Judge Dredd Megazine (#410 – 414) – Various

4 out of 5

The Dredds are solid all the way through this batch.  The Red Queen’s Gambit, from the ever-reliable Arthur Wyatt and Jake Lynch, is a wonderfully excitingly escalating bit of spycraft and escape, featuring Harry the Ape and some Orlok-tangential business.  Lynch’s art has a great, weighty feel to it, something he’s been adding in over the years – previously I found his line art to be sort of floaty and loose – and Wyatt really keeps the tale intense throughout all of its four parts, having me guessing at allegiances and What’s Nexts.  After that wraps up, we get a unique oner from T.C. Eglington involving a rich man and his robo-clones, and Rory McConville dealing with some fake news.

Laura Bailey crafts a great Demarco P.I, mystery, with the titular character resolving the twisty-turny case of a grandmother who’s hearing voices, and this is then supplanted by two good Black Museum tales, one Tales from the Crypt-y by McConville, and one an AI-gone-sentient, more humorous tale from Bailey again.

Diamond Dogs and the second arc of The Returners are the two lowlights, for me, for this run.  The former is a very bland tale of double-crossing gangs by James Peaty, with an uninteresting lead character caught in the crosses and not enough meat on the story to really feel like it ever gets going, but it’s interesting to see Warren Pleece on art, functioning very much in a modern day Yeowell fashion, loose but emotive.  The Returners (Si Spencer) didn’t work for me before and doesn’t work for me now, with a swappable mix of unlikeable leads and, in this outing, a tale about a body-swapping villain that, similar to Dianond Dogs, never became distinctive enough to care about.  But Nicolo Assirelli’s expressive art, mapped with the warm, organic colors of Eva De La Cruz, is definitely a pairing I hope we get to see on other titles.

Closing out the strips in the book is Maura McHugh’s take on Anderson.  ‘The Dead Run’ has the Judge and another Psi taking some new recruits out into the wastelands for training, and of course running in to something unexpected.  Patrick Goddard is a good match for this on art, giving each of the recruits a good sense of character and the enemies that they face varied and interesting designs.  McHugh, like Wyatt in the Dredd tale, makes sure to keep things at a good level of intensity throughout, although the ending feels like it crosses the line into being TOO big and wild.  Still, I looked forward to this take on Cassandra every month.