The early 2010 lineup was a very solid one. It included Judge Dredd in the continuing "Tour of Duty" arc, Stickleback by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli, Ampney Crucis Investigates by Edginton and Simon Davis, Nikolai Dante by Robbie Morrison and John Burns, and the final volume of The ABC Warriors' "Volgan Wars" books by Pat Mills and Clint Langley. Every one of them's a winner.
This is the second story for Ampney Crucis Investigates and it's much better than the first. Readers may recall that I found that story promising but a little disappointing. This time out, "The End of the Pier Show" still suffers just a little from being too short, but at least this time Lord Crucis is not simply stepping from points A and B to C like any investigating village constable should have done before he was called in. This time, the events that are put in motion are geared specifically toward him and his valet, Cromwell, via a postcard from a dead man.
There's so much to like about Ampney Crucis, and one of the best things is that his creators have not stacked him full of magical weaponry. He only has his insight and his knowledge and a pretty good knowledge of fisticuffs. This story could use a couple more episodes to draw out a more satisfying conclusion, but "The End of the Pier Show" is otherwise a really terrific outing for this character. He also gains a small additional supporting cast in three strangely creepy aunts in the first episode, named Faith, Hope, Charity, and Grace. One of them looks just a little bit like Joanna Lumley and another a little bit like Judi Dench. I wish these characters would show up again, soon!
Now, Nikolai Dante has no shortage of additional members in his gigantic supporting cast, and "Hero of the Revolution" brings a whole mess of 'em to the party, and introduces another new villain. This is one of the series' major set pieces, and, over 13 episodes, brings the war with Vladimir to its conclusion. But there's a casualty along the way...
Actually, we're not very many months from quite a lot of casualties, including some real surprises. The only one of the regular players to die before Vladimir surrenders is Lauren, seen here getting rescued in inimitable fashion by Dante. Lauren has been absent from the series for a couple of years now. She had been hanging out with Katarina while Dante was working his double-agent turn as the sword of the tsar. Now reunited as the pirate navy makes their play, it's kind of obvious that there's no room in the series for the blonde bombshell while Jena is around. So, when Lauren gets killed, it's not so much as a shock as it is sadly inevitable.
Vladimir's unconditional surrender, on the other hand, is a huge surprise, and brings things to a shuddering and unexpected halt. It looks like that's it for the series, and all that will need to happen next is about a six or so week final story wrapping up the last of the loose ends. Sadly for all the heroes, one of those is a much bigger complication than anybody thought. More about that in two chapters' time.
Next time... the perfect prog. I mean, absolutely perfect. See you in seven!