Judge Dredd Megazine (#330, 334 – 335) – Various

4 out of 5

Another random batch of Megs, though this time picked up to nab some specific floppies. That means reviewing them is a bit scattershot, taking on single slices of stories instead of whole arcs.

In 330, we have the end of a Ratfink vs. Dredd tale from Alan Grant. This is pretty goofy – stuff with the Angel family tends to be – but Tiernen Trevallion’s chunky art works well with Grant’s darkly comedic style, making it tonally along the lines of the artist’s Absalom stuff with Gordon Rennie. In 334, John Wagner has this spot with Ben Willsher, returning to a classic topic: dealing with someone who has a crush on Dredd. Wags finds his usual balance of goofiness and mean-spirited humor, but this is a definitely a very average Dredd entry. 335’s is the best out of this trio, another one-shot with Michael Carroll and John Burns, in which a kidnapping takes a very dark (and very Carroll-ian, knowing how he’s developed his Dredd plotlines over the years) turn. I’m now used to Burns’ style from The Order, and I’m getting to a point in my Case Files catch-ups where he starts to appear, but this is an interesting middle-ish point, where he has his painterly look, but it’s a bit more traditional versus The Order; I’m not big on his current stuff, but this really appeals.

The secondary slots also seemed to be Dredd heavy, and are on the whole pretty great. Gordon Rennie’s / Paul Marshall’s b&w Killer Elite reminds me of an old Strontium Dog bit, where the protag is put in the midst of a game of, natch, elite killers, with the winner being the last one standing – obviously Dredd replacing Johnny Alpha. The side characters and pacing of this are really fun; this would be a good one to read the rest of at some point. 334 as a Hondo-Cit tale from Robbie Morrison and Mike Collins. Lots going on in this one, that I can’t say I recall seeing any followup from yet, although it’s left open for it. The writing on this is a bit clunky, but not in a bad way – moreso that it probably reads better when you know the buildup. But, y’know, zombie samurai. Finally, a Dan Francisco bit in 335, from Arthur Wyatt and Marshall. I missed the Dan Francisco era, and have only seen some aftermath from it; this appears to have been one of the first followups from Chaos Day, with Dan jumping right back in to his reality-star method of judging. It’s an intriguing kick-off.

Slot 3: The conclusion of Snapshot, by Diggle and Jock. This looked to be a creator-owned strip, and, typical of the creators, more crime based than anything sci-fi. This being the last entry, I have some twists and turns spoiled; it’s pretty tight, though, with impactful art from Jock. Always a little strange when a Meg strip is set in the present day and without any fantastical elements, but also seems like a nice juxtaposition in the Meg. In 334 / 335, American Reaper… never been a fan. I already find Pat Mills’ writing to be pretty stiff, moreso the older he got, and the way-too photo real digital art on this is just awful for the action-heavy stuff. Much better is a coda in 335 of a more hand-drawn bit; the Reaper concept, of personality-overtaken bodies is interesting, but I couldn’t get past the art.

Lastly, 330 has an Anderson tale, with art by Boo Cook, written by Grant. Similar to his Dredd entry, the writing is a little goofy, about a brain-possessing idol, but man, the Cook art elevates it. Cook’s another artist of whom I’m lukewarm toward, and this is in line with their current stuff, but something about it – perhaps seeing it applied to the regular Dreddverse? – really sings. The biggest reward, though, is Abnett’s Insurrection conclusion in 334 and 335: I know I’m bias because I’ve already read and enjoyed this, but it does just seem to stand out as being part of something larger, and more “important” than some of the one-offs.

All issues feature, as usual, text pieces: quality interviews, some new book announcements (one of which is a review, and a pretty negative one, which I found interesting), and then some short stories. The stories are okay, and I ultimately think I prefer the history / interviews, but even looking back to less than a decade ago (these are from 2013; it’s 2022) there’s something “quaint” about these Megs that appeals. Plus, damn, having gone digital for a long time, I really love reading these in print.