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Mega-City Undercover Vol #1 by Andy Diggle, Rob Williams, Jock and Simon Coleby

01/08/2012. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Mega-City Undercover Vol #1 in the USA - or Buy Mega-City Undercover Vol #1 in the UK

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pub: 2000AD/Rebellion. 160 page graphic novel. Price: 7.08 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-90543-752-8).

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This interesting collection of 'Mega-City Undercover', set in Judge Dredd's stomping grounds, opens with three stories about Lenny Zero. The first is 'Lenny Zero' with script by Andy Diggle and art by Jock. Lenny Zero is an undercover Judge in the Wally Squad and confesses this fact to crime boss, Little Caesar Piccante, when that worthy's chief accountant is captured with all the access codes to the gangster's accounts. Zero says he can get the accountant away from the Judges and does. A neat film noir style short from Andy Diggle with excellent noir artwork by Jock. We can only presume that this is a pseudonym for a comic artist of Caledonian extraction.

The second part is 'Lenny Zero: Dead Zero' by the same creators. Zero is still alive and on the run from both the Judges and Piccante's gangsters while cooking up another bit of grand larceny. A famous senior Judge with a very big jaw tracks him down. The artists seem to be trying to outdo each other on jaw size so that sometimes the star Judge of Mega-City One looks as if he has a massive tumour under his bottom lip. Never mind. I thought Jock's art was a bit slapdash on the last few pages of this but that can happen when deadlines loom, I guess. 'Lenny Zero: Wipeout' by same team concludes Lenny's story. Happily, the art was back to a higher standard and the story was good, too.

The next two stories are by Rob Williams and artist Henry Flint. In 'Low Life: Paranoia', Aimee Nixon, an undercover Judge with Wally Squad, snuggles up to a small-time hood who's getting a bit-part in a big caper. Aimee can beat any lie detector and on qualifying as a Judge, volunteered to have one arm chopped off, the better to fit in as an undercover low life. The arm was replaced with a hi-tech prosthetic but even so she is obviously a bit mad. Her colleague, Dirty Frank, on the other hand, is entirely mad. 'Low Life: Paranoia' is plotted like a complex cop thriller with lots of double-dealing and treachery. The art includes some very good views of Mega-City One. In 'Low Life: Heavy Duty', Aimee Nixon gets pumped full of fat to infiltrate a suspicious slimming company called Low-Cal. Its devotees are so devoted they leave it all their money when they die and they soon die.

The same writer, Rob Williams, is paired with artist Simon Coleby for the remaining stories. In 'Low Life: Rock And A Hard Place', Dirty Frank goes undercover as the manager of a low life rock group suspected of killing off rival groups to get a coveted record contract by winning the battle of the bands, a talent show the like of which is all over the television in our own time. The lead singer writes very cheesy lyrics, literally.

A cute Christmas story next. 'Low Life: He's Making A List'. Every Christmas Eve someone known as Mister Claws comes to the Robert Helpmann block orphanage and steals some children. At least the kids say it's Mister Claws but he is just a story, as everyone knows. Dirty Frank and Aimee go undercover as children's entertainers to investigate. This Christmas cheer is followed by 'Low Life: Con Artist' in which Aimee Nixon and a conspiracy theorist named Ronson Morse working together. He writes a website and has learned that the world's assassins are convening in the low life area for Hitcon, their annual get-together. This seems like one of the '2000AD' ideas for a jolly jape but turns out to be a pretty traumatic examination of Aimee's own dark psyche.

The last story is more fun with Dirty Frank, the craziest loon ever modelled on a real life comic writer. 'Low Life: Baby Talk'. A firm called Grey Matters is charging high fees to increase the IQ of babies and their method seems to work. Dirty Frank apprehends some baby criminals and then takes Eric 'Mortal' Coil, the Judge that looks like a baby, to the firm, pretending to be his father. There are amusing scenes when Dirty Frank is attacked by Baby Ninjas and the solution to the mystery was clever. Simon Coleby's art seemed a bit slipshod in this one but perhaps my eyes were blurring from staring at the computer screen too long. I read the whole of this in download format which I don't recommend. Comics are better on paper.

All in all an enjoyable collection. The 'Lenny Zero' stuff was probably the best but the other Wally Squad Judges are a fine bunch of eccentrics and no doubt good fun to write, especially Frank.

Eamonn Murphy

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