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Judge Dredd Megazine 362
Review by Seth
No Prog or Meg reviews from me this month, let’s just say they are both on terrific form, but you probably know that already. Instead let’s turn to the lovely hardback which dropped into the sweaty hands of most 2000AD readers recently, John Wagner and Greg Staples’ lovingly crafted Dark Justice.
First and foremost is the look and the feel of the book which as most reviewers have already observed resembles a good old fashioned Christmas annual. It looks and feels wonderful with a stunning cover and the dramatic endpapers illustrating Staples’ glorious art. Just holding it brings back those wonderful feelings of when you got a top annual in your stocking. Jumpers for goalposts and all that. Marvellous.
Story wise it does read better as a single volume. It’s quite clear what its inspirations were and it plays out quite nicely in a fiends on a space plane fashion. There are a number of unanswered or half answered questions such as how Judge Death returned exactly, how fast the Justice department ship must have traveled to catch the Mayflower, and how far out of our solar system they are stranded at the end of the story. Anderson seems to survive a lethal attack from Death, Dredd is issued with a new Mark 3 Lawgiver whose only purpose is to jam at a crucial moment and leave Joe using farm implements and harsh language to defend himself. I’d also like to know how poor old Logan is getting on and, of course, what happened to P.J.Maybe, who surely must still be alive to return in a future story.
John Wagner is the heart and soul of 2000AD, the Goliath who has shaped Dredd’s universe from day one. He has produced some of the best comic writing ever in stories like America, Mandroid and Day of Chaos. Dark Justice doesn’t quite hit those heights and maybe John really is finished with the Dark Judges, but it’s still a very entertaining read.
Turning to the art and I’m going to run out of superlatives for the products of two year’s hard work by Greg Staples. On this lovely glossy paper in the beautiful hardback it all just pops. It’s stunning and clearly worth the price of admission alone. Hopefully the lucky so and so who bought all the original pages will exhibit them in a gallery somewhere so we can all go along and drool over them.
Tharg has also given us plenty of extras. It’s fascinating to read the exchange of emails between the creators as Greg persuades John to write a new Judge Death story. Then there are the covers in all their glory, Steve Green’s 3D designs for the new Lawgiver, Greg’s sketches and the intermediate stages on the way to the production of final pages. Plus there are a couple of images from the photo shoot which Greg used to plan some of the action scenes. And if you can tear your eyes away from the lovely Lauren Stables you might recognise Steve Green and Senior Street Judge Burdis hanging out with the cool kids again. That’s what we want, Mr Tharg, pages of extras that we can feast our eyes on.
Overall it may not be the best Judge Dredd story ever but it’s certainly one of the most beautifully illustrated, and presented in this excellent hardback format it’s a winner. There’s a lot of tugging on the purse strings of the avid 2000AD fan at the moment, and yes some of those new figures do look pretty great, but come on you have to have this back on your shelf. It’s pretty cheap on Amazon but they suck, buy it from the 2000AD shop instead, or better yet get it in your local comic shop if you are lucky enough to have such a thing, and let’s keep this Rebellion revival rolling along.
Dark Justice, clearly 10/10 and recommended to all. I’m now off to lovingly caress something hard and glossy again.
Not posted up much of anything in ages, but as this is a series I’ve really been enjoying and I was sent release info on the collection, I thought I’d share. Not 2000AD but a fun book with a really cool art style. Press release info below :
SCARLETT COUTURE COLLECTION
WRITER/ARTIST: Des Taylor
Beautiful. Intelligent. Deadly.
Scarlett Couture is all of these things, and more. She’s a spy.
Using her cover as Head of Security for her mother’s internationally renowned fashion house, she gathers intelligence for the CIA. In this explosive first issue, Scarlett follows her instincts right into the middle of the action and finds she needs to use all her wits to get herself out of hot water!
The high-octane critical and sales hit, finally collected in one explosive volume.
Collects Scarlett Couture #1-4.
“Beautiful… I love this style!”
Mark Millar (Kick-Ass)
“Super-stylish and super-sexy!”
Dave Gibbons (Watchmen)
“Really fantastic stuff. I’m a fan!”
Heath Corson (Writer/Producer, Justice League: War)
I have tended to stay away from the collections of 2000ad stories. There is the odd exception (“Horned God”, I’m looking at you), but I try to avoid buying the same story twice unless I have the unavoidable urge to have a readily available collection of a fave story to hand.
What appeals is that the Mega Collection isn’t meant to be a complete collection of Dredd – that’s “The Case Files” . This is meant to present the most significant stories in JD’s history and a flavour of his world. Up until now, the volumes have seemingly been published randomly. But the longer game plan is becoming clear, a pattern is emerging in the stories that are being collected. In numbering (if not in publication) this collection follows on from “America” (volume 1) and the upcoming “Total War” (volume 3).
Democracy has been a long running sub plot, starting back in 1986, it has seen Dredd gradually take a less authoritarian and more sympathetic approach to the Dems’, whilst still opposing them vehemently.
The lead story, “Letter To A Democrat”, sets the tone for the volume, (re) introducing a different perspective of the Justice Department in the strip. Portraying the Judges as fascist oppressors, using dirty and underhand tactics to undermine a growing movement within the population of the Big Meg’ to overthrow their dictatorship. The sequel, “Revolution” again drawn by John Higgins is excellent, Wagner & Grant confirm what everyone knows deep down, that the Judges are complete bastards.
The volume leaps forward a few years to the post “ Necropolis” tale of “Better The Devil You Know”, painted by Jeff Anderson, Wagner writing solo. Dredd’s push for a referendum is not popular with his colleagues and a series of ham fisted attempts on his life fail. The conspirators are rounded up in the Ennis & Burns 3 parter “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” and, in what I felt was a bit of a cop out at the time, the citizens (at least those who were paying attention) vote for the Judges.
Two one-offs by Alan Grant show the effect that the Justice Department’s oppression and censorship have on the population. Featuring early Colin MacNeil art, in “John Cassavaettes Is Dead”, banned 20th Century publications are found during a routine crime blitz. Poignant and thoughtful , it acts as a useful reminder of the doubts that Dredd had been harbouring for many years and the oppressive nature of the Justice Department. The second, “Politics”, drawn by Jeff Anderson, though light in tone shows just how far the Judges will go to silence dissent.
Paradoxically , for such a long running plot line, with such huge ramifications there are few stories that deal with democracy head on; from memory, I think there are few outside of the tales collected here. In fact, they must have been scrabbling for democracy focussed strips as half way through the collection we are presented with “Raider” an Ennis / Burns collaboration. Yet another ex Judge turns vigilante, giving us respite from the politics, but few thrills. Some of Ennis’ Dredds haven’t aged too well.
The remaining strips shift focus from the democratic movement to MC1’s surveillance society and PSU’s role in the Justice Department. Two, “Sabs” and “Direct Action” written by Wagner and Gordon Rennie respectively and masterfully drawn by Cam Kennedy, have sky surf equipped protestors sabotaging the Justice Department’s surveillance systems and big business. Of the two, Wagner’s works better, but Rennie makes a good fist of a theme he returns to in the latest JD Megazines.
The volume is rounded off with “Mega City Confidential”, written again by Wagner and drawn by a now veteran MacNeil. It reinforces the fact that despite seemingly annual extinction level events, the Judges will continue to use every trick in the book to ensure that there is no insurrection in the Big Meg, including the intrusive surveillance of every citizen’s hab in the city and disappearances for those who would reveal their secrets.
As a volume, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, and loses direction about half way through. But as a series, the Mega Collection does not disappoint.