Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Alternative View: The Dredd Files

Grudd I hate this bit of the Meg. It's an analysis of each Dredd story has been since the birth of 2000 AD. Each issue, David Bishop, of Thrill Power Overload fame, details the story in each each Dredd episode, along with the characters introduced and some insights into how Mega City One concepts we know today were developed. It's just not my thing, but Andrew Kaplan of Las Vegas, USA disagrees with me. He wrote to Dreddlines in Meg 222 to stick up for this oft derided section of the Meg. Here's his defence reproduced from that letter:

[Regarding] The Dredd Files... It always seems like the standard history of the Dredd strip reads like 'The character first appeared in the second issue, and there were a bunch of stories establishing his world, including the Robot Revolt one, and then Pat Mills wrote the Cursed Earth mega-saga, which will be the first one we'll discuss in any depth whatsoever.' This is the first time I have seen those early strips given any sort of detailed consideration... Makes a nice change from the usual perspective, and it allows folks like me who weren't there at the beginning to see how things developed. I don't know if it's a series that needs to run indefinitely, but this coverage of the early years is fascinating.

So there you go. Thanks Andrew. Possibly the only person on the planet to enjoy The Dredd Files? Or do you like them too? Tweet me or write a comment. Love to hear your thoughts...

Meg 222 - Hack Jack

Great cover! My copy, BTW, is signed by the fabulous Si Spurrier as I had the Meg with me to read on the train home after I had been to the Trifecta signing. He signed it to "Simoon" - because we were laughing about how my name is spelt... Anyway, I'm digressing... I could tell it was Frazer Irving who had drawn it straight away and it's a fabulous action shot of Jack Point versus the Raptaurs. What's a Raptaur? Yeah, that's what I wondered...

...so let's start with the cover star The Simping Detective in the second part of his adventure Crystal Blue. I hadn't quite clocked what the enemy he discovered was last week, but apparently it's called a Raptaur and has previous form in the Dredd universe. Nice to see things crossover like that, not that I had come across them before. But it doesn't matter, you get the hint pretty quickly that these things aren't to be messed with. Another fast-paced story with wonderful art from Irving and I can't wait for the next episode!

The brilliant Judge Dredd story Six finished off this Meg. Big shame. Chris Weston's art was glorious and Wagner's story could have gone on and on as far as I was concerned. Thankfully, the story doesn't feel rushed - and this is probably because of the 14 or so pages in the episode. Nice to see PJ Maybe in the story.

Cursed Earth Koburn continued with the storyline Kuss Hard, and the Cursed Earth judge shows his MC-1 partner just how things work out of the big city when you are on the trail of a perp. Super stuff from Rennie and Ezquerra and thoroughly enjoying this romp.

Having read back the last three reviews, they are kind-of boring. I mean, all I do is say how great they are. But they are really great - I can't emphasise enough how much I am enjoying these stories (or in the case of Six, 'enjoyed', as it is finished). These three are comic book writing at it's best!

Right, before I get a dose of Thrill Power Overload, let's skip on to Anderson: WMD. This made a reasonable start last time, but dipped a little episode. I can't put my finger on why. Perhaps I'm not sure who is who yet - or whether I care enough about what happens to the Judges involved. I like the introduction of the 'Magic' division - a sub department of the Justice Department - and wonder if their role will be significant in the plot as it unfolds. I would hope so, otherwise their introduction is kind-of pointless... And it's not really Anderson. They are in her head, but she's not in it. Or maybe she is. I dunno - perhaps I'm just finding it all a bit confusing!

Black Siddha: Kali Yoga carried on being pretty good. It's not quite at the peak of the first three stories I reviewed, but it's still good. I've no doubt it will divide opinion - with many not taking to it - but the Indian mythology still holds my attention and the motivations and actions of the characters still have some way to develop. Good stuff all round.

In the reprints, Hell Trekkers felt a little bit like a Hell Trek this time. I just didn't get into it and am wondering if the concept is waning. The group passed the halfway marker towards the end of the last Meg and I'm hoping we haven't got loads more episodes before it concludes. It is starting to feel a little formulaic now - trekkers encounter a challenge, some die, move on to the next one. No dinosaurs as well :-(. Charley's War was pretty good still. The tank storyline resolves and new recruits are bought to the frontline. Meanwhile, the Germans are bring in fresh troops of their own. Still a fair way to go if all the story is to be reprinted, but I'm liking it. Gordon Rennie wrote this Meg's Metro Dredd and it showed as the story was much better this time. The art has been iffy at best for my money, but it seemed more in-keeping with the story this time around.

I didn't know it when I got him to sign my Meg, but Si Spurrier was in the Interrogation Cube answering the standard questions. I would have got him to sign that page if I'd have known!

And finally... I'm going to spend a little time on The Dredd Files because I've been very quiet about them. I just don't find them interesting at all. However, in Dreddlines, Andrew Kaplan of Las Vegas, USA stood up for them. Because I hate them, and can't find anyone I know to write a counter-point, I will reproduce the relevant paragraph from his letter in a separate blog posting. Then I can wash my hands of the whole cursed thing and move on!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Meg 221 - Sleazy Rider

(Link on BARNEY)

He's back! I'm a Koburn fan, as those who read my previous review of his storyline may remember. This is a cracking Rey Carlos cover, with Koburn leaning idly against his pimped up ride. I was expecting a lot from this Meg, and it totally delivered (WARNING: This review is full of over-the-top praise - those who find such things sickening might want to leave now).

Where to start? It's all so good... Let's go with Cursed Earth Koburn in the first part of the story Kuss Hard. Once again, Koburn is in his favourite bar in the Cursed Earth - and once again his 'time off' is interrupted by a Mega City Judge needing his help. Not Dredd this time, but Judge Bonaventura, seeking his help in bringing justice to an organ-legging gang, The Kuss's. Gordon Rennie on script and Rey Carlos Ezquerra on art. It's a joy. I was gripped through the whole thing. I just love this character and can't wait for the next instalment. I'm glad (Sir) Alan Barnes commissioned a Koburn series - well done (Lord) Barnes!

Moving to Dredd we had Wagner and Chris Weston (yay!) on duty for the first part of the series Six. Weston is absolutely one of my favourite artists. The first page vistas of Mega City One are glorious. The detail in each of the buildings is fabulous - it looks like it took him days to draw all those windows! An important investor has arrived in Mega City One, but is he all he seems? Great set up for this story, lots of mystery and intrigue and unanswered questions. Wagner at his best!

With Thrill Meters approaching full, there was more to come! Anderson was back in WMD - with the classic pairing of Grant and Ranson. Now I may be on record as saying that David Roach and Brett Ewins drew the best Anderson for me. Well we haven't really seen much of Ranson's version, but the art is just glorious in all other aspects. Grant has come up with an intriguing story following on from the final episode of Half-Life where Judges are set to enter the mind of Anderson to see if whatever is going on in her head can be stopped and prevented from escaping to the rest of MC1. Again, a great set up...

Still more great stuff in the shape of The Simping Detective in the story Crystal Blue. As I mentioned in my last review, there is much to admire about this Spurrier and Irving character and they continue to excel in this new story line. Jack Point has been warned off a case by his new Chief, which only makes him more curious. But will curiosity kill the cat (or indeed, our simping hero)? I love everything about this strip; the way Spurrier tells the story, the way Irving draws the art, the throw-away remarks, everything. Great stuff!

And then we had Black Siddha. We continue to learn more about the three sets of characters; Rohan and his attempts to be the hero, Rak and his strange cult and the weird goings-on at the youth centre. It's all coming together nicely. Still liking this a lot.

Over in the reprints, Charley's War and Hell Trekkers continue to be of a high standard. It's back over the top again for Charley, but this time with the Mark 1 tank. Will they prove the difference in the Battle of the Somme? And our intrepid pilgrims continue to battle through impossible conditions on their way to a new life away from Mega City One. Enjoying both of these stories still. The Metro Dredd this issue was a little better - but not worthy enough for much more of a review than that.

In the text articles, an interesting interview with Chris Weston in The Interrogation Cube, who is very honest about his shortcomings and the things that make him mad (and there are a lot!). Gordon turned his attention to politics in You're Next, Punk. It wasn't Gordon's finest rant, but I liked it. Do I have to mention The Dredd Files? OK - The Dredd Files...

And finally...phew - that was a great issue. Possibly the best Meg so far. The bar has been raised very high for the next issue...

