The Monthly Megazine Issue #451: New Format, New Stories, Same Christmas Thrill Power
by Richard Bruton
Welcome once more to The Monthly Megazine – doing just what it says, taking you through the latest goings-on in the sister monthly to 2000 AD.
Oh heck, late, late, late with this one, The latest Megazine came out Wednesday 14th December. I blame Christmas for it all and it’s absolutely nothing to do with me forgetting what day it was and what I was meant to be doing. Absolutely not.
Okay, anyway… it’s ALL change in the Megazine this month. First, the format of the Megazine changes this month. Gone is the polybagged reprint graphic novel and instead we now get a non-poly bag (the environment says thank you) and a BIG squarebound publication with the reprints moving inside the Meg itself.
Of course, given that it’s Christmas, we also get extra pages this Meg, making it 144 pages of festive thrill power for you.
Now, inside the Christmas Meg, you’ll find seven original strips, three reprints, and three interview sections. It all kicks off with a suitably festive Judge Dredd, featuring the artwork of SK Moore, always a delight. Then we have the continuations of the ongoing (and excellent) quartet of Storm Warning: Dead & Gone, Dark Judges: Death Metal Planet, Devlin Waugh: Karma Police, and Surfer: Book Two.
After that, there’s a bonus Dredd from Rob Williams and Will Conrad and the debut of a rather great looking Mega-City 2099, a slice of retro law enforcement from Ken Niemand and Conor Boyle that takes us right back to the whole 70s look of the strip.
And finally, the three reprints are Judge Dredd: Year One and Mega-City Two, both originally published by IDW in the USA, and classic Treasury of British Comics material with Steel Claw.
Judge Dredd The Megazine #451 is out right now – perfect for a Christmas read while you sit in your food comas this year.
JUDGE DREDD: DOLLMAN – Ken Niemand and Stewart K Moore, letters by Annie Parkhouse
Time for your seasonal slice of Dredd, as is about as traditional as mince pies and a gin and tonic on Christmas Eve laying out pressies for Santa.
It’s Christmas Eve in MC-1 and, would you believe it, Dredd’s on duty. It’s a call out to Kinder Mansions, owned by L’il Tommy Kinder, “pint-sized kid genius, everyone’s favourite doll-sized freak of nature,” and due to be repossessed tomorrow by the owner’s creditors.
Tommy’s not exactly chuffed about that, and is plotting something to let MC-1 know just how not chuffed he’s feeling. And meanwhile, Dredd’s being stalked by a particular set of l’il nightmares…
All Tommy had was his only friend, a walking talking robot doll of himself… and now, well I guess you can guess how this one’s going to end (and that’s not too well for l’il Tommy.)
Niemand doing a by-the-numbers freakshow villain, ridiculous and tragic in equal measure. But it’s in Moore’s artwork that this one absolutely shines, packed with all those wonderful details he puts in, perfectly grotesque/bizarre with the sheer variety and insanity of the doll toys he throws at the page (and at Dredd).
STORM WARNING: DEAD & GONE – PART 3 – by John Reppion and Clint Langley, letters by Jim Campbell
Everything is tying into the just deceased ex-Brit-Cit Psi-Div Boss, Judge Campbell here… and Lillian Storm is determined to get to the bottom of it all.
Judge Campbell’s death, the Werewolf leaping from his offices, new Chief Psi-Judge Pelham trying to keep Storm from investigating as she’s too close to it all… except we saw last issue that Storm had already set about investigating in the most unconventional way she could and so it is that she’s down amongst the dead and the damned in whatever version of Hell we have here. But not to worry, she appears to be holding her own…
Having it jump around, from the now of Campbell being dead and Storm in hell to the two weeks earlier of Campbell’s death makes this one to keep you on your toes, but it’s a hell of a gripping ride we’re taking with Lillian… all the way down.
And if you were casting around to get an artist to do an over-the-top hellscape for Lillian to venture down into… well I don’t think you could do better than Clint Langley, whose art here is just perfect for the storyline.
DARK JUDGES: DEATH METAL PLANET – PART 3 – by David Hine and Nick Percival, letters by Annie Parkhouse
Although if you’re looking for an artist who’d be up for the hellscapes of Storm Warning and deliver pages just as impressive, although radically different from Clint Langley’s, then it’s Nick Percival, whose stuff on the Dark Judges over the past few series has really been magnificently grotesquely beautiful.
