Saturday, 10 April 2010 00:00
Synopsis by Gavin Hanly
Review by Robert Frazer and Alan Holloway
Cover by Jon Davis-Hunt
Robert Frazer: Wow! Colour just erupts out of this page, and it overloads the senses. The rendering is rich, the highlights are striking, the presence of the figures is powerful. The lens flare on the battlemech's glowing eyes only emphasises how this scene is suffused with brilliant light, piercing clarity and forceful vigour.
On a design note, I'm also impressed that the head of the mech recalls Optimus Prime - recalling some of pop culture's most beloved robots invests the machine with a great sense of purpose and personality just at a glance.
Alan Holloway:More than a shade of Transformers in a great cover by Jon Davis-Hunt. It always seems, though, that however good the Meg cover art is, it never looks quite right, whereas the prog nearly always looks great regardless. There is definitely a design problem somewhere, but don’t ask me to fix it because I’m just a Simp at heart.
Judge Dredd - Outlaw
Script: Rob Williams - Art: Guy Davis - Colours: Dave Stewart - Letters: Annie Parkhouse
Dredd meets a kindred spirit...
Synopsis: A distant mutant settlement, under attack from a giant worm, is ruled by the iron fist of "Parlov" - who cuts out a mutant's eye for stealing. Dredd doesn't approve of his methods, but understands and admires the iron rule of law. However, he still looks into Parlov's past and discovers that he was a Mega City judge who was presumed dead in the Apocalypse War. He actually escaped - selling the Sovs some intel for passage. He intended to come back but never did. Despite his current use to the mutant community, Dredd executes him as a collaborator. He decides to finish off the worm to help the mutant settlement out too.
Robert Frazer: This strip is a little bit... irksome. Back in my review to Prog 1659, which included my own response to Dr. Ireland's article on Dredd's experiences in the Cursed Earth, I argued that it wasn't so much a case of Dredd being influenced by the Cursed Earth as him dominating it instead. Williams' script, showing Dredd taking a lesson of the Cursed Earth to heart, undermines my position. Still, I'm intellectually mature enough to not have petty matters of pride dominate my position (grumble, mutter, brood, whine). At the end of the day, Dredd takes the insight and uses it to extend overdue Mega-City justice to a renegade, so you could say that the principle of Dredd as a civilising influence on the untamed expanse is still maintained.
What's that high note in my voice, you ask? No, I'm not flailing desperately, I was just, er... blowing up balloons for children at the funfair. Yeah, that's it.
Anyway, subtext aside, Williams has presented us with an interesting script which ties in neatly with surrounding events of the "Tour of Duty" arc. It considers Dredd's changed circumstances and disposition - his troubles with high politics, and the problem of reconciling the law with justice - in a believable manner that acknowledges the weightiness of the situation without becoming too overladen with dreary mawkishness. It's a quiet strip, but nonetheless an appealling one. Some might complain the plot being a little flimsy. Parlov could have confounded Dredd's investigation simply by taking on an alias, or even refusing to give his name! However, for someone still set in a Judge's mentality that would be difficult when you name is emblazoned across half of your chest.
Davis's art, however, I'm less sold on. Parlov himself is a good design, appropriately craggy and rugged, his long neck-concealing beard making him appear a single solid imperturable rock of a man. Faces generally are crafted with some care and panels which focus on them come across well, but once the camera pulls back to bodies the quality slips.
Alan Holloway: A really top notch stand alone Dredd from Rob Williams, with everyone's favourite grumpy old sod appreciating the simplicity of quick judgement and brutal, instant justice. His actions throughout are perfectly written,
and this one is worthy of Wagner himself.
Art wise, there’s been a bit of a fan boy fuss at getting Guy Davis or B.R.P.D fame (amongst other things) to grace our pages. Personally, I’m not crazy on him, finding his style rather rushed and without detail. That said, he does a good enough job in carrying the story, and whilst he’ll never be a favourite I’m happy to have him back for more.
Tank Girl - Flying Ant Day - Part 1 - Bombers
Script: Alan Martin - Art: Rufus Dayglo - Letters: Simon Bowland
Tank Girl meets Tank Girl...
Synopsis: In the jungle of Makeika Island, the inbred locals have found the brain of the cloned Tank Girl that was created to test the real Tank Girl in a previous episode. The brain regenerated a body which then started a talk show. Tank girl and the other go to the island to confront her. They get lost as they parachute in, and the two Tank Girls face off against each other...
Robert Frazer: Dayglo does the business again. He gives the gang in its military getup the right sense of swagger and weight. We know about his little nudges and shoutouts in the margins, but he keeps it interesting by being consistent in his diversity. For instance, Tank Girl has a "Things To Do" list tucked into her helmet band. What's actually written on the paper changes each time it's seen, but they are all still Things To Do! It's a small thing, but it shows that you don't have to be incoherent to be wacky or light-hearted, and its makes the strip's effect more lasting.
One criticism that I might have to give, though, is in the final panel - in his effort to compose a dramatic pose with the barrel facing the reader, Tank Girl's clone isn't actually aiming at her adversary...
