Thursday, January 17, 2008

37. Judge Death Gets Ugly and the Hipster Daughter Gets Squeamish

August 1996: As if to complement the reprints of "Necropolis" over in the Megazine, there's a new seven-part Judge Death adventure running in the weekly. This is "Dead Reckoning," by John Wagner and Greg Staples, and features Death escaping from custody again and making his way back to Deadworld to lick his wounds, only to find that thanks to a timeshift, he's back in the final days of that world's great cull of its populace, and he's soon confronted by his passsst sssself and the other Dark Judges. Death has stolen the body of an aging M-C 1 citizen, and instead of his robes of office, is wearing a dress.

It's a good lineup at this time, with Dredd supported by Slaine in Book One of "Treasures of Britain" by Pat Mills and Dermot Power, Durham Red by Peter Hogan (as Alan Smithee) and Mark Harrison, and a pair of new series which will run for about three months, throughout a number of short stories illustrated by different artists. Outlaw is a future-frontier world story by Paul Neal with art this week by Marc Wigmore, and Black Light is a modern-day thriller about a special ops team assembled by the president to hunt down rogue agencies acting without his authorization. It is written by Dan Abnett and Steve White, and art on this installment is by John Burns, who is completely suited for a contemporary conspiracy thriller and turns in some brilliant artwork. Neither series, however, gets much attention from the fans, and neither will return after these first outings, although Showtime had an option to make an Outlaw TV series for several years and never did anything with it.

As Tharg, David Bishop has picked up a very odd - for Tharg - habit of letting us know precisely what issues, six months down the line, certain thrills will be returning. Over the last couple of weeks, he's let us know that the second book of this Slaine story will begin in prog 1024, and that Sinister Dexter will be back in prog 1025. Today's Tharg likes to sneak new things on us; some things have to be revealed via Diamond Distributors' catalog of advance solicitations, but there are still occasional surprises in store for today's readers without any advance warning. I like the present style better, to be honest.

* * *

When my son started reading 2000 AD with me, at prog 800, my daughter immediately protested that she was being left out. I explained that she might be a shade too young for the comic, but that she could start when she turned nine. She reminded me after Christmas that she's nine now and wants to read with us. So since prog 1000 and meg v.3 #20 were both jump-on issues, she has settled in and now I get the enormous pleasure of having the kids talk shop, sometimes without including me in their conversations. But when I am included, it's pretty fun, too.

For example, the other night, the Hipster Son spent several minutes reading The Complete Nemesis the Warlock Vol. 2 before bed, and when I told the kids to wrap up their reading, he returned the book to the library table, mumbling just loud enough for me to hear, "If I ever have a wife, I won't put a bomb in her head."

I replied, "You only just now figured out that Torquemada's a complete freak?"

"I KNOW he's a freak, Dad, I just didn't think anybody was that crazy!"

The Hipster Daughter chimed in, asking "What are you talking about?"

"In Nemesis the Warlock, Torquemada's got a micro-bomb in his wife's skull!"

"Oh, my GOD!" she shouted.

There's actually been a fair amount of shouting. Prog 1002 featured the chemical preparation of Judge Death's latest host body, a facet of the stories which readers have understood since '82 or so. But these are stories I came to as a teenager, and I suppose it never occurred to me how outre and dark some of the fiction will appear to a youngun. Admittedly, my daughter is the most melodramatic child on the planet, but I was still amused by how over-the-top her reactions to that cliffhanger were. There were yelps and shouts and when she finally finished the issue, she brought it to me with her face frozen in an exaggerated wince and her eyes wide. "That's scaaaaaary," she explained.

"Well, Sweetie, if it's too scary, you can wait until you're a little older to read..."

"NO! NO! I want to READ!"

Addictive stuff, thrillpower!

Next time: Readers' letters. Do you think people are going to overreact spectacularly about those "Necropolis" reprints in the Meg? You bet!

(Originally published 1/17/08 at LiveJournal.)

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