The Monthly Megazine Issue 424: What A Way To Celebrate Your 30th

by Richard Bruton

The Monthly Megazine – doing just what it says, taking you through the latest goings-on in the sister monthly to 2000 AD – and this month it’s a special 100-page 30th-anniversary celebration with some absolutely amazing strips!

Cover by Greg Staples

This month marks 30 thrill-powered years of the Judge Dredd Megazine and we’re celebrating in some fine style with a (nearly) all-new line-up, including Judge Dredd: The Victims of Bennett Beeny by John Wagner, Colin MacNeil and Dan Cornwell where the legacy of America Jara comes back into the Meg. We’ve also got an alternative look at a MC-1 that might have been in Kenneth Niemand and Dave Taylor‘s Megatropolis, and a look way, way back into the earliest days of the Justice Department in Dreadnoughts by Michael Carroll and John Higgins. There’s a new return for those Returners by Si Spencer and Nicolo Assirelli, a one-off Anderson tale by Maura McHugh and Steven Austin, and last (but definitely not least), a 20-page musical celebration for the 50th episode of Lawless by Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade, the only strip continuing from the last Meg – but we don’t mind as Lawless is superb.

The latest Megazine hits shops and digital on 16 September. Get it from your local news agent or comic shop (but be smart folks – MASK UP) or from the 2000 AD store.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Judge Dredd Megazine #423 awaits… it’s a REALLY good one.

Colin MacNeil’s art for ‘The Victims of Bennett Beeny’

JUDGE DREDD: THE VICTIMS OF BENNETT BEENY – PART 1 – John Wagner, John MacNeil, Dan Cornwell, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Annie Parkhouse

John Wagner and Colin MacNeil back in the Meg, joined by Dan Cornwell credited jointly on art here. MacNeil takes the first few pages but was unable to continue with the strip, leading to Cornwell continuing with it – there’s an obvious difference in style, but it’s still a pretty good transition and, as I’ve said in the past, Cornwell’s a damn fine Dredd artist.

Anyway, it’s Wagner returning to the legacy of America Jara, as Judge Beeny is off to a report of things going wrong at Bennett Beeny Block, home to the very rich and very influential of MC-1. There’s heavily armed Total War terrorists inside armed with Stub Guns, 11 dead, block tech blind.

The Meks go in first, Dredd seems quite happy to use them for that, then Dredd and Beeny, to see just what Total War is capable of.

As with any Wagner Dredd, there’s a lot of things to unpack. In fact, given we don’t see his name on the strip as often these days, it feels like his words carry even more weight now. Here, what caught me was Dredd’s acceptance of the Meks as useful additions to the Judges – there’s definitely a sense that most of Wagner’s thinking at the moment involves the impact of the Meks on the status quo.

Dan Cornwell’s art on Dredd

And then there’s the oh so horribly up to date idea of the Citi-Def boys getting themselves all pumped up and heading out, fully-loaded, minimal prep, minimal experience – a chilling thing given what we’re seeing in the States with idiot militia wannabes with their long rifles.

But damn, the whole thing just great – the start of another classic-looking Wagnerian Dredd.

MEGATROPOLIS – PART 1 – Kenneth Niemand, Dave Taylor, letters by Jim Campbell

Megatropolis is an alternate timeline MC-1, an art deco retro-future variation of what we know, where the Justice Department is so far back in terms of its development and almost universally corrupt. The only detective standing as a good cop, ‘the choirboy’ according to his fellow cops, in Megatropolis is Joe Rico.

And he’s about to get his new partner… Amy Jara. Yes, Jara – familiar name, different timeline.

Okay then – the alt-universe stuff here is sublime – we get an idea straight off of what to expect with Mayor Booth and District Attorney McGruder. PJ Maybre (yes, Maybre) has recently been tragically killed and the family have announced a new charity push for the shantytown districts. And the news – well that’s anchored by a certain Hershey Barbs.

But this may well be one you read and then look over again for all that delicious Dave Taylor artwork. Seriously, this is a stunning looking strip, right from the incredible opening double-pager, all the way through to that teasing final page.

