Friday, June 6, 2008

Scarlet Traces and Mandroid

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. This time, reviews of Scarlet Traces (Dark Horse, 2001) and Judge Dredd: Mandroid (Rebellion, 2008).

A very cool murder mystery, set a decade after the Martian invasion of War of the Worlds, in an England which has reverse-engineered the alien war machines into a technological great leap forward. It's written with panache and style by Ian Edginton, who creates some very memorable characters and an unlikely detective duo to investigate missing women who have come to London in search of employment. The art's by the great D'Israeli, currently illustrating The Vort in 2000 AD. This might have been their first collaboration, and it's been followed by several other memorable ones.

You know how adventure stories usually climax with the hero held captive at the heart of the villain's technological superconstruction and waits until just the right moment to escape and start the self-destruct or something? That's not what happens here. Highly recommended!

Make no mistake, "Mandroid" is one of the Dredd team's great recent achievements, two 12-part serials detailing the sad events around a desperate man, a former soldier, who can't find any peace in Mega-City One, a world that's even tougher and less compromising than himself. It features one of John Wagner's most poetic and evocative scripts to bring this police procedural to life, and it's beautifully illustrated, with Kevin Walker tackling the first serial, and Simon Coleby and Carl Critchlow working on the second.

That said, "Mandroid" is almost unremittingly bleak, and genuinely rough going in places. I certainly think this downbeat change of pace will thrill any readers familiar with the typical Dredd tropes, but it's possibly not a very good recommendation for first-timers.

(Originally posted June 06, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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