Thursday, 17 October 2013

Meg 238 - One of these B@stards

(Link to BARNEY)

I liked the cover art, but not the wording. Did the word "bastard" have to appear (apologies if that causes offence, I'm just repeating the text on the cover)? Run out of ideas? Lazy copy? Didn't need it, as far as I was concerned.... Anyway, let's not overlook Dylan Teague's fine drawing - which was fabulous.

Just a short review for this Meg, as I'm pushed for time, but it's going to start with a rant. Why, oh why, did they have to publish the 2nd part of a Dredd that had started in the Prog. It's a cheap marketing trick to try and get Prog readers to buy the Meg. And I'm not happy about it. I buy the Meg because it's different to the Prog - I get different stories, different characters, I like the text articles. Just leave them as two separate publications! Rant over (and in protest I didn't read the 2nd part to a Dredd I hadn't read the 1st part of!).

The Dredd that I did read was part 1 of Blackout by Wagner and Cam Kennedy. Looks like an interesting set up and am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Part 1 of The Harder They Come, a Shimura new story, saw art duties switch to Colin MacNeil, but he is using pen and ink rather than painting it. So the strip has gone from full colour to black and white. It took a little getting used to, but MacNeil is a master of all art forms (I bet he makes a mean clay pot too) so there is no real concern. Morrison's script is more than adequate, as usual, and I liked this episode very much.

As this is a "New Readers Start Here" issue, it's another part 1 and this time it's a new outing for Anderson in the story Lucid. Got to be some of the best work Ranson has done in the Meg, for my money, with some tender moments followed by some violent and horrible ones. All beautifully painted. Too early to tell if this will be a hit with me, let's see how it goes.

The Simping Detective sees Jack wondering if Cliq is getting a little too big for his alien killing-machine boots (or tentacles). The SJS are on Jack's back as well. How will our fun-loving simp get out of this predicament. Spurrier and Irving rock. Nuff said.

In the reprints, Charely's War remains a must read and the Metro Dredd was passable as well.

In the text sections, the British Icon was The Prisoner was profiled expertly by Alistair McGown. I learnt a lot about this series that freaked me out when I was younger, but which I avidly viewed. David Bishop continued exploring the origins of the Meg in 15 Years Creep. I did wonder if I would lose interest in this, but not so far. I haven't read any of these Megs, but it's still a good read. I read all the sections of Heatseekers this time, and I particularly enjoyed the origins of Godzilla in the Orient section.

And finally... Dreddlines had a defence of  the request for Anderson to have flowing locks once more and plenty of people agreeing with me that cover 236 was awful.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Meg 237 - 15 Years Creep!

(Link to BARNEY)

This is a special edition Meg celebrating 15 years of existence. The cover comes in two parts; firstly Dredd in a frame surrounded by previous Megs in a black border, which you can see in the photo above. However, opening up the cover reveals a fun image of Dredd and fellow Judges burning copies of the Meg in a furnace (with the control panel showing a temperature of Farenheit 451!). It's great stuff from Cliff Robinson and is a fitting tribute to the Meg's birthday.

Inside we have a monster 36 page Dredd story called Flood's Thirteen written by John Wagner and drawn by the marvellous Henry Flint. Jonny Flood has just spent 21 years in the cubes serving an 18 year sentence (that's MC-1 Justice right there for you!) and is plotting the mother-of-all heists. He recruits his band of crooks and sets about executing his elaborate plan. His target is The Mirage. Not a Las Vegas casino (are you seeing the references to a certain Rat Pack movie here?) but a large spaceship returning to Earth after collecting tax revenues from the colonies. And a very bored looking Dredd is in charge of security. Will Jonny's audacious plan succeed or will Dredd stop him?

This is a great story and the longer format really gives it room to develop. Of course, it could have been split over three Megs but the fact the editorial team did something different for this special issue is to be commended. Great stuff from both Wagner and Flint.