It’s a completely different look for this proto Mega-City, something that Taylor’s perfect to give, whether that’s the distinctly hostile police station, the incredible, almost Giger-esque parts of Shantytown, or the beautiful art-deco cars rolling around. Just stunning.

Storywise, we’re looking at a two versus the world scenario, Detective Joe Rico and Jara on one side, the corrupt cops, the gangsters, maybe even the Maybre family… after all, Officer Jara was the one to shoot and kill him and there’s a chilling little reference to him giggling, something that makes you think there’s more to the Maybre thing than we’ve seen thus far.

Basically, I got a whole James Elroy’s LA vibe, crossed with that retro sci-fi vibe, plus with all those familiar names, if slightly different here, from the MC-1 you know. That’s the basic idea of where we’re at and where we’re going here.

And that’s not even mentioning the way that the first episode ends with a beautifully done slow reveal. It’s a couple of pages that just builds and builds so well towards answering that one question you really should have had in your head since you read who the leads in this particular drama were.

Seriously, Megatropolis looks and reads so well, one of those complete worlds playing with around with the alternate timeline ideas, all magnificently done by Niemand and especially Taylor here.

It’s a simply fabulous start for what is swiftly becoming the crowded race for the best strip in the Megazine this month, maybe even this year.

DREADNOUGHTS – BREAKING GROUND – PART 1 – Michael Carroll, John Higgins, colours by Sally Hurst, letters by Simon Bowland

And speaking of strips vying for the best in the Meg… Dreadnaughts has been trailed for a fair few months now and it seems like one of those things that’s going to be really important in the history of Dredd and MC-1.

It’s 2035 AD and the Justice Department and the Judges have just come into being, sitting uncomfortably alongside the police, the judicial system, the military, and the government. These are the earliest days of MC-1 as we know it today and Michael Carroll and John Higgins are here to chronicle the times ahead.

New Judge Glover is fresh out of the academy, 40 years old and headed to Boulder to supplement a four-man team. She rides into a full-scale riot, unaware that the order was to holster weapons, Judge Venn telling her team of three that, ‘Every shot we fire becomes ammunition for the anti-Judge movement.

But as Judge Glover tells us, she wasn’t there for that briefing…

Cue Glover riding in, guns blazing. Not a good start to things for her, but an excellent start for us.

From that very first page, that full-page shot of Glover’s boss, Judge Venn, there’s a sense of how damned good Dreadnoughts can be, will be.

This has epic written all over it.

ANDERSON, PSI-DIV – NO COUNTRY FOR OLD PSIs – Maura McHugh, Steven Austin, colours by Barbara Nosenzo, letters by Simon Bowland

First up, Strollerball, where parents and toddlers battle for glory and prizes – that’s a perfectly MC-1 thing that McHugh drops in on the first page. But that’s just background. The real start happens on the next page, at the Institute for Troubled Psychics. And again, another ever so funny bit here with Anderson’s nickname for it – Dunthinkin’.

It’s basically the place MC-1 sends it’s retired and broken Psi-Judges. And Judge Toledo, Psi-Div’s senior medic is there to see pre-cog Psi-Judge Agatha Nephus, something that – oh, big, big, surprise – goes south very quickly…

So, what we get here is a very well done, very solidly told Psi-Judge Anderson tale with some great little moments and a real sense of female strength coming through in Psi-Div.

Yet, after those explosive first three strips in this Meg, well done and solid becomes something that’s just a little low on the scale of what we’ve had so far. It’s a fun little one-off tale that works just fine.

THE RETURNERS – HEARTSWOOD – PART 1 – Si Spencer, Nicolo Assirelli, colours by Eva De La Cruz, letters by Simon Bowland

We’re back with the Returners, four different people in Ciudad Barranquilla – academic Barrancourt, ex-Judge Mineiro, gangbanger Correira, and transgender street-walker Chavez – all awoke from near-death experiences to find they were able to deal with the supernatural.

