Thursday, June 5, 2008

56. A Lot More Sinister Dexter

December 1997: Prog 1075 features Sinister Dexter on the cover. The art's by Siku and this week, it's the first double-dose of the gun sharks. The story, "Whack the Dinosaur" is written, as always, by Dan Abnett, and it's quite clearly a two-part episode, with a cliffhanger on page five and an oversized panel on page six, where the credits would normally go. This is going to become standard procedure through the spring of '98 as the editor deals with a temporary shortage of strips ready to go.

Honestly, I can't imagine that anybody on the planet cares about this other than me, but running the multi-part stories as double-length episodes was a real pet peeve at the time, because I'd have preferred to read the stories at the pace that Abnett scripted them. The worst offender was "Mother Lode and the Red Admiral," an eight-part adventure crammed into one month. It's become standard operating procedure at the Nerve Centre.

During this period, strips are being double-upped because prog 1078 is going to be a relaunch issue. However, the double-upping will resume in February when Vector 13 concludes and nothing is immediately ready to replace it. The series of one-offs is feeling quite tired by this point. There are still occasional gems, particularly "Time's Arrow," a very clever episode by Gordon Rennie and Patrick Woodrow that will appear in the next issue, but overall, the huge number of episodes in just two and a half years, coupled with the resentment towards the silly Men in Black, has run the series ragged, and it will be retired in February.

Also in this issue, Nikolai Dante wraps up a four-part story called "Moscow Duellists" by Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser. This has proven to be the major success story of '97, and is now a semi-regular strip, with another run of episodes starting up next month. Nikolai and Jena's oddball courtship hits a wonderful snag in this episode. Not knowing Jena was listening, Nikolai pays her old tutor, who is dying, a genuine and heartfelt compliment, and then goes about his business being a boorish ladies' man and taking a couple of heiresses to bed, not dreaming that Jena would actually come to his door to thank him.

That leaves Judge Dredd, and he's in the middle of a very good three-parter by John Wagner and Paul Marshall. It's called "To Die For" and deals with a serial-killing instructor robot at a medical college assembling a body for an elderly, crippled professor with whom it's fallen in love. The discovery of the various bodies is depicted with a little discretion, but the situation is grisly enough to give each of my kids the heebie-jeebies.

Next week: Better paper is ordered for Durham Red's return.

(Originally published 6/5/08 at LiveJournal.)

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