No thread on the 2000 AD Forum for this Meg.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Meg 220 - How The West Was Won

(Link to BARNEY)

A wrap around cover is always a treat and so is worthy of full appreciation. I say 'always', but John Ridgeway, of such classic stories like The Raggedy Man, is not on his finest form here. It's not the linework I find fault with, it's the colouring. Gah, it's horrible. Looks like it was done in Microsoft Paint. I'm moving on to the stories quickly...

Let's get the Dredd over and done with. We concluded the Damned Ranger story and thank The Maker we did. I got fed up with the Ranger Chief trying to kill himself and kept wishing he would just get on with it so he'd shut up about it. The story seemed stilted, like Wagner was trying to cram 10 episodes worth of action into 1. Didn't like the ending - glad it's over and we start again next issue. And if I never see those weird looking spaceships again it will be too soon!

And now for something completely different. Because it was very good. Young Middenface finished and it ended very well. Although perhaps the sheep in the story might disagree ;-) Anyway, I mourn the loss of this story and hope to see the character return soon. There is plenty of mileage in his adventuring yet. I would like to see more of the Kreelers as we didn't get to see them much. The Kreelers would seem to be the 'norms', i.e. the non-mutants, who are intent on wiping out the muties. Hopefully this strip will return soon.

Staying on last episodes, the Mean Machine story Angel Heart concluded with a complete disaster at the wedding. One of the funniest characters is Mini Mean who would seem to be inspired by the Mini Me character in the Austin Powers films. Mini Mean is part of a cyborg club who gate crash the wedding and get involved in some of the 'high jinks' that occur. His cry of "I'm going up to 4 on ya" whilst butting kneecaps is a highlight. A reasonable story, but glad it has finished and we will see what we get next...

Black Siddha continued to intrigue. Rohan and his friend/enemy Rak finally do battle, but what will happen to our hero. Nothing has happened to change my view of this strip, I like it and I like the artwork. Looking forward to the next instalment.

A new single episode strip called Mega-City Noir caught my eye in this Meg. It features a character called Jack Point, or The Simping Detective, an undercover Judge who makes operates as a private eye. This episode was called Gumshoe and featured Point helping out a lady in distress. I like the nod to old 30's American detective movies, as I loved watching those during the school holidays when I was a kid. A Simp, by the way, is Mega City slang for someone who dresses strangely, usually a clowns costume I think, as Jack does. Why? As Jack puts it "Because my shrink says I need to lighten up". Great story from Si Spurrier, lovely Frazer Irving artwork and I hope we see this character in the Meg again. I'm pretty sure he turns up in the Trifecta story arc from recent times, but as I won't get my TPB for another couple of days cannot confirm this.

Into the reprints and Charley's War continues to please, and challenge and inform as well. Charley and his mate Weeper are on punishment duty and are finding it tough going. Episode after episode this continues to stay in top form. I'm also enjoying Hell Trekkers, where the challenges for the brave pioneers keep coming and getting worse all the time. Wagner and Grant manage to bring a real human element to this story. All the characters are different, have different hopes and dreams and different skills and qualities. With 111 people at the start of the trek they must have had to plan this story pretty thoroughly and it shows through the quality writing. The art also continues to match the story in its quality. I'm not really into the Metro Dredds. I find them a bit dull and don't really like the art.

Text articles had The Dredd Files (oh when will they end...) and Gordon Rennie venting his spleen over the portrayal of religion in 2000 AD. I was left wondering why Christianity always bore the brunt of religious bashing, and I don't think the article really addressed this properly.

And finally...Deddlines' best friend Floyd was back with his views on the Meg. And Rod Henley agrees with me on The Dredd Files. Anyone out there enjoy this series?

More discussion on the Meg 220 2000 AD Forum Thread of old...

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Meg 219 - Groom Of Doom

Let's start as we always do with the cover. And with the greatest respect to Garry Leach, I didn't like it. Sorry, I prefer more action packed covers. I'll move on...

Might as well start with the cover stars, Mean Machine and Porsha Wuss in Angel Heart. I mentioned last time that this was a creator getting a bit silly with one of their characters and thus it continued in this issue. I don't suppose it is everyone's cup of Rosie Lee but I don't mind it. Mean has been rendered harmless and is marrying his true love, but as we all know, the path of true love rarely runs smoothly... I get a feeling it will all wrap up in the next Meg, and that will be sufficient for this strip.

Part 2 of the Dredd story Damned Ranger wasn't great. It felt a little plodding in places, which surprised me slightly. I was huffing and drifting my way through it, so I don't think it could have been holding my attention too well. John Ridgeway's pens are good, but some of the colouring is a bit off; a little gaudy and unnatural looking. As for the stuck on, weird looking spaceships... Yuck! Possibly this is a design choice, but I don't care for it much. I think I struggle with the mutie-bashing episodes of Dredd a bit. Rounding up families and carting them off to some camp makes me uncomfortable with Dredd and MC1. This, however, is probably the point. Hoping we wrap this one up soon. It has the ingredients for a decent ending, perhaps it was just the tricky middle episode of a trilogy.

Contrast that with Young Middenface which I continue to enjoy very much. Alan Grant, Patrick Goddard and Dylan Teague - take a bow! It's an interesting idea and is full of twists and turns. Our two mutie heroes are about to be the main course in the village's celebrations. Can they escape? I like it not just because it is a good story, but also because it is told from a mutie perspective, often portrayed as the villains of the piece (as I explained in the previous paragraph). Best original new strip in the Meg at the moment.

Black Siddha opened up it's second episode with a few strange scenes with the Kali cult before then picking up the story of Rohan taking on the nasty junkie he was battling last week. I suspect some might think this is moving quite slowly, but I'm happy with the way the story is building an am finding I have more patience than I ever did for Devlin Waugh. Perhaps it's the Indian mythology I like, or the characters, I don't know. I'm liking it.

And we had the return of the strange and fast breeding furry rodents of Mega City One in Whatever Happened To The Gribligs? The what, you might ask! These were creatures brought to MC1 in an early Dredd episode in the Prog and outlawed because of their super fast breeding cycles. Gordon Rennie has a bit of fun with this strip and it is well drawn by Steve Roberts in a style befitting the subject of the story. It was light and fluffy and I laughed a couple of times so it worked for me.

Lots of singing in this Meg. Pretty much every story had a character or characters bursting into song. Coincidence - or are the creators having a bit of a laugh?

In the text articles, Gordon dissects the discomfort 2000 AD fans seem to have with carnal relations in his You're Next Punk column. He concludes that relationships seem to end in murder and misery in the Prog and Meg, so the readers are probably right to feel uncomfortable! The Dredd Files happened...

In the reprints we had quite a few Charley's War, where we discover life away from the front lines isn't the holiday the soldiers were hoping for. And Hell Trekkers is enough to put you off your lunchtime sandwich with those dinosaurs still stalking our intrepid pilgrims. Not content with that, Wagner and Grant threw disease and a thick nuclear smog at them as well. Surely it won't be long before the dude in the Mopad, which is not adapted to the harsh environment, is toast. He seems to be out-living other seemingly hardier souls! Another Metro Dredd was reprinted and it was so-so, a parody of TV talent shows.

There was a free poster Dredd story with this issue, which was sadly missing from my copy :-(

And finally... Matthew Webster in his letter to Dreddlines called for a decent history of Dredd and his world. His wish would be granted only a few short years later in the Origins storyline in the Prog...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Meg 218 - The Cursed Earth

Another Meg with two variant covers, and whilst Alan Barnes stated in his editorial that subscribers got both covers, my old Meg only came with one - the 2100 AD cover. Bah! From what I can tell, only the backgrounds are different - and possibly Henry has aged the Dredd in the 2126 AD cover (that's Henry as in Henry Flint - as in demigod of comic art). Still, I'm grumpy enough to not include both covers on my post... :-)

Onwards and into the Meg. Let's start with the new thrills, shall we, and kick off with the most welcome return of Young Middenface. I stated in my Meg 207 review I wanted more, and I guess others at the time did too! We see the young Scottish mutie on the run from some 'norms' with his buddy Scaly when they find sanctuary in a small village of Brigadoom. But are the inhabitants every thing they seem on the surface? My opinion of this strip has not altered, I still like it. Alan Grant is still writing it, but art duties have passed to Patrick Goddard on pencils and Frazer Irving on inks. I like both artists, and the result is more than pleasing. Looking forward to the next episode of this!

