It's Christmas time in Mega City One, and the Judges are getting together to deliver everyone's favorite present — the Law. And to wrap it up in a shiny bow, and to give some extras as well, the latest prog of the kick-ass Judge Dredd Megazine is coming to fill a few stockings.
Prog 318 gives us the Christmas-themed stand alone Judge Dredd story "Let's Kill Santa," the first part in what promises to be an unusual and interesting Dredd story "Armitage: The Underground" which deals with high-flying smuggler, interviews with both Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, and the new installments of American Reaper and Cursed Earth Koburn. And in case that isn't enough for you, Andrew Osmond covers geek movie releases of the month in his New Movies column.
Let's Kill Santa
Script: Al Ewing
Art: Ben Wilsher
This story was a very clever answer to the question of "What is Christmas like in Mega City One?" Instead of Santa Claus — whose keeping of his own "naughty and nice" list is clearly against the law, and promoting of bad public morals — the Judges have instituted their own child-friendly "Judge Pal" who has cartoons, lunch boxes, toys and a healthy message that kids should keep a constant eye on their parents and turn them into the Judges when any laws are broken. Horton Grinch is an Auxiliary Judge who works in the PR division and has devoted his life to the mythos of Judge Pal. But he isn't satisfied so long as one false idol remains, and this year the only present Horton Grinch wants is the complete replacement of the "false idol" Santa Claus with the more correct Judge Pal. But the real Santa might have something to say about that.
I first thought Let's Kill Santa was going to be a boring "Judge Dredd fights Santa Claus" kind of story, but it had more depth than that. The Judge Pal bit was nice, showing the brainwashing and propaganda used at an early age. Writer Al Ewing threw in some funny jokes, like when Judge Dredd was conscripted to be the new Judge Pal only to a dying man say ""… actually its not … not really your thing , is it … "
Ben Wilsher's art was decent enough, if not mind-blowing. His Judges look good although his Santa and reindeers owe a little too much to Todd MacFarlane.
Grant Morrison Interview
By Calum Waddell
Ostensibly an interview about Grant Morrison's new non-fiction book Supergods, Waddell's interview with Morrison wanders to far more interesting territory. I haven't been thrilled with Morrison as a writer for awhile — I think he made the leap from well-crafted stories to just masturbating on the page a while ago, and he is too famous now for editors to tell him his ideas are crap. But the interview shows that he is still a first-rate thinker and rabble-rouser.
I enjoyed his disappointment with comic fans, how he said that with the recognition that came with comic book movies the medium had a real opportunity to advance and push envelopes, but instead it retreated to safe and comfortable. It was ironic that he complained about comics trying too hard to be a paper form of film, as it was Morrison himself who pioneered the "Widescreen"style of comics.
Frank Quitely Interview
By Joel Meadows
A short interview, all about Flex Mentallo and its long-awaited collected release. Flex Mentallo was the beginning of the Morrison/Quitely team that would eventually produce so many comics masterpieces, and has famously never been collected due to copyright infringements with Charles Atlas. Hearing Quitely talk about the transition from British to American comics — a path traditionally taken through 2000 AD — was interesting, along with his thoughts on his previous work.
Armitage: The Underground Part One
Script: Dave Stone
Art: Patrick Goddard
This looks to be a promising and unusual Dredd serial. Published in black and white, the story involves a high-stakes smuggler engineering a commercial flight crash in order to distract from her entry into Mega City One.
This story has a fish-out-of-water element as Dredd has to head into Brit-Cit (the British City) in pursuit. I liked the smuggler girl, too. She seems to be a capable and entertaining foil for Judge Dredd.
High marks for Patrick Goddard's art on this. The line drawings really stand out, and I think this is the closest I have seen to Brian Bolland in a long time. Patrick Goddard is one to keep your eye on.
American Reaper Part Three
Script: Pat Mills
Art: Clint Langley, Fay Dalton
The twists and turns in part three of American Reaper threw me for a loop, and I had to go back to Progs 317 and 316 to make sure I had read them right. I thought I knew where the story was going, but now I am not so sure. Is this a case of some faulty equipment, or did John actually peg the wrong perp?
American Reaper continues to be the most controversial series in Judge Dredd Megazine. The letters column is stuffed with love it! / hate it! letters that focus on the photo-collage style of the series. I admit it throws me off as well — who exactly are these people posing for the comic? Professional actors? Friends of the comic writers or artists? I am tending to enjoy it, but there is some uncanny valley going on here. My enjoyment is from the story, not from the art.
Cursed Earth Koburn Part Five
Script: Gordon Rennie
Art: Carlos and Hector Ezquerra
It's Rico vs. Rico in the latest installment of Cursed Earth Koburn. The clones of Judge Dredd face off against each other — or do they? Not all is what it seems when the Bruja are involved. Sometimes the best thing to do is just to fly into space and drop a bunch of boms. But Koburn still isn't sure that is enough.
I continue to enjoy Cursed Earth Koburn. It is probably the most "classic" of the tales in Judge Dredd Megazine. The Ezquerras' art is beautiful and
rough, and Koburn is a good compliment to the more stoney-faced Dredd.
Judge Dredd Megazine is a comic I don't have to worry about each month, and this issue was no exception. One fantastic stand-alone stories and three cool serials makes from some good reading, and the extra interviews and movie reviews means even more bang for your buck. Any other company looking to publish comics in the anthology format could learn a lot from Judge Dredd Megazine.
Of course, for that matter so could the publisher 2000 AD, as the Judge Dredd Megazine is so much better than their flagship title.
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.