Having been missing from the last Meg, Devlin Waugh concluded in a double episode of fiery glory. Lots of action and intrigue as heroes and villains swap sides and use their special powers in their battle for supremacy. I liked it. The first episode didn't go well for me, but since then I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

The issue concluded with a one-off Simping Detective special called Fifteen. One of the big crime bosses is celebrating 15 years at the top and is throwing a big party. Jack gets wind that someone is going to try and take out this big boss and prepares to enjoy the show. However, 'a friend' informs him that the assassin is someone close to Jack from his past. What should he do? As always, and you are probably sick of hearing this, it's fabulous stuff from Si Spurrier and Frazer Irving. Despite the shorter story format, it is perfectly paced and well executed. Comic gold!

And that was it for the comic strips. We had two parts of David Bishop's new series 15 Years Creep tracing the Megazine's origins to present day (2005 that is!). It's in a similar style to Thrill Power Overload, with inset boxes detailing the history of some if the characters and stories. Obviously, I jumped on to the Meg quite late, but it was still interesting reading how the comic came about.

And that was it really! Quite a different style of Megazine, but interesting nonetheless...

And finally... If you do try and secure a copy of this one for yourself a number of copies were printed with a duplicate page in the Dredd story and the last page from The Simping Detective missing. I got both copies in the bundle I bought (from an old subscriber) so do check before you buy!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Meg 236 - Out Of My Head

(Link to BARNEY)

I'm not an artist, and I respect all work artists do. But I can have an opinion on their art. And I hate this cover. I really do. If I set out to design an Anderson look, it would be as far from this as is possible. She looks evil, with a strange neck and a weird looking body. Sorry Mr Taylor, not my cup of tea...

For reasons Lord Barnes declines to explain, there is no Devlin Waugh this issue. Sir Alan acknowledges his absence, but promises his return next issue. Instead, we have two Si Spurrier Dredds. The first story, Cursed Earth Rules, has a set up and pay off quite close in nature to a Future Shock. I liked this story. Dredd is policing the West Wall when captured muties are being released back to the Cursed Earth. Suddnely, there is Dune Shark attack. How will Dredd react? John Ridgeway is on art duties, and it was alright.

The second Dredd was a shorter story about a block shakedown and the guys who patrol the sewers seeing what is flushed down by the hapless cits. I found it a bit confusing to follow, as I wasn't sure what was happening at times. I'll come right out and say I'm not Boo Cook's biggest fan, but his art was more than competent in this episode. However, I couldn't work out where to attach the blame for my not following the story completely - possibly I should look no further than myself!

Part 3 of Playing Futsie saw Jack Point AKA The Simping Detective trying to get to the bottom of the mess he has ended up in following the leads given to him by Zig the murdering nut-job. Great stuff from Spurrier and Frazer, as usual, and it was a great ending too. We are promised Jack will return and I can't wait to read his next adventures. Again, the script has text that made me chuckle. He's just such a brilliant character and so well depicted by Frazer Irving. Great job all round.

The words "FINAL PART" have never looked so good on a Meg index page as they did for the Anderson saga City of Dead. Because we can finally wrap up this story line about the Half Life virus. Good Grud it's been going on for a while, and it has severely tested my patience at points, but at least we got to a conclusion. After so long, the ending did feel a little rushed. But it was an ending, and we can finally move on from this episode. I did feel a little sorry for the perp - his punishment was pretty cruel - but he does kill a million people so perhaps he got what he deserved?

Another story wrapping up was Young Middenface. It wasn't a bad story, but I can't help feeling that not a great deal of any significance happened. It ended quite strangely as well, with one of the key characters acting very oddly in my view. I don't think I quite believed what happened...

Contrast that with The Bendatti Vendetta which finished brilliantly and had a cracking conclusion. Paced very well over the three episodes by Robbie Morrison and painted wonderfully by John Burns the two Bendatti operatives have a final showdown with the mafia bosses. However, there is a twist at the end which I did not see coming, so it was an interesting twist! Great job all round and look forward to this coming back. I know it's not sci-fi or Dredd, but so what, it's a cracking story... And something different too...

Over in the reprints and Charley's War continues to tell us about life on the home front during World War I. So much to admire about this story - it transcends the medium it is told on. C'mon Hollywood, you churn our so much crap, surely there's room for a movie based on this wonderful comic strip. Or maybe that would ruin it? Metro Dredd was a Gordon Rennie story, but it was a struggle to get through it. There are just so dull these strips most of the time. I know they are set up for a different audience, namely bored and miserable commuters, but even so...

