The Judge Dredd Megazine kicks ass. That is all there is to it. For 63 pages you get top-notch talent doing amazing post-apocalyptic sci-fi goodness, along with in-depth articles and interviews ranging from upcoming genre flicks to "Dr. Who in comics" to pretty much anything cool that needs to be written about. And even though I dig the long-running 2000 AD, it is a lot easier to get into Judge Dredd Megazine as a new reader. There is at least one self-contained story every issue, and there is a good balance between the longer-running serials and the shorter ones so you don't feel so much like you are jumping into the middle chapters of five different books. I wish there were more comic magazines like this.
This latest issue of Judge Dredd Megazine, #177, concludes a two-part Judge Dredd adventure, dishes up an EC-comic inspired horror tale, and delivers the next installments of the very cool American Reaper and Cursed Earth Koburn. There is an interview with comic artist Jim McCarthy, two book reviews, and the usual Dreddlines with reader feedback.
I wasn't too thrilled with the interviews this issue; they weren't as cool as the Western comics retrospective last issue or the Doctor Who feature before that. Jim McCarthy has carved out a niche for himself doing bio-comics for musicians like Kurt Cobain, the Sex Pistols, and Tupac Shakur. More power to him, but that just isn't my cup of tea. Same with the book reviews.
Here's the comic line-up for this issue.
Judge Dredd: "Unchained"
(Michael Carrol/John Higgins)
It is a rare Judge Dredd adventure that ends with a Gandhi quote. Dredd isn't known for being a left-leaning figure and his stance on non-violence is well known; there are few problems that can't be solved with a punch in the face, and those can be solved by a blast form the Lawfiver. But this story of forced slavery and revenge goes out of the typical Judge-pattern, and blurred the line between justice and the Law, which is rare in the Megacity. The great story was supported by some really great art. The colors in this bleak story were especially incredible.
"Tales from the Black Museum: The Unfortunate Case of High-Altitude Albert"
(David Baillie/Joel Carpenter)
This was the stand-alone for this issue, an EC Comics-inspired horror tale dealing with video game obsession. This story was in black and white, and had a perfect, chilling twist ending that I didn't see coming, but should have.
(Pat Mills/Clint Langley/Fay Dalton)
This is the second installment of this controversial story. Controversial not so much for its content — the story is a fairly straightforward sci-fi tale that takes identity theft to a whole new level—but instead for the art style. The whole comic is done in a photo-strip style that combines real people with digital backgrounds and effects. If you have seen the Japanese movie Gassan or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, then you know what I am talking about.
When I first saw American Reaper, I thought the look was pretty cheesy and I wasn't a fan. But now I am into it, and I found that American Reaper is the story I am most looking forward to next issue.
Cursed Earth Koburn: "Going After Billy Zane"
(Gordon Rennie/Carlos Ezquerra/Hector Ezquerra)
This is the longest running serial (Part Four) of the current Judge Dredd Megazine, and it is cool. Judge Koburn is a Cursed Earth Judge, out in the wasteland rounding up mutants and looking for a lost party of Billy Zaners who got into a Block Party. But Judge Koburn's new partner is named Judge Rico, and all if that means something to you then give yourself a pat on the back for being a long-time Judge Dredd fan. Personally, I can't wait to uncover the secret of Judge Rico.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.