34, 2.37, 2.50-2.60 and 2.73)

We're actually reaching back a bit in the chronology for this volume--although this is also the newest volume we've covered so far, released about two weeks ago in the U.K. As I mentioned at the time, the first volume of the Psi Files wasn't exactly complete: it included a Judge Anderson story from the 1984 Judge Dredd Annual, but skipped over the long Arthur Ranson showcase "Shamballa" (already in print in the volume of the same name) to get to "Engram," and omitted other stories from specials and such.

This one plays catch-up: it goes back to catch "Shamballa," which initially ran immediately before the first half of "Engram," but was in color rather than black and white, meaning it would've looked awful in the first Psi Files. ("The Random Man" was a particularly painful victim of decolorization in there; it's reprinted in glorious Ezquerravision in the new, confusingly titled American collection The Psychic Crime Files, which we'll be getting to in, I think, July.) It also hits a few of the one-off Anderson stories from '80s annuals that the first volume missed, most notably "Golem," from the 1987 2000 AD Annual, the sole Anderson story drawn by Modesty Blaise/AXA artist Enrique Romero. It's interesting how drastically different those early stories are from the material in this volume--the feature went very quickly from being "supernatural-themed Dredd-world stories with a less charismatic protagonist who can resolve any short plot by willing the problem to be fixed" to the more meditative, dreamy/trippy tone of the color stories collected here.

We've already covered most of this volume's opening third in Shamballa, with one notable exception: the second and final episode of "Reasons to be Cheerful," which has basically nothing to do with the first, and if I'm not mistaken introduces Anderson's judicial opposite number Judge Goon as he's beating up one Rodney Ding. (Grant has rarely been particularly subtle with character names.) It's also, I believe, the sole episode of this series painted by Siku, about whose work on "Fetish" I had less-than-complimentary things to say a few weeks ago in the context of Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood. At several people's suggestion, I picked up a copy of the Hamlyn edition of Fetish, which makes his art look totally gorgeous. Moral of the story: reproduction matters a lot.

The core of the rest of this volume, though, is two long storylines, "Childhood's End" and "Postcards from the Edge," the former of which was collected in a Hamlyn volume of its own that seems to command ridiculous prices (and seems to be registered in some ISBN database as being the same book as an earlier Titan volume, which doesn't help matters). Kev Walker's artwork has that super-modeled-looking check-out-every-character's-muscles look that wandered over from Heavy Metal in the early '90s; he doesn't have the kind of grainy, pointillist precision that Arthur Ranson had brought to Anderson, but he's got much more of an eye for fantastic and horrible imaginary things.

Grant's writing in "Childhood's End," though, is an unusual kind of failure: high-grade craft in a page-for-page storytelling sense (he's particularly good about letting Walker carry the story through silent sequences), coupled with an irredeemably stupid concept and structure. The page where he introduces the supporting cast is, as anyone who's seen a story anything like this one can tell, a list of the characters who are going to be gruesomely killed off over the next few dozen pages; the mystery is not what's going to happen to them, but in what order. I normally tend to like Grant's "I've been reading some interesting books lately--let me tell you about them!" tendencies, but the idea that Chariots of the Gods? was right on the money, and that now the aliens in question are coming back to kill us all, gives us those tendencies at their worst.

Also, tthe suggestion that mass-murderer Orlok is really just like Anderson at heart and is depraved on account of he's deprived is an exceptionally fuzzy piece of thinking: right, they're not dissimilar in every way, but that doesn't make them equivalents. That said, the two-page sequence where Grant and Walker lay out that idea--with static pen-and-ink head shots of the two characters, photocopied and repeated in a way I associate with what Dave Sim and Gerhard had been doing a few years earlier, and overlaid with abstract color washes (which make them look more like Andy Warhol's grid paintings) and parallel sets of captions--presents that fuzzy thinking in a very seductive way. Craft, like I said.

