Thursday, August 21, 2008

63. Clowning Around

Thrillpowered Thursday is a weekly look at the world of 2000 AD. I'm rereading my collection of 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, one issue an evening, and once each week for the foreseeable future, I'll see what I'm inspired to write.

You'd never know it from Marc Wigmore's completely inappropriate artwork (below), but this issue of 2000 AD features the most harrowing, intense and ugly of all the Sinister Dexter stories. Like Wagner and his fellow writers do with Dredd, Dan Abnett uses Sinister Dexter's very flexible format to tell stories in a variety of styles, from melodrama to comedy, and the editors who've been in charge of the series almost always match just the right artist to the strip. Prog 1105 features the third episode of a remarkably bleak story called "Slay Per View," in which Ramone Dexter is suffering horrible nightmares where he is stalking and murdering women, who are found dead the next day at the hands of a serial killer. Convinced that he is acting out these murders while asleep, Dex elects to kill himself, and the second episode ends with a breathtaking cliffhanger: Dex putting a revolver in his mouth.

I'd like to think that I'm pretty good about monitoring the Hipster Kids' reading and making sure that they don't read age-inappropriate strips. As far as I can tell, they even follow my directions, which is really impressive. I guess they figure that if I'm letting them look at occasional over-the-top violence and periodic bare boobs in 2000 AD strips, then when I tell them to skip Preacher or the "Russia's Greatest Love Machine" episode of Nikolai Dante, then I'm pretty serious about the mature content. So I spoke to my son (age eleven) beforehand, and made sure he knew that this was an intense and mean episode. I told him that he could read it if he wanted, but he might want to skip it. He soldiered on. His nine year-old sister, on the other hand, didn't get the option. The script itself was bleak and ugly enough, but that cliffhanger image was something I did not want her to see.

Speaking personally, the only really objectionable thing about this story was Marc Wigmore's art. What the heck happened? Wigmore had illustrated several episodes of Judge Hershey for the Megazine, and while he was never one of my favorites, he had a unique style, marked by thin, angular characters and very stark use of negative space. Wigmore drew the first three episodes of "Slay Per View" before Julian Gibson arrived to tackle the last two, and the art is just hideous, packed with wonky anatomy, way too much black ink, confusing storytelling and... well, while Sinister's "pale/drunk" look often had him looking a little like a clown, he rarely looked quite so much like Ronald McDonald as he does in these pages.

The rest of the prog is very good. Slaine is back for a new series of adventures set a little earlier in the character's life. For the last several years, the saga was telling stories from after his seven year reign as High King of Ireland, with a dismissal from Ukko that nothing very interesting had happened during that period. Evidently, Pat Mills had a change of heart and has been scripting a few new stories set during this time along with co-writer Deborah Gallagher. "Kai" is a four-parter illustrated by Paul Staples. The second book of Mazeworld by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson continues as well, although the high points are certainly still Dredd and Dante.

As I mentioned last week, Morrison and Fraser's "The Great Game" is a genuinely spectacular story, with our hero taking a battering from a high-stakes plot on one side, family secrets on the other, and the emotional bodyblow of his own past on the other. I can't say enough good things about "The Great Game," because stories like this are why I read comics.


"Slay Per View" has been collected along with several other, better, episodes in the third Sinister Dexter book, and "The Great Game" is in the second Nikolai Dante book.

Next time, four stories about death.

(Originally posted August 21 2008 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

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