Sunday Digest 09/02/2014 – this weekend’s must-read digital comics featuring The Bunker, Judge Dredd: Underbelly and Leap

This week’s must-read digital comics include three slices of sci-fi from different points on the spectrum. On the dark side are the official Dredd movie sequel comic book Judge Dredd: Underbelly and Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari’s dystopian time-travel series The Bunker and on the shinier side is Uproar Comics new sci-fi graphic novel Leap!

Judge Dredd: Underbelly (2000 AD/Rebellion)

Judge Dredd: UnderbellyReleased as part of an ongoing campaign to get a sequel made to the 2012 Dredd movie, Underbelly is the unofficial comic book sequel produced by 2000 AD and it’s publisher Rebellion. With a a story from 2000 AD veteran Arthur Wyatt and art from Zombo’s Henry Flint, Underbelly continues the bleak dystopian vision of the film that does away with the shiny super structures of the classic Mega City One (as well removing the giant gold eagle on the judge’s shoulders) to create a much more compact, tightly realized, ‘reallistic’ version of the Dredd universe. By removing much of the convoluted back story and some of the quirkier elements of the 2000 AD world that are a legacy of the original time line, Underbelly is much tauter more 21st century view of the character that is designed to appeal to a non-UK audience as well as those fans whose first contact with Dredd may have been via the movie. With Underbelly delving into issues of immigration and drone surveillance alongside the traditional action, in many ways it’s like an ‘Ulimate’ version of Dredd, (to use the Marvel universe analogy) taking familliar characters like Dredd and Anderson and transposing them into a new city with new issues that better reflect a 21st century comic. If Underbelly can have as much success as those then we are in for a treat and as we saw with last week’s Serenity/Firefly spin-off the comic book is now a viable alternative for TV shows and films that cannot get funding, but still have interesting stories to tell and so we can only hope that Underbelly piques the kind of interest in the world of  that might see a studio take another shot at the world of Dredd. In the meantime though, we would not complain at more comics like this one!
Judge Dredd: Underbelly is available from the 2000 AD online store for £1.99

The Bunker #1 (Oni Press)

The Bunker #1 Oni PressJoshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari’s bleak dystopian sci-fi comic gets a print edition this week courtesy of Oni Press and so it’s a perfect time to revisit this stunning digital first series. We raved about the first issue when it was released  back in August, and it just continued to get better with every issue. Fialkov’s dark, hard-edged story of 5 friends who find a bunker containing letters from their future selves warning of dark times ahead may sound like a hokey b-movie cliche, and in any other writer’s hands it might be. But Fialkov crafts the kind of intelligent, articulate and downright harrowing story that draws you in and keeps you hooked. He is ably backed up by Infurnari’s ‘pull-no-punches’ artwork that is both loose and expressionistic and also brilliantly taught, perfectly capturing both timelines that the story is set in. For this re-issue his artwork has been given a subtle colour wash, instead of the monochrome bleakness of the digital original, but if you’re a fan of the original don’t worry, it’s a smart watercolour tint rather than a full blown digital paint job! With a double-sized first issue be sure to pick this up as it’s only a matter of time before this gets turned into a movie of TV series – so read it now and say you were there at the beginning!
The Bunker #1 is available from Oni Press £2.99/$3.99 or digitally from ComiXology in it’s original form for £1.49/$1.99

Leap (Uproar Comics)

Uproar Comics LeapLeap is the latest offering from Northern Irish publishers Uproar Comics, the team behind Zombies Hi and the DEC. When we spoke to writer Danny McLaughlin earlier in the year he told us about how Leap was intended as a homage to all the comics and movies he and co-writer Kevin ‘Gio’ Logue enjoyed growing up and there is no denying they wear their influences on their sleeves. From the opening sequence in the stasis banks which evokes Alien, to the ring nosed aliens that look like something out of The Fifth Element, to the desert moon setting of Star Wars, it merges all these elements of ‘classic sci-fi’ to create something that is much more than just the sum of its parts. Although not particularly ground-breaking in it’s concepts –  humans on a terra-forming mission and encountering aliens who think they are god – it all feels very familiar, which makes it both very accessible and easy to read. With a handful of plot twists to keep things interesting (which we shan’t mention here) and pop up throughout this first issue, it has a smart and intelligent approach that means it is more than just anther trad sci-fi story. Add to that some slick, computer-generated, rotoscope-style art, and it means Leap is a cleverly compiled piece of very ‘classic’ feeling sci-fi which, even though it may hark back to the greats, does so without ever feeling derivative.
Leap is available from the Uproar Comics store as a digital download for £2.50