Thursday, 8 March 2018

ZARJAZ Issue 30 Review (2000AD Fanzine)

Zarjaz is Betelgeusian for 'Excellent', as every devoted Squaxx Dek Thargo knows. If the previous sentence is a bit confusing, then you're probably not a long term reader of 2000AD, the UK comic that gave us Judge Dredd in 1977 and is still going strong, with Dredd celebrating his 41st anniversary this week.

Fanzines in comics are not a new thing, and are often useful in digging out new talent or people who have just one idea in them but it's a great one. For example, the cover artist for the latest Zarjaz is Dan Cornwell, who is a previous contributer that now is a bonafide official artist in the main comic. Similarly, current Dredd author Mike Carroll also made his early career steps in Zarjaz, so it's nothing to be sneezed at. It's really nice of Dan to do the cover when he's got so much actual paid work to get on with, and as you can see it's a belter.

Unusually, issue 30 is 100% Dredd centric. Normally other strips are included,but I guess there was just a lot of strips submitted featuring ol' stony face and his world this time round. The character has so much history and the world that's been built around him so much scope that he's a natural draw for would be scripters, I suppose. As a reult, we've got seven strips over 48 A5 pages of glossy loveliness.

First up is Judge Pigg, by Rich McAuliffe and artist Mick Cassidy. It's a tribute to the strip that the ludicrous and the dead serious have always gone hand in hand, and this a nicely daft take on the first ever Dredd story that is really funny and full of wince  and smile inducing puns. The art suits the tone perfectly, and the final page reveal would bring a smile to the face of Dredd himself, right before the creators wer arrested.

Next up is 'Spare The Rod', by Alan Holloway, with art by Dan Goodfellow. This perfectly illustrates my point about silly and serious strips, as this one is blacker than Baldrick's underpants. Addressing a topic never before attempted in the strip (quite a feat after 41 years), it's a tale that would have major repercussions if it had been in the weekly. Both writer and artist treat a potentially tricky subject with style and respect, with some excellent layout work from Goodfellow throughout.

The third strip is 'Descendants' (part one) from Alan Trench, illustrated very nicely by Robomonkey 147. Regular Dredd fand will be painfully aware that Dredd's home, Mega City 1, is routinely put through the wringer by the writers, resulting in plenty of deaths and misery. Each time it rebuilds and waits for the next disaster. The tale concerns a survivor of the first disaster, the Apocalypse War, and her subsequent life afterwards as she survives each citywide sneck up, though not without her own losses. It's a well told, serious story that works very well. Personally, I look forward to the next part.

'Law In Exile - Madhouse Bop' comes next, a tale from Judge Hershey's past by Santiago Mayaud and illustrated by JP Vilchis. In the strip, Hershey tracks an excaped hacker to a mental hospital on an asteroid, and violence ensues. It could have been a routine story, but Mayaud delivers a very clever twist to wrap things up in a satisfying way, comfortably aided an abetted by Vilchis' nice art.

The second half of the magazine starts off with 'Interrogation', always a popular subject in Dredd's world, where police brutality is a given. It doesn't help, however, when a Judge goes a bit nuts and is convinced an innocent(ish) citizen is a mass murderer and a hostage situation ensues. Although the art by Aaron Murphy is really nice, I found Gavin Johnston's script a wee bit clunky and at odds with how I expect Dredd's world to run. It's still an enoyable strip, though, even if my brain kept asking too many questions.

The penultimate (and longest at 9 pages) strip takes us away from Mega City 1 to Brit Cit and it's favourite vampire son, Devlin Waugh. Kevin McHugh obviusly has a fondness for the character and has the speech patterns and humour down well, but to be honest the simple story seems rather stretched out, even if Lorenzo Nicoletta's art is welcome throughout. As with 'Interrogation' , though, it's still a fun read, although this time my atitude to the strip may be tempered by the fact I have never had much love for Devlin Waugh.

Finally, we get back to Dredd with 'No Good Deed', written and drawn by Edward Whatley. A purely visual tale, it takes us down into the sewers and features an appearence by everyone's favourite gutter mouthed droid Ro Jaws. It's a short, sweet, smart and funny end to the issue, with Whatley's visuals showing genuine talent. One of several stories here that would not be out of place in the weekly itself, 'No Good Deed' will leave readers with a happy glow, and that's a job well done.

Zarjaz is worth a few quid of any 2000AD fan's money, showing a depth and quality that outstrips it's fanzine status. If you are a Dredd fan, or if you know one, go and get a copy because you (or they) will not be disappointed.


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