Sunday, March 18, 2007

Random Prog Review: Megazine 2.24

I've heard it said that 2000 AD has roughly twice as many readers as the Judge Dredd Megazine. This seems about fair. The Megazine is pretty good, but it is not and never has been quite up to the standards of its big sister. Basically, if you can afford it, chances are that you'll enjoy both, but if yo can only afford one regular publication, go for 2000 AD. I expect there are a few individuals who only read the Megazine and don't care for 2000 AD, but that's frankly weird.

Anyway, on with the fun. Let's head back to March 1993, when the Megazine was in its second year of being monthly, and still somewhat trying to find its feet. (Has it ever quite managed to do that? Not sure)
A neat enough cover that sums up Al's Baby nicely, but perhaps doesn't quite let the casual browser in for the heavy violence content in the rest of the mag...

Judge Dredd: Mechanismo Returns part two.
By John Wagner and Peter Doherty.

It's pretty much all action this episode. In fact, this middle part of the long-running Mechanismo saga is almost entirely about action. There was a minor outcry at the time that such a key Dredd-continuity story was in the Meg and not 2000 AD, but screw those losers who missed it. It's great, and I'm sure it'll be reprinted (again) one day. What we get here is exceptionally sparse dialogue (even for Wagner), wrapped up in some detailed paints from Doherty, with lots and lots of exit wounds going on. I guess he was trying to emulate MacNeil's work fro the first book? The story? Oh, well, one of the Robo-Judges from book one has been re-activated and is back on the rampage, doling out justice squared. Here's an example:
As many readers know, this is surely an ironic reference to Dredd himself. The first episode was supposed to feature a similar scene, but it was censored as making Dredd and his set of laws out to be just a bit too harsh - exactly the point Wagner is trying to make with his Mechanismo tale. Still, gunshots to the kneecaps are always funny.


Sleeze 'N' Ryder part five.
By Garth Ennis and Nick Percival
God, I hated this series. It seemed to last forever, and feature nothing but irritating one-trick characters and gross-out jokes. On re-reading, I am slightly less offended by it, but only really because of Percival's stellar artwork. In this episode, dirty Sleeze and coolly sinister Ryder stop fighting the mutants and start helping them fight the evil ex-Presidential robots. Cheap jokes and heavily rendered musculature ensue.

Verdict: harmless

Judge Anderson: The Jesus Syndrome part 3
By Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson

Well, you couldn't ask for a more radical change in strip content, and that's part of the beauty of anthologies, isn't it. Every now and then, Grant seemed to really want to say something, and Judge Anderson was often his chance to say it. This awesome three-parter explores the idea that the Judges fear Christianity (presumably amongst other religions) because it can draw large crowds and is inherently anti-establishment. And with its open preaching of non-violence, it's tricky for them to do anything about it. Except to set up the most liberal Judge on the force to expose herself to it, and ultimately fail to defend it by exploiting her. Grant loses some points for the deep unsubtlety of Judge Goon, Anderson's nemesis, but I suppose the device allows him to make some other points that would never come up if this was an Anderson/Dredd team-up. Anyway, this final episode shows Anderson beating the hell out of Goon in a most satisfying way, watching but ignoring once again the exceptional evil of the MC Judge system, and watching a TV broadcast announcing that Christianity has been banned in MC1.
Verdict: One of the best stories Alan Grant has ever written

Heavy Metal Dredd: The Big Hit
By John Smith and John Hicklenton

So, Heavy Metal Dredd was a series originally produced for Rock Power magazine (which i'd never have heard of otherwise; you?) It was basically a hyper-gory version of the Daily Star Dredds, an excuse for Simon Bisley and John Hicklenton to try to make the reader feel a bit sick. Wagner and Grant did a decent job, but passing the reins on to John Smith was surely inevitable, and I think entirely appropriate. Never one just to revel in ultra-violence, Smith always delights his readers by pushing your imagination that bit further, exposing you to exapls of violence you might never have bothered to think about. Yay. And so, here we have Smith thinking "I wonder how well John Hicklenton could draw those ultimate MC1 weirdos, the Fatties? I bet he'd make them really gross." Step 2: "Wouldn't it be even more of a gore challenge to show what happens if four fatties tie themselves together and jump off a cityblock?" Yes, John and John, yes it would.

Verdict: Perfect. Pointless in the extreme, but perfect.

Al's Baby: Blood on the Bib part 8
By John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Everyone likes Al's Baby. It's charming and funny. Very english, somehow, at least to my mind. I think because it has such a casual attitude to violence, which is mostly a backdrop to humour based on the characters. Sure, the nappy jokes get a bit annoying (you can tell I have issues with toilet humour...), but really the only thing wrong with the strip is that it doesn't really belong in the Megazine, or even 2000 AD. (I think it was made for Toxic! originally, but it would surely have been even more out of place in that degenerate (in a good way!) publication.
Anyway, series two wraps up here in a neat, funny and violent way. Ezquerra knows how to show a villain getting thoroughly punished without making you feel bad about it in any way.

Verdict: release all three books as European-style trades now!

You know, I remember the Megazine as being basically bad with the odd good story until Volume 4, but this was a pretty stellar issue.


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