Judge Dredd Megazine (# 415 – 420) – Various

3 out of 5

Some good Dredd work from Arthur Wyatt and the perfection of Abnett’s Lawless gets stuck behind an unfortunate required-because-rebellion-developed-the-game Zombie Army non-starter of a tale, a rather repetitive – if generally amusing – Devlin Waugh entry, and another Blunt entry, which, to me, is just a retread of what’s come before.

For our first three months of these issues, Michael Carroll and Karl Richardson take Dredd on a sea-wreck pirate tale in Plunder.  I was satisfied reading this month to month – it meets the requisite action and weirdness of a Dredd story – but I was never quite clear on intention or tone.  To be fair, I think a lot of writers struggle with the length of Dredd entries in the Meg once they’re used to the shorter episodes in the progs.  Here, I wasn’t sure if we were building up to some kind of reveal or just reveling in blood and glory of Dredd vs. bandits.  It seemed to be the latter, but there was an undercurrent of humor due to the oddity of the mutated baddies; I don’t think there’s a lot of middleground with Karl Richardson’s heavy, muscley art, so that might’ve affected my take as well.  After that, though, Wyatt and PJ Holden step in for the lean and mean Bad Sector, which has a rogue judge actually getting away with (mostly) with double-dealings under the nose of Joe.  Wyatt walks a smart line between making our judge (Caliban) sympathetic – just trying to get by – and greedy, getting involved with drug dealing in a ‘bad sector,’ and Holden chunky but lithe style is a great fit on the judges.

Ales Kot and Mike Dowling return for more Devlin Waugh sex-and-violence-capades, and Kot is just loving throwing as much demon dildo into the mix as he can, which is admittedly a hilarious concept.  The shtick – though definitely having me grinning throughout – of Waugh being baudy and then an eruption of violence and Dowling / Kot’s indulgence of the prog’s willingness to feature full frontal male nudity is, unfortunately, exactly that, a shtick, a the strip is a little too fleeting.  I know Waugh is defined by whimsy to a certain degree, but something needs to give the story some more weight.

Blunt.  I’m realizing I’m not a fan of Boo Cook’s art.  From afar, their bubbly, neon-colored style seems like it leaps off the page, but in practice, it’s somehow incredibly flat.  The definition of line between foreground and background is the same, so it just ends up coming across as those adjectives: bubbly and neon-colored.  T.C. Eglington’s story hasn’t admittedly grabbed me in its first two parts – Blunt and crew on an alien planet, trying to survive; Blunt and crew go on a psychedelic trip via the planet’s flora – and part three literally seems to get off to a good start by having the team rescued and put on a ship, ready to take off… only to ground us with the ship’s captain having the forehead-slapping plan of refusing to leave until Blunt tells them what’s really happening on the planet.  Spoiler: they get stuck there.

The less said about Si Spencer’s The Returners the better, as far as I’m concerned.  As always with the prog / Meg, this is personal preference, but none of these resurrected characters are of interest to me – they’re all different takes on obnoxius – and so when we have some body-swapping villain jumping between them, I don’t really care.

The Returners ends and is replaced by the no better Zombie Army, which is an entirely unoriginal zombie dystopia tale from Chris Roberson and Andrea Mutti.  Roberson is a good standy writer, who does the job, but he does the job a lot better when the material is moderately inspired, which a tired zombo setup is not.  Similarly, Andrea Mutti – while I don’t think they’ve really had a strip on which to shine yet – has shown to be effective at mood here and there, but there’s nothing to work with on this tale besides generic characters, generic zombies, and empty settings.

Lawless… continues to be fantastic.  Winslade has just been growing and growing and growing on this strip, becoming a master at creating such infinite realism and depth in black and whit while maintaining eye direction and foreground / background balance.  Abnett has had the good fortune to really build up these characters over some momentous events, and it’s always a good sign when a strip passes a huge milestone – the massive battles in the tale’s recent past – and it only gets more exciting to see where things go after that.  We’re in “recovery” mode now, and it’s gripping watching Lawless juggle her tuff ‘tude with trying to work alongside everyone – judges, Zhind, etc.

Lastly, I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I love what the Meg is doing with its text pieces lately.  There will be one slightly longer one – generally an interview – and then two two pagers, covering upcoming books or an artist highlight or whatnot.  It’s just about the perfect amount of non-comic to not take away from the page count, and it’s generally placed altogether in the middle of the magazine instead of spread out, so it’s easy to get to and easy to flip past if you’re not interested.  Well done.