Next up let's talk about Mean Machine in Angel Heart. Everyone's favourite 'nut' job (I thank you) is locked in an iso cube when he is befriended by the sweet Porsha Wuss. Will Mean Machine give up his evil ways and become a reformed character for the love of a good woman? John Wagner is scripting this one, and I hope it doesn't drag on as it has the potential to be a good, punchy story. It was a good set up this edition. I think it has the potential to go a bit silly, but hey, let's see what happens. I'm now starting to understand that some of the creators like to play the 'silly card' with their characters every now and then. Now I've figured that out, I'm not so against it. In a response to a Dreddlines letter, (Arch Duke) Barnes says he likes to have a blend of strips in the Meg - from things that are a bit silly to quite gory and hard hitting (like the Judge Anderson story we had recently). I whole-heartedly support that view now I realise this is intentional, rather than just bad writing... Anyway, I've digressed slightly - the Millgate art droid functions most adequately. It's quite cartoon-y, but that is in-keeping with the story.

And after a number of one-off stories, Dredd is off on an adventure to the the Cursed Earth with Chief Dourney of the Ranger Unit in the new story Damned Ranger. This is another John Wagner story (are we spoilt with all these wonderful writers, or what?!) with John Ridgeway provided lovely art. Again, a good set up and I am itching to dive into the next episode.

Making up the fourth and final new thrill, and it's a big hooray and hurrah from me, it's Black Siddha! Now I learnt the hard way from the last set of stories that these have to be read s-l-o-w-l-e-y and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y otherwise there is danger of confusion. Pat Mills once again takes on script duties and the return of Simon Davis' painting is most welcome. His style is ideally suited to this story. Rohan has embraced his destiny and is taking on the Black Siddha persona to fight evil. But he feels he needs a bit of practice... First episode finishes on a cliff-hanger, so it will be good to pick this up next time...

The Whatever Happenned To series moved on to Conrad Conn, an old movie star who I didn't recognise. Again, like Cookie, it didn't matter too much. Didn't really like this story much and wasn't too keen on the artwork either. It's got to be the first Gordon Rennie story in a while I didn't like that much. It wasn't terrible, I just didn't really find it that much fun. I don't think the artwork did it any favours either...

In the reprints, Charley's War continued with me starting to hate every bone in Lieutenant Snell's body. A testament to Mills and Colquhoun about how much I care about these characters. Hell Trekkers is set in 2106 AD and follows 110-odd people leaving Mega City One to seek a better life in the New Territories. In these first 6 episodes all sorts get thrown at the group - and I am finding it doubtful any of them will make it! Good story, though. Again, it's old school 2000 AD aimed at children / teens but that doesn't worry me. I quite enjoy these strips. It's Wagner and Grant again, this time under the name F  Martin Candor and Ortiz is on art duty. I haven't seen much of his work before, but his style fits well with the subject matter. Boy can that man draw a dinosaur!

I asked in my Meg 215 whether the Metro Dredds that were being introduced were any good? Well, we got a reprint on one in this Meg Mutie Menace. Difficult to see how it worked over 5 newpapers, but as a one page strip I enjoyed it a lot. I wonder if the Meg will reprint any more?

On the text article front, The Dredd Files perked up a little with the Cursed Earth saga being covered. The emphasis is on 'little' as I skimmed it in about 2 minutes. Gordon Rennie weighed in on the use of illicit substances by comic creators to aid their inspiration in his regular You're Next, Punk column. Good fun as always.

And finally...Tharg decided to advertise his latest wares - mobile phone wallpapers, operator logos and picture messages. That brought back a few memories, when such things were premium items commanding a few quid for each download. My old Nokia 6310i was listed as compatible - good news!

Link to Meg 218 on the 2000 AD Forum

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Meg 217 - Wake Up!

Absolutely superb Arthur Ranson cover! It just captures the Anderson story perfectly. I didn't even mind the white space as it acted as a framing which increased the impact. Oohh I love a good cover...

Stepping inside, and Alan Barnes spent his editorial extolling the virtues of the 2000 AD Forum. He pointed out his favourite threads, and then followed it by wondering whether this type of instant Internet gratification was responsible for the decline in letters to Dreddlines. Well, to honour (Sir) Alan's editorial, here are a fine selection of forum threads:

However, I also wonder if the review threads have meant the decline in Dreddlines letters. C'mon people! Write to Dreddlines. Why? Well, as (Lord) Barnes puts it: "..a Dreddline is preserved in stone. Think of future generations of Squaxx del Thargo, and set your thoughts in stone!". And because people like me can poke fun at them a decade later :-)

To the stories, and Anderson Half Life concluded utterly brilliantly. It was definitely a story following on from another - perhaps in the Prog - but it didn't matter because it sent a chill through my bones. I have moaned about 3-4 issue stories finishing too soon, but this felt about right. Any more and it could have dragged on. I already felt Sandra should have taken a more direct route last time, but once she got with the programme and went for it - it was fantastic stuff. I can't really give you a synopsis without ruining a central plot line, but just read it!

Satanus II Dark Matters also wrapped up this issue. I liked the ending. In Dreddlines Paul Glasswell (via email) suggested that Pat Mills was parodying rubbish Dredd writers in bits of this story. In my last review I derided some of the awful dialogue, but if Mills is indeed invoking the spirit of terrible writers past that would make an awful lot of sense. Still not too keen on the art, but I'm being very harsh here, as overall I liked it.

Gordon Rennie was on Dredd duties again with another cracking story Master Moves, assisted on art duties by the D'Israeli droid. An international chess tournament is being hosted in MC1, but with some contestants mysteriously disappearing Dredd suspects something sinister... A good story this, with an interesting ending. Rennie shows another side to his story writing. Regular readers will know I'm a big fan of his action Dredds, but I also enjoyed this detective story too. Rennie is fast becoming a favourite writer of mine...

The series of Whatever Happenned To... continued this issue with some robot chap called Cookie who I'm not familiar with. Still, it didn't matter, as the story was about Cookie being interviewed on a chat show about his past exploits and what he was doing now. It wasn't a bad story at all, and I enjoyed it being told in flashbacks. Si Spurrier was on script duties, and Roger Langridge on art (which was pens with grey wash added). I liked the more comic art style, I think it fitted well with the story.

In the reprints we got a lot of Charley's War which was fantastic news. Another set of 'difficult' episodes for Charley, caught behind enemy lines. The old lump in the throat made a couple of appearances. It really is too good this strip. I just love it, and think it should be compulsory reading for school children studying World War I (and I'm deadly serious in that belief).

We got two Dredds from Annuals (reprinted also in Judge Dredd Restricted Files 02). Ladies Night, set in 2108, sees Dredd requiring 3 judges to go undercover to flush out a gang of thieves and John Brown's Body, set in 2107, sees a rookie leave a perp chained to a fence in the most dangerous street in town! They are both Grant and Wagner stories and they are both pretty good from that era of prolific writing by those two authors. I enjoyed reading them.

We were also treated to a bonus Future Shock Enemy Agent with art by the legendary John Cooper. It's not a bad little story of a secret agent determined to find who has been infiltrating his team. Of course, being 2000 AD, it's not just a simple spy story!

Text articles had David Bishop continue his trawl of the Dredd archives in The Dredd Files (more like The Dead Files if you ask me - dead boring...) and Gordon Rennie's column You're Next Punk where he addresses the belief that all stories seem to be based of the premise of previous stories - i.e. nothing is new! I dunno how he keeps the pace up with these columns. He'll get bored at some point (or cancelled) because he's not doing them in the Meg today - so I'm enjoying them while they last.

The text story, Lazarus, was a little complex but it ended up OK. It raised an awful lot of morality questions about how Dredd conducts himself. I know some people like that, but I'm not so keen myself. Still, it was OK - not bad, not good...

And finally... four new stories next issue! Huzzah! I love it when there is a reshuffle and lots of new stories start. Hoping it will be another cracking issue...

No thread on the forum for this issue :-( Wonder why...

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Meg 216 - A Dynasty Of Heroes

An interesting Cliff Robinson front cover with the two generations of 'Giant' split down the middle. This is an issue celebrating John 'Giant' Clay and his son and grandson. In his editorial, Alan Barnes derides 2000 AD for taking Judge Giant from us and leaving us all distraught (he was killed by Sov agent Orlok in the Apocalypse War saga). So he is righting that wrong by dedicating this Meg to his legacy.

