Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More British stuff

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 sorts, of Charley's War: Blue's Story (Titan, 2007) and Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files Vol. 10 (Rebellion, 2008).

In the fourth of Titan's collections of the amazing Charley's War, the action shifts to the home front. On leave in London, Charley Bourne meets a deserter from the French Foreign Legion. As the military police pursue them, the man who calls himself Blue tells Charley the story of the battles at Verdun and Fort Vaux.

The detour from the principal Charley's War narrative into this look at the rest of the war originally ran for six months in the pages of Battle Picture Weekly and was notable for a number of innovative cover pages. Most memorable of these is a great image of the trapped, starving soldiers, their supplies cut, holding Fort Vaux and looking out helplessly while a German taunts them, pouring a canteen of precious water onto the muddy ground.

If you've been reading Charley's War, as of course you all should, then you already know that Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun managed something genuinely amazing and moving in every installment. If you're new to the series, this is actually a fine place to start before you go back and pick up the first three books. The reproduction is a little dark and fuzzy in places, and greyscaling the color covers does not always work as well as we would like, but the presentation is great, with introductory material and lengthy afterword commentary by Mills. Highly recommended.

(Note that the fifth book of Charley's War is actually supposed to be in US shops today. Diamond was extraordinarily late shipping this book to my store of choice, hence the belated review.)

The tenth Case Files edition, featuring around 50 episodes originally published in 1986-87, is among the best in this series. Oddly, Judge Dredd is all the better for the lack of a consistent, regular artist, even the good ones like Ron Smith, who, I understand, had taken a sabbatical to do advertising work around this time. With so many great artists all vying for space, there are more opportunities for individual work to shine.

Brendan McCarthy makes a huge splash with the four-part "Atlantis," for instance. Kevin O'Neill gets three episodes in this book, and they really are something to see. "Varks," a story about aliens that reproduce by turning other lifeforms into creatures like them, would have been a creepy and gruesome story in anybody's hands, but O'Neill really turns it into a freakfest. Other artists with standout work include Steve Dillon, Ian Gibson, whose "Paid With Thanks," about a ghost who does not appreciate innovative accounting, is a riot, John Cooper and Cam Kennedy.

John Wagner and Alan Grant were reaching the end of their celebrated regular partnership around this time, but hindsight doesn't show any cracks or tension in these episodes. They are having a ball coming up with more and more goofball citizens and criminals, and letting Dredd reach the end of his patience with their quirks and foibles. Absolutely essential reading, and highly recommended for everybody from longtime fans to newcomers.

(Originally posted October 08, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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