Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Judge Dredd: The Red Queen’s Gambit, Part One
Credits: Arthur Wyatt (script), Jake Lynch (art), John Charles (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Christa Harader: Serpico’s back, and he’s busted out of his robo-penal colony with some unknown help – not that he’s ungrateful. Dredd’s tasked with hunting down the data dealer who leaked Serpico’s escape to the media, Orlok’s clone is pissed, and the Red Queen would just like a moment to have her lungs replaced, please.
Our first foray into this story has enough action to hook significant interest, with multiple threats running around and the ever-stoic Dredd headed out to do what he does best. Lynch’s art features some nice detailed close-ups and a lanky Dredd who seems a touch out of place in the book’s initial daytime briefings. Lynch incorporates more mood and drama with some action lines later, but the characters feature minimal shading and a lot of good, buttoned-up detail. There’s chaos to come, surely, but for now the team has to build tension so the violence can really pop.
Charles pays good attention to light sources and the palette is positively cheerful in this first bit of the story. Things get a little darker later on when the Red Queen pops onto the screen but there are still a lot of classic horror comics spotlights to help crystallize the moment. Parkhouse’s font gives Lynch’s precise line a nod while keeping the consonants angular and giving the book its pulp feeling.
We’ll see what happens now that Dredd is relatively unarmed and outside of Mega-City One. He’ll have to rely on his wits and a little subtlety at first, but with Serpico on his tail and Orlok ready to lop off some heads, the peace and quiet won’t last too long.
Lawless: Ashes to Ashes
Dan Abnett (Script), Phil Winslade (Art), Ellie De Ville (Letters)
Chris Egan: Dan Abnett brings this arc of “Lawless” to a close with a small time jump of six weeks from the previous issue. Badrock is on the verge of celebrating their new status as a free town, but nothing ever goes to plan. A Zhind trade ship hovers above the town with no sign of what their plan is and a troop of Judges are keeping an eye on things. Led by Judge McClure, she has nothing but contempt for this town and its new leader. She is just waiting for something to go wrong, hoping for it, to say the least. Abnett’s script is tight with plenty of dry snark. The story balances the plans to celebrate with the tension of what could go wrong so well that you really aren’t sure which way the plot is going to lean until it’s too late.
Winslade’s attention to detail and emotion is what makes his art on this book so great. The lack of color allows your eye to pick up on so much as you move from panel to panel. The stark black and white illustrations call back to classic “Judge Dredd.” With most pages heavily detailed with thin line work, leaving everything clear and open, the heavy black inking, against the bright white negative space accentuating the Judge uniforms and Zhind ship, this is a dark and unsettling counterpart to the original series. The focus on the things that could cause real problems for Badrock is a beautiful design choice. De Ville’s lettering is so integral to the design of the issue that it’s easy to forget it isn’t part of the illustrations from jump. Perfectly executed, her work brings out the full range of emotion and action pieces.
High tension, dry humor, and dark situations makes for a solid ending to the arc. However, because this is an on-going strip, there is little in the way of any real closure as things are left open for the next set of issues.
Diamond Dogs, Part 1
Credits: James Peaty (script), Warren Pleace (art), Simon Bowland (letters).
Tom Shapira: Despite being a feature of the Dredd-verse for decades now and heaving a decent number of spin-off stories taking place in it Brit-Cit has never been properly defined. Whenever a new serial starts there it seems like the place has been changed to accommodate the story, so one really has trouble reconciling “Brit-Cit Brute” with “Storm Warnings.” This new series, “Diamond Dogs,” is probably not going to provide the definitive vision the setting calls for but it seems to a decent little story; there’s a lot of intrigue to go around as gang member Nia scores a big win for the group, which gets her step closer to the top of the heap. But Nia’s agenda runs a bit deeper than being a simple gang member.Continued below
Like a lot of these types of stories, and I’m thinking now especially about The Departed, whether it’s good or not will only be revealed when the story ends and we see how well the knots been tied. So far James Peaty shows a good ear for character, playing up nicely Nia resourcefulness against the sad state she found herself in while the man above her, Magellan, is given the bastard role while obviously thinking of it as just another job.
