Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Meg 239 - All Rise

(Link to BARNEY)

Apologies for the lack of reviews recently. I have been away for a few weeks and I have started a new job so it's been a bit manic! Can't promise 'normal' service will resume, but I will try and fit some reviews in when I can.

Nice to see Koburn on the front cover, expertly penned by the one and only Carlos Ezquerra. It's quite a plain cover with the white background, but I'm not going to moan about that... For once!

A long Dredd (12 pages- nice!) bought the story Blackout to a conclusion. Lots of action in here, although I don't think the artwork quite kept pace. A couple of frames had me confused and heading back to the previous ones. Still, it didn't detract from the overall story and I still enjoyed it. Cam Kennedy in colour still takes a little getting used to as I am so used to reading his older stuff in black and white. Sympathetic colouring by Chris Blythe helps (Chris is one of the best around for my money).

Part 2 of the Shimura story The Harder They Come saw us head into the Radlands of Ji as the Taoka Corporation master plan begins to be unveiled. And a lot of the residents aren't too happy about it! Shimura has his work cut out protecting his new employer (and lover). I do like Shimura and Robbie's story continues to intrigue, mixing action with mystery. I love Colin MacNeil's depiction of some of the Radlands terrorists, but I'm not too keen on his version of Taoka. Can't put my finger on why, but it's possible she was set in my mind by the strip's previous artist (Andy Clarke). This sometimes happens in strips with different artists, which is often why I prefer stories and characters that are the vision and realisation of one writer and one artist. Like Shakara, Defoe and...

...The Simping Detective, who finishes his current run in the Meg with the last part of the story Petty Crimes. I'm really confused about what has gotten into Cliq, Jack's loveable alien killing machine, so was hoping he'd be ok as he is a character I like a lot. I won't say if he is or not, but it was happy with how the plot resolves. Spurrier really is on top form -again - and is complemented by Frazer Irving superbly- um - again! We also find out a lot more about femme fatale Anna Thrope. Good stuff all round. Come back soon Jack!

It's the second part of the Anderson story Lucid, and for those following her hairstyle adventures, the flowing locks are still cropped... As the story is developing we are getting some of those wonderful Ranson paintings of the chaos happening in the victims minds. He really does capture these weird images wonderfully. There is a particularly good splash page of the rampaging army of Nausea and Phobia. I must confess to feeling slightly lost during parts of this tale. Will see if it makes a bit more sense next time. What's with the lizards?

And so on to Cursed Earth Koburn in a new story called The Assizes. In the main, this is a tale of Koburn performing circuit judge duties in a mutie town, judging a series of increasingly bizarre cases as a bemused Bonaventura looks on (she seems to have all her uniform still, unlike Koburn with his 'modifications'). Towards the end we have a new character introduced. Someone quite sinister. Looks like this strip will be back next Meg, which is good news.

In the reprints, Charley's War feels a little bogged down in the tale of this deserted legionnaire. It just seems like it wrapping up, when something else happens. It's not reaching the heights of the earlier episodes, but it's still decent enough. The Metro Dredd was ok.

In the text articles, I sat and read all of the Meg history article 15 Years Creep! This surprised me slightly, but this is Bishop at his best and I enjoyed his writing and story telling. There was something about The Tomorrow People I skipped. I flicked through the Heatseekers articles, but nothing stood out.

And finally... Sir Alan's editorial acknowledged the drop in page count (100 pages to 84) but countered the complaining by saying he was going for quality rather than quantity. It was that or a price rise.. That's the way of the world, I guess...


And MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers. Thanks for the support over the last months I've been doing this. Hopefully I will get some time in 2014 to get some more reviews done!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Meg 238 - One of these B@stards

(Link to BARNEY)

I liked the cover art, but not the wording. Did the word "bastard" have to appear (apologies if that causes offence, I'm just repeating the text on the cover)? Run out of ideas? Lazy copy? Didn't need it, as far as I was concerned.... Anyway, let's not overlook Dylan Teague's fine drawing - which was fabulous.

Just a short review for this Meg, as I'm pushed for time, but it's going to start with a rant. Why, oh why, did they have to publish the 2nd part of a Dredd that had started in the Prog. It's a cheap marketing trick to try and get Prog readers to buy the Meg. And I'm not happy about it. I buy the Meg because it's different to the Prog - I get different stories, different characters, I like the text articles. Just leave them as two separate publications! Rant over (and in protest I didn't read the 2nd part to a Dredd I hadn't read the 1st part of!).

The Dredd that I did read was part 1 of Blackout by Wagner and Cam Kennedy. Looks like an interesting set up and am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Part 1 of The Harder They Come, a Shimura new story, saw art duties switch to Colin MacNeil, but he is using pen and ink rather than painting it. So the strip has gone from full colour to black and white. It took a little getting used to, but MacNeil is a master of all art forms (I bet he makes a mean clay pot too) so there is no real concern. Morrison's script is more than adequate, as usual, and I liked this episode very much.

As this is a "New Readers Start Here" issue, it's another part 1 and this time it's a new outing for Anderson in the story Lucid. Got to be some of the best work Ranson has done in the Meg, for my money, with some tender moments followed by some violent and horrible ones. All beautifully painted. Too early to tell if this will be a hit with me, let's see how it goes.

The Simping Detective sees Jack wondering if Cliq is getting a little too big for his alien killing-machine boots (or tentacles). The SJS are on Jack's back as well. How will our fun-loving simp get out of this predicament. Spurrier and Irving rock. Nuff said.

In the reprints, Charely's War remains a must read and the Metro Dredd was passable as well.

In the text sections, the British Icon was The Prisoner was profiled expertly by Alistair McGown. I learnt a lot about this series that freaked me out when I was younger, but which I avidly viewed. David Bishop continued exploring the origins of the Meg in 15 Years Creep. I did wonder if I would lose interest in this, but not so far. I haven't read any of these Megs, but it's still a good read. I read all the sections of Heatseekers this time, and I particularly enjoyed the origins of Godzilla in the Orient section.

And finally... Dreddlines had a defence of  the request for Anderson to have flowing locks once more and plenty of people agreeing with me that cover 236 was awful.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Meg 237 - 15 Years Creep!

(Link to BARNEY)

This is a special edition Meg celebrating 15 years of existence. The cover comes in two parts; firstly Dredd in a frame surrounded by previous Megs in a black border, which you can see in the photo above. However, opening up the cover reveals a fun image of Dredd and fellow Judges burning copies of the Meg in a furnace (with the control panel showing a temperature of Farenheit 451!). It's great stuff from Cliff Robinson and is a fitting tribute to the Meg's birthday.

Inside we have a monster 36 page Dredd story called Flood's Thirteen written by John Wagner and drawn by the marvellous Henry Flint. Jonny Flood has just spent 21 years in the cubes serving an 18 year sentence (that's MC-1 Justice right there for you!) and is plotting the mother-of-all heists. He recruits his band of crooks and sets about executing his elaborate plan. His target is The Mirage. Not a Las Vegas casino (are you seeing the references to a certain Rat Pack movie here?) but a large spaceship returning to Earth after collecting tax revenues from the colonies. And a very bored looking Dredd is in charge of security. Will Jonny's audacious plan succeed or will Dredd stop him?

This is a great story and the longer format really gives it room to develop. Of course, it could have been split over three Megs but the fact the editorial team did something different for this special issue is to be commended. Great stuff from both Wagner and Flint.

Having been missing from the last Meg, Devlin Waugh concluded in a double episode of fiery glory. Lots of action and intrigue as heroes and villains swap sides and use their special powers in their battle for supremacy. I liked it. The first episode didn't go well for me, but since then I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

The issue concluded with a one-off Simping Detective special called Fifteen. One of the big crime bosses is celebrating 15 years at the top and is throwing a big party. Jack gets wind that someone is going to try and take out this big boss and prepares to enjoy the show. However, 'a friend' informs him that the assassin is someone close to Jack from his past. What should he do? As always, and you are probably sick of hearing this, it's fabulous stuff from Si Spurrier and Frazer Irving. Despite the shorter story format, it is perfectly paced and well executed. Comic gold!

And that was it for the comic strips. We had two parts of David Bishop's new series 15 Years Creep tracing the Megazine's origins to present day (2005 that is!). It's in a similar style to Thrill Power Overload, with inset boxes detailing the history of some if the characters and stories. Obviously, I jumped on to the Meg quite late, but it was still interesting reading how the comic came about.

And that was it really! Quite a different style of Megazine, but interesting nonetheless...