It’s some 25 years on from where we were in Dark Judges: Deliverance. We have an older Rosco, a Justice Department that’s just made contact with the remainder of the colony on Thantopia, and the Dark Judges are being held in place by Um and Whisper and the planet.
Or at least they were.
Now, thanks to the morons from the Death Metal band The Lizard Lords, Um’s dead, Whisper’s having a meltdown and the most terrifying quartet in the universe are making a comeback as the Dark Judges rise again.
In his last moments, Um gets to show Roscoe a vision of the future and Judge Death’s ultimate end, an end that’s coming far sooner than it was meant to…
According to Whisper, only Roscoe can save the universe now, delay the end, and set the future back on the right path. Unfortunately, she has not a clue how the hell she’s meant to accomplish this. And Whisper? Well, Whisper’s being difficult about it.
So, with Death and the other three Dark Judges off on the Death Metal Planet cutting a deal with the Lizard Lords, a deal for a performance even bigger than the one with Living Death, allowing Percival to give us this great nod to Judgement on Gotham in the art…
Death Metal Planet is veering into the absurd with glee here, something that Hine and Percival manage effortlessly here, without turning the Dark Judges back into the comedy characters they’d devolved into over the years.
And it’s an absurd that I’m thoroughly enjoying as well, one that looks absolutely fabulously monstrous, packed with all the detail Percival packs into the artwork.
DEVLIN WAUGH: KARMA POLICE – PART 3 – by Ales Kot and Rob Richardson, letters by Simon Bowland
Devlin’s on a mission to the USA and a meeting with his ancestral past, accompanied by his sort of friend, the demon Titivilus and Franz Kafka – in full-on Metamorphosis bug form… but of course, perfectly normal for Devlin Waugh tales by Ales Kot.
Rob Richardson’s artwork is getting better – or more likely it’s just growing on me. But there’s one moment early on here where I found myself loving what he was doing with the body language and facial expressions… this bit, just as Waugh et al knock on what we assume is an unknowing family’s door up in the mountains…
And if that wasn’t enough to make you intrigued, the payoff comes in a second panel that screams nonchalance…
Yep, a great one-two punch to interest you. After that, it’s all about to get tasty as Waugh heads on up the mountain and off to a family reunion of sorts.
It’s slower than your usual Waugh tale is this one, with Kot really layering in the confusion to the bones of the tale, one that hasn’t quite come together yet. Sure, it’s still full of very Devlin Waugh moments, Kot’s grasp of the debauched vamp is so spot on after all. But after three episodes there’s still not too much idea of why the hell Waugh et al are hiking their way up a mountain to meet Waugh’s ancestor… something to do with Kafka… perhaps.
SURFER: BOOK TWO – PART 3 – by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Simon Bowland
Oh poor Zane, life just has it in for him doesn’t it? There was the scam movie, he’s being surveilled by the SJS, and his dad owes a hell of a lot of money to Mr Snarky, a man you really don’t want to owe money to.
This episode, Zane’s got a job to do for Snarky. Off to the Canadia border, pick up a package and bring it back. Simple.
This episode, we watch Zane get out of Mega-City One. That’s it. That’s all that happens.
But what happens isn’t the point here. No, it’s how it happens that’s really impressive, with Wagner writing it totally stripped back and really letting Colin MacNeil do the heavy lifting with the artwork, panel after panel, page after page of beautiful work, absolutely stunning moments of MC-1 architecture whizzing past as we see Zane do his thing…
Oh, it’s just beautiful, so beautiful to see MacNeil really let loose in Surfer, Wagner obviously designing the strip to really allow MacNeil’s artwork to be allowed to be the main draw here.
MEGA-CITY 2099 – RAMPAGE – Ken Niemand and Conor Boyle, letters by Jim Campbell
45 years into the past, we’re in 2099 AD and we’re going right back to the beginning of Judge Dredd.
Fascinating one this, the first of a new series, although this debut is a one-off and I don’t know when we’ll see the next one.