The third and final part of Interrogation saw Robbie Morrison recount the later periods of his work. After a huge picture of Shakara on the opening pages there wasn't more than two paragraphs devoted to this excellent story, but bloody loads of space to sodding Nikolai Dante. We've heard about him a lot already, surely more could have been said about Shakara? Bah. The British Icons slot was devoted to Depserate Dan of Dandy comic fame. I read the Dandy when i was a kid, so it was great to learn more about one of my favourite childhood comic characters.. Over in Heatseekers I read the Orient section about a manga film called Spriggan, which explores occult artefact hunters (and sounded quite good) and the Comic article about an interesting work called Palestine about the author's visits to the Gaza Strip and the interactions he has with the Palestinian people.

And finally...Only one letter to Dreddlines but it must hold the record for the longest ever! The entire page! Hats off to you Marcus Nyahoe for having the sheer willpower to review one Meg in such detail. Surely nobody would be mad enough to do that... No-one at all... :-)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Meg 235 - Tooled Up!

(Link to BARNEY)

A fabulous Cliff Robinson cover  - I could tell it was his artwork straight away. A classic Dredd.

Speaking of Dredd, we had ourselves a long single story by Rennie and Holden called The Magnificent Umbersons. Poor old Cousin Herb is sick of being the family idiot and so takes his revenge on the rest of the high-flying Unberson clan. Great story, great art - which is pretty much the default behaviour for the dream team of Rennie and Holden.

Moving on to The Simping Detective story Playing Futise saw Jack meet a mysterious female (doesn't he always, the lucky so-and-so!) and ends up retracing the steps of his futsie 'friend', Zig. It seems his condition isn't exclusive as many Angeltown cits seems to be going slight bonkers. 'Futsie', by the way, is a condition a cit suffers from when they can't take modern life anymore and decide to get aggressive with their surroundings! Still enjoying this, and great to see Jack's sidekick Cliq back...

A glorious double page spread showed the true madness taking hold of Mega City One in part 5 of the Anderson story City of Dead. Looks like Anderson may have finally figured out how to stop the spread of the Half-Life virus. And there was a bit of action too. So all-in-all, a pretty good episode, as it finally feels like we are heading towards a conclusion. Bit drawn out, though...

Still not 100% on Shaun Thomas' art in the latest Young Middenface. Having got used to Ridgeway and Goddard/Teague (who's styles are quite similar), it is a little jarring. But it's not too distracting from the central story, which is continuing to build nicely. This is a real gem from Alan Grant, and perhaps should have been the template for Anderson. I think Middenface has benefited from having regular breaks, whereas scheduling Anderson one after another seems a real slog... Lots of action in this episode as the muties take on the norms and Kreelers to avoid being taken into slavery.

The Bendatti Vendetta continues to build nicely, as our two heroes take the fight to the Camorras by disrupting a number of their key operations. Lovely stuff from Morrison and Burns again, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this plays out. The episode finished on a bit of a cliff hanger. Is it all part of the plan, or are the Bendatti avengers in over their heads... Ooo - it's tense!

Part 5 of All Hell, the Devlin Waugh adventure, sees us continue to journey deeper into Hell - or the oriental version of hell that is. Devlin has teamed up with an old acquaintance who hastens their journey, but is it all too little too late? Some lovely art on display, some of MacNeils best for me, and I'm really into this story. There is plenty going on, lots of eastern philosophy, religion and myth and some strong characters. And I know who everyone is! Hurrah!

In the reprints, Charley's War continues to be awesome - so glad it's back - as Charley and his friends do everything they can to clear the Silvertown ammunition factories before the German Zeppelins arrive. Honestly, if there's a better war story out there - I'd like to read it! The Metro Dredd was pretty awful. I'll say no more!

In my last article, I bemoaned the fact that there hadn't been a fiction text story. Well, guess what? Yep - a Dredd fiction story made an appearance! Honestly, I don't read ahead on BARNEY to see whats coming up - I'm genuinely writing this like I'm reading the Megs from back in the day. I don't want to spoil any surprises. So I was pretty pleased to see a this back!

