Judge Dredd Megazine #214 Review

Editor: Alan Barnes
Publisher: Rebellion

Judge Dredd

Title: Turkey Shoot

Written by: John Wagner
Penciled by: Cam Kennedy (1-4) & Henry Flint (5-18)
Inked by: Henry Flint
Coloured by: Chris Blythe
Lettered by: Tom Frame

After a rest last year, the Christmas Dredd story makes a comeback with this delightful little comedy. It centres on (what for it) a batch of Turkeys who are robbed from their Cursed Earth farm and brought into the Meg only to escape and make a break for it. Of course being Wagner, the Turkeys are not ordinary. Instead they’re talking Turkeys that do indeed vote for Christmas with only one of them doubting whether being cooked is such a good thing.

John Wagner is a master of comedy and he proves it here with some gloriously silly lines and action as the Turkeys make their escape. However, the stars are the Turkeys themselves with Wagner pushing the idea of them liking Christmas to such absurd heights as having them pluck themselves…and sing whilst doing it.

The comedy is heightened by the art playing the story straight, which reflects how the characters involve view the action (especially Dredd, which is what makes him such a great comedic character). Flint excels in this story contrasting perfectly his stock Dredd and Mega City One with a bunch of bloody Turkeys running through it. Kennedy’s four pages are good but his pencils have been overwhelmed by Flint’s inks, which makes it seem kinda pointless getting him in to do them.

Still, this is a great story that will delight anyone who enjoys the absurd, especially as you get to contrast the ridiculous nature of the situation with the straight reaction of the characters.


Judge Death

Title: Wilderness Years: Pt.6

Written by: John Wagner
Art by: Frasier Irving
Lettered by: Tom Frame

Last issue, Judge Death left Las Vegas after being betrayed by the Judges who had promised him WMDs, if participated in some boxing matches for them. This week, we see Death continue his quest for WMD as he is lead by his dog (don’t ask) to an old American army base. Away from the base we also see the villager whose family Death killed continue his quest to find him, a quest that at the moment simply acts as a pointer of the carnage that Death is leaving in his wake.

After the Python-esque comedy of Turkey Shoot we get this darker story that shows the versatility of Wagner. However, as has been the case for most of the series it leans closer to the comedic. This time the comedy comes from Wagner’s Dr. Strangelove style portrayal of an American nuclear base complete with insane general. Wagner is brilliant at portraying the siege mentality that has overcome these relics of a war long gone. Especially in how he breaks the page up as we go from having an average of 4 panels a page in the preceding story to an average of 6.25 a page here.

Irving, as usual, excels in both these claustrophobic scenes and the wider screens. Delivering both brilliant character designs, for example the general, and some awesome near full page spreads. The best of this is the final page that is an explosion after the compression of the proceeding four pages (a nice Miller-esque device by Wagner).

This has been a brilliant horror-comedy series, with a subtle dose of satire. This part is no different, with some wonderful interaction between Death and the soldiers, and some important plot development.


Whatever Happened to…Tweak

Written by: Pat Mills
Pencilled by: Chris Western
Inked by: Ungara
Lettered by: Tom Frame

Tweak was a character created by Mills in his 20+year old epic “The Cursed Earth,” where he acted as a companion to Dredd in his quest to save Mega City 2. After the end of the quest, Tweak made Dredd promise not to reveal Tweak’s civilisation due to his belief that humans would destroy his planet in the pursuit of the minerals that he eats.

For the first, in a series of complete stories that sees what happened to long lost b-list characters in the Dredd universe (and also satirise half of ITV’s programming), Mills returns to his character as part of a wider return to Dredd. With this, we find that actually not a lot has happened to Tweak, he has simply gone back to living under his planet and so on. Instead, we follow the attempts by an earth tree hugger (who somehow got her way onto the planet) to gain permission to “spiritually develop” the planet.

