Judge Dredd Megazine #224

Reviewed by: Will Cooling
Editor: Alan Barnes
Publisher: Rebellion

Judge Dredd

Title: Bite Fight Pt. 1
Written by John Smith
Art by John Burns
Lettered by Tom Frame

Ah extreme sports where would the unemployed slobs that make up the Big Meg proletariat be without you? We’ve had skysurfing, we’ve had eating competitions and we’ve even had human pinball machines but nothing matches the thrill, the danger and the illegality of no holds barred bite-fights to the death. The passion of the crowd is electric as the contenders stand and tear the living hell out of each other. A particular favourite Cain Ferrara whose deadly fangs make mincemeat out of the opposition. However, Judge Dredd doesn’t approve of such fights (I’m shocked as well) and has amassed an operation to close them down for good. Unfortunately for the Judge, things soon take a different turn.

John Smith is one of the few guest Dredd writers who can perform to a reasonable standard, usually it has to be said by featuring very little of the great man himself. This is no different as he concentrates on establishing the underground bite fight club (first rule of bite fight club-“Always floss”) and the operation behind it. He does this very well and in a surprisingly traditional manner with quite a linear and comprehensive approach taking to storytelling. His writing of Dredd is good, eschewing any speculation on his character in favour of focusing on him doing his job. Due to this he avoids the mistakes that the likes of Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and Robbie Morrison have made in making Dredd to harsh/soft a character.

Of course what particularly helps this story is the fantastic artwork of John Burns, who just so happens to be one of the finest artists around today. He has a solid grasp of storytelling with his very traditional style emphasizing the different elements of the scene in a very precise and deliberate way. However, there are two things that I love about his artwork, firstly his lush painting, which with its classical style has a more naturalistic look than is usual in comics. Secondly it’s the strength of his linework, which is extremely tight for a painter with his character designs and panel arrangements showing tremendous thought and care. I particularly like his Dredd as he’s one of the few artists to show him as the hard nosed sixty old he real is, only with Burns does the fact that Dredd was based on Clint Eastwood come through.

Overall a great with a mixture of sound and smart writing, great art and a fantastic surprise.

The Simping Detective

Title: Innocence: A Broad Pt. 1
Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Frazer Irving
Lettered by Tom Frame

Six of The Boss’s goons have been murdered in past week and of course everyone’s favourite Simp is on the case…only for an explosion, an alien strip joint and the definition of the word hubba hubba (its one word repeated) to send his investigation into a new and exciting directions.

This is great and know its. The writing here is amazing as Si Spurrier has totally gelled with the character, with the environment, with the noir pastiche, with everything in a way that is almost criminal when you consider that this series isn’t even six months old. The character of Jack Point leaps out of the page with great quips and observations all that are delivered in a faux-droll style that is hilarious What’s more Spurrier seems intent on having fun in the Big Meg toy box with yet another surprise guest appearance. As for Frazer Irving, well what can you say except f’ing good? This guy is a genius with his art being as good as ever and when the surprise and her thong appear, it somehow manages to get even better. Amazingly great stuff from two of the hottest creators in comics today.

Shimura

Title: The Executioner
Written by Robbie Morrison
Art by Andy Clarke
Coloured by Gary Caldwell
Lettered by Ellie De Ville

Shimura is a former Judge of Hondo City who after being betrayed by one his colleagues became a Ronin, a master-less samurai warrior. He has in the past crossed paths with Judge Dredd and with the Big Meg’s number one lawman in Hondo with a proposition for him he’s about to do so again.

This is an interesting and excellent re-debut for Shimura (which I’ve never read) after a five-year absence. Surprisingly much of it is focused on Dredd, his nationalism, the disdain that foreigners have for him and his contempt for any law other than his own. In many ways you could say that Morrison is setting him up as a 22nd version of George W. Bush, which to me makes a lot of sense. Apart from that nothing much happens in this episode, Dredd comes to Hondo and despatches a gang with ease and then meets with Shimura. However, what does happen is interesting and well told with Morrison displaying the subtly and intelligence in his writing that was so sorely missing from his Authority work. Andy Clarke’s art is excellent too with his clean, bold linework couple with his kinetic action sequences making for a good-looking story.