The Robbie Morrison Interogation continued to be of interest. I haven't read Nikolai Dante, and was a bit worried it would go on a lot about that story, but actually Robbie did a lot of different and interesting stuff during this period, including publishing a graphic novel of his own. I'll confess to not reading any of the Heatseekers articles this time round. They just didn't rouse my interest. Check BARNEY if you want more info. The Dredd Files. Oh dear oh dear. When will it end?!

And could win a Star Trek toaster! OK, I'm about 8 years too late, but the fact a Star Trek toaster exists is really quite funny!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Meg 234 - And Your Point Is?

(Link to BARNEY)

What a great Frazer Irving cover staring Jack Point! All sorts of weird Mega City One characters in the background and Jack in his classic pose. Get the Point? Brilliant stuff!

Let's dive straight into the last episode of the Dredd and PJ Maybe story Monsterus Mashinashuns. It didn't disappoint and what a great set up for later events! Dredd returns to MC1 and starts thinking things through. Could Don Pedro Montez really be Phillip Janet Maybe? Did he fake that cut finger... I'll say no more. Suffice to say there is a chase and a stand off between Maybe and Dredd. If, like me, you know the story from here, the ending won't be a surprise, but otherwise... ;-) Top marks Wagner and Ezquerra.

Oh joy of joys, The Simping Detective is back! And still with Spurrier and Irving at the helm. This episode of the new story Playing Futsie sees Jack locked up in a Cube with a nutter who recounts how he ended up there. The clue is in the title. Suffice to say Jack can't tell who is being played for the patsy here, and has his suspicions. Good opening episode, and looking forward to the next one. Basically, I think it would be very difficult for Spurrier and Irving to cock up this fabulous character...

Part 4 of the Devlin Waugh adventure All Hell sees our trio of heroes still in pursuit of the trio of evil guys. The enemies lay a number of traps, but are Devlin and the team are equal to them? The mystery deepens as to what exactly they are up to. Yeah, still enjoying this one. Lots going on and as we descend deeper into Hell, there are more nasty things to fight. Good job by Smith and MacNeil and looking forward to the next episode.

Young Middenface returned, but we have had a change of artist; Shaun Thomas is stepping in. This is set post-Killoden and we discover that mutants are more hunted and more persecuted than ever. We see a 'norm' boy deliver a message to his uncle, a message that sets off an unexpected chain of events. I quite like the new art, although it will take a little getting used to, but Grant is as on form as ever and has introduced an interesting new storyline...

Also returning was The Bendatti Vendetta, with Robbie Morrison and John Smith on scripting and painting duties as before. Set in Naples, the team are tracking a mafia organisation and targeting the head of the operation. Why? We don't know. We may never find out, I don't know, but it's good, solid spies and baddies stuff here. Not very Sci-fi. Not Dredd. But I like it. Others, I fear, will not.

Just when we thought there might be a chance Anderson was back to some arse-kicking it's gone all weird again as she enters into the Chief Magician's head... She does do a bit of fighting at the end, but we are back to slogging through peoples minds again. Getting a bit tired of this storyline now. It's been going on for a very long time, and I just wish we would get on and wrap it all up... Lovely Ranson artwork on display as the Mega City continues to fall to the Half-Life virus. Especially the exploding space cruiser...

Charley's War was back. Hurrah! Charley is back in Blighty, but if he thinks he's getting a rest, he is much mistaken as the threat of the Zeppelins looms large. Good to see a different perspective on the First World War focusing this set of stories on the home front. Metro Dredd took the TV show Big Brother and gave it a 22nd Century makeover, complete with Dredd being kidnapped to appear in it. A bit silly, but it was OK...

Onto the text articles and Robbie Morrison was being grilled in the Interrogation slot. It was interesting to hear Robbie recount his childhood and how he nearly didn't make it into comics. Part 2 is in the next issue, which I think might focus a lot on Nikolai Dante. The Avengers were the British Icons and this was a great article charting their history. I'm a big fan of this show so it was good to get some insight into how it got started and evolved over time. And I still secretly fancy Emma Peel to this day... The Dredd Files lumbered on... Over in Heatseekers, Si Spurrier watches the Movie Conan The Barbarian on DVD and delights in the experience. The Outer Limits was explored in the Cult TV column.