And finally... If you do try and secure a copy of this one for yourself a number of copies were printed with a duplicate page in the Dredd story and the last page from The Simping Detective missing. I got both copies in the bundle I bought (from an old subscriber) so do check before you buy!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Meg 236 - Out Of My Head

(Link to BARNEY)

I'm not an artist, and I respect all work artists do. But I can have an opinion on their art. And I hate this cover. I really do. If I set out to design an Anderson look, it would be as far from this as is possible. She looks evil, with a strange neck and a weird looking body. Sorry Mr Taylor, not my cup of tea...

For reasons Lord Barnes declines to explain, there is no Devlin Waugh this issue. Sir Alan acknowledges his absence, but promises his return next issue. Instead, we have two Si Spurrier Dredds. The first story, Cursed Earth Rules, has a set up and pay off quite close in nature to a Future Shock. I liked this story. Dredd is policing the West Wall when captured muties are being released back to the Cursed Earth. Suddnely, there is Dune Shark attack. How will Dredd react? John Ridgeway is on art duties, and it was alright.

The second Dredd was a shorter story about a block shakedown and the guys who patrol the sewers seeing what is flushed down by the hapless cits. I found it a bit confusing to follow, as I wasn't sure what was happening at times. I'll come right out and say I'm not Boo Cook's biggest fan, but his art was more than competent in this episode. However, I couldn't work out where to attach the blame for my not following the story completely - possibly I should look no further than myself!

Part 3 of Playing Futsie saw Jack Point AKA The Simping Detective trying to get to the bottom of the mess he has ended up in following the leads given to him by Zig the murdering nut-job. Great stuff from Spurrier and Frazer, as usual, and it was a great ending too. We are promised Jack will return and I can't wait to read his next adventures. Again, the script has text that made me chuckle. He's just such a brilliant character and so well depicted by Frazer Irving. Great job all round.

The words "FINAL PART" have never looked so good on a Meg index page as they did for the Anderson saga City of Dead. Because we can finally wrap up this story line about the Half Life virus. Good Grud it's been going on for a while, and it has severely tested my patience at points, but at least we got to a conclusion. After so long, the ending did feel a little rushed. But it was an ending, and we can finally move on from this episode. I did feel a little sorry for the perp - his punishment was pretty cruel - but he does kill a million people so perhaps he got what he deserved?

Another story wrapping up was Young Middenface. It wasn't a bad story, but I can't help feeling that not a great deal of any significance happened. It ended quite strangely as well, with one of the key characters acting very oddly in my view. I don't think I quite believed what happened...

Contrast that with The Bendatti Vendetta which finished brilliantly and had a cracking conclusion. Paced very well over the three episodes by Robbie Morrison and painted wonderfully by John Burns the two Bendatti operatives have a final showdown with the mafia bosses. However, there is a twist at the end which I did not see coming, so it was an interesting twist! Great job all round and look forward to this coming back. I know it's not sci-fi or Dredd, but so what, it's a cracking story... And something different too...

Over in the reprints and Charley's War continues to tell us about life on the home front during World War I. So much to admire about this story - it transcends the medium it is told on. C'mon Hollywood, you churn our so much crap, surely there's room for a movie based on this wonderful comic strip. Or maybe that would ruin it? Metro Dredd was a Gordon Rennie story, but it was a struggle to get through it. There are just so dull these strips most of the time. I know they are set up for a different audience, namely bored and miserable commuters, but even so...

The third and final part of Interrogation saw Robbie Morrison recount the later periods of his work. After a huge picture of Shakara on the opening pages there wasn't more than two paragraphs devoted to this excellent story, but bloody loads of space to sodding Nikolai Dante. We've heard about him a lot already, surely more could have been said about Shakara? Bah. The British Icons slot was devoted to Depserate Dan of Dandy comic fame. I read the Dandy when i was a kid, so it was great to learn more about one of my favourite childhood comic characters.. Over in Heatseekers I read the Orient section about a manga film called Spriggan, which explores occult artefact hunters (and sounded quite good) and the Comic article about an interesting work called Palestine about the author's visits to the Gaza Strip and the interactions he has with the Palestinian people.

And finally...Only one letter to Dreddlines but it must hold the record for the longest ever! The entire page! Hats off to you Marcus Nyahoe for having the sheer willpower to review one Meg in such detail. Surely nobody would be mad enough to do that... No-one at all... :-)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Meg 235 - Tooled Up!

(Link to BARNEY)

A fabulous Cliff Robinson cover  - I could tell it was his artwork straight away. A classic Dredd.

Speaking of Dredd, we had ourselves a long single story by Rennie and Holden called The Magnificent Umbersons. Poor old Cousin Herb is sick of being the family idiot and so takes his revenge on the rest of the high-flying Unberson clan. Great story, great art - which is pretty much the default behaviour for the dream team of Rennie and Holden.

Moving on to The Simping Detective story Playing Futise saw Jack meet a mysterious female (doesn't he always, the lucky so-and-so!) and ends up retracing the steps of his futsie 'friend', Zig. It seems his condition isn't exclusive as many Angeltown cits seems to be going slight bonkers. 'Futsie', by the way, is a condition a cit suffers from when they can't take modern life anymore and decide to get aggressive with their surroundings! Still enjoying this, and great to see Jack's sidekick Cliq back...

A glorious double page spread showed the true madness taking hold of Mega City One in part 5 of the Anderson story City of Dead. Looks like Anderson may have finally figured out how to stop the spread of the Half-Life virus. And there was a bit of action too. So all-in-all, a pretty good episode, as it finally feels like we are heading towards a conclusion. Bit drawn out, though...

Still not 100% on Shaun Thomas' art in the latest Young Middenface. Having got used to Ridgeway and Goddard/Teague (who's styles are quite similar), it is a little jarring. But it's not too distracting from the central story, which is continuing to build nicely. This is a real gem from Alan Grant, and perhaps should have been the template for Anderson. I think Middenface has benefited from having regular breaks, whereas scheduling Anderson one after another seems a real slog... Lots of action in this episode as the muties take on the norms and Kreelers to avoid being taken into slavery.

The Bendatti Vendetta continues to build nicely, as our two heroes take the fight to the Camorras by disrupting a number of their key operations. Lovely stuff from Morrison and Burns again, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this plays out. The episode finished on a bit of a cliff hanger. Is it all part of the plan, or are the Bendatti avengers in over their heads... Ooo - it's tense!

Part 5 of All Hell, the Devlin Waugh adventure, sees us continue to journey deeper into Hell - or the oriental version of hell that is. Devlin has teamed up with an old acquaintance who hastens their journey, but is it all too little too late? Some lovely art on display, some of MacNeils best for me, and I'm really into this story. There is plenty going on, lots of eastern philosophy, religion and myth and some strong characters. And I know who everyone is! Hurrah!

In the reprints, Charley's War continues to be awesome - so glad it's back - as Charley and his friends do everything they can to clear the Silvertown ammunition factories before the German Zeppelins arrive. Honestly, if there's a better war story out there - I'd like to read it! The Metro Dredd was pretty awful. I'll say no more!

In my last article, I bemoaned the fact that there hadn't been a fiction text story. Well, guess what? Yep - a Dredd fiction story made an appearance! Honestly, I don't read ahead on BARNEY to see whats coming up - I'm genuinely writing this like I'm reading the Megs from back in the day. I don't want to spoil any surprises. So I was pretty pleased to see a this back!

The Robbie Morrison Interogation continued to be of interest. I haven't read Nikolai Dante, and was a bit worried it would go on a lot about that story, but actually Robbie did a lot of different and interesting stuff during this period, including publishing a graphic novel of his own. I'll confess to not reading any of the Heatseekers articles this time round. They just didn't rouse my interest. Check BARNEY if you want more info. The Dredd Files. Oh dear oh dear. When will it end?!

And finally...you could win a Star Trek toaster! OK, I'm about 8 years too late, but the fact a Star Trek toaster exists is really quite funny!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Meg 234 - And Your Point Is?

(Link to BARNEY)

What a great Frazer Irving cover staring Jack Point! All sorts of weird Mega City One characters in the background and Jack in his classic pose. Get the Point? Brilliant stuff!

Let's dive straight into the last episode of the Dredd and PJ Maybe story Monsterus Mashinashuns. It didn't disappoint and what a great set up for later events! Dredd returns to MC1 and starts thinking things through. Could Don Pedro Montez really be Phillip Janet Maybe? Did he fake that cut finger... I'll say no more. Suffice to say there is a chase and a stand off between Maybe and Dredd. If, like me, you know the story from here, the ending won't be a surprise, but otherwise... ;-) Top marks Wagner and Ezquerra.