Martin has a good narrative voice this month - hardbitten mercenary Norris Handgrenade's price for his services is nicely observed, and Booga's giant parachute is quirky and cartoony. Sometimes Tank Girl's been criticised for being too scatological, but this month shows that there is a depth and diversity to its setting and characters which shows that it is indeed worthwhile. Not to say that the toilet humour's unappreciated - The Action Pants "for arse or head" are genuinely hilarious.
Alan Holloway: It just won’t go away, but then again not everyone wants it to. Tank Girl is one of those strips that always gives me a good giggle, usually due to something artist Rufus Dayglo has slipped in as an aside. Not that the
main stories aren’t chuckle some as well, but getting Rufus to channel Jamie Hewlett is what’s keeping the strip as readable as it ever was.
Alan Martin writes Tanky the way he always has, and there’s plenty of weird nuttiness that results in Tank Girl confronting her own clone at the end. It’s the only strip that doesn’t even try to be connected to Dredd’s world, and as such is an anachronism in the Megazine, but at least it’s fun.
Oh, and the cut and dress Booga splash is sheer brilliance - you just can’t go wrong with “action pants”.
Tempest - Time Zero - Part 4
Script: Al Ewing - Art: Jon Davis-Hunt - Letters: Simon Bowland
Tempest finds a new solution to the exploding lawgiver problem...
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Judge Dredd - The Lost Cases - Vote De Vito
Script: Alan Grant - Art: Paul Marshall - Letters: Ellie De Ville
Synopsis: Lionel Dibsy was watching an illegal democratic terrorist broadcast and gets an idea to make money. He kidnaps his neighbor and dresses him up as "Judge De Vito". He then starts a pirate broadcast where he asks the public to vote on De Vito's next form of torture. However the judges soon close in on him with the help of Psi Division - and Dredd terminates the broadcast - but not before terminating Dibsy as a warning...
Robert Frazer: The dialogue could have done with a little editing in places - thirteen MILLION "De Vitos", really? Even in a city of 400 million people that's an astonishingly large proportion for a single surname - but really that's only a petty point of pedantry.
The writing and general setting of this Lost Case is much improved from last month's - that, a couple of fights, was pretty much filler at its lowest ebb. This one is much more interesting; a slice of zany Mega-city life with the cockroach walls and "no innaruptions". We see different justice departments in action (it's good to see Psi-Div get a rare look in these days), a tie-in to a past event that has a bit more individuality than "a robot we missed", and Dredd dispensing some unarguable justice at the resolution - the television address is itself a dramatic delivery. The story fits neatly, but staying within the lines doesn't stop it from using an interesting choice of colour.
After his retro turn in the first half of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" in Prog 2010, Marshall is a natural fit for this sort of story. He takes to black and white art well - his use of shadow in the faces is quite strong and characterful, even deepening them for the stern democratic terrorist. It's also interesting to see that the villain here has that same despairing look that was praised at the end of the Dredd story in last month's Meg.
Alan Holloway: A superb little tale from Alan Grant that is pure old school Dredd, nicely self contained and showing equal traces of humour and brutality.
Paul Marshall’s greyscale art suits the tale down to the ground, and it’s nice to see a strip unafraid to use the words “Bop”, “Thwapp”, “Kraak”, “Boott” and “Bam”. It’s one of those Dredd tales that’s blackly funny as well as being thoroughly violent and fascistic. In Lionel Dibbsy we are given a PJ Maybe wannabe who, thanks to Dredd, is never gonnabe.
Odd that this is the best strip in a thoroughly decent Meg, but that’s the way the munce burger crumbles.
Pulp Sci Fi collection
Jesus Redondo interview
Kek W interview
Kick Ass article
Strip to Screen article
Robert Frazer: An eclectic and genuinely interesting mix this month. The Millar interview might be seen as obviously promotional work but it's hard to begrudge it when "Kick-Ass" is turning out to be a legitimately big deal. While there's a big contrast between styles between each of the Interrogations, they're still interesting windows for readers of recently reprinted material. The one part which might be said to be filler is the concept art article, but really for someone who isn't a film buff it's still an interestingly different and curious angle on the art that we normally see on the page.
The bagged mini-GN didn't hold my interest for very long, but it's notable for the art. "Strontium Dog: Monster" features wonderfully grotesque and twisted bio-horror - Giger shot through not with sex, but with Satanism, and mesmerisingly hideous.
Alan Holloway: Full marks for the interview with Jesus Redondo - these never fail to be a good read, and it was wonderful to hear from the old boy who contributed some great strips in my childhood.
The other features are also very good and informative, and as usual the cinema reviews split opinion right down
the middle. I like ‘em though, so thhpppt to anyone who doesn’t.
Throwing in the Best of Pulp Sci Fi was a good move, and most of the stories are excellent. The only duffers are the two written by Mark Harrison, although his art still shines, especially on Dan Abnett's memorable “Grunts”. this
would have been a buyable magazine all by itself, and succeeds in erasing the memory of last months crappy Feral story.
Robert Frazer: A positive issue. Every strip has it strengths.
Best Story: Tempest
Alan Holloway: A real treat this month, with no duff features or strips and a decent bonus mag to boot. So much more of a read that the prog, the Meg continues to cater for the comics fan who wants a little more than just strips. That’d be me then.
Best Story: Judge Dredd - Lost Cases