Review by Karl Verhoven
Illustration is a strong theme connecting the artists working on this second almost chronological presentation of Judge Anderson’s solo material. David Roach (‘Blythe Spirit’) and Kev Walker (‘Childhood’s End’) both have greatly illustrative styles, although very different. Walker tells a story well, but can prioritise the image, while Roach’s art is influenced by classic illustration. So is Arthur Ranson, who draws a third of the book, worked as an illustrator before comics and whose pages are astonishing, ranking with the best figurative art seen in 2000AD (sample left). Steve Sampson is less successful (sample right), presenting a succession of posed images rather than conventional storytelling. It’s a viable method of comics, but Sampson’s not the most effective with it, more interested in his illustrations than the story, so look to Mark Wilkinson for the same approach better integrated.
Several of the strips have been previously issued separately. Both Shamballa and Childhood’s End were published in the 1990s, and each also served as the title for a hardcover volume in the Judge Dredd partwork series. Follow the links for greater exploration of the individual stories. In the first Alan Grant takes Anderson on one hell of a journey where her psi talents prove a doorway to some unwanted information about her world. It features stunning art from Ranson, and overlook Walker drawing Anderson like a body builder, and his story also looks spectacular. It’s Grant providing further insight into how life arrived on Earth.
Grant alternates between inventive shorter stories occurring in Mega-City One, and longer serialisations concentrating on progressing Anderson as a character. He’ll also return characters from previous stories, notably the children from ‘Triad’ in Volume 01.
From halfway it’s all short stories, first as Anderson decides she’s not returning home from space for a while. Grant mixes the mundane and the spiritual for a bunch of creative SF tales, but newer artists are really shown up when Ranson delivers the beautiful and the mythical. “Special people shouldn’t do ugly things” is a maxim we could all live by. Xuasus also bucks the trend with dynamic art, but featuring ugly people on a good story about prejudice.
Some black and white one-offs end the selection, unconnected to Grant’s ongoing continuity and not as good, although Ian Gibson art is always welcome. John Wagner’s co-writing credit is for the first, and Enric Romero, so good on the modern world of Modesty Blaise just looks old-fashioned drawing Anderson’s future. The best of these shorts is the last, Mike Collins illustrating a clever twist on the idea of a soldier snapping and going postal.
Grant’s creativity remains high throughout, and there’s more than enough spectacular art over three hundred pages to justify your time and money. Grant and Ranson continue Anderson’s journey in Volume 03.