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JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE, #390

by ModernPanther on November 21, 2017

 

Writers: Rory McConville; Alan Grant; Dan Abnett; John Wagner
Artists: Leigh Gallagher; Paul Marshall; Mike Dowling; Phil Winslade; Nick Percival
Colourists: Gary Caldwell; Dylan Teague
Letterers: Annie Parkhouse; Simon Bowland; Ellie De Ville
Publisher: Rebellion

 

 

Invasions come in many shapes and forms, and Mega City One faces a new alien threat in Judge Dredd: Contrabandits. An alien parasite is smuggled into the city, its host not making it through customs before some nasty body-horror results in the whole spaceport being turned into a big alien larvae. As it’s an opening episode, time is taken to introduce our fun new characters and provide a bit of backstory, which is filled with nice little character moments which suggest that not everyone is telling the truth. Dredd gets to go through his usual stages of angry silence, follow by gruff sarcasm, followed by shouting...which means that next month should be straight forward action. Leigh Gallagher’s art jumps from some large scale and nicely detailed crowd scenes, to close up bloody violence – and by the end of this part, some fun design ideas.

 

 

There are Mega City stories which are epics, and there are stories which are small scale. There are even plenty of small stories which are epics at heart. Anderson: NWO is written as an epic, but feels small. The story of a group of judges who have spent decades infiltrating the system in order to pull it down, or a wave of chaos which threatens to destroy the city – these should be massive game changers. But the whole event feels underwhelming, The moral weight which should be behind Anderson teaming up with Dredd and executing several of their colleagues, or of the justice department feeling so under pressure that the resort to televising public executions – these things should resonate, but they simply don’t. There’s nothing particularly wrong or flawed here. It just feels more pedestrian than it should.

 

Devlin Waugh: Blood Debt takes what could be a by the numbers run-and-gun scene and takes it up a gear, as the world's greatest paranormal investigator leads a crew of Vatican military experts into the back-entrance of a casino whilst being pursued by monsters. Rory McConville, who also wrote this month’s Dredd story, has ably stepped into the shoes of Waugh’s creator John Smith, capturing the character’s charming indifference, whilst art by Mike Dowling simply refuses to sit still, bringing tension even to quiet moments and doing some quite interesting things with panel borders.

 

The frontier town of Badrock is a settlement on the edge, just waiting for the spark that will burn the whole place to the ground. On top of that, the Sheriff’s deputies have issues of their own. Westerns in space is an idea that has been done to death, but Lawless: Breaking Badrock breathes new life into the trope. The finely detailed monochrome art by Phil Winslade immediately makes the strip stand out. Its characters are well realised, its location going far beyond what might be expected of the genre. It’s a testament to great writing that an episode can be interesting whilst having as little plot development as this.

 

Dominion perhaps plays best as a counterpoint to Fall of Deadworld, which recently appeared in sister publication 2000AD and book one of which is now being issued as a collection. Whilst Fall of Deadworld told of the rise of the Dark Judges, Dominion is set many years later, Judge Death and his loyal lieutenants having fled to Earth’s distant offworld colonies to start anew. Essentially “zombies in space”, a small group of survivors have barricaded themselves off as an army of the dead surround them. As with Fall of Deadworld, the story is told by a human survivors to whom the very concept of the dark judges is so alien, so terrifying, that they barely appear.  It's been slow building tension to get here, but again the story seems to have stalled a little, relying at one point of the tired "lets cover outselves in guts and pretend to be zombies" idea that has been used in every zombie story for the last decade.  Nick Percival’s interpretation of the gruesome foursome is similar to Dave Kendall’s, updating the walking corpses to the modern era and removing any element of comedy. The art is suitably brutal and morbid, but does seem a little stilted in place, especially where the action is fast moving.

 

 

This issue also features a retrospective on the many incarnations of the British space-going hero Dan Dare, and a piece on new comics being produced by IDW under their Black Crown imprint.

 

This month’s Megazine is also bagged with a reprint of Helium, a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure by Ian Edginton, D’Israeli and Ellie De Ville, where airships transverse high above the earth, avoiding the poisonous fog which covers the globe. It’s an adventure akin to Leviathan or Scarlet Traces by the same creators, but its abrupt ending means it is long overdue a second part.

Our Score:

7/10

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