Monday, April 12, 2010

Judge Anderson: The Psi-Files Volume 1

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Judge Anderson: The Psi-Files Volume 1 (Rebellion, 2009)

Take three, I think the expression goes.

When Rebellion and DC teamed up to release a couple of dozen 2000 AD collections in 2004-05, one was a splendid little set of 35 Anderson: Psi Division episodes. Some time later, Rebellion issued a set called Shamballa, which contained almost all of the various stories illustrated, beautifully, by Arthur Ranson. Neither of these found a follow-up volume. Now, finding success in their "phonebook" line of great big 400-or-so-page collections, they've gone back to basics and released an omnibus edition called The Psi Files which reprints the DC book in its entirety, along with another forty-plus episodes, including (among them) Ranson's first serial "Triad," which had already been seen in the Shamballa book. Confused yet?

Judge Cassandra Anderson, a supporting character in Joe Dredd's world, graduated to her own occasionally-scheduled series in 1984, following several memorable guest appearances in the main series. She has never had a consistent, lengthy run, nor a regular artist, so quite a few different people have illustrated Alan Grant's scripts. Across these installments, you've got work by Ranson as well as Brett Ewins, Cliff Robinson, Robin Smith, Barry Kitson, David Roach, Carlos Ezquerra and several others.

So visually it's a real mixed bag, but the quality of Grant's storytelling is consistent throughout. Ewins seems more fascinated by Anderson's posterior than anything else on his pages, and I'm completely in love with Roach's inking, but his Mega-City One's oddball fashions and empty streets have more in common with a photoshoot by a New Romantic band from the early '80s than any other artist's take on the city. Happily, Alan Grant ties it all together with some superb stories, the first three co-written with John Wagner, all of which start with a wild premise that requires the input of Justice Department's division of psychic agents and stampedes into who-knows-where.

The book is more hit than miss. The only really sour note is a twelve-parter called "Engram," which I detested at the time and still smacks today of a flirtation with that early nineties' trend of relevancy and giving heroes unnecessarily human weaknesses and tragic backstories. Other than that, everything here has aged very well and proves that Grant does a better job than most in the business at raising tension across a set episode count, with each chunk of every serial a solid building block of classic thrillpower. Plus it's got a great bit where a demonic door calls our heroine an "interfering bitch." Who could resist? Recommended.

No comments: