JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE #342 | REVIEW

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In this months Meg, a lot of the running stories will conclude with new ones waiting to take their places for the Christmas edition. And just like the past few months, this month we also have another excellent Meg on our hands.

Let me begin with the cover; I always look forward to Colin MacNeil’s covers but this right here is simply jawdroppingly, saliva droolingly magnificent. With the deep sepia toned background (with a ‘magic hour’ vibe to it), and the droid, bullet ridden but still standing in salute to a character off cover, it is at once a beautiful and sombre work. And quite possibly one of my favourite of the year.

We begin with Judge Dredd: Duty Calls, by Alec Worley and Ben Willsher. I have to say that I am on the fence regarding Willsher’s art, I do not find it appealing yet do not dislike it either. One of my issues is with the inability to discern what is going on a lot of the time, no doubt it’s very visceral but the rough scratchy style just isn’t my cup of tea. Having said that, I did enjoy the story which revolves around Judge Dredd and a fellow Judge (Garrick) being holed up in a war ravaged area under attack from a rogue Judge, who looks like a cross between the Green Goblin and the Silver Surfer, taking pot shots at them from his Powerboard. It’s a nice little tale, with a brilliant last panel showing the sacrifice made by all those who died upholding the law. There’s also a nod to some past Doctor Who’s in one panel (what with it being the show’s 50th Anniversary and what not) which I thought was pretty cool.

We then have an Interrogation with artist Will Simpson, which I enjoyed reading. I normally read the interviews/ features after finishing the strips, and this was another really informative and interesting piece by Mike Molcher looking into Mr. Simpson’s upbringing and work through the years. I can’t say I’m familar with it (his work) , but what it does do is give me the desire to go and seek it out. He seems like a lovely bloke by the way!

Insurrection III (Part Nine) is up next and I must say I was trying my damnest not to choke up. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking finalé to a magnificent series. I have read the second and now this, the last series, and I can comfortably say that it has been one of the best stories in the Meg during the last few years. I am saddened to see it end, but Dan Abnett gives it a memorable sendoff. I had come to grow fond of the characters, from Simeon, Freely and Luther to all the droids and mutants which made up the Liberty brotherhood.

One thing I noticed during my reading of this series and the last one, is that we do not see the enemy, the Zhinds, face to face other then a shot of an arm (like here) or two. I wonder if that was that a conscious decision by Abnett and MacNeil? Nevertheless, I feel it works really well. Afterall, the real story is about the Insurrectionists and their persuers, and the characters on both sides.

Colin MacNeil’s art is simply stunning, from the opening panel (where we see the title at the start rather than the end), to those quiet moments between Simeon and Freely which nearly brought a tear to my eye, and the closing moments with the hooded figure who relates the story. It’s superb work indeed.

I will really miss this strip. I hope when we see it collected in a trade, we see the entire series in one book; how about a hardcover like Trifecta? That would be perfect. But for now all I can say is thank you Dan, Colin et al, for a marvellous, memorable story.

Ordinary (Part Three) follows soon after, and we have another mindbogglingly mad (not to mention delightful) episode! Our hero Richmond Cle…er, I mean Michael Fisher still carries on with his quest to locate his son, while the world around him goes bonkers. From those in high places, to those on the streets, nobody has a clue what is going on with everyone exhibiting his/ her own extraordinary powers except for poor old Michael. But as is demonstrated with his encounter with a human bomb, not everyone has it easy. This is another fun packed episode from Rob Williams, and some lovely art from D’Israeli. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story developes next month.

Next up, another Interrogation, this time with Warwick Johnson Cadwell. I really enjoyed reading it, although slightly shorter than the first interview. There’s some lovely art on display from Cadwell, and I’d love to seek some of it out. Well done to Matthew Badham and Mike Molcher for two really enjoyable Interrogations!

Finally, Dredd: Underbelly (Part Three). I must say I was really disappointed with this concluding episode. There are some excellent panels on display by Henry Flint, not least that double page splash of the block interior (it reminded me of Minority Report’s Spyder scene), but Arthur Wyatt’s script for this episode was so….uninspiring. I mean it started off pretty well, I enjoyed Part One and Two, but was not overly bowled over by it. As soon as I thought things would get interesting, it bloody ends. That’s the problem, the story felt too brief, not to mention no way near as exciting or thrilling as the movie. In fact, if this was a live-action sequel, it would probably be a really poor one. I mean sequels….they’re rarely good. Hopefully the threequel (if there is one) will fare much better.

So a pretty strong Meg overall. Ordinary and Insurrection were the standout for me. It’ll be interesting to see some of the new line ups next issue, and I’m looking forward to it too!

Before I finish, a small word on the floppy – Lobster Random; I fragging loved it! This is some trade quality stuff, I’m surprised to see it in the floppy. I’m not a big fan of Spurrier’s work, but his creation of Lobster Random is inspirational stuff! The story was laugh out loud funny, with some eye popping artwork by Carl Critchlow. I say it again, how on earth was this not in a trade?!! It boggles the mind!

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The extra Future Shock stories at the end were also a blast, not least ‘Big Red’, with its futuristic take on Moby Dick!

Judge Dredd Megazine: 4/5
Lobster Randon: Tooth & Claws: 5/5

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