And finally... In Dreddlines, James Feist believes Anderson should grow her hair back because she is no longer the "...foxy, ravishing, sexy nymph" she once was. What is it with these chaps that need a nymphette Anderson? Just be content with fleeting shots of Shakta, Jim! :-)

Meg 233 - Buzz Off

(Link to BARNEY)

Just been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather in the UK to finish off reading this Meg today in my garden chair. I thought the cover by D'Israeli was dynamic, but not really that interesting.

Let's start with episode 3 of Monsterus Mashinashuns, the Dredd and PJ Maybe story. Having stolen the heart of a certain Dr. Ambrose, PJ sets in motion the next part of his plan. It's never going to be full of action, but it is gripping in that I am beginning to see what PJ Maybe might be up to. So far, Dredd has been quite a few steps behind the master criminal, so it will be interesting to see if he catches up anytime soon! Good story - enjoying reading it.

Zancudo concluded this issue. I say 'concluded', it has the door left open to more stories in this South American jungle ruled by giant mosquitos. Turns out there are various factions on this insect community, with giant ants being bought into play (hence the cover). Spurrier paced the story well over the 3 episodes, and the Cam Kennedy art was more than competent. I guess I fell a bit disinterested with this story, on the whole. If it never came back, I wouldn't miss it.

It was also the final episode of A Bullet In The Head, where Inspector Liu Chan Yen (AKA Johnny Woo) runs into someone from his past who he thought was dead. Can't say it was a happy reunion, and most of the episode was dedicated to their chase. It seemed to me that this was a prequel of bigger things to come, and I hope that's true. Fast paced action throughout, a trademark Rennie story, and fabulous Holden art. Come back soon...

Right, I'm really getting into Devlin Waugh now as the band of three; Devlin, Ralph (who makes weapons out of germs!) and Harry (handy with various weapons, it seems!) head into the first circle of hell in pursuit of a rather nasty trio intent on countless evil and nasty things! Some good back stories for the characters have now been established and we are off and running with the main story thread. I like the use of Chinese and Eastern religion and folklore in this story, and for a change with a Waugh story, am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Finally, at long last, The Bogie Man petered out with a slight plop. It ended fairly predictably, but did leave a bit of a cliff-hanger as to what happens to 'Rick' and 'Ilsa'. For me, it was far too long and simply not enough happened in it. Glad we can clear this one out of the way and make room for something else next time.

Anderson's story isn't moving onwards much either. She is figuring out that the city is in a lot of danger from the Half-Life virus, and Dredd makes a fleeting appearance battling some of the crazed victims. But only towards the end of the episode did she start to take things into her own hands. Finally, she's breaking a few rules to get to where she needs to be! Lovely Ranson art as always, and some wonderful quirky Big Meg characters from Grant. Slowly, but surely, we are getting there with this story.

The reprints were three Dredds I had recently read in a Case Files. I still skimmed them, as they are quite good episodes, particularly the 10th anniversary episode (10 Years On) where Dredd gets to chase the Perp he locked up in Prog 2. The Si Spurrier Metro Dredd was good too.

Onto the text articles, and just in case you were wondering, The Dredd Files is still going... Ho hum. Nice picture of a Mick McMahon Rat Fink, who was always one of my favourite characters. The British Icons article was all about Sapphire and Steel, the late 70s/early 80s time travelling duo which graced ITV back in the day. I enjoyed the article, having sat through the first series with my wife when she bought it on DVD and been scared witless (I'm not great with ghost stories). My wife is a big fan and thought the article was well written and she learnt a lot from it.

In Heatseekers, I read the Cult TV section on The League of Gentlemen, which I always liked but found a little disturbing. The Orient section talked about a Korean film, Taegukgi, which was similar to Band Of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan. It is set in 1950 in the Korean War. It sounded quite good, so I may stick it on my LoveFilm list.

