Another dose of the thick monthly equivalent of 2000AD, and, much like its inspiration it does some things exceptionally well, and some exceptionally badly. The first thing it does badly is the contents page - this is the only recap of "the story so far" you get for each of the four continuing strips in this issue, and it is woefully inadequate. Couple this with a stingy page allocation to each strip...five or six pages apiece...and it takes four months to gather enough material together in each of these strips to make one typical US monthly. Remembering what happened in the five pages last month is not easy without a decent aide memoire (remembering the gist of five is a helluva lot different to remembering the gist of twenty-two)...and there's no decent aide memoire here.
For example, you get six pages of part two of the Black Siddha story, and whilst it features nice (albeit too dark) art, the lead character appears to be in the midst of a serious situation but treats it all sarcastically - he's totally unsympathetic as a character, it's hard to care about this strip one way or the other. At six pages a month this looks like it could run and run interminably...oh god.
Family part three also has six pages, and it's a nice take on the Sopranos with Superpowers, but just doesn't work in six-page installments. It needs to be run weekly like this, or collected up into 20 pages or so per month, then it would really shine. Six pages per month? It's killing the strip.
Juliet November gets a massive eight pages and at least reads like a complete chapter in an ongoing work - the situation is introduced nicely in the first few panels, there's a great cliffhanger on the penultimate page, and Dredd gets introduced succinctly and brilliantly on the final page. Very, very good.
Devlin Waugh is the final short, back to six pages here, and it could've done with at least eight - as the characters seem almost to teleport from one situation to the next without anything really being resolved or any sense of fleeing desperately or urgency. This is a real shame, as the plot has me hooked yet the execution irritates immensely.
The lead story is, of course, Judge Dredd himself - a twelve page done-in-one feature - ideal for this magazine. It's a variant of Blind Date in Mega City One, along with a Judge Death wannabe (well, he's not really responsible for his actions, but never mind) choosing between the three lucky ladies. Ian Gibson is on art duties for this one, and his work is excellent - the very first shot makes the hostess look like Davina McCall - I know, meaningless to 99% of you, right? - a nice (and appropriate) touch for those in the know. For those not convinced, this story also brings back Walter The Wobot and Mrs Gunderson, how can it not be a winner?
The issue is rounded out with reprints of a boring Slaine strip from time immemorial, some more episodes in the interesting-but-repetitive Darkie's Mob war series, a tired Future Shock reprint, a one-page pointless Sinister Dexter "funny", a column/mini-interview/letters page/character feature which aren't worth the space devoted to them, and, possibly the best feature in the issue - David Bishop's ongoing history of 2000AD, now up to part 13 and 1996/97. They could dedicate an entire issue to this feature and it wouldn't grow tired...
You have to dig for the gems, but they are worth it in the end...but work is needed to move the mag to the next level.
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