Anderson: PSI-Division

Title: WMD Pt. 3
Written by Alan Grant
Art by Arthur Ranson
Lettered by Annie Parkhouse

Our brave gang had a pretty torrid time of it last issue, learning that Anderson’s subconscious can’t help them and that one of them has been infected with half-life. The make matters worse after meeting up with some people from Anderson’s life we saw the angriest Behr in town (sorry) have her head exploded by Satan…well sort of Satan because she told everyone nothing inside Anderson’s head is really real. Although she is really dead so it shows you what she knew. Now things go tits up as the three remaining psychonauts bicker amongst themselves with Gistane intent on moving on whilst the other two want to quit (btw, I think Shakta has been infected with Half-Life*). And not much else happens really and to be honest I don’t care as like a Bendis comic nothing is done extraordinarily well as Grant manages to add real tension and gravity to proceedings as the mission seems to be falling apart. In addition he also provides some terrific scenes for Arthur Ranson with his also majestic splendour. The three pages “spread” towards the end left me absolutely speechless with Ranson’s paints and rich fantasy imagery being simply wonderful. Great stuff.

*That’s a prediction not a spoiler.

Young Middenface

Title: Killoden
Written by Alan Grant
Art by John Ridgway
Lettered by Annie Parkhouse

Middenface McNulty and his band of mutant outlaws are hiding from the kreelers in the Scottish Highlands when news of the election of the anti-mutant Jack McWeasle prompts the calling of a council of war among the Scottish mutant groups.

Alan Grant has said that this story is the culmination of his writing on Middenface and is the mutant version of Culloden (where the English and their Scottish Lowlander allies defeated the Highland army of Bonnie Prince Charlie so paving the way for the destruction of the Scottish Highland communities). This subdued opening depicts the fear and desperation that has settle upon Scotland with the growing strength of anti-mutant factions, so provoking the radicalising of mutants. Whilst the writing as of yet hasn’t covered any new ground it handles familiar topics very well and there’s a harsher edge to such scenes as the Council of War than there was in Portrait of a Mutant. Amid the sombre nature that is some excellent humour such as the mutant with the fist growing out his head wanting to tell the norms to “talk to the fist” or the group known as the “Galloway Muties” showing the mixture between comedy and seriousness that Grant talk about in his interview with me.

On art duties is the incomparable John Ridgway, who with no offence to Goodard/Teague has made this series his own. His scratchy linework in all its black and white beauty is perfect for this story with his heavy naturalism and realism packing really pathos into his art. He adds real texture and depth to his art with everything from his character designs to his action sequences looking real in a way that isn’t usually true in comic books. An excellent start to what promises to be a classic story.

Judge Dredd

Title: Meat Patrol
Written by Gordon Rennie
Art by Simon Coleby
Coloured by Chris Blythe
Lettered by Tom Frame

The Justice Department has long had a man shortfall meaning that often Judges are forced to temporarily fill in vacancies that have arisen. One of the auxiliary services is the Meat Patrol, who takes the bodies of those who have left this place to meet Grud. Arkins is getting ready to do the nightshift only to be confronted with his partner for the night, none other than Judge Dredd!

Okay ignoring the fact that it makes nooo sense that the Justice Department has gotten/allowed its most capable Judge to the lowest, most undemanding job available this is a fun bonus Dredd story. Gordon Rennie writes very much in the style of cop buddy movies with the focus largely being on the conversation between Akins and Dredd as they go about their jobs. Naturally they’ve got a history and naturally its because of this that Akins is stuck in a dead end job but Rennie develops this well contrasting Dredd’s dedication and willingness to do such menial work without complaint with Akins sloppy and grudging attitude to his job. The contrast works well and is a further example of the amazingly good grasp on the character of Dredd that Rennie has, a grasp unmatched by anyone other than Wagner. If I had one complaint it would be that the action sequence at the end seems out of place and slightly tacked on. I mean don’t get me wrong it works but the more sedate and characterisation nature of the earlier pages seemed more believable and apt.

Of course one of the reasons for the action sequence may have been the fact that such a sequence played to the strengths of the artist Simon Coleby whose messy lines don’t usually lend themselves to naturalistic, subdued and characterisation focused stories. Still Coleby does a good job with some nice grotesques dotted around the place whilst he handles the action scenes with his usually aplomb. Also noticeable is his excellent use of shadow to give his art depth, with some scenes being given added oomph by it. Overall, another fun one-off Dredd story by Rennie that makes for a great read.

The Last Word: With all the new stories firing on all cylinders whilst the text content and Charley’s War show great improvement from recent issues this is one of the finest Meg’s of the year. In other words you should buy it you damn fool! How many times do I have to tell you?