Another one, another 100-page large format packed issue of the 2000AD Judge Dredd Megazine, and once again it's a pot pourri of all sorts of goodies and baddies, your specific mileage varying on how much you like or detest the individual features. So let's look at them.
We kick off with Judge Dredd: Shakedown, Part 2 of 2 by John Wagner and Graham Manley, thirteen pages of near-classic Dredd - a shakedown is when justice department perform a door-to-door search of an entire city block, at random, to see what turns up. By the end of this particular shakedown there have been 2,919 arrests, 24 fatalities and over 10,000 cautions - so it's reasonably effective then! Unusually for a Dredd story, some of the baddies get away scot free - this is a nice turnabout, especially as Dredd allows one pair to depart due to his preoccupation with other matters. Best thing in the mag.
Bato Loco: True Romance by Gordon Rennie and Simon Coleby is next, a done-in-one eight pager featuring the return of a popular Mega-City One character from a JD story half-a-dozen issues ago...this guy is a chancer, playing the odds, pitting all sides against each other, and he may finally have met in match - his girlfriend wants him to ask her to marry him. It's a tough assignment...funny too, and the perfect use for a short page count in this magazine, rather than as part of a continuing story.
Alan Grant and Shaun Thomas's Apocalypse Soon seems to be heading to a conclusion - this is a series of one-page strips featuring the four horsemen of the apocalypse being caught unawares by Judgement Day...their horses have sodded off and got drunk, and God's not happy...good stuff.
Black Siddha: Bad Karma, Part 7 of 7 is up next, six pages from Pat Mills and Simon Davis. The best thing about this strip is the art, Davis does a very nice job of packing the panels with goodness. It's the script that lets the package down, though, it's ponderous and pointless, and whereas it may all read better all seven installments at once, presented in six-page chunks it's trivial, meaningless and a huge disappointment. Unfortunately it's coming back in 2004.
Repo-Mex: The Worst Job In The Galaxy is a six-pager done-in-one by James Stevens, Nigel Raynor and Robin Smith - if it gets a good response, it may return for a series. Unfortunately it's not really much cop, a light-weight tale of a robot bell-hop getting caught up in an intergalactic crime by mistake (why do these things always happen by mistake, coincidence is rife in SF it seems) and blah blah blah. The art points to a humorous strip, the script doesn't deliver - one or the other needed to change to make this work.
Finally for new comics material, is part seven of the ongoing Devlin Waugh: Red Tide series, by John Smith and Colin Macneil, and I've finally lost patience with it. Six pages per month does no justice to the story at all, it seems to have been going forever with these sodding underwater vampires, I've totally lost track of who is supposed to be whom, where this base it, etc etc. It wants to read like Resident Evil underwater, but has outstayed its welcome. Less episodes, more pages per episode, and a strict editor might've saved this one.
The obligatory text feature is an extensive look at the Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog audio books - presented as a fair and unbiased look at the stories, it nevertheless comes across as an advertising feature more than anything else, it doesn't try too hard to throw this impression off, rendering the experience partly informative, but mostly pointless.
And so to the reprints. Three classic Dredd strips, each twenty years or so old, each from annuals or specials rather than the weekly itself, the first is the most interesting but wraps up far too quickly (it's a time travel tale with which much more could've been done); the second features very early Steve Dillon art (and it shows), but the tale is a very lightweight story of a film being made about Dredd; the last is quite a boring story post-Apocalypse War, of mutant fleas infesting Mega City One - it doesn't really go anywhere, the denouement is ridiculous. Curios at best.
The other reprints are from the Battle series, Darkie's Mob, a horrendously racist strip set in Burma in WWII; herein art parts 27 to 32 and it's running out of steam. What's nice about this strip is the gradual whittling down of Darkie's forces to just seven by the end of the strip - no pretense is made that anyone will survive the ending of the series in a few issues' time - what's bad is it just seems to be going on and on and on.
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