And finally... We seem to have lost the text stories. I really enjoyed the Simping Detective one and some of the Dredds. The British Icons articles are quite hit and miss for me (mainly miss) so I'd like to see the text fiction brought back please Sir Alan of Barnes...

Meg 232 - Brock Hard

(Link to BARNEY)

Sir Alan Barnes' Nan likes badgers. So Lord Barnes commissioned Colin MacNeil to draw a cover with a ninja badger on it. This is according to Alan's editorial, and I have paraphrased it, but essentially that's the facts. And I like a good MacNeil cover, so I'm not going to complain ;-)

On to Dredd chasing PJ Maybe in the story Monsterus Mashinashuns. What was interesting was a thread was established here that will go in to have a large story arc of its own later down the line. Ah the benefit of hindsight (and of reading a few modern stories). Rather than spoil this story it has added a great deal of intrigue to see how it plays out. Like an Origins story, I guess. Looking forward to more Wagner and Ezquerra goodness next time.

I got into Zancudo a bit more this week. Our two Judges enter the den of the giant Mosquitos that have been plaguing them, where strange goings on are occurring... I think I mentioned last time that this was a bit of a weird one, and I'm ok with it. Dreddlines had a letter praising the strip and a letter deriding it but I think you know my style is to not rush to judgements on these things, and I'm happy to read this strip and am intrigued to see where we head.

I think Devlin Waugh's latest adventure, All Hell, made a bit more sense this time around. I was a bit lost at the end of episode 1, but there was a decent explanation narrative in the first part of this episode, so I am back on track. A bit. I think. John Smith isn't the easiest writer to follow sometimes, but his story telling usually brings it's own rewards. I am persevering. And Colin's art is definitive for Devlin Waugh.

Johnny Woo. A Bullet In the Head. Boy do I like this! More car chases, gun fights, martial arts and old scores to settle. Rennie is on super form here. It's not all wham, bam either, there is a decent story building here. Can't wait for the next episode of this. I just hope the high quality is maintained.

The pace felt like it had accelerated in The Bogie Man this time round. I am still tapping my foot impatiently waiting for it to finish, but it does rather feel we are starting to get somewhere. At last. There is a fun chase through the streets with the gang after the rescued immigrants. Hoping we wrap up next time.

Anderson did some standing around and a bit of thinking in this instalment of City of Dead. We did watch the mysterious malady take form in some poor citizens and in some robot dogs at a dog show. Anderson has some theories, but she is allowing herself to be fobbed off a lot. Again. Perhaps this is the older Anderson, but I can't help thinking 25 years ago she would have gone in and kicked a few arses.

I must apologise for not mentioning the British Icons text article series which has been running in the last few issues. Basically, a writer reviews a British fictional character of old. BARNEY has all the details for previous issues, but the reason I haven't mentioned them is I haven't been reading them. I generally don't know them, so I don't bother with them. This time it was Sexton Blake who, again, I hadn't heard of. I read the article in places, but I think you need to be a fan to get something out of it. Bryan Talbot was under Interrogation in this issue, and I don't know why, but it didn't hold my interest. Perhaps it's because I'm not familiar with much of his work?

In Heatseekers, I read all the columns (it was a long train journey!). The history of Snuff was interesting in the Movies section as I genuinely thought actual people were hurt in the making of that film. It was a hoax. 2048 sounds a bit bonkers, but then a lot of stuff in the Orient section does! Cult TV examined a fairly poo Doctor Who and the Comics section was ok.

And finally... Metro Dredd wasn't bad at all this week. Would really have worked as 5 daily strips I think. Good work Bishop and Clarke.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Meg 231 - Murder Juan

(Link to BARNEY)

Two reviews in one day? Not quite - I had Meg 230 for a while in draft form. But onto this Meg and we have a fabulous cover from the utterly brilliant Chris Weston. Regular readers may remember he did the previous Phillip Janet Maybe story called 'Six', which appeared in Megs 221 and 222 and I was hoping he's draw this new one. Turns out it's Ezquerra, but at least Chris provided this cover.

