Judge Dredd Megazine 451 :ComicScene Review

Review by Luke Williams

Meg 451 cover

Over the past few years “Judge Dredd Megazine” been more consistent in quality than its older stable mate the Prog’. However, there was a time when it was in dire need of rescuing, it included lots of reprint not related to Dredd or 2000AD (Hellboy), apart from sharing creators (Preacher), but cheaper than new material and it kept it afloat. John Wagner and Henry Flint’s even took to creating a Judge Dredd strip :  “J.D. Megson” as a thinly veiled commentary on this period and the concerns over the survival of the once Mighty Meg’.

Since that nadir, the Meg’ has seemingly got the balance right. A mixture of text articles, creator interviews, original strips and a bagged but separate free floppy “graphic novel” (stretching that definition somewhat) which could be a bit hit and miss. But, by and large it was a good package.

However with 451 (which as a number has an unfortunate connotations with publishing) it’s all change again. It’s back to the square bound format of around 20 years ago; up goes the page count and the reprint comes back into the Meg’ proper. This relaunch “new Format  / New Stories” smacks of that great harbinger of doom from the 70s,  “great news for all readers”.

This time the reprint is mostly Judge Dredd related – with this issue the Meg’ reprints two of IDW JD mini series. Reprinting the complete first issues of Matt Smith and Simon Coleby’s  and Len O’Grady’s Judge Dredd “Year One” and Douglas Wolk, Ulysses Farinas’ and Ryan Hill “Mega City To : City Of Courts” 44 pages in total in this issue : not far off the page content of the floppy (RIP). Presumably any remaining suitable 2000AD & Megazine material is being earmarked for the further extension of the 2000AD Ultimate Collection.

Of all the IDW series that could be reprinted, they have picked some of the better ones, sparing you dear reader, Duane Swierczynski’s interpretation of our favourite lawman and its follow ups “Mega City Zero” and the “Blessed Earth” which frankly were as ill advised left turns as TV Buck Rogers series two.

The involvement of “Tharg”, Coleby & O’Grady on “Year One” was always going to inspire confidence . “Year One” is essentially a Dredd procedural, set (as you’d expect) in the early career of Old Stoney Face and around the establishment of PSI Division. Largely shorn of the humour of its parent strip presumably to make it an easier sell for the American market – Coleby is always worthy of your time, Smith/Tharg has a great handle on Dredd and MC1 as you would hope.

Dredd Yr One meg 251

“City of Courts” on the other hand is not short on humour or satire. Your reviewer knows what is coming up in this series with each (being someone who will just pick up almost anything with Dredd on it). Wolk is a huge Dredd fan – and it shows, though he hasn’t got the same handle on Dredd and his universe as Smith. But if the plot and script, a story of Dredd on temporary transfer to MC2, doesn’t grab you can marvel at how bonkers, detailed and imaginative Farina’s art is.

City Of Courts Meg 251

You know the Meg is in trouble if it begins to reprint the ongoing series(s), or that pitiful IDW / Dark Horse  / Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens mini (not to be confused with the 2000AD shepherded collection of the two JD crossovers with the aforementioned 20th Century Fox franchises).

The final reprint material is a collection of “Steel Claw”, an extended advert for a launch of a collection later in the year. It’s interesting as an example of “classic” comics, but tonally, it doesn’t fit.

Onto the original material, which weirdly for a relaunch is largely a continuation of strips from teh last issue.

“Judge Dredd : Dollman” by Kenneth Niemand and Stewart Kenneth Moore features is a bizarre revenge strip starring a crazed MC1 celebrity growth regressed by his parents from birth, out for revenge and planning to wreak havoc on the city. Typical nut job goes crazy in MC1 story well told,  Stewart Kenneth Moore has become a guarantee for classy acid soaked weirdness.

Dredd Dollman

“Storm Warning : Dead & Gone” by John Reppion and Clint Langley is suitably spooky. Clint Langley deploys a more conventional art style than the digital / photo work he produced for “Slaine” and “ABC Warriors”. Langley is due to take over from Bisley on the “Joe Pineapples  :Tin Man”series currently running in the Prog’ and here you can see the influences :  everything is a bit exaggerated. Storm herself still seems to be a bit of a cipher, despite her being quite cantankerous and haunted by spirits she’s not different enough to the other PSI division Judge strips that have run.

Storm Warning Meg 451

“Dark Judges : Death Metal Planet”  continues. In short, the Dark Judges have travelled to the planet of Thanatopia where they are worshipped. David Hine is an excellent writer, Nick Percival is a talented artist; but the overuse of the Dark Judges harms them. The Dark Judges are best used sparingly. In the Prog’ “The Fall Of Deadworld” strip is more successful as it’s about the effect the Dark Judges have on the population of Deadworld, rather than specifically the Dark Judges themselves.

Dark Judges Meg 451

In “Karma Police” Devlin Waugh is on a quest to meet up with a previously thought long dead relative. Devlin’s supporting cast gives the strip a boost, but this ongoing storyline is starting to pall and misses John Smith’s depravity and body horror. Newcomer Rob Richardson is a talented artist with shades of Steve Yeowell.

Devlin meg 451

Ken Niemand and Conor Boyle’s “Mega City 2099” is a retro Dredd strip, intended to ape the style of early Prog’ Dredd. Boyle ably carries over the style of those initial Dredd artists and Dredd is scripted as more a conventional heroic future cop, with a clear lineage to Action. . Not sure if it has legs, but its fun, violent, and very 70s. But 3 different versions of the same character in the same comic? Isn’t that overdoing it a bit?

Dredd 2099 Meg 251

Wagner and MacNeil’s masterful “Surfer” a strip about a sky surfer who’s family have got themselves involved with the MC1 mob continues to show how a Dreddverse story should be written. MacNeil’s latest style is all heavy blacks, very atmospheric, beautifully coloured by Chris Blythe, this seems to have come from nowhere and benefits from not being linked to Chopper. Great stuff.

Surfer Meg 451

Finally on the original new stuff is Rob Williams and Will Conrad’s Judge Dredd : Sole Occupant.. Conrad and Williams worked together on the excellent AWA  / Upshot WW2 Nazi vampire mini “Out” from AWA. This is a competent one off but the punchline echoes the classic Howard (Wagner)/ Bolland strip “The Forever Crimes”

Dredd Sole Occupant Meg 251

Enlightening and thoroughly entertaining interviews with forgotten hero of British comics, Gerry Finely Day, artist and now writer John Watson and editor, writer and all round super advocate of comics John Freeman round out a big package in a glorious Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague cover. There’s a lot to read here, but clearly the Meg’ has hit a few bumps in the road.

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