But it’s definitely a thing and a slightly strange thing. Yes, there’s been plenty of looking back at the beginnings over the years – we’ve had Wagner and Ezquerra’s Origins, there’s Carroll and Higgins going even further back to the very origins of the Justice Department with Dreadnoughts (the second series of which is coming soon), and we’ve seen plenty of work around Dredd’s early years from various creators, including the prose novels, Regened’s Cadet Dredd tales, and indeed the IDW tale reprinted in this very Megazine.
But this one is decidedly different from all of those – where they look back with a modern art style, this one is very deliberately apeing/homaging the style of those very earliest Dredds.
And you know what, it’s a really grand homage, one that kicks off here immediately with a classic bit of imagery from Conor Boyle, who’s really doing a perfect job here, absolutely nailing the look and feel of it.
One problem though – Niemand’s gone all in on this for authenticity, which means that we get Dredd having thought bubbles… and that’s just weird. Yes, I know Dredd used to have thought bubbles back in the beginning but I’m so used to them not being there that it just seems strange and forced having them here, clunky and so different to what we’re used to.
That said, this is a pure nostalgia fest that actually works, with the opening tale here taking a look at the early movement to reign in the Judge’s power and one young Judge’s spiraling reaction against it that puts him in Dredd’s sights.
JUDGE DREDD: SOLE OCCUPANT – Rob Williams and Will Conrad, colours by Dylan Teague, letters by Simon Bowland
And the last of the originals in this big, big, big Megazine for Christmas is a simple done-in-one thing, a day in the life of Dredd that focuses on one case of Dredd tracking down drugs to an unexpected source…
It’s classic Dredd, well classic modern Dredd at least, with Williams doing a very good 8-pager that manages to take in so much – Dredd’s steely determination, his seemingly unwavering belief in the law, and an outside agent being brought in to give us the alt-view of things. And all of it drawn with some fine style from Will Conrad.
And now for the reprints this time around… three different strips, all just parts of longer works. So presumably this is the way things are going from here on out…
JUDGE DREDD: YEAR ONE – PART 1 – Matt Smith and Simon Coleby, colours by Leonard O’Grady, letters by Chris Mowry, cover by Greg Staples
From back in 2013, the first issue of the four issue IDW series is set way back in time, 2080 AD, Dredd’s first year as a Judge, dealing with a fledgling Psi-Div for the first time.
Not surprisingly, given the creative team, this one feels right at home here, a solid, pretty expansive and open plot, with Smith using the US-sized issue to give us a different set of story beats to your usual Dredd tale and with Coleby giving us the sort of art that does make you wish he did Dredd more often.
JUDGE DREDD: MEGA-CITY TWO – PART 1 – Douglas Wolk, Ulises Farinas, colours by Ryan Hill, letters by Tom B Long
Reprinting the first issue of the IDW series, this is, as they say, time for something completely different – for Dredd and for us.
On first glance, you might look at Farinas’ art and wonder what the hell’s going on, as it’s so distinctive, so different. But don’t ignore it, remember that 2000 AD is the place where we had artists who embraced different – the likes of MacMahon and McCarthy – and you should embrace the different as well.
And once you do that, it’s a fun look at a very different sort of Justice Department as Dredd heads to Mega-City Two on a Judicial exchange program, which is actually a Mega-City One investigation into top-level corruption.
THE STEEL CLAW: REIGN OF THE BRAIN – Tom Tully and Jesus Blasco
It was out on 9th November and we’ve already previewed this one here – and here’s what I said…
“The Steel Claw is perhaps the epitome of what makes Brit comics of old so wonderfully unhinged, original and ridiculous, completely different from the colourful superheroes of America. In here you have the pleasure of seeing more of the adventures of a total sociopath who turns himself into a superspy hero just because he can, it’s the return of the egomaniac who can turn himself invisible but needs to electrocute himself every time he wants to use his powers.
Like I say, it’s wonderfully ridiculous stuff, a villain turned sort of hero, full of over-the-top situations and yet so beautifully drawn, with Blasco’s amazing layouts and renditions completely stealing the show.”
And finally, we have this insanely beautiful two-pager from Stewart K. Moore, all that ridiculously tight detail and a perfect tribute to both Alan Grant and Kevin O’Neill,as well as those we’ve lost before…