Lets go in chronological order. In the reprint section, Wagner and Ezquerra present us with the story Young Giant set in 2111 AD. Dredd is asked to take young Cadet Giant out on to the streets to assess if his fiery temperament can ever be controlled. Dredd was about as close to his father, Judge Giant, as Dredd ever gets to other people so it is interesting to watch the relationship with the young man evolve over the story. Will Giant be able to face his worst fear and conquer it? Good story this, detailing the history of Cadet Giant and how he came to be where he is now. It's about as fatherly as we are likely to see Dredd, and he really chucks the youngster into the deep end. Sink or swim?

Now to 2126 AD and the story Prodigal, where Cadet Giant is now a Judge. Whilst on crowd control, he meets Rico, another clone of Fargo like Dredd. This is quite an action-packed story with gunfights and car chases - the trademark of Gordon Rennie. These are my favourite kind of Dredds. Interesting that the man himself never makes an appearance in this, and had this been written today, I would be wondering if we were seeing the changing of the guard. Would Dredd be making way for a new breed? Of course, he didn't, he's still very much with us today, but this story definitely probes that possibility. Simon Davis is on art duty, and whilst there is no doubt the man can paint, I didn't feel his style was able to keep pace with the fast, action script.

Staying in 2126 AD, we have the continuing saga of What Ever Happened To... and this issue it is John 'Giant' Clay - of Harlem Heroes fame. Clay is very old and only has a few months to live, when he is visited by his grandson, Judge Clay. This is another Rennie story, with art by Rufus Dayglo, and shows that Rennie isn't all gunfights and action sequences. He does human stories very well too. I thought it was a genuinely touching story, with a lovely ending. Fine work by both writer and artist.

In other stories, we saw the end of the Judge Death saga The Wilderness Days. It was a good ending for Jay D, and one that could easily be picked up in another storyline. On balance, and despite some of the repetitive story lines, I enjoyed this one. In particular, Frazer Irving's artwork..

The Anderson story Half Life dipped a little this week. I couldn't help but wonder why Sandra's gang decided to do what they did, which seemed very high risk, rather than head in a straight line for Death? Maybe I missed something subtle, but important...

Blood Of Satanus II: Dark Matters kept the pace high. Still not convinced by the art work, but the story is suitably dark and gory. I did have a slight problem with some of the dialogue Mills chose to use, particularly the line "Let's do some judging" which I can only imagine Dredd uttering after a few tins of Special Brew and a couple of lines of coke... Still, that aside, I'm enjoying the one. What's not to love about a dark cult trying to bring back a man-eating, psychopathic T-Rex!

Only two episodes of Charley's War, which wasn't enough. Still, they were very good episodes...

Onto the text articles, and The Dredd Files continued is crawl through the archives (yawn) and we had Dreddlines and that was it. I guess there simply wasn't the space for anything else as it was a pretty busy issue.

And finally... We seem to have lost the intros to the Gold reprint section and the Daily Star Dredds have gone again. Appreciate space was at a premium, but the intros really did help put the older stories into perspective.  

Discussion for Meg 216 on the 2000 AD Forum

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Meg 215 - Tyrannosaur About The House

(Link to Meg on BARNEY)

What a cover! Chris Weston is possibly (and I mean 'possibly' because it's a big statement to make) my most favourite cover artist ever in the history of the world  - ever. And I love this one! I first saw it over on his website ages ago, and to see it emblazoned on this Meg was a joy. I also require a time machine, because the competition this month wasn't some poxy DVD, but the pencils of this very cover and another version Chris did. Even the droids at the Nerve Centre were excited, because they fixed the competition so the entry date was January 2003, not January 2004! Naughty droids... ;-)

Moving on from the cover, to the actual story it depicts - which is of course Blood of Satanus II - Dark Matters. I had a good close look at the art this time, and decided it's not for me. Black and white pens I do like, but Mighten leaves too much white space in the background for my liking. Sorry Duke! The first panel was fun, because the mark of the 'chosen ones' is that their second toe is longer than their big toe. My wife has this on her feet, so I'm slightly worried right now... :-) Mills' story is good, and I'm enjoying it, and Duke's art doesn't distract from it - which is good news. The later panels are full of detail of the T-Rex fighting Dredd.

The stand-alone Dredd story My Beautiful Career was a really good story. It featured a meeting of Employees Anonymous being interrupted by a gun man with a special reason to hate the employed. I love these Dredd stories where we get an insight into the workings of Mega City One. Art droid Simon Coleby was on good form, and I feel I should give a shout out to Chris Blythe's colouring and the legend that is Tom Frame (RIP) and his lettering. Not noticing these things in reading the Meg is the highest form of praise because they simply work well as part of the overall package. Big shout out to colourers and letterers!

Judge Death Wilderness Days dipped again for me. This strip is a real roller coaster. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate reading the episodes that aren't as good, but I can't help but think that less episodes and a higher pace would have served this story better. Frazer Irving's art is still on top form - positively mind-bending in places (or a better description might be psychedelic - if you can have psychedelic in black and white!).

I can't praise the Judge Anderson Half Life story enough - its absolutely gripping. I'm on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen with Anderson and how she is going to defeat Death this time. I won't say much about the storyline, as it's too big a spoiler I think, but suffice to say Alan Grant and Tony Luke have pulled off an interesting twist to the Anderson / Death battle. Ranson's art is delicious too! This is one of those stories where you really look forward to pulling open the next Meg and deciding whether to read it first or save it to last! I don't know how the events led up to this point, because they are chronicled in Progs and/or Case Files I haven't read, but that doesn't spoil the story at all.

In the latest Whatever Happenned To series we turn the spotlight on Maria - Dredd's long serving land lady whose a bit handy with a cooking laser when she needs to be. Again, I won't say much about the story because it's a bit too big a spoiler, but it was fun reliving some of Maria's most glorious moments. I don't think Gordon Rennie thinks much of Maria, though, as he kind-of spoilt her character a bit for me. I'm not one of these people who thought Walter the Wobot and Maria ruined Dredd or were bad for the strip - they were characters for a different era and I look upon them rather fondly. So for Gordon to strip away some of the things about Maria and make her out to be a bit of a fraud in some areas, I didn't like much. Manley is on art duties and does well.

In the Gold Reprint section we had a Dredd this issue called Hitman where Dredd finds himself a figure of hate for a lot of MC1 - and in particular one nasty individual who definitely wants him dead! It's a Wagner and Grant story, scribbled by Jim Baikie, and I quite enjoyed it. I also liked it for the fact I know know where, friend of this blog, Greg Meldrum gets his current avatar from on the 2000 AD Forum...

Charley's War continued to be brilliant in every way. Can't say much more than that, really! The boys have made some advances, but come across a village where the Germans have dug in. They also learn a bit more about the nasty Lieutenant Snell...

Text articles where The Dredd Files which detailed more fact and figures about early Dredd stories. I completely skipped it and will continue to do so. Gordon Rennie charted the history of the gay comic book character in You're Next, Punk. I'm sure a few characters might be a little surprised at how Gordon perceives them! And there was news that Dredd was hitting the pages of the Metro newspaper for a six month run. I wasn't commuting into London at the time, and actually even if I was I don't read the paper, so I wonder whether it was any good...?

And finally...Floyd Kermode got another letter published in Dreddlines. Is he a mate of Alan Barnes, or did Dreddlines only get about 5 letters a month? Drop us a comment or tweet if you are reading, Floyd! I know Dreddlines isn't printed often in the latest Megs because they don't get many letters - so drop them a note (dreddlines@2000adonline.com) if you like this blog, or if you have anything to say about the Meg. Or even if you don't like the Meg - they love a bit of negativity in those letters pages!

For further reading, here's the link to the Meg 215 discussion on the 2000 AD Forum. (I should point out I don't read these before writing, so as not to influence my view, but the first post also praises Floyd for his prolific letter writing!)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Meg 214

Happy Christmas everyone and all the very best for 2004! Well, in Meg land anyway! Didn't much like this cover, just lots of characters standing around posing. Didn't like the Anderson in particular, but I am quite fussy about my Anderson artists. If it ain't the long flowing locks of David Roach or the cool 80s bob of Brett Ewins, I'm not really interested. More on Anderson later... Oh, and my Meg didn't come with all the freebies either - think what I could have done with that 2004 calendar :-)

Let's start with Charley's War. Still fantastic, thought provoking and moving in places. I suspect a lot of my reviews of this strip will say that. And that was the only reprint this issue, as lots of other strips appeared as one offs.