So let's get on with the Dredd and PJ Maybe story Monsterus Mashinashuns (sic) which sees Dredd visit Cuidad Baranquilla (South America) where Maybe is living as wealthy philanthropist Pedro Julio Montez. Old Stoney Face thinks Maybe is hiding out here, and is on a 'good will' mission to try and seek him out. A good episode this and the makings of a good story. John Wagner is having a very prolific period as, once again, he is on script duties. I hope we get a few episodes for this story to play out.

Si Spurrier and Cam Kennedy team up for a strange little story also set in Cuidad Baranquilla called Zancudo. Two Cuidad judges are escorting a perp to a high security prison when their flight is downed my a mysterious assailant. They then have to try and keep an eye of their perp whilst trying to get back to civilisation and avoiding their attacker. Bit of an odd one this, and as I have said before, I like to give Meg stories a bit of room to establish themselves before making a decision on whether they are my cup of tea. At the moment, it's in the 'a bit weird' pile, but happy to see what the next episode holds...

Talking of weird, I was completely lost in the new Devlin Waugh adventure All Hell. I just had this sinking feeling part way through that I had been here before with Red Tide in the early part of my Odyssey... I just got lost with who was who, who was a good guy or a bad guy and who the hell appeared at the end. Was Devlin tied up, or was it another guy... John Smith and Colin MacNeil are, once again, on script and art duties respectively. I'm just going to try it again next week and see if it falls into place, but I'm not holding out much hope. Ho hum.

Contrast this with a fabulous all-action Gordon Rennie and PJ Holden story called A Bullet In The Head featuring the Hong Tong detective and Triad enforcer Johnny Woo. I'm on record as saying no-one handles action like Rennie and Holden's art keeps pace perfectly. This story has it all; intrigue, rival gangs, exotic locations, scumbags, good guys who are bad guys and lots of fights and shooting. Can't wait for the next episode of this one!

And now onto The Bogie Man in part 5 of Return to Casablanca. Boy this was a struggle again. I just think I can't be bothered with it and am rapidly losing interest. I mean, I'm giving it a fair crack of the whip, but it really isn't something I'm hugely enjoying. I am interested to see how it ends, probably just to see if anything interesting does happen, but it's two parts too long already and shows no sign of ending soon. Still like Robin Smith's art - a very clean style and looks great in black and white.

Anderson started this Meg (making that five new stories in this issue!) in a tale called City Of Dead. A really stunning full page splash opening by Ranson, whose art I am really enjoying. And in a welcom turn of events, Anderson does some street judging! We still are having references back to the previous stories (nano-bots and half-life virus) but it's not yet clear if this will play a major role in this storyline. The setup seems to indicate it will, so let's see how it plays out.

The reprint was a couple of Dredd stories called Playaday and A Child's Tale. Both were good single episode stories dealing with some fairly unique subject material. The first one was quite the comedy, the latter a tragedy - so they worked well as a pair. Quite a good Metro Dredd (haven't said that for a while) with Si Spurrier on writing duty and Steve Roberts on art. Quite a good little story.

Si's Movie column, reviewing Spaghetti Westerns was pretty decent too. Has he changed his style or am I warming to him? Difficult to say... The final part of Cam Kennedy's Interrogation didn't disappoint with an account brining us right up to date (2005 of course!). He recalls his work on Star Wars (which was pretty important in resurrecting the franchise) as well as some other work for 2000 AD. Again, he missed some opportunities, but isn't prone to regret or bitterness. He seems happy with his lot.

And finally...Dreddlines is still going strong at this stage in the Meg's life. Floyd has now begun to write in as 2000AD characters, which is an interesting twist, and there was a letter complaining Anderson wasn't attractive enough in her old age!

Meg 230 - Blazin Squad

(Link to BARNEY)

A bit of a "Here Come The Girls" theme to this Arthur Ranson cover with the three female stars of the current Anderson story. It's quite plain, but I liked it, especially the 'burnt' corner, although there is a slight optical illusion that Shakta is looking to her right, when she has no pupils. On closer inspection she isn't, and it's such a minor gripe, but it irritated a little... I will try not to be that petty again :-)

We had a 'feature length' John Wagner Dredd called Judging Ralphy (with art by Dave Taylor) and I really got stuck into this and enjoyed it a lot. There is a Jimp (Judge Impersonator) loose in the city and Dredd is on his tail. It's not as simple as that though as it is a person from Dredd's past with whom he had a complex relationship. There are flashback scenes in the story, done in greyscale, and drawn in a different style by Taylor. Dredd is drawn like he was in the early Progs of the 70s and this was a clever way to handle the scenes from the past. I'm not sure everyone will like Dave Taylor's art in the main section, but the story was very good and I was absorbed.

