The Comicon Monthly Megazine Preview – Issue 401: Dredd, Lawless, Storm Warning, Blunt, And The Dark Judges

by Richard Bruton

The monthly Megazine passed the spectacular 400 issue mark last month, so it’s back to the regular size this month, with the second parts of Lawless, Storm Warning, Blunt II, and The Dark Judges… as featured on that Nick Percival cover.
Megazine 401 is released in the UK and digitally on 17 October and will make its way across to those North American parts of the world sometime pre-Christmas. In the meantime, here’s a little preview of what to expect from another incendiary issue of the longest running 2000AD monthly comic…

Opening up issue 401, as you expect, it’s old Judge Dredd. Over in 2000AD right now, there’s a stunning tale of Dredd with all the feels of something very important, something huge, long-reaching, in ‘The Small House’ from Rob Williams and Henry Flint. Here though, it’s something smaller in scale, but as we all know, the small-scale Dredds are a damn good thing as well…
JUDGE DREDD: QUARANTEENS – Rory McConville, Clint Langley, letters Annie Parkhouse.
It might only be a single issue tale, but, as anyone with any love of Dredd will tell you, it’s that heady mix of short and long-form that gives us the depth of history Dredd is known and loved for. And this is a classic done in one Dredd from a writer making his name as the latest of a magnificent new breed. Here it’s a magnificent tale of teens going wild, or at least teens doing the same sort of dumb things teens do – just this time it’s all done Mega-City style. And joining McConville is long-time ABC Warriors artist, Clint Langley. I’ve been a harsh critic of some of Langley’s more computerised art on ABC Warriors in the past, but when you see him loosen up a touch, as he’s done here, his style has more chance to really shine. Here, look at this perfect part of a page, all horizontal panels, the repetition of images building to a wonderful page…

So… what would you do with your lives if you stupidly walked out of the containment field around your school into a toxic cloud of age-accelerating gas which wasn’t going to stop messing with your DNA till you were dead?
Well, if you’re this foursome of teens growing old before their time, the bucket list is out due to time constraints and instead it’s on with the smash-it list! Bad move kids. Classic twist in the tale, brilliant little Dredd one liner to end.
A great Dredd to open with.

LAWLESS: ASHES TO ASHES – PART 2 – Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade, letters Ellie De Ville.
The small mining colony of Badrock is up to its mud-covered boots in the stinky stuff, surrounded, outgunned and doomed. Munce Inc. wants the town wiped off the map since Marshal Lawson got the goods on their illicit activities.
Ashes to Ashes is basically Badrock staring down the barrel of a bloody big gun. Meanwhile, ex-Marshal Hetch and ex-Munce Inc. company man Brotherly are escaping. Badly. Hetch’s visions are overwhelming, much like the forces of Munce Inc. scaling the walls of Badrock. It’s time for a last stand, and also time for Phil Winslade to completely go to town with some amazingly lush crowd scenes. Spectacular has been a word to use on Winslade’s black and white art through all of Lawless, but it’s stepped up an impossible notch here.
Everything’s pointing to this being not just the final Lawless series, but a pretty damn short series as well. Death, death, death, and more death. But, I’m not ruling out anything from Abnett’s writing yet. Excellent, excellent tale.

STORM WARNING: OVER MY DEAD BODY – PART 2 – Leah Moore, John Reppion, Jimmy Broxton,
If you’re Lillian Storm, Brit-Cit psi-judge who can see and talk to the dead, an investigation in a hospital is the worst possible way to spend your day. Unfortunately for Judge Storm, that’s just where she is right now, with the dead trailing her and making her damn headache all the worse. Yep, there she is, and I’ve got to say, I’m enjoying her day a damn sight better than she is!

Loving Broxton’s art here, including those little Brit personality references he’s dropping in… is that noted toff MP Jacob Rees-Mogg or Walter the Softy there on page one? Then there’s the beautifully creepy way he keeps adding in the spirits of the dead continually floating around Storm. But, more than anything else, it’s so satisfying to see Storm look so damn rough. It’s something that irritates me greatly when it comes to female Judges, especially Anderson (see the problem writ large in Megazine 400). But, frankly, Storm looks absolutely knackered, utterly washed-out, and aged way beyond her years, just as you’d expect.

BLUNT II – PART 2 – TC Eglington, Boo Cook, letters Simon Bowland.
Like Lawless, Blunt is another tangentially connected tale to Dredd & MC-1. And, like Lawless, it’s a tale where the environment plays a big part. In Lawless, it’s the wilderness, the wasteland, that gives the frontier cowboy vibe to the tale, whereas in Blunt, the lush vegetation of Getri-1 is something very different indeed, with Cook’s organic artwork looking totally different to everything else in here. It’s a strip of few straight, many soft edges, everything just feels squishy (for want of a better word, although squishy seems fitting).
As the tale moves on, we’re dropping deeper into both ecology and society of the colony and looking at not just Blunt and the survivors of the rescue mission, but the mysterious evolved natives. For something that started out as a pretty simple looking adventure, there’s a real depth to Blunt, with Eglington exploring evolution and biology alongside Cook’s organic textures in the art.

THE DARK JUDGES: THE TORTURE GARDEN – PART 2 – David Hine, Nick Percival, letters Annie Parkhouse.
Part 2 of the next saga for The Dark Judges, with Death, Fire, and Mortis trapped on Dominion, looking to make their way back to Earth, or almost anywhere with living, breathing prey for them to sentence. And between them and escape, there’s just poor Officer Rosco to hold the fort until the cavalry arrives. Problem being there’s six months till they get here and Rosco needs to survive, alone, until then. Six months with nothing but cold, crap food, and (weirdly) Dark Judge music for company. However it plays out, it’s going to be a fabulous ride, with David Hine’s writing matching the lush, dark stylings of Nick Percival’s art.

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