Oh joy of joys, The Simping Detective is back! And still with Spurrier and Irving at the helm. This episode of the new story Playing Futsie sees Jack locked up in a Cube with a nutter who recounts how he ended up there. The clue is in the title. Suffice to say Jack can't tell who is being played for the patsy here, and has his suspicions. Good opening episode, and looking forward to the next one. Basically, I think it would be very difficult for Spurrier and Irving to cock up this fabulous character...

Part 4 of the Devlin Waugh adventure All Hell sees our trio of heroes still in pursuit of the trio of evil guys. The enemies lay a number of traps, but are Devlin and the team are equal to them? The mystery deepens as to what exactly they are up to. Yeah, still enjoying this one. Lots going on and as we descend deeper into Hell, there are more nasty things to fight. Good job by Smith and MacNeil and looking forward to the next episode.

Young Middenface returned, but we have had a change of artist; Shaun Thomas is stepping in. This is set post-Killoden and we discover that mutants are more hunted and more persecuted than ever. We see a 'norm' boy deliver a message to his uncle, a message that sets off an unexpected chain of events. I quite like the new art, although it will take a little getting used to, but Grant is as on form as ever and has introduced an interesting new storyline...

Also returning was The Bendatti Vendetta, with Robbie Morrison and John Smith on scripting and painting duties as before. Set in Naples, the team are tracking a mafia organisation and targeting the head of the operation. Why? We don't know. We may never find out, I don't know, but it's good, solid spies and baddies stuff here. Not very Sci-fi. Not Dredd. But I like it. Others, I fear, will not.

Just when we thought there might be a chance Anderson was back to some arse-kicking it's gone all weird again as she enters into the Chief Magician's head... She does do a bit of fighting at the end, but we are back to slogging through peoples minds again. Getting a bit tired of this storyline now. It's been going on for a very long time, and I just wish we would get on and wrap it all up... Lovely Ranson artwork on display as the Mega City continues to fall to the Half-Life virus. Especially the exploding space cruiser...

Charley's War was back. Hurrah! Charley is back in Blighty, but if he thinks he's getting a rest, he is much mistaken as the threat of the Zeppelins looms large. Good to see a different perspective on the First World War focusing this set of stories on the home front. Metro Dredd took the TV show Big Brother and gave it a 22nd Century makeover, complete with Dredd being kidnapped to appear in it. A bit silly, but it was OK...

Onto the text articles and Robbie Morrison was being grilled in the Interrogation slot. It was interesting to hear Robbie recount his childhood and how he nearly didn't make it into comics. Part 2 is in the next issue, which I think might focus a lot on Nikolai Dante. The Avengers were the British Icons and this was a great article charting their history. I'm a big fan of this show so it was good to get some insight into how it got started and evolved over time. And I still secretly fancy Emma Peel to this day... The Dredd Files lumbered on... Over in Heatseekers, Si Spurrier watches the Movie Conan The Barbarian on DVD and delights in the experience. The Outer Limits was explored in the Cult TV column.

And finally... In Dreddlines, James Feist believes Anderson should grow her hair back because she is no longer the "...foxy, ravishing, sexy nymph" she once was. What is it with these chaps that need a nymphette Anderson? Just be content with fleeting shots of Shakta, Jim! :-)

Meg 233 - Buzz Off

(Link to BARNEY)

Just been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather in the UK to finish off reading this Meg today in my garden chair. I thought the cover by D'Israeli was dynamic, but not really that interesting.

Let's start with episode 3 of Monsterus Mashinashuns, the Dredd and PJ Maybe story. Having stolen the heart of a certain Dr. Ambrose, PJ sets in motion the next part of his plan. It's never going to be full of action, but it is gripping in that I am beginning to see what PJ Maybe might be up to. So far, Dredd has been quite a few steps behind the master criminal, so it will be interesting to see if he catches up anytime soon! Good story - enjoying reading it.

Zancudo concluded this issue. I say 'concluded', it has the door left open to more stories in this South American jungle ruled by giant mosquitos. Turns out there are various factions on this insect community, with giant ants being bought into play (hence the cover). Spurrier paced the story well over the 3 episodes, and the Cam Kennedy art was more than competent. I guess I fell a bit disinterested with this story, on the whole. If it never came back, I wouldn't miss it.

It was also the final episode of A Bullet In The Head, where Inspector Liu Chan Yen (AKA Johnny Woo) runs into someone from his past who he thought was dead. Can't say it was a happy reunion, and most of the episode was dedicated to their chase. It seemed to me that this was a prequel of bigger things to come, and I hope that's true. Fast paced action throughout, a trademark Rennie story, and fabulous Holden art. Come back soon...

Right, I'm really getting into Devlin Waugh now as the band of three; Devlin, Ralph (who makes weapons out of germs!) and Harry (handy with various weapons, it seems!) head into the first circle of hell in pursuit of a rather nasty trio intent on countless evil and nasty things! Some good back stories for the characters have now been established and we are off and running with the main story thread. I like the use of Chinese and Eastern religion and folklore in this story, and for a change with a Waugh story, am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Finally, at long last, The Bogie Man petered out with a slight plop. It ended fairly predictably, but did leave a bit of a cliff-hanger as to what happens to 'Rick' and 'Ilsa'. For me, it was far too long and simply not enough happened in it. Glad we can clear this one out of the way and make room for something else next time.

Anderson's story isn't moving onwards much either. She is figuring out that the city is in a lot of danger from the Half-Life virus, and Dredd makes a fleeting appearance battling some of the crazed victims. But only towards the end of the episode did she start to take things into her own hands. Finally, she's breaking a few rules to get to where she needs to be! Lovely Ranson art as always, and some wonderful quirky Big Meg characters from Grant. Slowly, but surely, we are getting there with this story.

The reprints were three Dredds I had recently read in a Case Files. I still skimmed them, as they are quite good episodes, particularly the 10th anniversary episode (10 Years On) where Dredd gets to chase the Perp he locked up in Prog 2. The Si Spurrier Metro Dredd was good too.

Onto the text articles, and just in case you were wondering, The Dredd Files is still going... Ho hum. Nice picture of a Mick McMahon Rat Fink, who was always one of my favourite characters. The British Icons article was all about Sapphire and Steel, the late 70s/early 80s time travelling duo which graced ITV back in the day. I enjoyed the article, having sat through the first series with my wife when she bought it on DVD and been scared witless (I'm not great with ghost stories). My wife is a big fan and thought the article was well written and she learnt a lot from it.

In Heatseekers, I read the Cult TV section on The League of Gentlemen, which I always liked but found a little disturbing. The Orient section talked about a Korean film, Taegukgi, which was similar to Band Of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan. It is set in 1950 in the Korean War. It sounded quite good, so I may stick it on my LoveFilm list.

And finally... We seem to have lost the text stories. I really enjoyed the Simping Detective one and some of the Dredds. The British Icons articles are quite hit and miss for me (mainly miss) so I'd like to see the text fiction brought back please Sir Alan of Barnes...

Meg 232 - Brock Hard

(Link to BARNEY)

Sir Alan Barnes' Nan likes badgers. So Lord Barnes commissioned Colin MacNeil to draw a cover with a ninja badger on it. This is according to Alan's editorial, and I have paraphrased it, but essentially that's the facts. And I like a good MacNeil cover, so I'm not going to complain ;-)

On to Dredd chasing PJ Maybe in the story Monsterus Mashinashuns. What was interesting was a thread was established here that will go in to have a large story arc of its own later down the line. Ah the benefit of hindsight (and of reading a few modern stories). Rather than spoil this story it has added a great deal of intrigue to see how it plays out. Like an Origins story, I guess. Looking forward to more Wagner and Ezquerra goodness next time.

I got into Zancudo a bit more this week. Our two Judges enter the den of the giant Mosquitos that have been plaguing them, where strange goings on are occurring... I think I mentioned last time that this was a bit of a weird one, and I'm ok with it. Dreddlines had a letter praising the strip and a letter deriding it but I think you know my style is to not rush to judgements on these things, and I'm happy to read this strip and am intrigued to see where we head.

I think Devlin Waugh's latest adventure, All Hell, made a bit more sense this time around. I was a bit lost at the end of episode 1, but there was a decent explanation narrative in the first part of this episode, so I am back on track. A bit. I think. John Smith isn't the easiest writer to follow sometimes, but his story telling usually brings it's own rewards. I am persevering. And Colin's art is definitive for Devlin Waugh.

Johnny Woo. A Bullet In the Head. Boy do I like this! More car chases, gun fights, martial arts and old scores to settle. Rennie is on super form here. It's not all wham, bam either, there is a decent story building here. Can't wait for the next episode of this. I just hope the high quality is maintained.