Warren Pleece is always an artist I’ve got time for – his work got a lot of old-school charm, with oak-solid storytelling and character work. In short, a perfect fit for an old school cops and robbers story. The one thing he’s not a master of is comedy, the opening scene with the warring gimmick gangs is not really playing for his strength. It’s not his fault it’s not that funny (it’s a well-worn gag), I only wish he was given something better to work with for the opening.
Still, these minor quibbles. Overall Diamond Dogs seems to be a lot of fun coming our way for the next few months.
The Returners: Chandhu, Part 1
Si Spencer (script), Nicolo Assirelli (art), Eva De La Cruz (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: Almost like a 2000AD version of the Suicide Squad, the Returners are an unlikely gang of criminals who find themselves granted the ability to penetrate to a perimeter in Ciudad Barranquilla, and are sent on government sponsored missions, whether they like it or not. One of the really fun parts of the Dredd-verse is how you creators can tell familiar stories, like this one, but due to the setting and circumstances of the world, they feel free and not derivative.
A big part of what makes this strip work is Nicolo Assirelli’s artwork. I was unfamiliar before reading last year’s first installment of “The Returners,” and I was blown away by his character work. This strip is no different; the first page is made up of single panels highlighting the four criminals in some sort of stasis, and just through posture and facial expression, we know a lot about each character. The narration by Si Spencer helps, but the basics are there just from the quick visuals.
Eva De La Cruz adds a subtle, understated palette that helps set the story apart, visually, from some of the darker, saturated looks we’re used to seeing. There’s a fair amount of pastel used, which helps establish the South American setting. Between the artwork, the fun tech that is introduced, and the overall air of mystery established in this short installment, this is a breezy, fun, and intriguing story.
The Torture Garden Part Ten
Credits David Hine (script) Nick Percival (art) Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Sweet release.
“The Torture Garden” by David Hine and Nick Percival had its ups and downs but ends on a strong note that plays to the strips strengths as everyone makes their escape from the planet. Well, not everyone as Angelotti and Poussay make the heroic sacrifice to buy everyone time and maybe stop the Dark Judges for good; or at least for now.
It’s always interesting to see how writers handle, or chose not to, the supposed Power Level of everyone. The Dark Judges are these ultra-powerful psychic beings and what not, while Angelotti is a mutant giant person. Not exactly a fair fight, but fighting is all about story telling. Hine and Percival tell a clever one with Angelotti’s engagement with the Judges, by taking the basic concepts of their power set seriously but not letting that get in the way. As he faces down the dark quartet Judge Fear commands him to look into the face of fear. Angelotti does not oblige and drops a smoke grenade, nullifying the effect. The single page sequence leans into the series strengths by documenting constant action that forces a bit more of a dynamic page layout. The angular fourth panel isn’t much but it’s enough that figures Angelotti in the classic 80s walking away from the explosion kind of way. It also buys the strip enough time to get on bored for the crew to work out who should trigger the bomb. Overall this is likely the best strip in terms of structure that justifies cuts to different locations at the turn of the page and telling one page sequences.Continued below
Moments of conversation haven’t been a strength in this strip, but the decision on Poussay going back to trigger the bomb was. There is some nice contrast between Rosco’s hidden shadowy face and Poussay’s fully revealed one. That followed by a two panel mirror close up of them did a nice job of giving the sequence some visual dynamism and symbolism, as Poussay makes the call to stay behind.
Poussay gets to go out in a delightfully classic bad ass way. Quoting old poetry can sound a little pretentious but citing “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth is a nice counter point to the Edge Lord nature of the Dark Judges. It also buys enough time for us to find out what exactly a Boing® does.
“The Torture Garden” ends on a strong note, if it is ever collected reading it in quicker succession will likely alleviate some of the formal choices that didn’t quiet sit well with me.