Meg Review: 267

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Megazine 267Quote of the month: “So we’re going to be best friends. At at journey’s end, you’re going to give your best friend Tempest fourteen billion creds. And if you don’t give your best friend Tempest fourteen billions creds… your best friend Tempest is going to tie you down and hammer nails in your skull until you die screaming in hideous agony. Because that’s what friends are for.” Tempest bonding with Johnny in Tempest.

Cover: Jon Davis-Hunt draws Tempest in a dramatic pose.

Strips: Judge Dredd, Armitage, Tempest, Bob the Galactic Bum (reprint)

Features: Two Interrogations (interview with Alan Grant part 2 and Al Ewing), New Comics (Alan Moore and Kev O’Neill’s The League of Extradordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier), New Movies, Dreddlines (letters)

Spoilers…

Judge Dredd: The Menagerie. An importer of alien animals with a gambling habit is paid by the local mob to dispose of their victims’ bodies by feeding them to his charges. Dredd tracks them down but an unusual creature complicates things…

In terms of both prolificity and quality, Gordon Rennie is the best alternative Dredd writer to John Wagner, a fact which Alan Grant’s recent run in 2000AD has made all too apparent. This strip is no exception. Where Rennie wins while so many others have failed is that he doesn’t go for the tired “Dredd is a facist!” angle, nor does he slavishly derive his strips from past Dredd lore. Instead he always tries to develop a distinctive angle. So while “Alientown” has appeared in the series before, the ideas are pretty new.

Paul Marshall is also one of my favourite Dredd artists. He manages the straddle a fine line between cartoonish and realistic and it is clear he had a lot of fun designing all the aliens which appear in this issue. His Dredd is also pitch perfect.

Overall, this is a very strong strip for a one-off, with some great lines. The ending holds out the possibility for a sequel, with the Stygian Devourer now free and roaming the city. But it isn’t immediately clear how such a strip would work, given that the creature’s ability is to make people not merely disappear but to have never existed. It could make for a creative and fun story; it might be better off left alone.

Armitage: Dumb Blond part 2. Treasure, thrown out of house and home having discovered her wife in flagrante, is dossing at the Sector House. Miserable, she decides to go out on a night on the tiles. Meanwhile Armitage learns more about the murder victims and in particular, their utter unremarkableness. Is It Girl Tamara DeFane somehow involved?

Having watched the first episode of the new series last night, I realised this has a bit of a Torchwood vibe in the way it mixes the characters’ personal lives with their investigations, and in that both are fundamentally omni-sexual in their approach. Both demand that we accept their soap opera-esque conventions despite our relative lack of familiarity. Both I feel need to do more to make me care. The aforementioned problem with this strip only returning every five years causes genuine confusion. I’m not sure, for example, whether we have seen Treasure’s friend Daniel before or not.

With all that said however, this strip is starting to come together now and part 2 is definitely an improvement on part 1, even if it is dramatically unsatisfactory for one of the lead detectives to stumble on the perpetrators while drunk in a winebar (again, this is rather reminiscent of Torchwood!).

Bob the Galactic Bum: The Piker part 2. The first thing to note about this strip, following on from my comments about the sheer improbability that it ever got published by DC in the first place, is that Alan Grant’s interview this issue sheds some light on that. It emerges that Bob was written by Wagner and Grant in the late 80s as part of a triumvirate of projects for DC including the Outcasts (which DC did publish and was drawn by Cam Kennedy – Cam’s visit to the States to discuss this project provided the inspiration for the classic Dredd strip The Art of Kenny Who?) and Genghis Grimtoad (which Marvel eventually published in Strip! – a UK fortnightly edited by Dan Abnett which I personally much admired but which eventually mutated into Toxic! and Overkill which I didn’t). It wasn’t published then, but when the Lobo phenomenon happened it got dusted down and retrofitted with the Main Man as an incidental character. In short, since they’d already paid for the strip and Lobo’s appearance guaranteed sales, I can now see why they decided to give it a go.

It is therefore deeply ironic to now see Lobo retrofitted out of the strip again. I may have described Armitage as omnisexual, but giving the ultimate macho comics character Lobo a sex change is one step beyond! The name change, to Asbo, is simply inspired. In many ways, the meta humour is better than the jokes in the strip itself.

That’s not to criticise the strip itself which I’m enjoying a lot. It was old school 10 years ago and now it feels refreshing.

Tempest: Here Comes Trouble part 2. In which we finally get to know the eponymous character and a bunch of other oddballs besides.

I’m impressed by the ambition of this strip. Al Ewing (whose interview is also worth a read) has taken on a complex plotline involving at least five groups of antagonists (that’s not counting the troggies who are dispatched efficiently this issue) with a plot that resembles Oceans 11 meets Escape from New York. He’s managed to invest each with a distinctive personality. Mobster Nicky has a particularly memorable turn of phrase with his abuse of the word “sex”.

As for Tempest himself, this isn’t the Prager-meets-Shimura hybrid that I feared. He’s clearly psychotic and distinctly un-judge-like and it isn’t at all clear at the moment whether Johnny Kierkegaard would be better off throwing himself to the mob’s mercy.

Overall, this issue is a marked improvement on the previous one, but Tempest remains the standout strip.

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