The Monthly Megazine #452: Twice The Firepower, Twice The Thrills, Plus The Return Of One-Eyed Jack?
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.
The first Megazine of 2023 and we’re settling nicely into the new format now. Gone is the bagged graphic novel collection and instead we have the reprint material as part of the new squarebound design. So it’s all the usual five ongoing new strips, including continuations of Storm Warning: Dead & Gone, Dark Judges: Death Metal Planet, Devlin Waugh: Karma Police, and Surfer: Book Two, plus that new ‘One-Eyed Jacks’ storyline in Judge Dredd, bringing together hard bitten 7’0s New York cop Jack McBane and one Joseph Dredd – but how? Then we have the reprints, with the second issues of two IDW Dreddworld comics, Judge Dredd: Year One and Mega-City Two, plus a sampler reprint from the One-Eyed Jack collection from the 70s.
Judge Dredd Megazine #452 is out right now – has been since 18th January. I’ve been ill, all right. It’s not easy doing this while you’re spending the day hacking your guts up. TMI?
Anyway, time for a preview…
JUDGE DREDD: ONE-EYED JACKS – PART 1 – Ken Niemand and Ian Richardson, colours by Quinton Winter, letters by Annie Parkhouse
In Mega-City One Dredd’s on light duties till he get’s the eye implants checked over (oh the joys of seeing him knuckle down to paperwork) before he heads out to assist Rico in a confounding case (working consultant qualifies as light duties after all) – seems there’s a vic turned up with ID and cash from the 1970s and he’s not the first either.
Meanwhile, 70s New York City and Jack McBane is on the case…
And wouldn’t you know it, he gets a call that there’s the latest in their own set of weird killings where the vics have ID from some place in the future called Mega-City One.
How? Why? Well, that’s for next issue. But having One-Eyed Jack turn up was both unexpected and fun, one of those classic Brit characters created by John Wagner (and artist John Cooper) before he went on to 2000 AD, very much in the Dirty Harry vein, but there’s that sense of a proto-Dredd in there as well. Ian Richardson’s artwork gives it a strong feel, lots of character in both time period.
STORM WARNING: DEAD & GONE – PART 4 – by John Reppion and Clint Langley, letters by Jim Campbell
Over the course of the last three episodes we’ve seen bits of this one taking shape, running across a couple of times, the before where we know of ex-Brit-Cit Psi-Div Boss, Judge Campbell’s death, and the now of Psi-Judge Storm taking a ride down to the Underworld.
Here we have at least some of it all coming together. Yes, Campbell was a lycanthrope, something tolerated by the powers that be as he kept it in check, but it seems he lost control and was tracked down, first by Lillian and then, fatally, by new Chief Psi-Judge Pelham and the heavy mob of Judges.
We still don’t know exactly what Lillian’s trying to get from her trip below or just what Pelham’s been planning, but that will come, give it time to get unpacked and revealed.
In fact, the slow reveal, the two timelines, the questions lingering, they’ve all contributed to making this the best Storm Warning yet. Reppion’s writing his ass off on this one and Clint Langley is a perfect artist for the job. Not someone I’d necessarily have picked as a perfect follow-on from the artwork of Tom Foster and Jimmy Broxton as we’ve had on the series thus far, but someone whose art just works for the character and especially the storyline.
DARK JUDGES: DEATH METAL PLANET – PART 4 – by David Hine and Nick Percival, letters by Annie Parkhouse
25 years on from Deliverance, the Dark Judges are no longer held prisoner on Thantopia and it’s all thanks to a group of idiot death metallers, the band The Lizard Lords.
Obviously this is not good for anyone. Well, except we readers who’ve been having a blast through this latest Dark Judges series from Hine and Percival, where the horror is perfectly imbued with a sense of delicious ridiculousness, although thankfully never treating the Dark Judges themselves as a strange version of the Marx Brothers. Thankfully, those days seem long gone.
Whisper’s told Roscoe that she’s the only one who can save the universe now. Sadly for her, he’s not filled her in on just how the hell she’s going to do that.
Of course, before then we have the small matter of Roscoe and her Judge niece Helga getting to the metal morons and stopping the planned Deathfest.
As I say, there’s still that glorious absurdity running through Hine’s writing of the Dark Judges but it’s an absurdity that sits just the right side of things, with the quartet still having that sense of menace and threat, something Percival’s art, a beautiful grotesquery of a thing, just gets exactly right.