The pace felt like it had accelerated in The Bogie Man this time round. I am still tapping my foot impatiently waiting for it to finish, but it does rather feel we are starting to get somewhere. At last. There is a fun chase through the streets with the gang after the rescued immigrants. Hoping we wrap up next time.

Anderson did some standing around and a bit of thinking in this instalment of City of Dead. We did watch the mysterious malady take form in some poor citizens and in some robot dogs at a dog show. Anderson has some theories, but she is allowing herself to be fobbed off a lot. Again. Perhaps this is the older Anderson, but I can't help thinking 25 years ago she would have gone in and kicked a few arses.

I must apologise for not mentioning the British Icons text article series which has been running in the last few issues. Basically, a writer reviews a British fictional character of old. BARNEY has all the details for previous issues, but the reason I haven't mentioned them is I haven't been reading them. I generally don't know them, so I don't bother with them. This time it was Sexton Blake who, again, I hadn't heard of. I read the article in places, but I think you need to be a fan to get something out of it. Bryan Talbot was under Interrogation in this issue, and I don't know why, but it didn't hold my interest. Perhaps it's because I'm not familiar with much of his work?

In Heatseekers, I read all the columns (it was a long train journey!). The history of Snuff was interesting in the Movies section as I genuinely thought actual people were hurt in the making of that film. It was a hoax. 2048 sounds a bit bonkers, but then a lot of stuff in the Orient section does! Cult TV examined a fairly poo Doctor Who and the Comics section was ok.

And finally... Metro Dredd wasn't bad at all this week. Would really have worked as 5 daily strips I think. Good work Bishop and Clarke.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Meg 231 - Murder Juan

(Link to BARNEY)

Two reviews in one day? Not quite - I had Meg 230 for a while in draft form. But onto this Meg and we have a fabulous cover from the utterly brilliant Chris Weston. Regular readers may remember he did the previous Phillip Janet Maybe story called 'Six', which appeared in Megs 221 and 222 and I was hoping he's draw this new one. Turns out it's Ezquerra, but at least Chris provided this cover.

So let's get on with the Dredd and PJ Maybe story Monsterus Mashinashuns (sic) which sees Dredd visit Cuidad Baranquilla (South America) where Maybe is living as wealthy philanthropist Pedro Julio Montez. Old Stoney Face thinks Maybe is hiding out here, and is on a 'good will' mission to try and seek him out. A good episode this and the makings of a good story. John Wagner is having a very prolific period as, once again, he is on script duties. I hope we get a few episodes for this story to play out.

Si Spurrier and Cam Kennedy team up for a strange little story also set in Cuidad Baranquilla called Zancudo. Two Cuidad judges are escorting a perp to a high security prison when their flight is downed my a mysterious assailant. They then have to try and keep an eye of their perp whilst trying to get back to civilisation and avoiding their attacker. Bit of an odd one this, and as I have said before, I like to give Meg stories a bit of room to establish themselves before making a decision on whether they are my cup of tea. At the moment, it's in the 'a bit weird' pile, but happy to see what the next episode holds...

Talking of weird, I was completely lost in the new Devlin Waugh adventure All Hell. I just had this sinking feeling part way through that I had been here before with Red Tide in the early part of my Odyssey... I just got lost with who was who, who was a good guy or a bad guy and who the hell appeared at the end. Was Devlin tied up, or was it another guy... John Smith and Colin MacNeil are, once again, on script and art duties respectively. I'm just going to try it again next week and see if it falls into place, but I'm not holding out much hope. Ho hum.

Contrast this with a fabulous all-action Gordon Rennie and PJ Holden story called A Bullet In The Head featuring the Hong Tong detective and Triad enforcer Johnny Woo. I'm on record as saying no-one handles action like Rennie and Holden's art keeps pace perfectly. This story has it all; intrigue, rival gangs, exotic locations, scumbags, good guys who are bad guys and lots of fights and shooting. Can't wait for the next episode of this one!

And now onto The Bogie Man in part 5 of Return to Casablanca. Boy this was a struggle again. I just think I can't be bothered with it and am rapidly losing interest. I mean, I'm giving it a fair crack of the whip, but it really isn't something I'm hugely enjoying. I am interested to see how it ends, probably just to see if anything interesting does happen, but it's two parts too long already and shows no sign of ending soon. Still like Robin Smith's art - a very clean style and looks great in black and white.

Anderson started this Meg (making that five new stories in this issue!) in a tale called City Of Dead. A really stunning full page splash opening by Ranson, whose art I am really enjoying. And in a welcom turn of events, Anderson does some street judging! We still are having references back to the previous stories (nano-bots and half-life virus) but it's not yet clear if this will play a major role in this storyline. The setup seems to indicate it will, so let's see how it plays out.

The reprint was a couple of Dredd stories called Playaday and A Child's Tale. Both were good single episode stories dealing with some fairly unique subject material. The first one was quite the comedy, the latter a tragedy - so they worked well as a pair. Quite a good Metro Dredd (haven't said that for a while) with Si Spurrier on writing duty and Steve Roberts on art. Quite a good little story.

Si's Movie column, reviewing Spaghetti Westerns was pretty decent too. Has he changed his style or am I warming to him? Difficult to say... The final part of Cam Kennedy's Interrogation didn't disappoint with an account brining us right up to date (2005 of course!). He recalls his work on Star Wars (which was pretty important in resurrecting the franchise) as well as some other work for 2000 AD. Again, he missed some opportunities, but isn't prone to regret or bitterness. He seems happy with his lot.

And finally...Dreddlines is still going strong at this stage in the Meg's life. Floyd has now begun to write in as 2000AD characters, which is an interesting twist, and there was a letter complaining Anderson wasn't attractive enough in her old age!

Meg 230 - Blazin Squad

(Link to BARNEY)

A bit of a "Here Come The Girls" theme to this Arthur Ranson cover with the three female stars of the current Anderson story. It's quite plain, but I liked it, especially the 'burnt' corner, although there is a slight optical illusion that Shakta is looking to her right, when she has no pupils. On closer inspection she isn't, and it's such a minor gripe, but it irritated a little... I will try not to be that petty again :-)

We had a 'feature length' John Wagner Dredd called Judging Ralphy (with art by Dave Taylor) and I really got stuck into this and enjoyed it a lot. There is a Jimp (Judge Impersonator) loose in the city and Dredd is on his tail. It's not as simple as that though as it is a person from Dredd's past with whom he had a complex relationship. There are flashback scenes in the story, done in greyscale, and drawn in a different style by Taylor. Dredd is drawn like he was in the early Progs of the 70s and this was a clever way to handle the scenes from the past. I'm not sure everyone will like Dave Taylor's art in the main section, but the story was very good and I was absorbed.

The Shimura storyline Deus X finished in this issue and I was pretty happy with how it resolved. This is another example of a story I would like to have seen built up over more episodes, but as it stands, it did the best it could. It did feel rushed, though. There are other graphic novels out there called Deus Ex Machina, the name of the Terrorists in this story. Coincidence? Or building on this universe? We are left with a little teasing 'Cliff hanger' so we will see how this builds if Shimura returns.

Bato Loco: Head Job only lasted two parts. Still, it was fine as it stood. It was a pretty simple story so there wasn't a lot of pacing issues. I think Gordon Rennie is one of the best at scripting these shorter stories. Simon Colby's art was spot on as usual with this character. Still plenty of life left in Bato Loco, so hope to see him back again soon...

We had the return of the Whatever Happened To slot, with this issue looking at how Melda Dreepe turned out. If you have read Block Mania, she was the spark that started the storming of Enid Blyton block by Dan Tanna which eventually turned into the Apocalypse War epic. Alan Grant scripted this with art by Steve Roberts. It was all passable and pleasant enough, but didn't really go anywhere or do anything. At only six pages it was going to be a tough ask anyway. Bit of a waste of space really...

The Bogie Man lumbered on somewhat. I'm reading it, it's OK, but I'm not that bothered about it. All the elements are there, but we seem to have become distracted from the main event of the Albanian slave workers and we now have a kidnapped Scottish celebrity. Scratching my head a bit on this. Of course, it may all come together brilliantly in the end. I hope so. I don't hate it, but in the language of the kids, it's a bit Meh...