Let's talk about the holiday special: The Dredd story, Turkey Shoot. This started out as a bit of a turkey but did win me round in the end. In the Cursed Earth, a farmer has bred sentient turkeys that actually want Christmas. But when a gang steal them, the turkeys find life is more complicated than they thought. It is a John Wagner story with art handled by the god that is Henry Flint. I refuse to say anything bad about Henry's art, pretty much because there is nothing bad to say, and in the end I did enjoy Wagner's story. At 16 pages its a long one.

The other single episode story was Whatever Happened To Tweak? This is the further adventures of the alien Dredd rescues in the Cursed Earth saga. Tweak is back on his home world under the protection of Dredd himself. But when a human comes calling, Tweak fears his happiness may be short lived. Pat Mills scripts this one, the original Tweak creator, and pencils are taken on by the marvellous Chris Weston, inked by Ungara (who I haven't come across before). It's a short story, and it's OK. The pace is right, so it doesn't feel cramped in its 6 pages and I do like good black and white penned art. There will be more of these "Whatever Happened To" stories, and they have the potential to be quite fun.

Talking of quite fun, the Judge Death saga changed pace this time, breaking the cycle I described last time. Jay D has finally found what he is looking for, a way to end life on a massive scale. Can he be stopped? I was back to enjoying it this issue, but I do wonder how long it can keep going for.

XTNCT writer Paul Cornell rolled the story dice this month and came up with "sex". Sorry Paul, that was last month! You missed it, fella! I'm being mean (apologies Paul) because it was quite a good episode. I can't help but like this story, there is something about it that works when perhaps it shouldn't. D'Israeli's art helps a lot, and Raptor is the star, but its a bit 'out there' and I think I like that slight weirdness.

Two new sagas begin this issues, Blood of Satanus II and Anderson: Half-Life. For those not familiar with Satanus, there is a very decent write up before the story starts about the history of this character, as well as the falling out Pat Mills (his creator) had with Andy Diggle (the then editor of 2000 AD) when Diggle asked another writer for a Satanus story. Still, Pat is on writing duty for this story, drawn by some fella named Duke Mighten - an artist I'm not familiar with. I like his style though, black and white pen and ink, and look forward to seeing if he pops up again. I don't know how long this story will last but the first episode is one huge prologue. I'm not entirely sure I know what's going on, so I will cover this more next time. Going back to the David Bishop text article about Satanus, it was good to see one of my favourite Ron Smith frames used with the immortal line "Stomm! It's Peters... The man who drank the blood of Satanus!".

The Anderson story also felt like a massive prologue. I was utterly confused by it until it sort-of became clear in the last page. It didn't help the place looked like an episode of Grange Hill from the 80's, but that disorientation is key to the story and the pay off in the last page is worth it. I was in disbelief through the story, wondering why Ranson's art was so weird. Still, looking forward to seeing what happens next time.

And Apocalypse Soon finished - sadly with a bit of a whimper for me. It was a two page episode that seemed routed in a socio-political commentary. I know it was the era of Bush and Blair and Iraq and WMDs and all that nonsense, but it was a crap ending without all of that anyway. Oh well, I enjoyed the first few episodes, but I felt rather cross at being let down as I have been championing this strip and looking forward to the conclusion.

Moving on to the text articles, in addition to the Satanus analysis, Bishop provides us with The Dredd Files; a full analysis of each of the first 18 Dredd stories to appear in the Prog. He gives a synopsis, discusses characters and the strips development and then rates each story out of 5 stars. I skimmed it. It's not really something that interests me, but others will no doubt enjoy it. Gordon Rennie predicts what will happen in 2004 in his column, You're Next, Creep and for the most part is completely right ;-) Well done Gordon! He gets a bumper double page to himself as a Holiday treat...

There was a Dredd text story called Bernard written by Jonathan Morris. I rather enjoyed this one. The first few paragraphs are quite gory, but that eases up and a good little yarn ensues.

And finally... my 2000 AD forum buddy, Mabs, is also on his own personal Meg Voyage over on his Nexus Wookie blog. Well worth a visit if you have a few minutes - Mabs writes excellent book and comic reviews and is covering some of the later Megs I haven't got to yet (contains some spoilers).

And finally - er - finally! I'm going to include a link to the discussion of this issue of the Meg over on the 2000 AD Forum from now on. These are views written at the time of publication, and act as an interesting comparison to my own. Often, creators will chip in to the discussion to. Here's this months:

Meg 214 on the 2000 AD Forum

Quite a long blog entry this time - thanks for sticking with it!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Alternative View: Devlin Waugh Red Tide

I don't think I was able to do such a long and epic story like Devlin Waugh: Red Tide justice in my Meg Reviews simply because I didn't like it that much. So I have asked Greg Meldrum, fellow 2000 AD Forum member and comic blogger, to walk you through his view. Hopefully it will help you determine whether this story is worthy of your attention.

"Something To Tide You Over" by Greg Meldrum

Your host, the lovely Mr. B, wasn’t too taken with ‘Devlin Waugh: Red Tide.’ It seems the camp vamp’s stock-in-trade combo of bon mots and Kem-Kwong killing techniques just didn’t tick the requisite boxes. As someone who views the series more fondly, I’ve been asked to provide my thoughts as a counterpoint to his.

Original Devlin Waugh: Red Tide art
from the collection of Robert Cox
I’ll be blunt. ‘Red Tide’ isn’t the best Waugh story, nor the best John Smith script out there. Not even close. Its flaws are fairly apparent. It drags a bit, it gets a little repetitive, and it lacks the out-there poetry that the best of Smith’s work conveys. It is, in short, a fairly straight-forward action story with some weird trimmings, rather than a warped-to-its-core weird story with some action trimmings, such as ‘Rogue Trooper: Cinnibar’ (in many respects, the anti-‘Red Tide’.) It’s arguable that this was true of ‘Swimming in Blood’ as well, but that story had the advantage of real freshness. The juxtaposition of Waugh’s hilarious self-pitying dialogue with the creeping horror of the fast-spreading vampire plague was a winning and unique combination – it was almost as if Waugh had gate-crashed the story and seemed to be operating by an entirely separate set of rules. Here though, we’re rather more used to his now-familiar schtick, and the formula of ‘hack up the undead, use an inappropriate epithet in the process’ doesn’t have quite the same punch. However, the thing that’s most clearly missing is John Smith’s utterly unique narrative voice – the fey, febrile, frequently sinister caption boxes that help make  ‘Revere’, ‘Firekind’  and indeed ‘Swimming in Blood’ such visionary pieces. Was this Smith’s idea or editorial’s? I do wonder if it’s the latter – there seemed at times to be a concerted effort to make Smith’s writing more ‘disciplined’ (David Bishop’s word) or to make it adhere a little more closely to conventional story-telling methods. A mistake, in my view.

But that said, Smith on a fair-to-middling day is still better than most writers on a good one, and as such, I really enjoyed my re-read of ‘Red Tide’ – much more, in fact, than I thought I was going to. The flashes of Smithian genius may be less widespread, less all-encompassing and disorientating, but they are present nonetheless. By far and away the strongest elements of the story are Smith’s fascinating ideas on how vampires might adapt to an aquatic lifestyle. This aspect of the story is original and brilliant, and all the talk of bioluminescent photophores, poison quills and toxic algae-grazing sounds both outré and yet scientifically sound. We are even given tantalising glimpses of particularly well-adapted specimens: the mudskipper mutants and the deep-sea berserkers, the latter exploding if they rise to the surface too quickly. This is what I want – monstrous ecology! Frankly, I can’t think of anything more exciting to fill the pages of any comic strip. More of this and less of Lilith the Daywalker (a bit too much the writer’s pet) would have made the strip into a classic of the first water.

From the collection of Wakefield Carter
Another element that works well, and helps to build tension, is the way in which Smith exploits the change in Devlin’s status since ‘Swimming in Blood’. For most of that story, Waugh was a mortal – now that he’s undead, many methods for dealing with vampires cause him just as much harm as his foes.  Furthermore, much of the dialogue remains quintessentially Smith – not so much Devlin’s witticisms, more the language Smith uses to describe and name not only technology, but also psychic talents and aspects of vampiric heritage. Smith has always excelled at crafting evocative turns of phrase that suggest a wider world than he is able to cram into any given strip, and he does that once more here. Bloodsires and coilguns and psi-spoor – oh, my! He has a way with words, our Smiffy, hinting as he does, with Lovecraftian skill, at eerie immortal vistas of eternal blood-lust.

