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.
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.
“Highly Articulated Action Figure Set” From Unbox Industries
I’ve been extravagant twice within a month much to the chagrin of my wife. She now knows about the one, but not about the other that will be arriving (c’mon Sam). The other is a surprise, love. I bought two pieces of 2000ad merchandise.
I read loads of comics, but it is only with 2000ad that common sense deserts me and I want to buy merchandise. The desire to maintain a healthy bank balance is ignored and I buy stuff. I buy original art from the prog’ – I have a desire to own all the action figures – not the statues / static figures oddly enough (though that Hammerstein one from Dark World Creations IS tempting) – just action figures.
I am most proud of the 3A Mongrol and Ro Jaws on my fish tank – imposing plastic icons, impressing my male friends, but leaving my female friends to indiscreetly whisper questions on my sanity to my wife.
Anyhoo. Zombo is the result of a drunken purchase a few weeks ago (end of May?). I deliberated, dithered and cogitated for a few hours, but a few ciders later and my debit card slipped out of my wallet all too easily. If it were Nemesis, to Alpha, there would have been no hesitation. Zombo doesn’t have that same level of affection or draw. Having said that, it is one of the best things that has been in 2000ad for years (and to be fair lately there has been a lot of good stuff). Perfect for Tooth’, a black and sharp script, humour, violence, satire, and fantastic art (Henry Flint strikes again).
Zombo : secret government experiment and wannabe singer. The result of melding a human ghoul with a zombie and installing a back up brain containing a different personality in his arse. A rotting X factor candidate, followed everywhere by a “Death Shadow”, a mysterious, dark, cloudy morass that kills stuff.
Zombo hasn’t been around for long, but has been quite the hit. Even so, action figure material? Not sure.
Working from home today, every time I have to get up from typing away I lurk around by the door, hoping the postman will be delivering goodies. Teasing me, he delivers my wife’s current affairs magazine and bills, and just as I walk away, <kerthunk>, a foreign jiffy bag bounces off the quarry tiles, the dogs lunge forward to sniff/eat. I rescue the brown paper covered treasure. I open it, and it is Zombo, here after a month of anticipation.
Back to my workstation, Zombo sits there alongside the computer. Between typing reports sending e-mails and writing presentations I glance at him, unsure what to do now he has arrived. Shall I open him? Shall I leave him sealed? Which leads onto other questions, why would I leave him sealed?? Even if I opened him, I’d keep the packaging (like I did with all the others).What a dilemma. The cauldron of world war III slowly simmering to a boil in Eastern Europe, and the West’s procrastination has nothing on this kind of dithering and indecisiveness.
John Burdis – keeper of the cellar of Dredd (coupled with the consumption of the contents of a bottle of wine) convinced me. Like Ricky Martin -he’s coming out.
Gingerly, I try and prize the plastic blister away from the backing card, trying to minimise the tears to the packing. I successfully inveigle my target out of the packaging without completely splitting the packing and…………………
I’m underwhelmed. I thought he was a tad small anyway, I try to move his arms and legs, no luck with the legs, completely rigid. I try to twist the head – no luck either. I move an arm – it falls off.
Hmmmmmm. They saw me coming.
To be fair, they didn’t hide the size – if I’d read the description (rather than drunkenly just clicked “pay”), then I’d have understood that he was “Star Wars” figures sized. But being the impetuous, profligate, inebriated bum that I am, I didn’t.
The description of “highly articulated deluxe figure set” is more a reflection of the character, rather than the physical characteristics of the toy. Oh yeah, it’s a joke. I get it now.
Other than the danger of our hero’s arm popping out of its socket every time you move it; it’s quite a good representation. Nice detail, good Larry from “Cameo” codpiece, perhaps not enough brain matter showing. Bodywork is perhaps a little shiny? A bit too glossy? Couldn’t they have provided a copy of the Death Shadow with him?
2000ad Sci Fi Special
Has it been a year already? Geez.
Last year’s revival of the seasonal specials were a hit. Rebellion retain the formula and revive another old favourite for this year’s summer bumper package.
Greg Staples provides an excellent ensemble old school image, taking me back to the early eighties and my childhood. Striking and eye catching, everything a cover should be, and a much better effort than last year’s half hearted attempt. Staples seems to be Rebellion’s go to guy for their launch covers, and on the basis of this, you can see why.
Dredd’ kicks off proceedings , written by Michael Carroll and drawn by Jake Lynch. Joe deals with a film production company filming a heist movie. Nothing is that straight forward in Dredd’s world, a member of the crew with an axe to grind, and revenge in mind. Lynch’s art is nicely scratchy, unkempt (in a good way) and harks back to mid eighties Mike McMahon’s big footed characters and linework. Storywise, it’s not brilliant, it feels like an old annual story (which I guess is the point) and the punchline is anti climactic.
Alex Worley and Mark Simmons’s Robo Hunter revival continues. Sam takes on the virus infected tech of Brit Cit’s tech baron – a cross between Tony Stark and Richard Branson. The trouble with revivals is that you always compare with the original, and previous attempts and re booting the strip haven’t succeeded. This makes a good attempt at replicating the lunacy and chaos of the early days, though it doesn’t reach those heights. It is certainly far better than either Hogan’s (or dear god) Millar’s runs from the nineties and early noughties. Are these one offs or a try out for a new series?
A three page Future Shock : “Dust” follows, written by the (new to me) Gary Blatchford with astonishing art from John Higgins. We’re read this plot before, but the art is gorgeous.
Did I mention I liked the art?
“Ace Trucking Company” is the latest revival from 2000ad’s distant past. Ace Garp – really? You want to revive ACE GARP? Sam Slade, Rogue Trooper, Harry Twenty for Cliff’s sake and now Ace? ACE?
I had just started reading the Galaxy’s Greatest on a weekly basis as Ace was carrying out his last lug haul. Nice script, the trucker slang is toned down (but wasn’t that half the fun?) and it has a good choice of artist in Nick Dyer, different enough from Massimo Belardinelli but retaining the spirit of the original strip.
“Survival Geeks” is up next. Hmmm, you know what? This makes me miss “Bec & Cawl”. Not many of 2000ad’s recent humour strips have hit the mark. This is no different, shrug and move on, not much that is compelling here. Nice art from Googe, but both Rennie and Beeby have written better.
Guy Adams and Darren Douglas return to “Rogue Trooper”. This has echoes of a 25+ year old classic one off by Peter Milligan and Jose Ortiz called the “Fanatics”. The Norts deploy one of the most powerful weapons, and which even Rogue isn’t immune to – propaganda, war is hell eh? Lovely art from Darren Douglas, and a great script and plot from Guy Adams. This team would be great on a regular “Rogue” strip, but you know what? Rogue is in such a mess that perhaps it just best to leave well alone.
Capped off with a teaser of the next “Defoe”, this year’s special is definitely more hit than miss. Any chance of a wordsearch next time?