Historically, the JD Megazine was designed to appeal to an older audience than 2000AD but as the years have gone by 2000AD's audience has aged and thus the content of the 2 organs isn't that dissimilar in terms of target audience. The Megazine started as a chance for creators to explore not just Judge Dredd but the whole world in which he lived. A few years back there was a change in the editorial direction and the mag now publishes a wide range of stories including reprints from the 2000AD archives and American comics (classic strips and titles such as Hellboy). Strips in the Megazine tend to be longer, this months Dredd for example is 12 pages long, over half the size of a standard American comic. At £3.95 the very bulky Megazine is quite a read and good value. Recently we have been treated to former editor of both the Megazine and 2000AD, Dave Bishop's behind the scenes history of 2000AD. This has been a very interesting read and one I hope that will be reprinted on its own for general release.
Let’s check out the lineup:
Judge Dredd - Bato Loco by Rennie, Coleby –
This is a stand alone one-shot Dredd story that set's up a future tale or two. Rennie manages to create a tale that is accessible for those not steeped in the history of Megacity one but, which at the same time, has enough in-jokes in the art and story to have long time fans laughing knowingly.
I won't go overboard here. This isn't a strip that will go down as an all time classic. Mind you very few do. This is a nice solid Judge Dredd story filled with the usual mix of ultrviolence, bizarre humour and originality to entertain (how many other comicbook stories would open with a half naked guy wielding a chainsaw whilst land surfing on the body of an enormously fat dead body?). Rennie picks a very interesting lead character with an, unique, narrative style to lead us through the tale. Megacity one, as good Dredd writers know, is enough of a character in it's own right to mean that Dredd only really has to make a fleeting appearance in his own strip and this is what Rennie does here.
I won't go too much into detail about the story. Frankly you wouldn't believe me if I told you. It's a good read and I look forward to more Dredd tales from this writer in the near future.
Juliet November - Phoenix Falling, Part 1 by Grant, Manley –
It's Alan Grant so, let's face it, it's got to be good. Alan Grant at his most mediocre is still a more entertaining writer than many other comicbook creators at their best (no offence to the rest). This is another Megacity One tale. Here we focus on a Pyrokinetic girl under judicial supervision (for the protection of both herself and the citizenship on the whole. Most often those with such powers are drafted into the Judges though not all are suited). The first page is classic 2000AD humour with our girl flunking a test of her, um, self control. As the story progresses we find out that she often looses control over her powers when she gets excited about the opposite sex, with nasty results. The rest of the story treats us to a tour through the weird and wonderful world of Megacity One, a place Grant helped to create. Our lead girl looks stunning as she goes out on her date though as we end it becomes clear that things may get a little, hot, next time.
Devlin Waugh - Red Tide, Part 1 by Smith, MacNeil –
Devlin Waugh returns to the place he became a vampire. For those who don't know Devlin is a very gay, very sophisticated, very charming and muscular envoy of the Pope and, as I said, he's a vampire. This is an enjoyable enough first part. The story is set up, the characters are introduced and the blood flows. Throughout it all Waugh remains aloof and calm. All as it should be.
Slaine - Time Killer by Mills, Fabry, Pugh –
One of the three 2000AD reprints in this issue. This is classic stuff yet ironically not my favourite type of Slaine tale so I feel a little too biased to do a full review. We've got alien demons, BIG fights, full on action and much, much more. Despite it not really being my thing there are still classic moments to savor. Slaine packs a gun (!) for this story, a Leyser gun. Slaine with a gun...bad, Earth magic joke...good (it's a Leyser gun because it's powered by Ley lines).
Darkie's Mob by Wagner, Western –
A classic from the pages of Battle by the creator of Judge Dredd. British comics used to simply be war and sports stories. In the mid 70's John Wagner turned his hand to this tired old format and produced a gem. The script has had to be tweaked a little as what was acceptable in the 70's would be distastefully racist nowadays.