And speaking of blood – where would this series be without Colin MacNeil? The venerable artist claimed to be consciously channelling Tom of Finland when depicting Devlin’s muscle-bound exploits, and he turns in a ripping performance to be sure, his lurid colours adding significantly to the ambience – just a shame the whole thing got printed a bit too dark when they collected it for the trade. MacNeil’s always a good go-to man when it comes to a bit of graphic blood-letting (he seems like such a lovely chap, too!) and the script certainly gives him plenty of opportunities to indulge.

Overall, then, ‘Red Tide’ is a solid rather than spectacular outing for Devlin, but I do find myself appreciating it much more now than I did at the time – as has been rightly observed, it really should have run weekly rather than monthly. Nonetheless, it is quite important in Waugh continuity, as much for what happens on the last page as anything else, and, though the latter half of the story loses momentum somewhat, Smith and MacNeil ensure it never runs aground. Fangs for that, chaps. And fangs to Simeon too for giving me the impetus to delve back into the story’s entrails – there’s more in here than I thought!

Cheers fella! You can read more from Greg over on his blog: http://hisowndrum.blogspot.co.uk/

Got any thoughts on this? Drop a comment in or Tweet me...

Meg 213 - Coming Quietly, Creeps?

What a strange issue this is. I mean, look at the cover! I'm keeping this one in an envelope as I don't feel I can leave it lying round the house for my 9 year old to stumble upon. The Dredd the cover refers to is even stranger, and I'll come on to that shortly...

First off, let's wrap up Devlin Waugh: Red Tide - fizzle, fizzle, pop... It kind of stumbled to a conclusion and then concluded. I thought the last couple of pages or so of wrapping up the story were alright, but the pay off wasn't worth the journey. As promised in my last entry a fellow 2000 AD Forum member and comic blogger, Greg Meldrum, will be providing us with a counter-point article on Red Tide. So stay tuned for that after this posting...

The observant among you will be thinking I'm really cracking through these Megs at the moment. And that is probably due to the reprints, Charley's War and Harry 20. Starting with the latter, I found the story absolutely gripping. The tensions Gerry Finlay-Day is building with Harry's escape attempt, and the twists and turns he is throwing in along the way is keeping me utterly hooked. Will he finally free himself of The Rock prison and the evil Warden Worldwise and his cronies? And then it was over... Ah well, I wonder if there was ever a follow up written? And in Charley's War, it is the Battle of the Somme and Charley's platoon are going over the top. It's fascinating to read the account of this war from the perspective of a Tommy in the trenches.

In addition to these stories, we got a Daily Star Dredd (Hurrah!) and a Harry 20 colour poster! I haven't detached it to put on my bedroom wall - my wife would kill me :-)

Right, let's talk Dredd and the new story Crime of Passion penned by John Wagner and drawn by Cliff Robinson. It's a strange story, and I'm not sure I liked it that much. Tension is mounting at the World Sex Championships as the greatest teams from around the world compete for the ultimate prize. But the Judges learn of a plot to derail the whole championships - will they get there in time... Actually, my summary makes it sound more interesting than it actually is. It's a bit silly really. Lots of "Ooo Matron" moments a-la Kenneth Williams, which might be funny if you are 12, but I found it all rather dull. Yes there are tits and bits, and it's all "very" controversial (something Alan Barnes' editorial delights in playing to) but the story wasn't there for me. It wasn't controversial, it was dull. Sorry John Wagner, you are better than this...

XTNCT lost me again this week a little. Paul Cornell just loves rolling the "dice of different story lines", seeing what crops up and whacking that in to the world just to get in the way of our heroes (or villans, you could read it either way, depending on your view of the human race). This time is nuclear apocalypse that crimps the genetically modified creatures' day... As I have said before, XTNCT takes risks, and I have no problems with that. I'm prepared to give it a lot of slack.

I was sorry to see that Armitage was only a two-parter. It felt the storyline had more to give. I'm thinking I'm repeating myself a lot here. There have been too many stories in these Megs that have only lasted two or three episodes which needed a longer run, particularly when others have gone on for bloody ages (yes, Devlin Waugh, looking right at you). I was looking forward to a detective story with a lot of detective work, but what I got was a quickly contrived plot vehicle where it all fell into place in about 5 panels. Quite grumpy about that.

The Las Vegas exploits of Judge Death started to wane on me this week. I hope this one isn't going to outstay it's welcome. It needs wrapping up, I think, otherwise it will be a slow and lingering death (which I'm sure Jay D himself would enjoy). Still holding my interest, but I'm just wondering if we aren't slightly on "repeat" with the storylines. Judge Death turns up, trusts some humans or muties to help his mission of destroying all life, they betray him, he gets mad and kills a few people, he moves on - and repeat.... The most entertaining thing about this story is still Judge Death's internal monologue. Perhaps a "Secret Diary of Judge Death Aged Several Millennia" might be a good follow up (with apologies to Sue Townsend)!

Lacking a text article this issue, probably because Devlin Waugh was a double episode, but Gordon Rennie was still on hand in You're Next Creep to dispense his usual quality ranting. This time it was how to play a drinking game with 2000 AD based on popular Dredd plotlines. Very good, Gordon! Apocalype Soon rounded off the Meg with God getting utterly fed up with the Horseman and finding some replacements!

And finally... a few letters in Dreddlines supporting my view of Charley's War and of the excellent Sturm and Dang Dredd. Nice to know you're right some of the time :-)

Friday, 9 August 2013

Meg 212 - Heads Up!

Two blog entries in one day can only mean one thing - two Megs read! It's a tough old job this Meg Odyssey! To the cover, and what a cover. Mr Simon Davis take a bow, sir, because that is a wonderful painting of craggy old Brit-Cit cop Armitage, and a rather horrible looking head in a jar. More on that later...

I heaped praise on Charlie's War last time - suffice to say it is still hitting the mark and I know it will continue to do so for a while yet. Mills' writing and Joe Colquhoun's art together are perfection... Harry 20 also kept the pace high this month. After months of planning, Harry and his chums are hoping to make it to Earth in their escape capsule - but will the other prisoners or the warders let them - and what is the awful secret they carry with them... Gripping stuff...

Judge Dredd: Sturm und Dang reached it's conclusion. I shall miss it, as it was another cracking story and, again, I can't help but wonder if it was too short. I say that a lot about Gordon Rennie's Dredds, but I just enjoy them so much! There is a lot of action in his writing, and Ezquerra's art was spot on. I enjoyed the character of disgraced Judge Koburn, and am hopeful we may get a back story or another Cursed Adventure with him in it in the future. He keeps his cap pulled down over his eyes, so like Dredd, you never see his face. Is that significant, I wonder...

After initial reservations, I am very much into the Judge Death story The Wilderness Days. Jay D ends up in Las Vegas, and if you are familiar with the Cursed Earth saga (if not, get thee to your nearest Thrill Merchant and purchase Complete Case Files 02), he meets up with some familiar characters. Having now figured out this is being played for humour, I am enjoying it immensely. I do hope it carries on for a goodly while yet...

XTNCT continues with the genetically modified crew working their way to Seattle this time. They find a bunch of humans who are relying on their baser instincts, rather than their intelligence, making them a harder quarry. Some episodes definitely work better than others, and whilst good, this one was not as good as previous ones. Perhaps the lack of Raptor appearing much in it was a factor for me...

A new thrill this issue was Armitage: Apostasy In The UK. Armitage is a Brit-Cit cop, a detective rather than a Judge. His job is to work crimes like the CID do in the UK police force today, and he can call upon Judges for backup. He is grumpy, over-worked and under-paid and is feeling his age. His sidekick, Steel, is young and keen - which seems to make him even grumpier. I like this character, and the story line looks like a classic detective story that I like anyway (I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan, and there are certainly elements to that side of British crime writing in this story style). I guess Armitage reminds me a little of Morse, but grumpier! Dave Stone is the script droid for this story, and the marvellous John Ridgeway handles the art. Looking forward to seeing how this one plays out.

Blazing Battle Action concluded with a look at the decline of the comic title - as it agreed a licence with the Action Force toy line. A lot of creators moaning about the loss of quality and the declining standards. Funnily enough, this is where I jumped on, sucked in by having Action Force figures. I enjoyed the stories as a kid, and of course, had no clue that the art of John Cooper I admired so much was absolutely hated by the artist himself. He was very upset to be taken off Johnny Red and put on the kids toys section.

