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...