Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Judge Dredd: Babel Part 1
Credits: Ian Edginton (script) D’Israeli (art) Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Matthew Blair: It has been ages since Mega City One had a break. Chaos Day was an absolute nightmare that left most of the city in ruins and a huge chunk of the population dead. Now, it seems that a benevolent group of aliens have decided to partner with Mega City One to construct an interstellar highway that will revitalize the city’s economy and put a lot of citizens to work. It’s a hard and dangerous undertaking, mostly due to humans who don’t like the fact that aliens have come to Earth and are willing to destroy any and all progress in the name of keeping Earth in the hands of humanity.
Fortunately, Judge Dredd is on the case and ready to lay down the law, and the aliens are more than happy to help.
“Judge Dredd: Babel Part 1” is written by Ian Edginton who has a keen understanding of how the world of Mega City One works and how crime procedurals work, because that is the core of this story. While Edginton forgoes many of the zanier aspects of the setting, he demonstrates a core understanding of who Dredd is and does a great job of showing his mythical status in this world through his interactions with city higher ups and the aliens themselves. On top of that, Edginton is great at quickly and efficiently setting up the plot, the main cast of characters, and the threat to Dredd and his mission all while leaving the audience on a solid cliffhanger that promises lots of violence and action.
While the story of “Judge Dredd Babel Part 1” may be light on the frills, the artwork from D’Israeli makes up for it in spades. The art feels psychedelic and is very reminiscent of old school, high end European comics from the 70’s and 80’s, and it even feels safe to say it looks like if Moebius did a cool blacklight poster. The weird alien designs and sci-fi machine clutter is complemented by a gorgeous color scheme that looks bold, rich, and has enough detail in it that you could look at the pages for hours and still be entertained.
“Judge Dredd Babel Part 1” is a solid introduction to a traditional police story with stunning artwork and plenty of thrills.
Storm Warning Dead and Gone Part 1
Credits: John Reppion (script), Clint Langley (art), Jim Campbell (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Psi-division so often deals with occult issues, it’s refreshing to find that Judge Lilian Storm is well armed for the job. Part of the way through this story, John Reppion has her employimg holy water to get down to the truth of the mystery she’s currently called to. It’s old school, practical, and very indicative of the flavor of the story he’s telling. He is mixing some good old body horror with some true existential dread as the doppelgänger imps that are impersonating a citizen are also clearly messing with the minds of everyone around there, except our dear Lilian. In addition to all this, Reppion started with a flash to the future that implied that Lilian Storm may soon be dead, along with the head of the Psi department. It’s an ominous way to start and given the doppelgänger infestation implied in the story possibly a fake out for us readers.
Clint Langley’s art, though a little static compared to some, truly shines in its expressiveness of his faces and his ability to deliver haunting horrifying images. The standout visual image is the page where the doppelgänger is revealed through the holy water spray. It’s a little funny and a lot grotesque as the face seems made up of so so so many little imps. People’s facial expressions are really exaggerated and elastic and all the more unsettling as he tries for realism in his art. He also gives Storm a real flare for the dramatic in her posture and poses. His color palette is visually interesting, even if it’s lots of muted ghostly tones. ‘Dead and Gone’ is good solid classic horror storytelling all around.Continued below
Devlin Waugh: Karm Police, Part 1
Credits: Ales Kot (script), Rob Richardson (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: After a rich, saturated tale full of deep reds and blacks in the last Waugh Megazine arc, “Karma Police” changes the visual language considerably. Rob Richardson’s Devlin is more upright, less impish, and the color palette is muted. Gone is the focused, cinematic approach full of sumptuous shadows, in favor of a more restrained, pulled back, pastel look. It is only when we get a glimpse at Titivilus that the connection to ‘The Reckoning’ really comes into view. It’s not surprising than an enchanted dildo brings you back to the last time you saw…well, an enchanted dildo.
The bulk of the tale is a flashback to an ancestor of Devlin’s (who looks an awful like his descendent) who turns cannibalistic on a wagon trip across the North American continent. The unquestionably British Devlin lets out a sincere “ewww” when he finds out he must travel to the United States and, as an American, I get it, Dev. Ales Kot does a fabulous job giving Devlin enough a detachment that serves him well in his supernatural endeavors, but also can pull that away with one fell swoop to allow some panic and disgust creep in when need be. It’s a fun start to a new Waugh tale.
Dark Judges: Death Metal Planet Part One
Credits: David Hines (script), Nick Percival (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Chris Egan: On a distant planet Thanatopia, forces both natural and supernatural keep the Dark Judges imprisoned and far from Earth – and Mega City One. Following the remnants and the descendants of the Mortarian Death Cult, Thanatopia is home to those who want the Dark Judges hidden away forever and those who would see them unleashed to spread their hatred and violence through the galaxy. Hines gives us a surprisingly quiet opening chapter that is equally an inward-looking character piece and lore expanding fantasy tale.
Subverting expectations both big and small, Hines plays around with what we think characters will be doing, who is placed in what position, and exactly what kind of story this is going to be.
Nick Percival’s art is a colorful and haunting dreamscape. It’s beautiful and calls back to some of the comic art greats, like Dave McKean or Bill Sienkiewicz. Lines blur, colors blend, but it’s done in a way that is still clear and not so obscure that the image and message is lost.
A rare multi chapter strip for Megazine, ‘Death Metal Planet’ gives us just enough set up to get a bigger story started and leaves us wanting more and waiting for the next issue.
Surfer: Book Two, Part 1
Credits John Wagner (script) Colin MacNeil(art) Chris Blythe(colours) Simon Bowland(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The second book of “Surfer” begins with a strange brew of judicial and procedural paradoy, omnipresent surveillance, neglectful fathers, and other ingredients. John Wagner and Colin MacNeil make it all mostly work. All of these elements gives one the feeling that even as the surprisingly fresh faced Zane Perks is declared “free” he is not, never was, and never will be free.
The opening to this second chapter in the “Surfer” saga largely acts as an abbreviated recap of the first book as Zane gets his appeal for crimes potentially committed in the previous strip. The particulars and the exculpating evidence are yada-yada’d, which is the point. You have a senile Judge who might not be that senile. A law bot that’s a mixture of zany and eccentric, but maybe not enough to really qualify as either. And in the background the silhouettes of two Judges who have designs for Zane if they can get to him in time.
Artist Colin MacNeil does about as good a job as one can hope for when balancing the largely staid positioning of a courtroom drama. Letterer Simon Bowland also does their best packing in Wagner’s copious dialogue so that everything is readable. There is a purposefully cramped and uncomfortable quality to these pages that work even if they aren’t the most plainly readable.
Where MacNeil stands out is at the end with Zane freed and allowed to skysurf to his crappy apartment with his drunk Father. There’s an ironic Ghibili-esque sense of freedom to the splash page as Zane surfs home in the sunset. The page is a large splash and he is frying a traditional symbol of freedom, but he’s still surrounded and trapped by the jutting skyscrapers of the mega city. Chris Blythe’s colors give the mega city a weirdly up beat feeling. The line art is the traditional run down overdeveloped sci-fi hell, but there is a brightness and odd sense of naturalism with the colors that creates the feeling that it isn’t so bad. The way Blythe bathes the courtroom in the sunlight is both evocative of a noir and the kind of idyllic view of the sun in old surf movies. This is a different look at the mega city compared to other Dreddverse stories.
This isn’t perhaps the most immediately engaging episode, but it is an effective one at catching new readers up to the character and the world of the story.