The Anderson story, Lock In, wrapped up thanks to the team effort of Anderson, Shakta and Juliet November. Yep, the fire starter from the first few issues of the Meg makes a return to play an important part in the story's resolution. It was all finished off quite nicely and I thought 'Yep, let's leave Anderson for a bit and have a new character next issue'. But no. She's back in a new story next issue. To be honest, I'm a bit fed up with this story arc of hers. I really hope we get back to some street judging rather than this fairly intense psychological journey she seems to have been on for a number of issues. Let's see what happens. The cynic in me wonders if there is half an eye on the trade paperback...

The reprint was a Dredd called Cardboard City. Dredd is on the hunt for his former housekeeper Maria amongst the homeless of Mega City One. But others are also moving amongst the cardboard city for other more deadly reasons. Wagner and Cam Kennedy on duty for this one and it was a reasonably good tale. I hated the colouring. I know the old strips didn't have the benefit of modern digital techniques, but I'd much rather it had been black and white. I did my best to ignore it, but it irritated a bit. When are we getting Charley's War back, Sir Alan?

On to the text articles and Cam Kennedy continued to provide a fascinating look back over his career in the Interrogation slot, interviewed by David Bishop. It was interesting reading about the opportunities he perceived he missed, but he's quite pragmatic about it and doesn't seem to have any regrets. Really got absorbed by this article. In Heat Seekers, I read Si Spurrier's Movie column where he dissects all those little irritating continuity errors that creep into movies. This was a much better article and I reckon he should stick to this kind of material. Jonathan Clements reviewed an anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion in his Orient column. Sounds as mad as a box of frogs but I'm quite temped to give it a go! The Metro Dredd was nothing special. They are of some passing interest, but to be honest, if they went I wouldn't miss them. In fact, I'd be hoping they would be replaced with Wagner and Smith Daily Star Dredd!

And finally...Special mention has to go to Gordon Rennie's last ever You're Next, Punk. He looked back over his columns and shared some of the feedback he received along the way. They certainly seemed popular in the Megazine production office! All in all, I enjoyed these. I enjoyed Gordon's writing style, and he proved he can write entertaining commentary prose as well as a damn fine comic story. Thank you, Gordon, your spleen will be missed...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Meg 229 - Jock Shock

(Link to BARNEY)

Quite a plain cover, just a small picture of Judge Dread (sic) fighting the Hoolie. Nice to see Kenny Who? getting some work drawing this cover. Of course, Kenny is actually Cam Kennedy, and I'm a pretty big fan of his so it was always going to be a 'like'.

So let's start with our cover star in the Dredd story Who? Dares Wins. I liked the fact we got to see the first episode of Kenny's trashzine, with Cam drawing it in a subtly different style to that of the main strip. Kenny thinks his luck has finally changed, but the long arm of the law, or should that be the real Judge Dredd, is never far away. The highlight was the legal droid who gave me a bit of a chuckle. Good story this one; Wagner on top form.

Part 2 of the Shimura story Deus X was a good episode. I'm getting to really enjoy the exploits of this Ronin Hondo Judge, but I still have a bit of a problem with the way Andy Clarke draws some of the fight scenes. It can be tricky working out what is going on in each panel. I suspect this is pretty hard to draw. Robbie Morrison's story is top notch and action packed. I liked the characters and the plot, so am giving the art a lot of slack.

Young Middenface wraps up this issue with the Muties frantically trying to escape overwhelming Kreeler forces. I thought it was a good ending and enjoyed the fact that this story was given more room to be told; being 6 parts rather than the usual 3. It seemed a significant development in this universe, and I'm keen to see what happens next. As always, Grant and Ridgeway do a cracking job with this episode.

A new story started this month as Bato Loco makes a welcome return to the pages of the Meg. Rennie and Coleby are on duty as always and the story opens with a full page splash of our hero in a bit of a tight spot. So how does he end up pointing a gun at a very angry looking Dredd? Well, to quote Bato, "Have patience, mios hermanos..." as the strip takes us back in time to how it all started. Only 6 pages, but a good episode. There was a lot to like about both script and art. Looking forward to the next outing.

Lots of 'walking and talking' in this episode of The Bogie Man story Return to Casablanca. Lots of text in speech bubbles, and being written in 'Scottish' it does need a bit of patience and concentration. Still, it was an alright episode. I'm not mad about this story, but it's not that I don't like it either. Out it like this, if it wasn't printed in the next Meg, for some odd reason, I wouldn't be that bothered. I'd be livid if that happened to Bato Loco or Shimura or Kenny Who?

The Anderson is moving onwards. I can't help but feel that we aren't really getting anywhere with finding out who or what is behind the strange goings on. Maybe that is Alan Grant's intention, but it makes for a pretty dull read right now. It's seems to me that it is a series of events that have the judges running around panicking, but the story isn't going forwards. Still, we have the return of a character we first met in the early Megs and she may well light up the storyline (bit of a clue there, I shall reveal more next time!).

The reprint was a Dredd called Alzheimer's Block and sees an eldester suspect more than just natural deaths are occurring in her block. Wagner wrote this one with Ridgeway and Perkins on art. I quite enjoyed this one. I liked the Miss Marple character and didn't see the twist coming at the end. Glad the Meg is still giving some space for reprints, even if it is much smaller now.

A good text fiction story by Cavan Scott called Dog Fight where Dredd needs to track down some illegal fights of a slightly unusual nature. Good story, good twists and I'd like to read more from this author. Wasn't a big fan of the illustrations, but the style did suit the story. Cam Kennedy was interviewed by David Bishop for the Interrogation slot and the man has had a genuinely interesting life. I enjoyed reading this one, both as a fan of his art and also as a life story. Looking forward to part 2 next issue. You're Next Punk didn't feature Gordon,  it was David Bishop instead. This wasn't good... Sorry David, you just aren't Gordon. Stick to The Dredd Files. Or not. Or Metro Dredd? No. Stick to Interrogations, yes, that's good stuff! In a slight break with tradition, I read the Si Spurrier Movie column which was OK. Nothing else in the Heatseekers section grabbed my attention.

And finally... I thought I'd just say a quick word on the overall quality of the Meg. I spend time each column discussing individual episodes of stories, but I don't give a general overall feel. And generally, I'm pretty happy with the Meg. It has a nice selection of stories and text articles, and whilst I don't read everything, I certainly read the majority of things. There is a 'but'. We are getting a lot of the same stories over and over; Anderson seems to have been going forever. So I'd like a bit of variety, something new and different. Let's see what happens!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Meg 228 - Hit The Deck!

(Link to BARNEY)

Good, solid Greg Staples cover this one. I do love his Dredds where the face is in darkness. Something quite sinister about it...

And, unusually, this was the only appearance of Dredd in the whole issue! Yep, he didn't appear once in his own comic! Ok, if you want to be pedantic, he made an appearance in the grud-awful Dredd Files, but I mean in the comic strips themselves. In the "Dredd" episode was the return of the rather wonderful character Kenny Who? - the frustrated artist and comic book creator who never seems to catch a break. This story, Who? Dares Wins, starts with a slightly odd opening and I was a little confused by it (Dredd was called Dread - eh?). But it all became apparent as our Kenny, once again, sets off for the Big Meg to make his fortune. A Wagner script with Cam Kennedy on art duties - lovely stuff...

A new Shimura kicked of called Deus X, with Robbie Morrison continuing to write the character and Andy Clarke on pens. Hondo is under a reign of terror from shadowy organisation Deus X - and top of their assassination list are Inspector Inaba and Shimura himself. As with all Robbie's stuff, it was a good opening episode building up the storyline and introducing the key players. Looking forward to the next episode of this.

In the Young Middenface story Killoden the muties have massed at Killoden Theme Park to make their stand against the Kreelers. This would seem to be a set up for a last stand type battle, and the writing looks very much on the wall for the muties. Do they have any last tricks up their sleeves? Not a huge amount of action in this one, but am hoping for a big payoff next time.

Still spooky goings on in the Andersion story Lock-In. As more succumb to this strange malady, including the dead, Anderson is in a race to discover the source. Enjoying this story more than the previous Andersons, probably to do with the fact that Anderson is actually in it, and am genuinely intrigued as to how it will conclude. I don't know how long this story will go on for, but as much as I love Anderson, I am feeling a little fatigued with her current story arc. Let's see what the next episode brings...

Enjoyed the second part of The Bogie Man, and this time our hero (or anti-hero?) hits the streets in search of Viktor who is being held by the Gestapo, with the lovely Ilsa by his side. Or, in actuality, the escaped immigrant is trying to take him to where her friends and family are being held captive. Good fun this strip, I'm liking it. As I mentioned last time, it takes some skills to weave the world of Clunie's Casblanca with the real world, and Grant and Wagner do this very well. I like Robin Smith's art too.

