The Monthly Megazine Issue #428: Ain’t No Happy New Year For Dredd

The Monthly Megazine – doing just what it says, taking you through the latest goings-on in the sister monthly to 2000 AD, 30+ years and still going strong!

Cover by Ben Willsher

The latest Megazine hits shops and digital on 21 January and has a new, done-in-one Judge Dredd and continuations of those Returners, more wonderfully dark comedy in Dark Judges: Deliverance, more spectacular alt-history of Mega-City One in Megatropolis, and more history of MC-1 proper in the brilliant Dreadnoughts.

It really is something of a purple patch for the Megazine right now, with top quality work from top writers and artists.

Right then, on with the Megazine preview…

JUDGE DREDD: THE NIGHT FLYER – Kenneth Niemand, Patrick Goddard, colours by Pippa Bowland, letters by Annie Parkhouse

Niemand again with the one-and-done Dredd, something he does do very well, and those one or two-parters are something that needs to be a big part of any Dredd writer’s arsenal – it’s a big reason that Dredd still manages to have a freshness to it after so long. But so much of the work here is done with Goddard’s artwork, so clear, so solid, with Pippa Bowland’s colouring really diving deep into the bright, popping colours and night-time purples to wonderful effect here.

So just a simple abduction tale, the Night Flyer drugging and then stealing away MC-1 citizens as they sleep, another alien/mutie/whatever mind control thing.

But it’s how it’s played for quiet laughs by Niemand that makes this one work, the sort of dark low-key comedy that both highlights and celebrates the craziness of Mega-City life.

MEGATROPOLIS – PART 5 – Kenneth Niemand, Dave Taylor, letters by Jim Campbell

As we dive deeper and deeper into this alt-history version of MC1, there’s a hell of a lot of enjoyment to be had playing a game of compare and contrast, picking up all of the various alt-versions of your favourite Dreddworld characters.

Between them, Niemand and Taylor have made this easy sell of a concept fabulously enjoyable, the whole what if MC-1 was more like James Elroy’s LA Confidential, just with more tech.

So, alongside discovering exactly what a certain Philip Maybry did to get Officer Jara transferred to work alongside Detective Rico, there’s the ongoing issue of who (or what) the vigilante, Judge Dredd, really is and who’s backing them, the descent of the city into the hands of Mayor Booth and the vicious Captain Caleb Calhoun alongside his new special judicial squad, with his own psychopathic ways of dealing with dissenters. Meanwhile, Jara and Rico are off to visit Eustace Fargo, father of the city. All those strands pulling together so well.

Yes, it’s a little bit Elroy, a little bit Metropolis, a little Mr X, and all 2000 AD, reinventing the legends in a wonderful new way.

I’m pretty sure this one will be able to run and run, as long as Niemand’s having so much fun and as long as Dave Taylor remains to deliver this gorgeous, gorgeous artwork.

DREADNOUGHTS – BREAKING GROUND – PART 5 – Michael Carroll, John Higgins, colours by Sally Hurst, letters by Simon Bowland

Funnily enough, the two historical tales, this and Megatropolis, are somewhat mirroring each other in terms of story beats. So where we had Jara’s reason for transfer being bringing in P Maybry, here we get to find out just how Judge Glover became who she is, at such an old age, and just how important Phoenix was for her.

Yes, in his search for individuals who’d work for his new vision of a justice sysytem, Judge Deacon saved her from 64 years maximum security. Which sort of makes sensse, seeing as there’s no Academy of Law pumping out Judges from age five right now, you’ve got to find a certain unique perspective on the law from wherever you can.

All of which serves to emphasise just how different the new Judges have to be, something we see when comparing Glover with her immediate superior, Volt. Where Volt came up through the police and sees the evidence chain say one thing, Glover looks above and beyond, takes another view.

And it’s all being played out as a simple police procedural. Again, that similarity with Megatropolis, where we’re seeing all the huge transformative moments through the eyes of those doing the legwork, here we’re getting the feel of what being a Judge truly means with a comparison to those traditional lawmakers around Glover.

And it is absolutely superb to read. Carroll, Higgins, Hurst, all of them are doing a stunning job of making this work so well. All of the important beats are there, all of the big vision is on show, it’s just being magnificently filtered through this very small-scale storyline to really incredible effect.

THE RETURNERS – HEARTSWOOD – PART 5 – Si Spencer, Nicolo Assirelli, colours by Eva De La Cruz, letters by Simon Bowland

Again, whilst The Returners absolutely looks wonderful, the big, big art from Assirelli really allowing him to deliver some wonderfully impressive looking artwork, it’s the thing that’s causing me to not get on with this one all too well. Nine pages of comics and a total of 20 panels. Yes, it can work, if there’s enough story to tell along with the big pages and minimal panels. It just doesn’t here.

For example, the first three pages feature the appearance of some burning spectral soldier thing, leading one of the Returners to ask the question on page four – “Anyone want to explain that to me?” And at that point, I was thinking just the same thing. After this, it’s another few pages where they climb to the top of a house, see some familiar ghosts, and meet a weird creature waiting for them. That’s it. That’s all there is. Maybe a couple of pages worth of storytelling. And the reveal at the end reminds me just how much better a couple of pages of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol was in delivering something thematically similar.

The problem is that there’s just not enough of anything going on here. Sure, it looks so pretty but so does Megatropolis, so does Dreadnoughts, so does Dredd, so does Deadworld, it’s just that those strips seem to have a lot more reading in them.

 

THE DARK JUDGES – DELIVERANCE – PART 5 – David Hine, Nick Percival, letters by Annie Parkhouse

All right then, I know that the problem with the Dark Judges is that they’ve become mere comedic value and that they’ve lost pretty much all of their threat because of it. So, when I tell you that Hine and Percival have engineered this in such a fabulous way to be able to give us offhand comedy moments AND a sense of these things are bloody nasty, bloody dangerous – well, that’s a really impressive thing.

As for just one moment of glorious dark comedy – Judge Death on the fact that his Dark brothers are scattered across half the galaxy…

It’s the “We’re getting better at this,” that brings the smile, Hine addressing head-on the fact that the Dark Judges always get beaten and always, predictable as clockwork, always come back.

So, while you’re smiling along with the discussions of the Mortarian Death Cult and Judge Death about how long it’s going to take to massacre the planet, there’s also a real sense of threat to all involved.

Case in point, whilst the Wild Kids have taken in Rosco, Judge Death is about to turn his gaze on them all – and that is not a good thing at all.

It’s the very best of the Dark Judges, Percival’s artwork is absolutely perfect for this one and Hine’s writing really does manage to capture both sides of the Dark Judges so well. A great, great strip.

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