Now, they’re in Brit-Cit, looking for a cure for the curse they find themselves struggling with. They’re also, in a beautifully done first page, struggling with the weather…

‘Don’t the Brits have climate control?’
‘They do. Some days they actually choose this.’

Better yet – the next place they end up in is the ridiculous ‘Ye Law @ Ordere’, a prison bar, complete with crappy food and robo-prisoners doing the serving.

And the look of the Returners is set from there – with Assirelli’s big, big artwork dominating things as they did last time – just with far less of that sun-drenched feel of things.

One episode in and they’ve got a job to do already, but things already seem dodgy, with Brit Cit a weird place for four immortal freaks to pitch up in. Unless there’s a reason for them being here…

And that, dear reader, is where we’re at here. The Returners are in Brit Cit, the cure might be somewhere in Brit Cit (they have no idea where), and although they’re immortal, they’re not invulnerable – ‘We’ll still die – We’ll just know we’re dead.

THE DARK JUDGES – DELIVERANCE – PART 1 – David Hine, Nick Percival, letters by Annie Parkhouse

Judges Fire, Mortis, and Death were found floating in space by a cargo ship and later went on to decimate the colony of Dominion. MC-1 sent in the Marines, which only managed to have Dark Judge Fear join the gang again. By the end of the last series, Dominion was destroyed and Death was trapped in a Boing tube. And everyone lived happily ever after – right? Seriously, if you think that’s the end to it, you haven’t been reading the series thus far!

Now we’re on the SS Kimodo, six months out from Earth where someone, comes out with the line, ‘The Dark Judges are obliterated‘ – you just know that’s going to be made so very wrong within the space of just this episode.

Anyhoo, we have the survivors and the marines headed back to Earth. And, headed out from Earth, we have the ‘Navis Mortis’ – ‘Ship of Death’, the flagship of the Mortarian Death Cult. Somewhere in that vast space between the two, you have Judge Death immobilised in a Boing tube.

I think we all know where this is going, don’t we?

But knowing where it’s going is one thing, having such a good time getting there is another. And that’s what the Dark Judges does so well, setting things up for a really dark, yet also really fun and funny adventure with four of the most dangerous things in the universe.

So, for all those story pointers screaming out, ‘This way, this way!’, this is still a wonderful strip, loads of fun, and features such great artwork from Percival, whose style really does suit this strip better than anything else he’s done in 2000 AD.

LAWLESS: BOOM TOWN – BADROCK MELODY – Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade, letters by Jim Campbell

Colonial Marshal Metta Lawson has delivered Badrock into safety and relative stability. But in getting there, she’s made a hell of a lot of enemies. And now, with the SJS in charge with her, there’s Mayoral elections about to take place

So, it’s about time for a musical interlude. 20 pages of it – and it’s so, so good!

Just like the first time I ever saw this done, in Moore and Lloyd’s V For Vendetta, the musical number works, just like pretty much everything else in Lawless. Of course, in the spectacular fashion that we’re used to by now with Lawless, this isn’t just one musical numbers but multiple ones, dealing with wrapping the entire series up for now and setting everyone off on a completely new path. It is stunning.

So, curtain up, spotlight on the performers… the Badrock Melody is about to start.

And it’s good, so good. It’s full of the funny, it’s full of the characters in Badrock, and yes, Marshal Metta Lawson gets her parts as well.

In fact, it goes way beyond Moore and Lloyd’s V For Vendetta song. This is more Buffy’s Once More With Feeling on a comic page – this is the full Badrock song and dance show, featuring multiple songs, multiple leads, and even a proper storyline explaining what the hell is going on.

But, more than that, it’s a wonderful way for Abnett to A), give us a perfect finale, a complete summary of everything that’s gone on, where the entire cast get to tell their tales, and we get something of a possible glimpse of Badrock’s future, and B), make Phil Winslade have a complete breakdown at the number of crowd scenes he’s had to do.

Phil, we all sympathise, we really do, but dammit those pages look so good – take the time to recover and recuperate – and then get yourself working on the next stage of Badrock’s future!

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