The other text articles saw D'Israeli in the Interrogation Cube where he reveals he is learning German and his girlfriend reads out loud to him if he is working late. And, joy, grumpy grots himself Gordon Rennie is back for his You're Next, Creep column. In my last post, I was moaning about the amount of adverts for Dredd vs Death. In his column, Gordon moans about books of comics, games of books of comics, and so on. Good to have you back, sir!

Apocalypse Soon dipped a little for me this week. Hopefully it is setting up for something next time.

And finally...Devlin Waugh fans will be relieved to hear I thought this week's episode was OK. We might be starting to get somewhere at long last. I have also asked one of my fellow 2000 AD Forum Members to write a review of the story once I have finished reading the whole thing. That way, you will get a counter-point from someone that did enjoy the story, and hopefully give you some insights that I simply am unable to pull out for you. Something to look forward to...

Meg 211 - Portrait of a Ssserial Killer

This Meg came with a choice of two Judge Death covers. The copy I have is a subscribers copy (which BARNEY says is one of only 3750 copies!), so it actually came wrapped in both covers - a nice idea. The outer cover has to be my favourite - a wonderful parody of the Batman Killing Joke cover by Brian Bolland with the Joker replaced by Judge Death. One arch nemesis replaced by another. Brilliant stuff from Frazer Irving, and a firm favourite.

So the amazing Charlie's War began to be reprinted this month. Whatever the feelings are about Darkie's Mob being racist and stuck in the past (and people are still writing to Dreddlines to complain) these must be out aside for Charlie's War. I know the Meg is a Sci Fi anthology, based around the world of Judge Dredd. Put that to one side for a second, and appreciate one of the finest stories to grace comics. Full stop. Reading it now has quite a powerful effect. I don't mind saying I had tears in my eyes and a big old lump in my throat. As a kid, I remember it well - especially the mud and filth and the bulging face of 'Old Bill' the sergeant barking orders at the men. In my adult days I now know a lot more about this period of history and knowing what Charlie is about to face is quite an emotional thing. He joins the Western Front six weeks before the Battle of the Somme...

The text story, Blazing Battle Action, told by David Bishop is still holding my interest. Again, this may be because I read the Battle comic as a kid. A reader of the Meg who did not may skip this and wonder why a quarter of their magazine is taken up with a load of guff from a 70's war comic...

Back to the Sci Fi. Oh, hang on, The Bendatti Vendetta, isn't Sci Fi! I'm enjoying it though. The newest recruit is put through his paces, but its difficult to see who is testing who. Again, Robbie's story gives you a pay off at the end of the episode. He really is a top writer! But as quickly as it started, it has finished. Gah! More please!

Right, now let's get back to the Sci Fi! Harry 20 is still marvellous. Harry and his buddies are deep into their escape preparations, but others are becoming suspicious... There is some real dramatic tension in this story that may not have been appreciated by children, but it's gripping stuff for adults.  Really enjoying this one.

Then there is the Dredd story Sturm Und Dang. Firstly, it's another Gordon Rennie story. Hurrah! Secondly, is drawn by 'Rey' Carlos Ezquerra. Twice hurrah! Thirdly it's a Cursed Earth saga! I'll stop with the 'Hurrahs', but I think you get my point. All the right ingredients for a cracking story and it really is. Dredd is forced to enlist the help of a disgraced ex-Judge Koburn when his Hotdog Run group are asked to take out a gang of Muties. Muties with Nazi tendencies.

Really now enjoying Judge Death: The Wilderness Days . This episode was particularly good in being a parody of Natural Born Killers - with Jay Death along for the ride. Now I have got used to the style and story-telling, it's become a firm favourite.

XTNCT is also going well. I have to confess to not fully following the story this episode, but the character of Raptor totally makes up for that. If I meet D'Israeli at a comic con and can get a sketch off him, Raptor would be my choice. He's a brilliant little character who 'speaks' using no vowels (so XTNCT = 'Extinct'). It's a bit like playing the missing vowels round in Only Connect reading his dialogue... Some may find it frustrating at first, but please persevere!

The Four Horsemen have finally found their Horses and are on a full charge in Apocalypse Soon. Tony Blair and George W. Bush make an appearance - very topical! In The Interrogation Cube was Frazer Irving, who was quite grumpy about the whole thing - but never as grumpy as Mr Grumpy Gordon Rennie! Speaking of which, he finally seems to have run out of steam as his regular column You're Next Punk has disappeared. I hate it when that happens. It's like when the Daily Star Dredd's vanished. No warning - just gone.. Also, a lot of adverts in this month's Meg - seemingly all for the same thing: Dredd vs Death the novel; Dredd vs Death the computer game; then the computer game again... Filler!!!

And finally...Devlin Waugh. Meh.... (BTW, if you are a big Devlin Waugh fan, leave a comment - tell the world why it's so great! Balance my lethargy over the strip. Explain to me why it isn't the same every week of crap one-liners and random chasing of people by vampires!)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Meg 210 - Let's Go To Wok

(Meg 210 on BARNEY)

Seeing as Reservoir Dogs had a profound effect on me as a young man I was always going to like this cover. Mr Woo and and Mr Dredd with the other Sino-Cit agents. Loved it. No silly borders as well, full page art, which was good to see.

I promised more on the reprint stories in my last review, so lets start with an ending - the end of Darkies Mob. Dreddlines letters have showed it divided opinion, but as I said previously, I have enjoyed it. The last few episodes were really very good. The end is in sight for the Mob, but will they go out in a bang or a whimper? Wagner's writing is of the highest order and I genuinely felt a bit emotional at the ending. Whether you think it should have been re-run or not, writing like that needed a reprint. I don't think I can recall the last comic I read where a little lump popped into my throat at the end... And next month, the amazing Charlie's War starts. This strip, along with Johnny Red, totally caught my imagination as a 9/10 year old. Can't wait!

Harry 20 got off to a good start last Meg and carried on this issue. Set in the future, Harry is convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sent to The High Rock - a satellite prison orbiting the Earth that houses 10,000 criminals. There, your last name is lost - replaced with the length of your sentence (hence Harry 20). I know it sounds like a poor mans Escape From Alcatraz or The Great Escape but the twist is the cold, dark space between Harry and freedom. Swimming and tunnelling are not an option! Gerry Finlay-Day keeps the tempo high and the art by Alan Davis is very good. A bonkers Future Shock by a writer and artist I'm not familiar with round off the reprints. A Meg feels better with a Future Shock...

The text article, Blazing Battle Action, is part 2 of the story of the Battle comic. David Bishop continues in the same vein of Thrill Power Overload, turning his attention to the popular boys comic from the 70's and 80's. I hadn't realised how many of the 2000 AD regulars like Mills, Wagner and Ezquerra had been involved. If you read Battle and enjoyed Thrill Power Overload, this is a great little history lesson. If you didn't and - er - didn't, as it were, you might well skip this.

Gordon Rennie continued his top Dredd run with the conclusion to Hong Tong. And it's an all action episode. There are gun fights, martial arts and cars exploding. What's not to like! This isn't Dredd exploring his inner demons, it's Dredd kicking ass! It is a top episode and I can't recommend it highly enough. XTNCT continued to please. The genetic army find their first colony of humans since the Bourdeaux incident. What will they decide to do with them? I got more into the Judge Death story The Wilderness Days. One of the Dreddlines letters praised the story for revealing Death's inner thoughts in his mission to destroy all life. Clinging to that nugget of insight I enjoyed this episode a whole lot more. Thank you Floyd Kermode of Japan! Another of Floyd's insights summed up Devlin Waugh for me. It's like synchronised swimming. It's difficult, I couldn't do it, they work very hard but its quite boring and I don't care if I never see it again. Except Floyd was talking about The Bendatti Vendetta. Remember, I'm giving this a chance because its a Robbie Morrison story and this week started to move with a pace when we got the back story of the founder of the group of vigilantes. I enjoyed it. It's not Sci Fi or horror, but I don't really care. Others might.

Patrick Goddard's insights in The Interrogation Cube were interesting. Even he has no real love for Wardog. And Gordon Rennie's rant was how he just chucks loads if stuff away, not caring how valuable it might be. I think my wife wishes I was a bit better at chucking stuff out!

And finally... Apocalypse Soon. Still making me smile!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Meg 209 - Road Kill

(Meg 209 on BARNEY)

Slightly different design for this Meg cover, with the white border and different title font. I don't think I like the border much, but it could be just the way Greg Staples painted the Judge Death picture necessitated it. And what a painting it is! I love Greg's covers. Prog 1750 being my most favourite cover ever to grace a Prog.