Wagner's story telling style has a very distinct formula throughout this offering, it's one he used several times in 2000AD for various stories. The 'lost journal' style has an extra punch here, though. Comics of the time were quite sterile in the UK. Wagner's tale isn't an open ended, only the enemy dying, sort of thing. Considering when it was written it is remarkably hard hitting and as you fall into it you come to realise that the 'lost journal' is more than likely a sign that nobody will get out of this story alive.
This is clunky at times but on the whole it has weathered better than many similar stories. This is a true classic and I was hooked from the start. Nasty, violent, oppressive and very clever for it's genre I am surprised this hasn't been reprinted before. I look forward to the next offering.
The Bigger Picture - The 2000AD Story Continues by Bishop –
It has become very fashionable to knock the Judge Dredd film. There was a hell of a lot wrong with it but it did make money and it wasn't as bad as it has been made out to be by many. I was a little disappointed to see Dave Bishop joining in but as I read on it became quite obvious why he did. The 2000AD story has been as gripping and bizarre as its classic strips and this portion was no exception. This time we see how 2000AD suffered because of decisions from it's publishers at the time and we enter David Bishop’s reign as Tharg. Kudos to Dave, he continues to pull no punches in his history despite being a part of it.
Future Shocks - The Bounty Hunters by Moore, Higgins –
Tharg's Future Shocks have been running in 2000AD since year dot. They are quick, snappy oneshot stories with a twist in the tale. They are used by Tharg as a good entry point for new script and art droids as well as fun work for established droids that are between projects. Alan (the comicbook God) Moore vented a lot of excess creative energy over the years on these and this classic offering is typical of the FS style. Don't go rushing off to buy the Megazine expecting a Watchmen level of genius here. This is pulp, throwaway science fiction. It is good fun, it is clever and it is (or at least was) very original. Not Moore's finest moment but at the same time nothing for him to be ashamed or embarrassed by.
Family, Part 2 by Williams, Fraser –
Not as enjoyable as part 1 to begin with but once I got into it, it was still a good read. This is a series with a lot of promise and a great premise. There are some very funny moments at the beginning of this both visually and in the dialogue. Basically this is a twist on all the old organised crime tales of old. There are plenty of little side plots starting up and texture has been added to the world as a whole in this issue.
Black Siddha - Bad Karma, Part1 by Mills, Fraser –
Pat Mills abandons paganism in favour of Eastern mythology in this fun tale. We open with a young British Indian being berated by his mother for ruining yet another meeting designed to plan an organised marriage. The reason for his actions become clear as we discover he's shagging their not unattractive cleaner. Young Rohan then heads off to a friends house, this is where things start to get weird and it becomes very clear what type of tale Mills is spinning. Rohan's friend is a practising worshipper of Kali. Rak strikes me as a typical goth teenager dabbling in magic. His very sexy girl, Rita initially appears to be the usual hanger on. Things here aren't all they seem. A small aside casts doubt on my inital assessment of Rak. Both Rita and Rak talk of Kali and how the worship of her is the fastest and most pleasurable way to raise Kundalini...fine typical goth stuff but then Rohan asks if they are going out clubbing. The reply is "Oh, yes." but there is something in the way Rak is brandishing his walking cane that suggests a very different type of clubbing and that Rak and Rita are much more genuine Kali worshippers.
Things get weird from there in typical Mills fashion. We have a wild dream sequence told through a series of talking rock carvings. We are introduced to the Black Siddha and his serpent sword. Rohan is awoken by his friends returning (Rita has a little blood stain on her cleavage). He explains what happened and we realise through Rak's reaction and the bright red blood staining his cane that the suggestion was correct, Rak takes his Kali worship very seriously. We end with the realisation that Rohan's dreams have spilt into the real world.
This is really classic Pat Mills stuff. Very enjoyable with lots of promise for the future. Mill's has really returned to the top of his game with this. Some have said that Mill's lost his way with Slaine going overboard on his Paganism and his hatred of Christianity. Perhaps this was true on occasion, I still found some enjoyable tales. This is top form from Mills, very good.
Sinister Dexter – Bouncers by Abnett, Roberts –
This is a one page quickie that very nicely introduces the characters and has a twist payoff at the end. Fun and amusing.
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