Mills seems to be enjoying himself with this story. Effortlessly satirising the tree-hugger as someone who uses spirituality to justify her own actions as her pendulum thingy always agrees with her. He shows her to be arrogant and patronising when she tells Tweak to let her through as she’s done a university course in Alien Colonies and being motivated by unconscious greed. Mills’ political satire is the best it’s been in years, mostly due to the satire being half-affectionate as it makes it slightly less hysterical than his anti-Christianity satire. Most of the satire is subtle with only the unconscious greed flagged up explicitly by the script, which is fair, as it’s the whole point of the story.

Mills also stays true to his more heroic version of Dredd, especially in regards to the ending. What’s more, he does this whilst including a wry, fourth wall breaking moment that comments on how much Mills’ and Wagner’s visions of Dredd have diverged.

Chris Western gives us some good, clean retro art that suits the faux retro feel of the script, and solidly tells the story. Whilst it doesn’t quite have the wild brilliance of some of his other work (and looking at the inker for that) it still packs some great characterisation, especially in the spiritualist and Tweak.

A nice little story that contains some good Western artwork and Mills’ satiric script that shows a lightness in touch that he sometimes lacks.


Judge Dredd

Title: Blood of Satanus II: Dark Matters

Written by: Pat Mills
Art by: Duke Mighten
Lettered by: Ellie De Ville

In our second Dredd-world Pat Mills’ story, Mills returns to his story-spanning epic that is the story of Old One Eye the most vicious T-Rex ever. She and her various sons have turned up in Flesh, Judge Dredd (Satanus), ABC Warriors and Nemesis (Mills has tried to tie in various 2000AD stories into an American style shared universe). The last time Dredd confronted any Satanus related incident was in the original Blood of Satanus, where someone was fed the blood of Satanus and evolved into a T-Rex / human hybrid.

In this opening arc we are confronted with another such hybrid, although this one can shape shift between the two and is in full control. Mills develops the character well, showing the difference between an ordinary, slightly weak man and the powerful T-Rex and developing a religious angle to his unique ability. He also excels with the opening exchange between Johns and Dredd, which he cuts short with a masterful interlude featuring a mugger wearing a zoom suit. The pursuit, although it serves no narrative purpose other than to cut short Dredd’s investigation, is an excellent piece of writing. Mills manages to establish Hot Foot as an effective villain with less than four pages of writing.

The art is also excellent with a style very similar to Simon Frasier’s, including some excellent design on the various characters, especially the human / T-Rex hybrids. He handles the panel-heavy pages excellently, especially the opening page where Mills devotes nine panels to the killing of a cat. He also shows, with the scenes featuring Hot Foot, he is an excellent action artist with some of the action really leaping out of the page.

This is an excellent opening, introducing some interesting ideas into the Satanus mythos (brilliantly summed up in a text feature by Bishop) whilst maintaining a fairly brisk pace, something that Mills doesn’t always do. It is an excellent, atmospheric story that is a welcome return to Dredd for Pat Mills.


XTINCT

Title: Untitled: Pt. 6

Written by: Paul Cornell
Art by: D’Israeli
Lettered by: Digital Derci

The sole new non-Dredd world story concludes with some of the most bizarre pages ever. You think Morrison misses stuff with New X-Men? Then you should read this. If the writer ignores what happened last week then so I will I. The last page of this concluding episode opens with…Hot Lesbian Dinosaur Action. This is a teaser for a recurring joke/idea in the episode. Namely that the unique GM dinosaurs being sex starved will naturally jump on anything of the same species, which are provided by father sending new clones to kill them.

This is a pretty good idea of how utterly bizarre this is. You can almost hear the writer scream “F*CK I need an ending,” after dismissing narrative for the preceding 5 parts. Whilst not all of it makes sense, it has a mind-bending charm to it with the amazing art of D’Israeli more than allowing Cornell to get away with it.

A good, inventive and confusing end to what has been a good, inventive and confusing series.

P.S. D’Israeli rules (yeah D’Israeli rules!)


Charley’s War

Written by: Pat Mills
Art by: Joe Colquhon

This issue, we see the first day of the Battle of the Somme covered, a day that in terms of men lost is the worst day in British army history. It was also the first Battle to feature “Kitchener’s army” of volunteers as opposed to existing, professional solders.

