Judge Dredd Megazine #227 Review


Reviewer: Will Cooling

Written by: various
Art by: various
Editor: Alan Barnes
Publisher: Rebellion

Ah yet another issue of 2004’s premier comic (in my humble opinion naturally), a comic that delivered quality action whilst taking worthwhile risks on new characters and concepts. Can the Meg finish the year as it started it? Well, in a word, yes! We get the annual comedic Dredd story, this time an entertainingly daft take on Romeo and Juliet by John Wagner and Higgins which transports the action to the rivalry between championship eating teams the Fat Guys and the Gorgers. Cue lots of ridiculous, non-PC heavy going action whether it be comedic violence or comedic loving. All of which is brilliantly depicted by John Higgins who whilst he’s simplified his style has not sacrificed anything in quality or charm.

Of course being the Meg that’s the only indication that this is Christmas with that brave iconoclast Alan Barnes ploughing on with what he wants to do despite this being the season of good will. Instead we get gritty war action with Charley’s War continuing its brilliant Judgement Troopers arc that for once places a degree of emphasis on actually killing the Hun. Whilst over in Young Middenface we see the mutant insurrection collapse after the shock destruction of the Scottish Parliament; however don’t let you distract you from Grant’s true message, which is that David Steel(e) is a wanker. Both of course are graced with great, rugged black and white art that perfectly capture the violence and brutality of war without being gratuitous with Higgins parody of Steel being especially gratifying.

We also get two new stories starting up, firstly another Anderson PSI series following on from her rescue from the clutches of the Half-Life virus in WMD. Here we see her being assessed on whether she’s fit to still be a Judge as the question of her age is raised. All this and the more occult and bloody action is brilliantly captured by Grant and Ranson who have over the past year brought this strip back with many a bang.

The other return is the welcome Meg debut of long running indie series The Bogie Man with The Return to Casablanca. Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant this is about an escaped mental patient Francis Clunie who believes that he is Humphrey Bogart and has a habit of acting out his more violent film roles on the mean streets of Scotland. This time he has chosen Casablanca, just as the Edinburgh Film Festival and a truckload of Albanian asylum seekers arrive in town. Oh how great is this? Wagner and Grant’s writing is razor sharp with some fantastic jokes and action as their sideways look at their native Scotland not only focuses on Bogie but also a sense of low-level, grubby corruption. The choice of Casablanca is a boon to the series as well with so many well-known iconic moments that even a Bogart ignoramus like myself can get the jokes…even if you don’t they’d still be funny. Much praise must also go to the deliciously retro stylings of artist Robin Smith whose clean, simple style gives the madness a grounded charm. A great start to what promises to be a great story.

We finally get to the one-off return for Devlin Waugh in Vile Bodies, which sees the camp vamp shag something he shouldn’t have and so catch a PSI-virus that causes a veritable orgy on the very ship that’s meant to place him in quarantine. He and the skull headed Detective Inspector Strange of the Endangered Species Squad are left to try and prevent the ship crashing and so spreading the virus to all of Brit-Cit. Now this is fun (!!!) as Smith gets over a slightly sticky patch with the character as he gives us a deliciously degenerate strip with plenty of buff young men indulging themselves…oh many demons and animals doing the same…there may have been a woman having anal as well but too be honest I wasn’t looking. This is perhaps the most sexually explicit strip in Megazine history yet due to the fact that it wasn’t gratuitous (a shame isn’t it?) it hasn’t attracted any controversy…either that or everyone loved it so much they’re trying not to talk about.

If there’s one problem with the story it’s the slightly subdued reaction of Devlin; having finally read the character’s debut Swimming In Blood I can now see that Smith has in recent years been less willing go OTT with the character and has so water down the camp bitchiness that made him such a joy to read. The unwillingness to go OTT is also a problem with the art with Colin MacNeil returning after his poorly received work on Red Tide (although only due to health problems of Dave Taylor) and he hasn’t really learnt the lessons of it. There’s the same overuse of green and the same inclination to take a naturalistic approach to character design with his subtle linework failing to properly capture the outrageous character of Devlin. Its technically very good and it does the job here but I hope that when the character returns we get a new artist who injects a bit of fun and irony to the art. Still the story places the character on an up swing after Red Tide and gives us hope for the future of the series.

Over all this is a great issue with plenty of fantastic stories that combine great writing with great art with not a weak link in the whole chain.

A Comics Nexus original, Will Cooling has written about comics since 2004 despite the best efforts of the industry to kill his love of the medium. He now spends much of his time over at Inside Fights where he gets to see muscle-bound men beat each up without retcons and summer crossovers.