And three cheers from me for the return of Cursed Earth Koburn in a one-off story called Burial Party. The death of one of their own brings the Cursed Earth judges together for the traditional wake and burial ceremony, which pretty much sees them drinking heavily and swapping stories. It is an induction of sorts for Koburn's new partner, Bonaventura, as she gets used to her new world. No action to speak of, but I enjoyed nonetheless, as we find out a lot more about these Cursed Earth judges. Rennie and Ezquerra on duty as per usual.

After the highs of illustrating America, Colin MacNeil struggles to find his mojo as he recounts his life story to David Bishop in Interrogation. It was a thoroughly interesting read, though, and Colin has since gone on to illustrate some more lovely stuff for 2000AD, including the recent Day of Chaos story arc (and I am luck enough to own a few of his pieces which you can view on my CAF Gallery). The other text article was a history of Modesty Blaise. I did have a go at reading this, but with no connection to the character, gave up. I skipped the Heatseekers Cult TV and Orient sections, although I did read Movies as I do like post-apocalyptic films. I got through Spurrier's article - just. Comics introduced me to a strip called Hard Time, about a young lad spending life in prision. Sounded quite good. Gordon trailed off a bit in his regular column You're Next, Punk as he chose to tackle the various stereotypical ways comics handle foreign nationals. It was back to recounting comic characters again - so not as good as his previous couple of rants...

In the reprints, Charley's War will now go on a break for a few issues. It finished in this issue with the conclusion of the Battle of the Somme. I wonder what will replace it next issue (Lord Barnes isn't saying - the cheeky devil). The Metro Dredd came and went. Actually, I'd forgotten about Metro Dredd! Hah! So Dredd did appear in his own comic!

And finally... Dreddlines was full of people admiring Anderson's curves and nipples from last weeks cover. Why don't they just buy Nuts magazine?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Meg 227 - Fit For Duty

(Link to BARNEY)

(Been having a little break from the Megs. Been reading Nemesis The Warlock Complete Vol.1 - and very good it is too!)

Didn't like the cover at all. As I have said before, I'm extremely picky with my Andersons - but this one is awful. As I have said before when criticising artists, I couldn't do what they do - I'm just commenting on whether I like it. And I don't. It makes me cross. I don't want to see Anderson's nipples through her suit and I really don't think she could dangle heavy-duty justice department handcuffs on one finger. The sexual innuendo I can do without. Sorry Ungara - Anderson likes to let he hair down and be irreverent but this is taking the piss...

I'm moving on, before my spleen explodes ;-)

Being the festive season in Meg-land, we were treated to an extra-long festive Dredd called Fat Christmas - 17 pages no less! John Wagner script with - well - passable John Higgins art. It's quite cartoony, a style I'm never sure suits Dredd too well - but it didn't get in the way as I enjoyed the story a lot; a cheeky Mega City One Romeo and Juliet involving two rival gangs of eating championship fatty teams. Worked well as a strip and I liked it a lot, and - on second thoughts - the art probably suited the style I think...

In Robin Smith's interview last time, he had made mention of a strip that was returning to the Meg with him on pens called The Bogie Man. It's basically about a guy who believe's he is Humphrey Bogart, and sees the world as if he were Rick from Casablanca. Except he's living in Scotland in the 90's. I had serious reservations about this - I thought it sounded bobbins frankly. But I parked my doubts, and read the strip, and it was actually pretty good. It's Grant and Wagner on writing duties and it's littered with a fair amount of humour. It doesn't take itself too seriously, which is a good thing for sure with the subject material! So what's it about? Francis Clunie, who thinks he's Bogart, stumbles across a people smuggling operation whilst trying to sort out his bar (which is just a pub called Rix he happened to wander into). We see the story told through Clunie's mind (so with everyone appearing as they would in Casablanca) as well as in the reality too. It could have been a car crash of a strip, but it's done well.

John Smith and Colin MacNeil are back with a Devlin Waugh. Thankfully, it was a self-contained episode and thankfully it was pretty good too. It was Smith getting back to his best I think, as the story had a few twists and turns which I thought worked well. Colin's painting was top notch too - more on Colin later... I'd like to see more of Detective Inspector Strange - a Brit-Cit cop from the Endangered Species squad - deformed by coming into contact with a black mirror (whatever that is!). I'm hoping he may get his own gig. I had the same sentiment towards Cursed Earth Koburn, and he did indeed come back with his own strip, so here's hoping...

The tide has turned in Young Middenface, as the norms strike back against the muties. Is time running our for our young hero and his kind. Again, it was "narrated" by the Scottish MP who embellishes his story in text whilst we see the real action in pictures. My love for this strip has not waned, and I'm glad it is getting an extended outing. This story feels important in Middenface's universe - so looking forward to seeing where it goes.

And Grant and Ranson are back with Anderson - which in a bizarre twist actually features Judge Anderson herself! Finally freed from the Half Life virus, she is being tested for street duties. However, a strange malady is sweeping the building she is in, with people going crazy and killing each other for seemingly no reason. Straight back into the action she goes. I have high hopes for this story - I do hope it doesn't let me down...

In the text articles, we had a treat in the fiction slot with Si Spurrier writing a Simping Detective story, illustrated by Frazer Irving. It had me laughing out loud at some points, Jack is such a brilliant character and his turn-of-phrase is spot-on:

"Welcome to Angeltown. If Grud made the Big Meg in six days, this is where he puked the morning after..."

Jack is, once again, persuaded by a beautiful femme-fatale to take on a case. Her husband has gone missing - all she is has is a photo of where he last was seen. Plenty of twists in the story as Jack sets about unravelling what has happened to Mr Takko. More please!!! And someone cheery was interviewed in Interrogation - the fabulous Colin MacNeil. I've had the pleasure of chatting to Colin on email when buying artwork from him, and he's a cracking bloke who has plenty of time for fans. And he really gives us an insight into his work through this interview with David Bishop. Part 2 is next Meg and I'm looking forward to reading more.

The Dredd Files...dear Grud...when oh when will it end...

Over in Heatseekers, I skipped Movies and TV and went straight for Orient to read about a Lost Interviews of Bruce Lee DVD that has been released. And in the Comics section was a review of The Complete Peanuts. I loved Charlie Brown as a kid, and felt Scott Gray really got to the bottom of just why he is so endearing. Does anyone out there actually hate Peanuts? I've got a feeling it's impossible to hate :-). Not content with venting at artists, Gordon Rennie now takes some pot-shots at editors in You're Next, Punk. Just like last time, this is another cracking column with Gordon on fire and on form.

And finally... Charley's War continues to be awesome. Lots more Smith Seventy in these episodes. There is a slight feeling that Charley is leading a VERY charmed life, getting our of some of these scrapes, but I'm willing to accept he's just a very lucky bloke.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Meg 226 - Mobster's Goon


A great Frazer Irving cover showing where we left Jack Point in the last Simping Detective episode. Don't you think the guy with the syringe looks like Keith from The Prodigy?

An interesting Dredd, drawn by Goddard and Teague and written by Wagner, had me disorientated as it opens with Dredd having a family! The poor little boy trying to eat his breakfast gets a real Justice Department work over. I won't say much more as it might ruin the central kicker, but suffice to say Dredd ends up dealing with a crime that happened many years ago. I liked this story, I liked the opening few pages where you don't know what's going on and I thought the pacing was good. Nice art too.

The Simping Detective story Innocence: A Broad finished this issue and wrapped up nicely. I really liked this story, perhaps not as much as Jack's previous outing, but very good nonetheless. As I have said previously, this is a complex tale and certain panels needed reading more than once, but I do tend to rush stories I enjoy so I will shoulder some of the blame. Come back to the Meg soon, Jack!

I can't believe Shimura finished! Another example where a story needed more space to be told. It had been set up brilliantly in the first two episodes, then rushed to a conclusion in this issue.  To be fair, it wasn't the worst offender as the story flowed reasonably well but it could have been so much more.  I really liked the end and there is some unfinished business between Dredd and Inspector Inaba. I did find the big fight scene a little confusing as to what actually happened, but apart from that Andy Clarke's art has been pretty good.

We then had a complete story called Mega City Noir: Goons, Goons, Goons... This was written by Spurrier and set in the same district of Mega City One as The Simping Detective - Angeltown. Spurrier introduces the district (perhaps with half an eye on the trade collection as we know all about the area from Jack Point's adventures) and sets about telling a story of informers, gangsters and good old revenge and betrayal. An excellent story this one. Lovely art too (Cliff Robinson on pens, Esteve Polls on pencils).

