Philip Winslade’s amazing cover for this Meg incorporates the back and front page of the Megazine with a two-page spread. The colour choices and shading give an almost sepia effect – perfect for the Western stylings of Lawless. This issue wraps up the current arc for Lawless (don’t panic Lawson and Pettifer will be back soon), introduces new stories in the form of Judge Dredd, Tales From The Black Museum, and Anderson while continuing Havn. We also have our monthly dose of comic insights with a look at the new book release of Skizz, One-eyed Jack, and Be Pure! Be vigilant! Behave!
There is also an obituary to the late Edmund Bagwell who passed away last month from pancreatic cancer. For those fond of his work, the Megazine has quoted that “Edmund Bagwell’s family ask that any donations in his name be made to www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/donate.”
Judge Dredd // “The Third Person” by Michael Carroll, Carl Critchlow, and Annie Parkhouse
This is one of the more interesting and strange stories of Judge Dredd and serves as a standalone. It focuses around Laurel Docks, a new arrival to Mega-City One who has been sponsored and set up as an immigrant into the city. A mutant, she possesses psi powers that manifest in a rather curious way. She talks out loud a complete narrative of what is going on in her head as well as the others around her which results in near constant embarrassment for her but a very funny read for us.
This is an utterly bizarre read but well worth it. As a standalone it wraps up a mystery plot, but the main focus is certainly her interaction with Dredd as she accompanies him while solving a case. Dredd’s dry no-nonsense attitude clashes with Laurel’s affliction as she continues to narrate what she’s doing and thinking as well as predicting what Dredd is about to say with awkward results.
Critchlow’s artwork is fantastically dark and contrasts the pastel shades with the bright reds of Laurel’s outfit and the Judges’ helmets. This gives everything an almost noir feel to it and couple this with the monologue, you can certainly draw an easy comparison to a post-World War II detective thriller. Dredd’s chin is in fine form as he conveys his usual disdain around him and this just adds to the fun as Laurel continues to irritate Dredd with her constant monologue.
The Third Person stands out as an extremely fun and unique story.
Tales From The Black Museum // “Bite Sized” by Rory McConville, Andrew Currie, and Annie Parkhouse
This tale talks of a bungled criminal by the name of Ignacio Po, as our usual narrator Henry Dubble explains his disappointment with the current class of criminal within Mega-City One. He blames this on the standard set by Ignacio and regales us with a very silly yet utterly dark story as Ignacio attempts to make a name for himself by creating ‘Crime Art’.
Silly is definitely the word and in Mega-City One, it is not unusual either. The fun that can be had is evident throughout many previous stories of Judge Dredd, but Tales From The Black Museum offers readers a more light-hearted break from regular story arcs.
Andrew Currie’s art is a lot of fun as well, as Henry Dubble walks through the museum highlighting certain criminals and many are recognisable as classic horror film villains and characters (there are more than a few familiar faces). Rory McConville’s story twists from the sublime to the ridiculous but ends on a grisly note with a great finishing line from Dubble. Silly or otherwise, it’s an enjoyable read with a punchy ending.
Havn Part 4 by Si Spencer, Henry Flint, Eva De La Cruz, and Simon Bowland
Crazy things have been happening over the last three parts and Mega-City One’s Hoffman is not accepting Havn to be the idyllic town it first appears to be.
Abby has spent some time locked up and her only human friend has been committed to a psychiatric wing. Things get intense as Si Spencer’s story adds more horror and Henry Flint’s artwork depicts some intense nightmarish panels with a double-page spread that is jaw-dropping in its composition and the colouring by Eva De La Cruz is perfect. It comes as a shock and hits the reader hard thanks to grotesque attention to detail and brilliantly contrasting to the previous panels.
Events continue to get more and more deranged and the end leaves you with a very real sense of unease. The plot isn’t necessarily confusing, but it is a mystery with a lot of unexplained events. Previous hints of an explanation continue to become proper theories as Hoffman starts to draw conclusions and ask questions. The result is compelling and draws you in each month.
Anderson: Psi Division // “NWO” Part 1 by Alan Grant, Paul Marshall, Dylan Teague, and Simon Bowland
The events of “NWO” follow on directly from ‘Dragon Blood’ as the young Keir has been enrolled in Psi-Division training and Anderson discusses the recent discovery in the Cursed Earth with Dredd and Hershey.
The story around Keir feels a little Star Wars in the way his Psi gifts can be a curse when angry or afraid. There is a definite comparison to be made between the dark-side of the Force in Star Wars and the damaging behaviour exhibited by Keir during his training. There is more going on with Keir and this was hinted at in “Dragon Blood” so his full abilities may yet to be discovered.
Paul Marshall and Dylan Teague have depicted a classic looking Mega-City One and character design without making too many changes in terms of depiction of the traditional Dredd -verse. The art is great, but it feels quite ‘safe’ and doesn’t push many boundaries in terms of style. There are some interesting panels though; Anderson is viewing a vid of Keir’s training and the panels use a grainy effect with horizontal lines to depict the monitor. This works well and places you behind Anderson’s eyes.
As stories go, this feels as though it is setting the scene for something much larger and perhaps even long-term. However, it also feels a little stagnant at times. It’s discussing what we already, know which is understandable to a point (it is after all a direct follow-on), but the pace feels a little sluggish throughout. That said, this is only Part 1.
Lawless // “Long Range War” Part 6 by Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade & Ellie De Ville
This is the final part of this series with the return of Lawson and Pettifer due ‘soon’. This is a showdown episode where the entire town is at stake and features fast pacing and plenty of violent action. The violence in Lawless is interesting because it is often very graphic and potentially even gory, but the black and white nullifies the effect. This arguably allows Winslade to put together some truly horrific injuries without it ever seeming ‘over the top’. Instead, you get satisfying gunplay and stylish action.
Artwork is fresh thanks to some great angles and details. One of the largest panels (around two-thirds through) depicts a close up of Kill-A-Man Jaroo’s face, putting the reader in the shoes of one of Munce’s hired goons just as Jaroo attacks. Jaroo is an interesting character in his own right and has had great development ever since the first part of Lawless: Welcome to Badrock. As such, he is very much one of Marshall Lawson’s trusted enforcers and this comes through yet again when he puts himself on the line for the sake of the town.
“Long Range War” is setting the stage for an arduous battle with Munce Inc. and Badrock is very much outgunned and vulnerable. How Lawson is going to fight this war is going to be great to find out and will likely be highly anticipated for many readers. Roll on the next series because it has been a great read every month.
Judge Dredd Megazine 385 ticks some boxes, but doesn’t necessarily shine as one of the best issues of late. Anderson “Dragon Blood” had only just ended, so continuing with the next part straight away without adding a different title into the mix was perhaps a little stale. Havn is certainly a highlight, as is Lawless, but the very enjoyable Judge Dredd: “The Third Person” and Tales From The Black Museum serve as distraction pieces rather than a quality saga. To have two of these in one issue maybe let it down a touch. On the other hand, they are both great reads so you cannot argue that there is a lot of worthwhile time to be spent reading this issue.
Judge Dredd Megazine #385 is available now in stores, online and digitally via www.2000adonline.com