Thursday, June 3, 2010

137. Men and Women Without Many Clothes

April 2004: Well, isn't this a terrific cover? Chris Weston started his career working on Judge Dredd in the early '90s and he'd been contributing to various series here and there while also getting high-profile work for American publishers, frequently illustrating scripts for Grant Morrison. Speaking of which, a few weeks ago, I finally bought the first collected edition of Morrison's run on Batman, and, after my eyeballs got finished bleeding trying to decipher that godawful artwork, I concluded that as soon as I win the lottery, I'm going to pay Chris Weston his top page rate and just give him damn near every Morrison DC Universe script that someone from this battalion of chicken-scratchers has ruined - Batman, JLA, Final Crisis, the lot - and make it look comprehensible at last.

Unfortunately, Weston, who, in a perfect world, would draw damn near everything, is only handling Rogue Trooper on the cover and not the interiors. Artwork on this story is handled by a newly-constructed droid, PJ Holden, and it's not bad, though it certainly suffers by comparison with the cover! It's very much the work of a new talent and it's very rough in places, but any eyeball which would rather look at that garbage Adam Kubert drew for Batman, probably for a lot more money, than this deserves to bleed, frankly. Holden's work starts off pretty good and would improve greatly over the next several years, but this is still a competent and fine job, and a reasonable conclusion to Gordon Rennie's Rogue Trooper series.

If you recall your Thrillpowered Thursday lessons, Rogue Trooper had returned back in July of '02. The 25 episodes that Rennie penned - staggered out over an agonizing 85 weeks - proved to be mostly good reading this time around. Rennie elected to structure the run much better than I had thought, and it would have worked out very well, had there not been such enormous breaks between the stories.

After the four-part opener (#1301-1304), there was a one-shot called "Weapons of War," illustrated by Dylan Teague, which introduced some new supporting players on the Souther side who were looking for Rogue. Their arc, and that of a ruthless and bloodthirsty Nort commander, Arkhan, weaves through the series, and reaches a pretty satisfying conclusion at the end of "Realpolitik." Rennie did a good job with the task assigned him, but this really would have been a better series had it wrapped up in a single calendar year, and not been dragged out over... wow... 22 months.

Rogue will return a few more times, in late 2005 and the spring of 2006, in stand-alone stories designed to tie in to the forthcoming video game, but other than these, his story is over. And so, mercifully, is the story of Durham Red.

Thank heaven this is finished. Durham Red had been an occasionally entertaining space opera starring a bad-tempered, half-naked mutant vampire for some time, but this third major storyline, "The Empty Suns," is just unreadable nonsense. It had actually begun in October of '03, but artist Mark Harrison hit some delays and the story took a 14-issue break after seven episodes.

What remains is an in-one-eye-and-out-the-other melodrama in which Durham Red, her teenage son(!) and some other castaways from the earlier series get back together for one last go at saving the universe from the latest iteration of the pandimensional threat du jour, something whose name has already escaped me. Red rechristens her son Johnny, in honor of Johnny Alpha, whatever that's worth.

All the while, Red wears as little as the law will allow - her latest wardrobe choice is an unbelievable black vinyl loincloth thing that shows every legal inch of leg and thigh - and stays in a bad mood and basically proves to be as unsympathetic a star as is possible. This is absolutely a story where neither writer nor artist are bringing their best, which is a real shame since we know they're capable of far better. Dan Abnett's captions are overwritten and ponderous, and the visuals of outer space action are murky. It's almost impossible to follow the action, and since the lead is so unlikeable, nobody wants to. Tharg promises that the story's conclusion, in issue 1386, will be the final episode ever, and, mercifully, he's meant it.

And on that sour note, it's vacation time! Thrillpowered Thursday will be taking off for two weeks for recharging and recuperation. We'll be back later in June with a look at Young Middenface and Black Siddha See you then!

...Or not. Honestly, guys, I'm really burned out on doing this every week, so this'll be the last Thrillpowered Thursday for the present. Thanks for reading.