DEVLIN WAUGH: KARMA POLICE – PART 4 – by Ales Kot and Rob Richardson, letters by Simon Bowland
Honestly, at this point I’m damn glad I had the chance to recently go back and read the excellent Devlin Waugh collection by Kot, Dowling, and Goddard – The Reckoning (see a preview here.)
Because that all sets up everything going on in Karma Police so well, with Devlin losing it all at the end, playing fast and loose just that once too often.
So, coming back to Karma Police afresh after that brought it to life a lot more, as Devlin, Titivilus, and Kafka head on up a mountain to confront Devlin’s decaying ancestor.
There’s a darkness about it all, an inevitability, you can feel the tension written into every page, with Rob Richardson doing a damn fine job of getting all that tension into every one of his panels and pages here. Gone is the vamp dandy and the innuendo, gone is the confidence and the sense of Devlin always being that step ahead. Kot’s taken everything he’s done on Waugh to get to this stage and poor Devlin’s paying a heavy price.
SURFER: BOOK TWO – PART 4 – by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Simon Bowland
The SJS monitoring Zane to get closer to who he’s headed for think he’s dead. But Zane’s a damn sight better surfer than they ever thought he was, which means he’s on his was to Canadia to his rendezvous point with some very dangerous people all to get enough drugs to put him in the cubes for life. Again, poor, poor Zane. What has he managed to get himself into?
But that’s the thing here, Wagner’s doing that thing Wagner does so well, writing about the little people in the Mega-City, and how the world just grinds them down, no matter what they do.
It’s just such a great series, Wagner’s writing is so simple yet so effective, he makes doing it this way seem so easy yet to do it this well, to make it seem so effortless is the hardest thing. Similarly, Colin MacNeil’s art is equally effortless in how relaxed it seems, every detail, every wonderful angle, it’s all exquisitely done.
JUDGE DREDD: YEAR ONE – PART 2 – Matt Smith and Simon Coleby, colours by Leonard O’Grady, letters by Chris Mowry, cover by Greg Staples
Now, with the reprints it’s the second issue of the four issue IDW series taking us back to 2080 AD and Dredd’s first year as a Judge. As I said last month, it’s a US series that, thanks to the creative team, fits absolutely perfectly into the Dredd we know.
And of course, seeing Simon Coleby’s art here makes you want at least two of him, one to carry on with Jaegir and one to do more Dredds like this one.
Anyway, a rookie Dredd is on the case, young, inexperienced, not the calculated, never gets it wrong Dredd we know now. Instead this one’s second guessing himself, doubting things now that he’s having to deal with Psi-perps and something causing them to power up. And now he’s being told that yes, alternate and parallel realities do exist… well, it’s a mind-opener for him.
So, when the investigation uncovers a dimensional tear, what’s a young Dredd to do?
Like many 2000 AD readers, I’ve never bothered with the IDW Dredd series’, figuring I can do without them. So having the chance to realise that I was wrong about them is more than welcome, as Smith and Coleby have told a really good Dredd here, one that benefits so much from the extra page count of the US format.
JUDGE DREDD: MEGA-CITY TWO – PART 2 – Douglas Wolk, Ulises Farinas, colours by Ryan Hill, letters by Tom B Long
So where the Smith/Coleby Dredd was textbook Dredd, this one’s very different, with Farinas’ artwork looking so unlike anything else in here. Although, of course, 2000 AD‘s always had artists of all styles and we need to celebrate and embrace that.
And once you do that, it’s a decent little tale, of Dredd over in Mega-City Two on a Judicial exchange program, in reality and investigation into corruption that might go all the way to the top. So here we get an undercover Dredd, very much a fish out of water in MC-2, following the leads through unfamiliar pathways.
ONE-EYED JACK – by John Wagner and John Cooper
After the two Dredd reprints, this one’s from out of the Treasury of British Comics archives, a Wagner written strip from the pages of Valiant comic and later in Battle Picture Weekly.
It was Wagner deliberately going hard-hitting in an attempt to prop up Valiant’s struggling sales and of course it’s all inspired by Eastwood and Dirty Harry.
It’s wonderful stuff, obviously very much of its time but because it’s Wagner, because he is just so damn good, it still holds up today. Plus Cooper’s artwork is so stark and crisp, it makes it eminently readable. The only issue, and it’s a thing frequently found with so many older reprints is the lettering, from a time before letterers routinely did hand-lettering, something that makes you appreciate just how good the likes of Annie Parkhouse, Simon Bowland, Jim Campbell and every other top class letterer in modern comics are.