Then we come to the "Voyage of the Seeker"/"Postcards from the Edge"/"Postcard to Myself" sequence, during which the official title of the feature was "Anderson, Psi" rather than "Anderson, Psi Division." (And yet she spends the entire thing wearing her judge outfit, because otherwise the artists would have fewer opportunities to draw her in skintight gear.) "Voyage of the Seeker" has some eye-roll-worthy passages: "I'm a little girl - a Judge - a telepath - a woman. I've loved and I've hated - laughed and cried - hurt and been hurt. I've saved the world, and been turned inside out by the death-throes of a city. I'm the sum total of everything that ever happened to me... And I'm nothing at all." And I've seen some things that a Psi-Judge ain't s'posed to see...

I will say, though, that I admire how Mark Wilkinson's artwork for "Voyage of the Seeker" goes for it, making the leap from comics as we know them into Tim-White-painting-on-black-velvet territory. I just looked him up, and discovered that this may have been the one interior comics story he ever did; he's best known as the album-cover artist for Marillion and Fish. It all makes sense now.

The visual strategy for "Postcards from the Edge" was a smart one, too: five different artists over the course of eleven episodes that cover a series of brief adventures Cass has out in deep space, all of them drawn in one psychedelic mode or another. Ranson returned for one sequence, and Charles Gillespie's episodes look a lot like "Childhood's End." But the significantly different-looking ones are drawn by Tony Luke and Steve Sampson. Luke focuses on manipulated photographs; he'd already collaborated with Grant as a co-writer on the Megazine's "Middenface McNulty," and later worked with both Grant and Ranson on the Anderson story "Half-Life." (He kind of fakes it on almost every aspect of the artwork that's not directly from a photo.)

And Sampson gave "Anderson" a different look than it had ever had before (and promptly became one of the chief artists on the feature for the next four or five years). Like Ranson and Luke, he obviously worked from photo reference; unlike them, he made no pretense to "photorealism," stripping images down to a few solid fields of bright color for an effect somewhere near the Venn-diagram overlap of Richard Avedon's Beatles portraits and Patrick Nagel. That style had seemed awkward in parts of his artwork for the ill-starred "Brit-Cit Babes"--candy-colored stained-glass effects are a little out of place for a dark thriller--but it worked just fine for the dreamy, introspective mood of "Postcards."

This was also a point where Grant seems to have realized that a sufficiently trippy-looking Judge Anderson story didn't have to have much of a plot: if the stories were ostensibly about taking Cass into outer space, their imagery was more about exploring inner space. As I've noted before, Grant has claimed he had to bring Anderson back to Earth more quickly than he wanted to position her for Die Laughing, which then failed to materialize for three or four years. Fair enough--but it also reads like he'd exhausted the potential of the Anderson-in-space arc. (Particularly if it depended on the "postcards back home" conceit. By the end of the arc, she's written to basically everybody we've seen her talk to in Mega-City One, up to and including Judge Goon.)

"Postcards" doesn't all work, especially the "do not mind if I thump you when I'm talking to you, I have something important to say" tone of the sequence drawn by Xuasus. (Calling the setting "Zerbia" makes the point and then some. Calling one of the minor characters "Sara Yevo" is borderline insulting to readers' ability to get the drift.) On the other hand, I'd have been happy to see another volume's worth of Anderson's inner monologue and Sampson's trip-toy visuals--there's really nothing else like it I've seen in 2000 AD and environs, with the possible exception of  John Smith and Simon Harrison's Revere.

As a bibliographic note, the Psi Files continue to be incomplete. Still-missing stories predating the end of this volume include Grant and Ian Gibson's rather good if abruptly concluded "Colin Wilson Block," from 2000 AD Winter Special 1988, in which we get to see what stuffed toy Cass has in her bed; Grant and Mick Austin's "Confessions of a She-Devil," from 2000 AD Annual 1990; Grant, Luke and Russell Fox's "Baby Talk," from Judge Dredd Mega Special 1992; and Grant and Fox's "George," from Judge Dredd Yearbook 1993. Maybe they'll show up in future volumes--there's plenty of material for a few more.

Next week: Evan Narcisse joins me to discuss Gordon Rennie, Frank Quitely and company's Missionary Man: Bad Moon Rising