Thursday, October 23, 2008

72. Doomsday Begins

Thrillpowered Thursday is a weekly look at the world of 2000 AD. I'm rereading my collection of 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, one issue an evening, and once each week for the foreseeable future, I'll see what I'm inspired to write.

April 1999: Megazine Vol. 3 # 54 brings us the third episode of the Judge Dredd story "The Narcos Connection," a four-parter by John Wagner, Andrew Currie and Stephen Baskerville which is told from the perspective of Galen DeMarco, the former judge and now private investigator. This is an incredibly interesting story that serves as the first chunk of a series of interwoven Dredd serials which will run through the summer and into mid-October. The overall title for this epic, engaging mess is "The Doomsday Scenario," and it is very much unlike the standard 12 or 26 part Dredd stories seen in years past.

Twice before, in "Judgement Day" and "Wilderlands," the action of a Dredd epic was split between 2000 AD and the Meg by having episodes appear in each comic. But those appeared when the Meg was published fortnightly. In 1999, the Meg is monthly and aimed at mature readers. So the Doomsday epic in 2000 AD runs for 24 episodes (prog 1141 to 1164), and in the Megazine for eight episodes (# 52 to # 59), and each comic can be read completely independently of each other. In fact, reading it in 2000 AD alone actually worked a little better for me, as working the material into DeMarco's P.O.V. is occasionally awkward and reveals dramatic moments before they happen in 2000 AD.

There is more to it than just the final assault on the city by the crimelord Nero Narcos and his robot army, although that's quite amazing in its bloody, violent chtuzpah. Narcos was behind a munitions company that was awarded the judges' new firearms contract, and, as was shown in a one-off in prog 1122, all of their sidearms were fitted with the standard "unauthorized user" self-destruct feature familiar to any longtime reader of the comic. But Narcos controlled the self-destruct system, and as soon as any judge drew his gun to fire on one of Narcos's robots, the gun exploded. The casualty figure for judges in this series is pretty astonishing.

But there's another element to Doomsday: the old Soviet assassin Orlok. He had crossed paths briefly with Judge Dredd in the early 80s before becoming a recurring foe for Anderson and, finding Earth too small for the two of them, taking his single-minded, violent life to a frontier planet. He learns that the East-Meg One government-in-exile has offered a 10 million credit bounty on Dredd for war crimes and returns to Mega-City One to bring him to justice. So seven (2000 AD) episodes into the proceedings, Dredd is captured and taken out of town while it falls to Narcos. When the action moves to Europe, the Megazine episodes breathe a little easier, no longer needing to relate the same incidents from two perspectives.

At 32 episodes, "Doomsday" is the longest of all the Dredd storylines. It is not currently in print, but it was collected into two books by Hamlyn in 2001, Doomsday for Dredd and Doomsday for Mega-City One. More detailed information can be found at the really excellent Wikipedia page for the story, which I probably should've looked at before I typed all that stuff out.

It has been some time since a Megazine made it into Thrillpowered Thursday, and perhaps I should point out that the format has changed just a little bit since then. Half of the comic is still made up of Preacher reprints - they're at the point where everybody's got together at Jesus de Sade's depraved party to beat the hell out of the smack dealers who killed Cassidy's girlfriend - but the black & white reprint pages no longer belong to American comics but to reprints of the Daily Star's Dredd comic from the mid-1980s by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. Wasn't I just talking about this two days ago? Oh yes, I was.

The Daily Star Dredds - focussing on the Ian Gibson episodes - ran for about a year and a half in the Megazine and are the closest thing available to a complete, proper reprint of them. In Meg # 54-55, we have the story "Bride of Death," in which the actress in a film about the alien superfiend is convinced that she is being haunted. Naturally, bodies start turning up. It is great stuff!

Next time, Ramone Dexter gets a new job. See you in seven days!

(Originally posted October 23, 2008 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

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