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Underrated: Judge Dredd Megazine

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way.

This week: Judge Dredd Megazine

Initially launched in the 90’s as a monthly companion to the weekly anthology comic 2000 AD, Judge Dredd Megazine is a much easier beast to keep track of when you’re importing it (via Diamond and my comic shop) than a weekly comic that would likely cost more than the average Marvel or DC book. Judge Dredd Megazine usually sets me back around $12-17 depending on the exchange rate when I’m picking it up. It’s more than I remember paying for it when I was in England, but not honestly all that much more – and it’s significantly cheaper than flying over to pick it up.

The megazine, a play on words with magazine and Judge Dredd’s home city of Mega City One, generally comes with an additional comic that collects stories previously published within 2000 AD or the megazine itself. I always factor this bonus material into the overall price when the exchange rate is less favourable for me, and still have never felt that I’ve over paid in a large part because of the (48ish page) supplemental insert – plus, the fact that you get around 80-90 pages of anthology comics plus a few text based features as the main draw means that value for money is certainly there.

At this point, I feel it’s worth talking about the way the stories are presented in the megazine, rather than the stories themselves because this is an anthology comic there is always a story that has just begun, or is still early enough in its progress that you can catch on without worrying too much about what you’ve missed. Honestly, it’s probably exposure to Judge Dredd Megazine and 2000 AD as a kid that has enabled me to just pick up a story mid way through and enjoy it without worrying too much about What Came Before as long as the story flows and makes sense (which likely lead to my firm belief that, as much as possible, comics should always be new reader friendly). The stories are written and drawn by some incredibly talented people – the credits for Judge Dredd Megazine #417 include Michael Carroll, Dan Abnett, Phil Winsdale, Chris Roberson, Andrea Mutti, Ales Kot, Mike Dowling and more – with each creator bringing their own unique style and skillset so that the aesthetic of the book’s stories can change noticeably every ten issues or so, but because of the editorial and design team (in #417, that’s editor Matt Smith and designers Sam Grettonm Oz Osbourne and Gemma Sheldrake) there’s a consistent level of quality and visual presentation within the bones of the book that it still feels like the same megazine you know and love.

It’s a unique, yet oddly wonderful, feeling to be able to miss tens of issues and be able to dive right back in. If you’ve ever seen a good friend for the first time after years apart, then that’s the feeling I’m talking about here.

The reason I’ve been reticent to talk about the stories within the book is because there’s no real guarantee that you’ll see the same characters again once the story has been told, although there’s always going to be a Judge Dredd story featured within the megazine, the other three or four stories rotate on a regular basis with the only constant being the quality of what you’re reading. Most are sci-fi in some form, though there has been a more classic fantasy or steam punk story sneak in here and there, so if you’re not into anything but capes and cowls then you may not find anything you like here, and that’s okay. But if you’re wanting to branch out and expand your reading to offerings from across the pond, this is one of the best ways to get a sample of some great comics.

This may not be an underrated gem in the UK, but on this side of the pond? It absolutely is.

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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