Dreddlines published a very anti Darkie's Mob letter and a very pro one. Again, Alan Barnes made clear his view is to not focus on the jingoistic, anti-Japanese elements and, instead, focus on it being just a cracking war story that could have been set in any time or any place. It just so happened in the 70's that boys wanted to read World War II stories. As I said in my previous review, I think it is worthy of inclusion in a reprint section. Whether 2000 AD should be reprinting stories from the Battle comic, however, is a different kettle of fish. It doesn't bother me, I like them, but I'm sure it will annoy others who would much prefer reprints of 2000 AD material, if reprints are to be included at all.

Back to the Darkie's Mob story and in this set of episodes the mob face their biggest challenge yet when Darkie himself is captured. Can they save their leader?

Let's look at the FOUR new stories (yes, four!) in this issue. XTNCT is a quirky tale about the last few humans in the very far future. And being human, they have created armies to fight their wars for them. These armies are genetically modified dinosaurs, animals and plants. I wasn't sure about it to begin with, but I'm glad I pushed that thought to one side, because it looks like a good start. Scripted by Paul Cornell, whose name I don't recognise, and drawn by D'Israeli, who I do recognise, it is rendered in grey-scale which adds to the bleakness of this future world. The first text box we see really sets the scene:

"This place was once called Bordeaux. Then New Oslo. Then Edenurrathe. Then Blue. The three other names."

i.e. we are so far into the future - you need to leave any frame of reference you have behind! So GM dinosaurs and walking, talking tress don't seem that weird!

Then we have The Bendatti Vendetta which is totally opposite; set much nearer our own time and full colour painting, rather than greys and blacks. Again, I didn't hold out much hope (perhaps I was just a bit grumpy when I read this Meg!), but saw it was by Robbie Morrison and pushed all thoughts of misery out of my head. Robbie is absolutely, totally one of my favourite comic book writers. Please, please check our Shakara or his most recent work, Drowntown, and you will not be disappointed...  I think I was feeling negative about this because it reminded me too much of Black Light, which was reprinted in a recent Meg, and I didn't like. Anyway, back to this story. It is about a shadowy organisation who take on criminals the police are unable to touch. It's John Burns on art duties, and whilst I haven't liked some of his other stuff, I liked this artwork and script together. It did start a little slowly, and I thought I would be into the realms of Family - i.e. completely lost on what was going on - but I wasn't and at the end of the episode I wanted more...

Death On The Road is a Judge Death spin off, where Death is wandering the Cursed Earth. It was OK, I guess, it did teeter a bit on being silly. Maybe it was "played for laughs", but it didn't quite hit the mark. However, I am reserving judgement until next episode - unlike Judge Death himself who would have just extinguished the strip from existence :-) Loved Frazer Irving's black and white penned artwork, and it's a John Wagner script, so lots to like about this...

The new Dredd, Hong Tong, is a Gordon Rennie script - so I was immediately looking forward to it after reading Bato Loco in Meg 202. It didn't disappoint. Dredd has to leave MC1 behind to pursue a gang who are hiding known lawbreakers by giving them an entirely new body. He meets up with an old adversary from Sino-Cit (from Prog 1233 apparently) who is now on the side of the law...or is he? Looking forward to the next one.

Devlin Waugh - well - I'm running out of things to say. I think I ran out a couple of reviews ago. We are lumbering towards a conclusion. I do wonder if it might best be read in one sitting, rather than as a serial. Perhaps I'm losing the tension in between other strips. Or perhaps it's not really my thing. I dunno. I don't skip it, I'm quite interested to see how it ends. But I won't be crying when it does end. MacNeil's art is probably the thing holding my attention the most. By Grud, the man can paint...

Back to the reprint section, and we have lost the Daily Star Dredd Reprints! Nooooo! This is a terrible decision, Mr Barnes. Why? They were only half a page - surely room could be found for a half page reprint? Tut. Anyway, Harry Twenty On The High Rock (which I'll just shorten to Harry 20) began. I've wittered on a lot in this review, so I'll just say it's very good and I'll cover it more next time. I'll also cover the text article Blazing Battle Action by David Bishop more next time, where David is tracing the roots of the awesome Battle comic... Gordon Rennie is still finding things to rant about - this month it's co-writing. Quite informative actually...

And finally...can't leave out Apocalypse Soon. Still love it...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Meg 208 - Stealing, Scheming, Scamming, Cheating...

(Meg 208 On BARNEY)

Whilst southern England bakes in 32ºC heat, I'm still working my way through these Megs of mine. I was pleased to see the return of Bato Loco and liked the humour of the cover a lot! Possibly my favourite Meg cover so far?

So let's start with the Puerto Novan wiseguy. On the plus side, I liked the Gordon Rennie story and I still like the character a lot. I'm pretty sure in a future Meg, he gets a reprint all to himself, so hopefully there are a few more stories to come. I found the art not to my taste, though. It looked like it should have been coloured, and it was distracting is trying to sort out which line belonged to which bit of the frame. it hasn't put me off Simon Coleby as an artist, but I hope this black and white experiment is shelved and coloured Bato Loco is the order of the day from now on...

The only disappointment with the Dredd story Shakedown is that it finished. As I said in previous reviews, you just start to get into a story arc - and it finishes - Young Middenface being an example of that...

Another story that finished was Black Siddha. I won't give anything away, but this arc did rather feel like a prequel to setting up what will happen next. It was very good, and I hope to see it back soon.

Apocalypse Soon continues to delight and make yours truly smirk a lot (you've got to check out the horses - they really are having a good time in this episode!). Devlin Waugh is still going (I can't really add much more than that) and we have a replacement for Family which is a pilot episode of Repo-Mex. In his introduction to the Meg, Alan Barnes asks "if you want to know what happens next, be sure to tell us...". Sure, Alan, no problems. No thanks. I mean, it was an OK story, but it's not top of my list to be brought back to the Meg. Bring back Young Middenface, Alan! (Except even if Alan Barnes is reading this, I'm kind-of 10 years too late!). So what's Repo-Mex about? Well there's a hotel in deep space where the scum of the earth seem to wash up, staffed by droids. And one droid in particular is going to have his life changed. What I didn't like is the droids seem to have feelings. That's weird and not normal Sci-Fi convention. I mean, I get people really can't fly and all that, but this just seemed to push believability too far. Why would a droid have feelings? Who would have created them like that? Anyway, sexually active droids I can do without, thanks, so sorry - Alan - not for me this one...

In the Gold repro section we had three fairly obscure Dredds and Darkie's Mob. On the Dredds, there was some lovely Ezquerra art to feast upon and Steve Dillon's first Dredd. Bear in mind these Megs pre-date the Complete Case Files reprints, so it was probably the first time some, or all three, of these had been dug out of the archives. The stories were The Other Slab Tynan, The Greatest Story Ever Told and The Big Itch. Well worth a look - I have a soft spot for early Dredd. If you want to read them they all appear in the Restricted Files Vol.1.

Darkie's Mob carried on in the same vein of boys 70's war action. Dreddlines received some complaints, even with the dialogue changes, saying that the Meg should be leaving this sort of strip in the past where it belongs. That the Jap-bashing content wasn't really the sort of thing we should be reading nowadays. Maybe that's true, but I like the strip because:

  1. It is of it's time and it is the sort of thing I remember fondly from my childhood. Coming to it cold is perhaps a different experience,
  2. The Gold article in this issue on the origin of ABC Warriors cited Darkie's Mob as an influence in it's development.
  3. It's early John Wagner - the man is a comic-writing god - and it's fisty-cuffs with anyone who disagrees ;-)
So I come out in favour of the reprint happening, but I totally get why others don't like it.

The text article this month was a feature on the Audio stories that were licensed from Rebeliion back in 2001. Written by Scott Montgomery it details how Big Finish Productions were looking for a new idea to create audio stories with and settled on 2000 AD characters. I enjoyed the first part of the article, including info that the stories featured voices from Simon Pegg, Louise Jameson, Mark Gatiss and Clare Buckfield amongst others. But is then descended into a blow-by-blow account summarising each story that was available. More advertising than information, and I left it there. You can still buy the stories today over on the 2000 AD Big Finish website.

And finally...The Daily Star Dredd was another good-un - with quality Ron Smith art to boot. I wish the Meg still reprinted these today - it really wouldn't take up much room and they are a delight!

Right - off to see if my entire body will fit in a freezer (don't try that at home, kids...)