Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Random Prog Review: Megazine 2.29

What's black, white and red - and can't turn around in corridors?
-A nun with a javelin through her head.

Ok, so there aren't any nuns in this issue of the Megazine (thankfully Soul Sisters was long forgotten by this point). But there is this:
Yay Kevin Walker. And so, on with the review.

The Megazine volume 2 was still finding its feet a little, but for me this issue marks a turning point. Basically, editor Bishop had finally sorted out a strong line-up of writers, artists and strips, after a brief period of quality that saw several issues featuring some real drek (Heavy Metal Dredd, Sleeze N Ryder) alongside true gems such as Mechanismo and Grant/Ranson Anderson Psi stories.

In a turn of events I think few can have predicted, issue 29 opens with an apology... to the Hell's Angels...
I reckon it made their day to have to write that.

Judge Dredd: Jigsaw Murders part 3 by John Smith and Xuasus
There's a fair old debate raging at the moment about the 'Complete Judge Dredd Case Files', and whether to continue the collection into the colour period. This story is a classic example of why it's not an easy decision. Basically, the story and art just aren't that good. They're ok, entertaining enough, but not particularly deserving of a reprint. And the art is of that infamous murky brown variety that I gather is very hard to scan in effectively, let alone convert into black and white.

Smith tends to play his Dredd efforts fairly straight, in this case focusing on the villain - a killer who is looking for body parts to re-attach to his own mutilated body. Dredd himself is basically grumpy and doesn't have to do much except follow the clues. One of the things that Smith does do well in Dredd is to use the myriad ideas about what people and places in Mega City 1 are like - i.e. full of weirdoes. Here's Dredd talking to the killer's psychiatrist, who just happens to be a Simp (and an irritating dolt as well)
Suffice it to say, Dredd catches up with his man and dismembers him, an example of the punishment fitting the crime o something like that.

Verdict: not the worst Dredd by a long shot, but the least interesting story in this Meg.

Judge Hershey: A Game of Dolls part 3 by Igor Goldkind and Kevin Cullen
Let me start by saying I love Cullen's art style. It's confusing to me that he had steady Megazine work for about two years, then suddenly he disappeared. I guess nowadays one could say that he's not as good as Frazer Irving, but at the time I hadn't seen anything quite so suited to the creepy-type stories one wants to read from time to time - you know, the ones that aren't played for laughs. The script is ok, too. The story, on the other hand, is a little week. Actually, you can read it for yourself if you care to purchase the latest Extreme Edition. I guess it's worthy of a reprint, but you see, it's yet another 'Judge gone bad' tale that I find slightly annoying ever time one gets printed. This one's got a psychosexual motive:

He likes strangling prostitutes and then playing with them like he played with the dolls he had when he was a little boy. Sure, 8/10 points for creepy imagery, but 2/10 for originality. Also, -8/10 for being set in a seedy part of town (where are the nice bits in MC1 exactly?). Most of all, it bugs me the sheer number of corrupt of perverted Judges that seem to crop up in these kinds of story (the previous Hershey tale had them, too). Sure, if she was an SJS Judge then that would be appropriate. But she's not. And it just makes me think that the whole Judge-as-Monk concept doesn't work, if so many writers need to take the corruption/madness route to tell a Judge-based story. Wagner and Grant hardly ever do it.

Verdict: great atmosphere, good Hershey, shame about the plot.

Anyway, on with the Meg. There's a brief interlude in which Bishop proudly proclaims a rather large number of awards the magazine has recently received from a 'Comic World' poll. This is all well and good, except that the winner of 'most promising new writer' is Gordon Rennie - a man who up to that point hadn't written anything yet! Well obviously he had, but not for 2000 AD / the Megazine, I don't think. I've not read 'White trash', but I guess it must be pretty good. Personally I didn't really rate Rennie until he was well into Missionary Man, and not in 2000 AD until Necronauts. He's pretty damn good now, of course.

Missionary Man: Salvation by Gordon Rennie and Frank Quitely
Well then, the first episode of Missionary Man. Quitely's art came out fully formed, didn't it? Not perfect figurework, but literally everything else was pretty perfect I'd say. As for the story, well, in hindsight, it's an ideal introduction to the character. But at the time it annoyed me. I didn't see what was good about a Preacher who liked to kill people. It all seemed a bit cliched: you know, spouting Biblical passages about vengeance and then shooting sinners. I don't know where the cliche bit of this comes from, it might just be that I felt angry at having an overtly christian character being portrayed as such a nutter, and a self-righteous one at that. Having read the whole series now, I'm still a bit confused about where exactly Preacher Cain gets his christianity from, and by what token it's ok for him to act as God's personal Judge and housecleaner in the Cursed Earth, but the whole thing works. There's something a bit silly about first episode, though.

Verdict: Quitely is amazing; Rennie has a way to go to earn reader sympathy for his hero.

Anderson Psi Division: Childhood's End part 3 by Alan Grant and Kevin Walker

Whoops! Mild spoiler there. Not really, of course, as the 'revelation' in this episode of this classic Anderson story about Aliens having shaped human culture is hardly a new Sci-Fi idea (DR & Quinch have fun on Earth, anyone?), but it is a fun one, and at the time I remember being genuinely impressed by it - and there are bigger twists to come...

The idea that humans are not their own masters would go on to have a big impact on Cassandra Anderson, leading to a short series in which she gies on a voyage of self-discovery in space that was sort of interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying. I think Grant took her character so far away from the core of fascist, monastic Judges that he never really made it believeable that she would slide right back in to that system. All in all this series was a true epic with a big-budget action movie feel. Kevin Walker had a strange thing for long noses in this period of his art though, eh?

Verdict: one of the best Anderson tales, if you don't mind action movie staples. Good gore, and not too much cheesecake.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying reading your blog. Keep it up.


Post a Comment

<< Home