As people who read this site will know….
I should delete that. If you dont read this site you arent reading THIS are you?
Screw it. As people who read this site will know I like to put up two or more reviews of the prog stuff whenever possible so that you get a better chance of a balanced opinion. Same for Zarjaz if I can, so a big thanks to Mike Donachie who sent in the review below to complement Richard Fox’s review I posted up yesterday. Over to you Mike >
ZARJAZ 12: REVIEW
Fanzines are funny creatures.
Very often, they tend to be pretty shallow things, designed to give unpublished and frustrated comics writers a little bit of an ego boost from seeing their work in print. The idea is valid: showcase your talent, almost like a CV, so editors can see what you can really do. But, to be frank, some of the self-published comics on tables at conventions tend to do the opposite of what they’re designed for. Sadly, they show exactly why their creators aren’t being published professionally.
Not so Zarjaz, the anthology-styled publication inspired by 2000AD. This little gem may be a fanzine in the traditional mould, letting people play with someone else’s toys and do wicked things with them, but it’s also good. In fact, it’s really good.
The latest issue is #12 – just published by the prolific Dave Evans and Richmond Clements, who are also the men behind Futurequake Press – and it’s stuffed with great ideas. It does what good fanzines do so well, taking established characters and doing fun things with them. Having complete freedom from the continuity of the official comic means all bets are off. Having high-quality writing and art, as Zarjaz does, makes it a real winner.
The lead story in Zarjaz #12 is Moon In The Undercity, a Judge Dredd tale written by Paul Glasswell and drawn by Dave Thomson. The clean, satisfying line art is great, but it’s the writer who’s obviously enjoying himself the most here, gorging himself on a Mega-City One box of chocolates, stuffing them all in his mouth at once. He’s combined werewolves in the Undercity (the ruined old New York which was paved over by the future authorities in a disaster for town planners but a gift for writers) with a mutant plot against the city above, plus a hotdog run for cadets and, wonderfully, he’s thrown in a Killdozer and Land Raider of a type last seen getting blown to bits in the Cursed Earth epic, way back in 1978.
Now, that could be fanfic overindulgence of the worst kind, but the sheer joy Glasswell is taking in it, plus the strength of the storytelling and – always crucial in comics – just the right pacing for its events, make it work. At the same time, the structure of the three-parter, spread through Zarjaz like multi-part stories used to be spread through the old hardback annuals, breaks it up well, while holding the reader’s interest. Put simply: there’s no way 2000AD would ever get away with such a crazy story which strip-mines continuity, but in a fanzine like Zarjaz it’s marvellous fun.
Then we have Zenith Invasion, by Chris Denton and David Frankum, which combines Grant Morrison’s superbrat pop star superhero with Pat Mills’ tale of Britain over-run by thinly-disguised Soviets. Honestly. It’s a mad, fabulous idea but that’s what it does.
This story doesn’t work quite so well, mainly because it doesn’t really go anywhere, but it’s another example of a fanzine doing great ideas that the proper comic couldn’t even consider. It’s entertainment which is guaranteed to make you grin.
The rest of Zarjaz is filled with satisfying, shorter stories, which is why an anthology comic tends to work well. There’s a fair bit of Dredd, with some fatties in Fat Chance by Alexi Conman and Luis Chicon and some real laughs in two tales of Deputy Chief Judge Fish, by David Withers and Phillip Vaughan. There are also some great ideas in “Constable Dredd”, an alternative history story by Richard McAuliffe (of this parish) and Mark Chilcott.
As if that’s not enough, Zarjaz 12 also has guest appearances by two seasoned comics professionals. The issue is wrapped in Alex Ronald’s bold, yet moody, Dredd cover that screams, “Get this man drawing for you again, now, Tharg,” while artist Liam Sharp shows he can write. His Slaine text story has a clever twist, and is accompanied by a dark, brooding painting of the barbarian himself.
It may seem like damning with faint praise, but Zarjaz is a surprisingly good read. It has no right to be as good as it is, but the “fan” in “fanzine” shines through in every issue – in the delight its contributors take in making stories with 2000AD’s top characters. It’s so well-established that its content stands up in terms of quality, too. It has an enthusiastic following and, until you join in, you’re missing out.