Young Middenface DIDN'T finish this issue. I was really expecting it to as usually they are three episode stories. However it finished on a cliffhanger and I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

WMD, the Anderson story, ended its six part run. The mysterious magician part of the Justice Department seem to be playing a strange game in relation to this half-life virus and it stated at the end of this episode that a new Anderson story begins next issue. We have had a lot of Grant and Ranson Anderson stories recently, none of them actually involving Anderson herself (in her physical form anyway). Be interesting to see where this goes next. By the way, the conclusion worked for me but I think the story was still too long. However, there may be plot devices in there that will be used later...

Charley's War continued to be brilliant, and it was nice to see Smith Seventy back. He has moved from machine gun, to tank, to training rats! And everything is all still 'a bit technical'. In the sea of misery that is the First World War, it's characters like Smithy that provide a little light relief. Metro Dredd featured a pirate-themed block war which was quite fun.

Onto the text articles, and the Dredd fiction was a reasonable story. If you don't normally read these, I wouldn't recommend starting here was it was a pretty good yarn if you like them already. In Heatseekers, we re-visited The Box Of Delights in the Cult TV section, which freaked me as a kid and the author, Jonathan Morris, compares in quality to Lord of the Rings. Orient reviewed Fist of the North Star TV series saying it was rubbish, but because it was released at the same time as the brilliant Akira got a lot of viewings it didn't deserve. I'm not really in to Manga, but I am liking these articles as I am getting a bit of an insight. I skipped the Si Spurrier Movies column, having decided his writing style isn't my cup of tea. Sorry fella, but please feel free to keep writing The Simping Detective! I read the first few paragraphs of the Comic section about The Goon, but I didn't maintain interest.

The highlight was You're Next, Creep. After a load of issues going on about comic characters, Gordon decided to unleash the spleen and have a right go at comic artists. When Gordon goes off the deep end like this, it's highly entertaining! He comes up with some gems! He lists all of his anti-artist grudges. I'm sure not all artists are like this, but it gave me a giggle!

Robin Smith returned in the Interrogation slot where David Bishop interviewed him about life as a freelancer. He has drawn some interesting strips, the vast majority of which he seems to hate. He is very self-critical and finds an awful lot to moan about, just like in the last issue. I hope next time we find a creator who seems to enjoy what they do! I thought some of his featured work was pretty good. The Dredd Files ground ever onwards.

And finally... Lord Barnes' editorial was an interesting account of a book he acquired called Its A Mans World that is all about post war men's mags from 70 odd years ago. They make Nuts sound like Horse and Hound!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Meg 225 - Ladies Who Punch

In the words of Bart Simpson, "Aye Kurumba!". What a slinky cover from Cliff Robinson. I guess some may tut and say that, once again, the Meg has put some nice looking ladies on the front cover holding guns, looking smokin', hoping to entice male readers... The Duke of (Alan) Barnes is very clear in his editorial that he wishes to reflect a different side of heroes rather blood, guts and gore. And these ladies aren't just pretty faces, they really do kick ass in their stories...

So lets kick off with the heroines. The Simping Detective, where Jack Point and Galen DeMarco (left side cover star, oddly a red head, not the peroxide blonde of the strip) get off to a bad start before being forced to work together in the second part of Innocence: A Broad. But after it all goes a bit pear-shaped, Point and Cliq (the super-nasty alien killing machine that took a shine to Jack in the last adventure) are left with a tricky task. Quite a bit of scene-setting in this episode, quite a lot of dialogue to read and I rushed through the first pages in an excited haze only to back and have to read bits again... Worth the effort though, some really great characters and dialogue.

Our right-hand side cover star turns up in Shimura Executioner and she is Judge-Inspector Inabai of the Hondo Cit Justice Department. Having failed to keep a eye on Dredd, she has been busted down to traffic duty, until she a receives the call to start hunting down the Ronin known as Shimura. I really hope this story is given the space to breath as two episodes have pretty much been setting the scene. If it rushes to a conclusion in the next episode, I shall feel a bit grumpy. There seems to be plenty of material to work with, so I hope this one runs for a bit.

To the Dredds! Bite Fight concluded, and it concluded well I thought. I still thought the art worked well, despite painting not being my favourite comic medium, and it seems to have finished with a couple of loose ends not tied up. I wonder if we will return to those, or whether they were loose ends that weren't tied up. I thought Smith got the pacing of this story right over the two episodes, so a good job all round.

The other Dredd, 2%, was also a painted story and I didn't much like this one. The Alan Grant script wasn't great, but I also really struggled getting through Shaun Thomas' art. It may have been the reproduction, but some areas were very dark and I found it a struggle to see what was going on in the panels. It wasn't a long story, and it was an extremely dark subject, discussing those Judges that go down under the strain of the job, but it didn't work for me. Maybe I like my Dredds action packed rather than moody and dark and I didn't agree with the sentiment that the only judges that were successful were "natural aggressive psychopaths". I don't think Dredd enjoys killing people, not in that way. He's certainly not adverse to it. Other judges in other story lines, such as Judge Manners, are nut jobs - but Dredd is too controlled for all that.

In the Anderson tale, WMD, we finally got to meet the half-life virus. And it's a whopper. Again, lovely art by Ranson, but again, I'm not really gripped by this story. I will read it still to see what happens, but am still waiting to be excited by it. I'm fearing it just may not happen.

Young Middenface turned very nasty with the muties in full rebellion against the norms, told through the impassive commentary of a member of their parliament. I liked that as a story telling medium. The politician narrating one thing, the art panel showing you what really happened. I've seen this technique used before and I like it. I have a horrible sense of dread (not Dredd!) for the muties. Surely the norms won't stand for all this, and the commentary - which is being told by the narrator looking back on events in his past - would seem to indicate my fears are not unfounded. The difference between this strip and Anderson couldn't be more pronounced. Genuine tension in Middenface versus genuine apathy towards Anderson. Ah well...

Not much Charley's War, but the episodes were pretty brutal, so perhaps it was all the reader could take. Another relatively decent Metro Dredd too.

Onto the text articles. Didn't enjoy the Dredd story, Passive / Aggressive, as much as the last issue's fiction, but it wasn't too bad. Certainly not the worst short story I have read. In the Heatseekers section, the Cult TV was Spooks (which passed me by so I skipped it) and the Movies was Hellboy (as with last issue's, written by Si Spurrier and it was OK). The Orient article gave us a brief history of Monkey, the strange Japanese TV show that I loved as a kid. It was a great read. Comics profiled Bernie Krigstone, and was an interesting insight into a subject I knew nothing about. You're Next Punk saw our Gordon tackle 2000 AD characters who were killed in action. As with a lot of Gordon's stuff lately, if you have a great knowledge of the Prog from issue 1 this is a great trip down memory lane. If, like me, you don't, it's vaguely interesting - but not much more than that.

David Bishop paused long enough from reading through old Progs for The Dredd Files to interview former 2000 AD art editor, Robin Smith, for Interrogation. Smith had some interesting insights into those early days producing the Progs, but it did feel at times like it was repeating ground covered in Thrill Power Overload. Smith didn't seem to like many strips either, ones that many people have fond memories of. He didn't think much of Meltdown Man or Halo Jones describing the former as "bloody awful, absolute rubbish" and the latter as "okay" (after saying Alan Moore was a cult favourite so Halo Jones was thought to be better than it actually was). To be honest, Smith came across as quite negative about the way the Prog was produced, the people he worked with (particularly Pat Mills and Richard Burton) and some of the creators. That's his opinion, he was there, and that's fair enough - but I can't say the article was particularly entertaining for it...

And finally... Floyd Kermode was back in Dreddlines rallying against people who thought he had too much airtime in Dreddlines. Please, can we stop now, and get back to letters about the Meg. Although, to be honest, nobody has anything interesting to say in most of them, so they are a touch dull. Can't we have some children writing in? Those early Prog letters pages were way more fun...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Meg 224 - More Strip Pages Guarenteed

(Entry on BARNEY)

Got ourselves a Colin MacNeil cover this issue and very nasty it is too. Those teeth give Dredd an almost animal quality, like he's gonna bite your ear off! I was VERY excited to note Jack Point (The Simping Detective) and was hoping it was still Spurrier and Frazer on duty. And some dude with a big sword and scars. Looking forward to meeting him (although just in the comic, not in real life - he looks a hard so-and-so).

Right, there is a lot to get through so let's start with a bit of an intro as to what is going on. The Meg has been through some cosmetic and content changes. On the cosmetic side, Sir Alan has fired the previous production droid and replaced him with PYE-04. Maybe 'fired' is a bit harsh but I was going for an Apprentice gag...  So the Meg now has a spine that lists the issue number and Thrills inside as well as some other minor alterations inside. On the content side, there are a tonne of new features. So get yourself a nice long drink and sit back, because there's a lot to cover!