The Shimura storyline Deus X finished in this issue and I was pretty happy with how it resolved. This is another example of a story I would like to have seen built up over more episodes, but as it stands, it did the best it could. It did feel rushed, though. There are other graphic novels out there called Deus Ex Machina, the name of the Terrorists in this story. Coincidence? Or building on this universe? We are left with a little teasing 'Cliff hanger' so we will see how this builds if Shimura returns.

Bato Loco: Head Job only lasted two parts. Still, it was fine as it stood. It was a pretty simple story so there wasn't a lot of pacing issues. I think Gordon Rennie is one of the best at scripting these shorter stories. Simon Colby's art was spot on as usual with this character. Still plenty of life left in Bato Loco, so hope to see him back again soon...

We had the return of the Whatever Happened To slot, with this issue looking at how Melda Dreepe turned out. If you have read Block Mania, she was the spark that started the storming of Enid Blyton block by Dan Tanna which eventually turned into the Apocalypse War epic. Alan Grant scripted this with art by Steve Roberts. It was all passable and pleasant enough, but didn't really go anywhere or do anything. At only six pages it was going to be a tough ask anyway. Bit of a waste of space really...

The Bogie Man lumbered on somewhat. I'm reading it, it's OK, but I'm not that bothered about it. All the elements are there, but we seem to have become distracted from the main event of the Albanian slave workers and we now have a kidnapped Scottish celebrity. Scratching my head a bit on this. Of course, it may all come together brilliantly in the end. I hope so. I don't hate it, but in the language of the kids, it's a bit Meh...

The Anderson story, Lock In, wrapped up thanks to the team effort of Anderson, Shakta and Juliet November. Yep, the fire starter from the first few issues of the Meg makes a return to play an important part in the story's resolution. It was all finished off quite nicely and I thought 'Yep, let's leave Anderson for a bit and have a new character next issue'. But no. She's back in a new story next issue. To be honest, I'm a bit fed up with this story arc of hers. I really hope we get back to some street judging rather than this fairly intense psychological journey she seems to have been on for a number of issues. Let's see what happens. The cynic in me wonders if there is half an eye on the trade paperback...

The reprint was a Dredd called Cardboard City. Dredd is on the hunt for his former housekeeper Maria amongst the homeless of Mega City One. But others are also moving amongst the cardboard city for other more deadly reasons. Wagner and Cam Kennedy on duty for this one and it was a reasonably good tale. I hated the colouring. I know the old strips didn't have the benefit of modern digital techniques, but I'd much rather it had been black and white. I did my best to ignore it, but it irritated a bit. When are we getting Charley's War back, Sir Alan?

On to the text articles and Cam Kennedy continued to provide a fascinating look back over his career in the Interrogation slot, interviewed by David Bishop. It was interesting reading about the opportunities he perceived he missed, but he's quite pragmatic about it and doesn't seem to have any regrets. Really got absorbed by this article. In Heat Seekers, I read Si Spurrier's Movie column where he dissects all those little irritating continuity errors that creep into movies. This was a much better article and I reckon he should stick to this kind of material. Jonathan Clements reviewed an anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion in his Orient column. Sounds as mad as a box of frogs but I'm quite temped to give it a go! The Metro Dredd was nothing special. They are of some passing interest, but to be honest, if they went I wouldn't miss them. In fact, I'd be hoping they would be replaced with Wagner and Smith Daily Star Dredd!

And finally...Special mention has to go to Gordon Rennie's last ever You're Next, Punk. He looked back over his columns and shared some of the feedback he received along the way. They certainly seemed popular in the Megazine production office! All in all, I enjoyed these. I enjoyed Gordon's writing style, and he proved he can write entertaining commentary prose as well as a damn fine comic story. Thank you, Gordon, your spleen will be missed...