Progs 545 to 570 – Oz

Story: Oz
Appears: 2000AD Progs 545-570
Issues: 26
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Cliff Robinson, Jim Baikie, Gary Leach, Brendan McCarthy, Will Simpson, Steve Dillon, Barry Kitson, John Higgins
Dated: 24 October 1987 to 16 April 1988

There is no doubt that Wagner and Grant do their best work in the longer format and this is a real beauty. It has been a while since we have seen an epic length tale. Not since we last saw Chopper in the Midnight Surfer in fact.

Marlon Shakespeare makes a superb protagonist because he is the closest thing to normal the mega-city has. He isn’t a criminal but is criminalised by the system he lives within. He makes a superb point of view character for the reader and it is so easy to empathise with his struggle. There is no time-travel, alien, supernatural gimmick in his stories and as such we can easily transpose his struggles to our own.

Just like the Midnight Surfer we have a slow build up with plenty of room to let the story breathe and grow. The narration is superbly poetic and there are plenty of human touchstones along the way from his childhood friend to fans on the street.

It is not all rosy however. There are number of racial stereotypes ranging from the lazy to the offensive. At one point there is even a note from the editor to explain that these views do not represent 2000AD. The injection of the second storyline, the Judda, seems unplanned and uncoordinated, possibly as a filler for some delayed script or art, even though it is quite a significant addition to the Dredd canon.

The ending itself is just breath-taking. The actual race is sustained over six nail-biting issues with a spot-on commentary that reads like the greatest Derby ever seen. Best of all Chopper doesn’t have the trite hero’s victory you would expect from a kid’s comic. And the last few pages where he faces death are absolutely electric.

This is probably the most sophisticated and greatest Dredd story to date.

Progs 535 to 539 – Alabammy Blimps

Story: Alabammy Blimps
Appears: 2000AD Progs 535-539
Issues: 5
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Steve Dillon
Dated: 15 August 1987 to 12 September 1987

What would happen if Escape From New York and Deliverance had a baby? Maybe this would be the result.

 It turns out not all Cursed Earth stories are great. Just those set in the radioactive wasteland part and not the stereotypical Redneck swamp part.

Prog 450 – A Merry Tale of the Christmas Angel

Story: A Merry Tale of the Christmas Angel
Appears: 2000AD Prog 450
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Steve Dillon
Dated: 28 December 1985

Christmas stories aren’t meant to be taken seriously but wheeling out Mean Machine Angel for a single issue is a gross waste of such a beloved a character. What is interesting is just how devious the judges are at rooting out criminals and how quick they are to execute them.

Prog 407 to 411- The Hunters Club

Story: The Hunters Club
Appears: 2000AD Prog 407- 411
Issues: 5
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Ron Smith, Steve Dillon,
Dated: 2 March 1985 to 30 March 1985

This is a very mature storyline that spotlights both the allure and seduction of violence and the stomach turning reality. You really feel sorry for the citizens caught between the inflexible justice department and the craziness of the city they live in. Best of all everything isn’t neatly wrapped up and you are looking forward to the return of this sinister organisation.

Prog 374 to 375 – The Wreckers

CF07Story: The Wreckers
Appears: 374-375
Issues: 2
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Steve Dillon
Dated: 23 June 1984 to 30 June 1984

There is action, and fire, and explosions, and superbly big-panelled action from the clean-lined Steve Dillon. But that isn’t what makes this story top-notch. These aren’t cartoonish gangsters in pinstripe suits. Here are real people being driven to crime because the conditions they live in are so bad. And all of this can be traced back to the Apocalypse War – the story that keeps on giving.

The other reason this story shines is the opening narration is written in the second person. This is extremely rare for all literature let alone for comics. This technique immediately makes it much more personal. You are another step closer to the ordinary citizen.

It is always nice to take a look under the rock that is the Big Meg and see stories of people we can empathise with. Of course you get to see just how powerless the Judges actually are at eradicating crime. Like cockroaches that scurry away when the lights are on, as soon as the Judges’ gaze is forced elsewhere, the Perps come back.

Prog 353 – The Highwayman

CF07Story: The Highwayman
Appears: 353
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Steve Dillon
Dated: 28 January 1984

This is all action with a weird end. The concept of the Mo-pad is an interesting one and we have seen highway robbery before. What is unusual is we see not only a body hung from an overpass but the neck snapping during the event. Dredd is definitely no stranger to death and violence but this seems very out of place and quite unsettling.

Prog 322 to 328 – Cry of the Werewolf

CF07Cry of the Werewolf
Appears: 322-328
Issues: 7
Script: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Steve Dillon
Dated: 25 June to 6 August 1983

This is an awesome story. Once again we see Dredd on his own battling for his life and it’s not clear how or if he will make it. The werewolves are a credible threat and supply a good deal of relatable menace. We see Dredd ready to sacrifice himself for his city without a second thought.

We also visit the Undercity that we haven’t seen since the Troggies. We learn that Judges take the long walk down there as well as the Cursed Earth. This popular location is anchored in old New York with Times Square, Broadway and Central Park. The posters for films Rocky 37 Mad Max 25 are unfortunately anachronistic.

Dillon does a good job on the art with a nice touch to the action scenes. All his Judges look like Dredd however and if you don’t see their badges you can get confused as to who is who. His werewolves are great. Very bestial with inhuman eyes.