Does Dredd Still Have the Thrill Power? – Judge Dredd Megazine #369
Lots of different stories, covering a wide swathe of the 2000AD 'universe'
Standard of artwork is good overall, colouring is nice, though occasionally a little TOO lurid
Nice interviews with some Brit artists and writers doing cool stuff both in the UK and the US
Because it's designed mostly to keep people coming back week after week, reading an issue in isolation requires some impressive imagination leaps to keep up
Probably not the best way to tempt a Dredd virgin to start a collecting habit because it's in the middle of a number of different stories.
OK, so first things first: I’m British, so I know who Judge Dredd is, and I grew up aware and sometimes reading 2000AD (kids aren’t always good at consistency, we’re too easily distracted!). However, it’s probably been more than 20 years since I purposefully sat down and read an issue; I’ve flirted about the edges, like trying out the wargame from Warlord Games, and enjoying the film (the Karl Urban one, of course).
From the cover, issue 369 of Judge Dredd Megazine FEELS like 2000AD, and that’s simultaneously reassuring and scary. Reassuring, because it’s a very British and down to earth kind of screwed up, bleak sci-fi. Scary because it reminds me of how I got my sense of humour, among other things.
Inside there’s a bit of a mish-mash of different stories. Some are partway in, some are standalone, some are just starting, but I enjoyed them all to varying extents. Jude Dredd is still Judge Dredd, the judges of Megacities 1 and 2, etc are still grim, unyielding, with occasional dashes of betrayal and heroic sacrifice.
The interviews, with Dan McDad, Al Ewing, and Alec Worley & Pye Parr are enjoyable, and serve to remind us that we Brits still produce some very smart and talented writers and artists for the comic world. The interview with Alec & Pye prefaces the first part of Realm of the Damned, a stark, nordic-inspired horror whose clean lines, pale tones with stark flashes of red are perfectly suited to the plot. The framing is deliberately uneven, throwing out odd angles and lop sided panels to keep you unsettled and flitting between tightly focusing on one character to highlight their terror or insanity and pulling back to wide sweeping vistas showing the loneliness and scale of the location of a scene relative to the world around it. I might just need to come back for more!
The Dredd story, The Gyre Part Two, is full of lurid, bright colours, making effective use of blues and greens to highlight the mutation and rot of the environment. However it possesses an airbrushed quality that means it doesn’t feel as sharp as the classic black & white Dredd strips, something that is very hard to ignore and occasionally makes the page too busy, with speech bubbles for some of the characters jagged and uneven, and hard to read. It was still a very Dredd tale of pain, heroics, no mercy and betrayal.
DeMarco, PI is part three of a story called Damocles, set in Mega City 2. It’s a more traditional black and white linework strip, and feels very familiar, with madness, betrayal and stoic heroism. I enjoyed it, and could pick up enough of the previous two parts to understand what was going on. Does this mean the stories are too predictable, or that the tropes of Judge Dredd are just fused into the British consciousness at an instinctive level?
The second Dredd story, Dust, Part 3, is a full colour strip again, but with more traditional colouring and lettering. I found it a lot easier to read and follow. Some action out in the Cursed Earth, but come back next time, kids because It felt a little too short to me.
Synammon, Arc of Light was a nice, sci-fi semi-standalone story that seems to fit within an arc. I’d like to read some more, I must admit, as while it was as dark as expected for a Dredd book, it reminded me more of something like Dark Angel or Firefly than Dredd. lots of action, a little morality, space ships and explosions. Would come again!
Tyranny Rex, The Comeback was originally printed in 2000AD progs 1395-1399 and is a little bit Richard Morgan with personalities being put into new bodies when they die, genetic engineering, mysterious contracts, villains and such. Still enjoyable, but I should maybe remember that, while it’s over pretty quickly, it was originally in four parts! Assassins, second chances and betrayal! Colourful, clean linework, nice colouring and lettering.
Tyranny Rex, Systems of Romance , originally from the 1989 2000AD Sci-Fi Special, uses a mixture of black and white and colour, to tell a story of redemption, madness and mercy. I could almost hear Malcolm McDowell in full Clockwork Orange mode as I read this story. Messy and bleak, but enjoyably so.
Overall, there’s a lot here, and I’m sure that if you buy it regularly, you will enjoy it even more, with it’s serial nature. Lots of little flashes of story adding up over the weeks. It’s nice to mix it up with the interviews and letters page, and cool that they bring back some shlock sci fi and horror from the classic 2000AD progs too. Fun to dip into and nostalgic, but more fun for the committed fan!!