Considering the historical content, the anti-war message is predictably more pronounced this issue. For example, Charley tries to stop Pops from killing a German in cold blood and then noticing how similar they are to the German. Really this should annoy me, what with being a conservative and all (plus one who wouldn’t totally go along with the “British high command were useless” argument) but the quality of this story just sweeps away such qualms. Mills writing is sharp with excellent, truthful and honest characterisation and a tight, compressed script that never sacrifices plot for analysis. He manages to quickly develop characters, and then kill them off and still make you care for them.

All this is topped off with the rugged, traditional art of Joe Colquhon. Colquhon not only brings realism to the story, but also manages to convey the compressed pages of Pat Mills without them becoming cluttered.

An excellent story that is living up to the hype.


Anderson, PS1-Divison

Title: Half – Life Pt 1

Written by: Alan Grant & Tony Luke
Art by: Arthur Ranson
Lettered by: Annie Parkhouse

At the end of the “My Name is Death” story, John Wagner placed Mega-City One’s top telepath, Cassandra Anderson, into a comma after a confrontation with Judge Death. Now her regular solo writer (with someone I’ve never heard of in tow), starts the process of bringing her back to life and also to reignite interest in the character.

They start this process with a very strange episode that follows the life of a teenager growing up at the same school as Sidney, the child who would later become Judge Death. We see her not only interact with Sidney, but later on when at university we see from afar his rise to a senior position in the Judges. In addition, she is plagued by dreams of death and destruction.

What Grant & Luke do here is to reinterpret what was a comedic origin that started the decade of parody for Death into a genuinely sinister and apt origin. Even ridiculous stuff such as Sidney having a taste for death after watching his father be a dentist is turned into a serious, brutal affair.

Partly this is because nobody does oppression like Alan Grant does. Indeed his ability to show oppression sometimes gets in the way of his stories as it seems hysterical. Here it’s more grounded, more on the subtle level of Moore’s V for Vendetta, which is partly caused by its common focus on a young girl leading a slightly humdrum life. Another reason is his excellent characterisation of Sidney. Showing him in a number of scenes to be a genuine sadist even before he became a Judge. In an excellent closing scene we are shown him being a powerful, tyrannical Judge in his handling of a chat show appearance.

In addition, he is reunited with the Anderson artist, Arthur Ranson, whose decidedly un-Bisley-esque paints are some of the most subtle and beautiful art around; similar in many ways to Miller/Janson/Varley’s art in DKR, only tighter and less cinematic. His photo-realistic (and sometimes referenced art) conveys a realism that perfectly brings across the more cerebral and low-key feel of the story.

This is an excellent, intriguing opening to what promises to be an excellent story. Whilst there is a twist at the end that is predictable (although it caught me unawares), the story leading up to it is excellent and helps further the retconning of Judge Death’s comedic years out of 2000AD lore.


2000AD Gold
Strontium Dog

Title: The Galaxy Killers

Writer: John Wagner
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
Letterer: Pete Knight & Carlos Ezquerra

This end of year, 48-page complete classic story reprint, is what appears to be a perfectly ordinary Strontium Dog story. It’s of course good, with Wagner bringing to this tale of Alpha and company trying to fight the fearsome Wolrog Empire from within, his usual tight scripting and mixture of the comedic and action sides, which usually characterise his Strontium Dog stories. Ezquerra’s art is equally good, with his usual comedic, cartooney style perfectly suiting the story. Also, his art looks in many ways better than his modern work benefiting from extra detail.

Despite the enjoyable nature of this story, it’s hardly a classic that people were yearning to see reprinted. When you consider the vast selection of stories they could reprint (my choice being the original Blood of Satanus to tie into the sequel) it seems a strange choice, probably selected to appease non-Dredd fans.

Still it’s a good story although a better one could’ve been selected.


Another great issue of the Megazine, with all the stories delivering and the new line up promising to surpass the high standards set by the last line up. This is an expensive comic, with the price rising to £5.99 due it to it being an end of year special. However, it is more than worth your money as it not only contains the above script but some excellent text features including a well-written introduction to the Satanus mythos by David Bishop. An excellent jumping-on point for newcomers.