Shall we start with Old Stoney Face? Lets. But where to start, because he had more than one outing... The first story was called Bite Fight and saw Dredd attempting to take down a gang who are organising illegal bite fights across the city. However it doesn't go as planned and at the end of the episode, a character from another Meg story appears in a most unexpected place. Great story telling by John Smith (does that provide a clue to our mystery guest star) and some really wonderful painting by John Burns. If you have read previous reviews of mine you will know I sometimes am a bit down on painted artwork, particularly with fast-paced stories. But the two Johns work in perfect harmony.

The second story is written by Gordon Rennie and drawn by Simon Coleby. Meat Patrol sees Dredd volunteering for Meat Wagon duty, to the surprise of the wagon driver! This is  Dredd brushing up on all aspects of Justice Department services and I really liked it. I thought it was a neat idea I won't say much about it except it trundles along for a few pages until the shift starts getting a bit too exciting for our regular Resyk worker. I want to see more car chases involving a Meat Wagon, and lets face it, Gordon Rennie is the car chase master!

The third story is a text story by the marvellous Si Spurrier. Whilst I liked Cam Smith's illustrations, it did rather spoil the surprise of who the character sharing the bench with the blind man was. Thinking about it, the story was called Judge Fear's Big Day Out, so that didn't help either! It's a great story, though, and even if you don't usually like the text stories, I would recommend reading this one.

Lets talk about the return of Jack Point in the new Simping Detective story Innocence: A Broad. Jack is on the trail of a gang when he stumbles across another detective's case. Again, it's Spurrier and Frazer handling things and again it looks like it's going to be a cracker of a story. Young Middenface also returned this issue with Grant and Ridgeway on duty and, as before, it looks like it will be a corker. The muties have a tough choice to make when a mutie-hating First Minister is elected. I have banged on long enough in previous reviews about how much I love these stories, and these new episodes didn't disappoint.

The third cover star, with the sword and scars, was Shimura, who began a new story called Execution. I haven't come across this character before, although I had heard of him, so it was great to finally read a story with him involved. Shimura is a rogue judge in Hondo City (old Japan) who Dredd hunts down to persuade him to do some dirty work for the Mega City One Justice Department. It's the fabulous Robbie Morrison writing the script with Andy Clarke on artwork, who is new to me. I liked Andy's art, particularly the opening frame of Hondo City, and the story had me gripped from the get-go. A good opening episode, and am looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Some glorious art in the Anderson WMD saga, some lovely full page splashes from the brushes of Ranson, but we are still wandering round in Anderson's mind kind-of aimlessly. The characters don't seem to know what they are doing, and I think I have stopped caring.

Now the only reprint, Charley's War continues, and continues to be terrific. As well as another story to replace the other reprint (the second Dredd I suspect), we had a series of text articles about different topics designed to appeal to the average reader. These text articles, in a section called Heatseekers, were exploring Cult TV, movies, comics, manga and Gordon was back ranting. Each page had a Metro Dredd episode at the bottom, which was a neat idea, and it wasn't a bad one too. I have to confess to almost skipping these, but in the interests of fairness, I have them a go....

The Cult TV article was about the original incarnation of Star Trek and it was a good discussion on the series, pointing out that it was made by people who had never seen Star Trek before and so was a not hampered with the weight of expectation other versions have had. The Movies article had Spurrier on SpiderMan, which was OK. The Comics focused on 100 Bullets which was interesting and the Manga on Ghost In The Shell, mainly in the form of extensively reviewing these works. I was more interested in these than I thought I would be and ended up quite enjoying them. Should they be in the Meg? That's a difficult one. The Comics and Manga articles were interesting in showing a world outside 2000 AD and gave me a chance to read some views on media that would likely appeal to me as a 2000 AD fan. The Cult TV and Movies felt less relevant, I know about Star Trek and SpiderMan. It also slightly irked that the competition was for the Star Trek DVDs that were being reviewed - paid-for product placement sprung to mind. Something more obscure might have been fun...

Gordon Rennie chose to explore the world of naming characters in You're Next Creep, which is becoming less and less of a rant and more and more of a discussion. I like his stuff, but he has definitely run out of things to be cross about. The Dredd Files limped on... Dreddlines had lots of positive letters this time, including the return of Floyd!

Oh - and I almost forgot the interview with John Burns, which was really insightful. This has replaced The Interrogation Cube, which was nothing more than a series of short questions about fairly inane subjects, with a far more in-depth interview - shortened to being called Interrogation. I like getting into the heads of creators, so reading about how he got into comic art and the publications he has worked on in his long career I find fascinating. Others may skip it, or wait for a droid they are more interested in, but I liked it and will follow this series with interest.

And finally... what did I think of the new look Meg? Yeah, I quite liked it on balance. Time will tell if the text articles are worthy of inclusion, they may become quite tedious, and there  is definitely more advertising than there has been (necessary to keep the cover price down I perceive), but on balance the stories remained strong and the tinkering kept to a minimum. I will miss the reprints, but take the editor's point that in 2004 I could have bought the Extreme Edition comic which re-ran an old 2000 AD story in full. All in all, the magazine remains true to its core values, which is definitely a good thing!

Discussion on the 2000 AD Forum

Monday, 2 September 2013

Meg 223 - Big Brother Is Watching You

(Link to BARNEY entry)

A great Dredd cover from Dylan Teague. The classic 'grumpy' pose, looking mean and threatening.

So why not start this review with the future Lawman himself in a 12 page episode called How To Succeed In Bizness. It starts in one of the rich and elite sectors of Mega City One with a three-quarter page splash of the city skyline. Dave Taylor's art is quite cartoony and very different from the recent Chris Weston episode. It isn't my favourite style of art, but there is a lot to like in Taylor's art. That opening panel, for example, is genuinely lovely. It's a good Alan Grant tale that has Dredd running all over the city looking for a murderer. I liked the narration provided by the business school's instructive literature - a neat idea that worked well.

But now sad news, as two of my most favourite Meg stories finished this issue. Cursed Earth Koburn was a really good story and the end didn't disappoint. I shall miss it. And The Simping Detective also wrapped up. I am dressed in black and still in mourning. I'd like to say my devastation is the reason this review has taken ages to write, but that is simply down to life being busy for a while! Why did I like these stories so much? Well the central protagonist is such a great character. Both Koburn and Jack Point have interesting backgrounds, are quick-witted and action-based; what I might simply term as "cool". I enjoyed following their adventures, which were well written and well paced for the three episodes. They weren't rushed or drawn out, they were just right. The artwork matched the stories perfectly too... Bah - I shall miss them...

And Black Siddha also ended in this issue as well. Rohan and Rak face off once more and there is a strange episode of a scorned woman extracting her revenge. It ends on a cliff hanger so there are clearly intentions to bring this back, and I shall be glad to read it again. A good job from Mills and Davis.

The pseudo-Anderson story WMD reached part 3 and showed no real sign of progress or making much sense. Some of the Judges wandering around in Anderson's head started to reveal their flaws, perhaps amplified by whatever is inhabiting this strange world. I'm sticking with this. I have a feeling that something may happen sometime soon that will blow the story apart. But if it fizzles out in a damp squib I shall be annoyed...

The reprint section... Well it turns out High Lord Barnes is pulling this from the next issue. Charley's War will still continue, which is good news as I am still enjoying it, but the other reprint will be replaced with a new story and new features designed to make our ".. reading experience broader and deeper..". Our esteemed editor suggests TPBs or 2000 AD Extreme as alternatives. The latter was a monthly mag reprinting stories in their entirety. For example, I picked up issue 8 off eBay because it was Firekind. Now this seems to me to be a ploy to push the Extreme Edition. Of course, it could be they simply think more new stories and features should be in the Meg. Some feedback in Dreddlines has suggested this. I shall reserve judgement, but I'm unhappy... Finding the Extreme Editions second-hand is much tougher than the Megs.

Still, Hell Trekkers concluded. Shall I say if they make it or not? Nah - I will leave that as a tease! Lets just say I thought the end worked well and I have enjoyed this story. I still admire the way Grant and Wagner kept track of 111 Trekkers through the whole 21 parts.

The Dredd Files yawned onwards... Mr Bishop must be getting fed up writing it surely... No Gordon Rennie rant. Perhaps he's all ranted out and retired to a dark room...

And finally... a lot of adverts this issue. Am hoping this isn't a trend that will increase over the next set of Megs...