Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Judge Dredd: Bad Wiring
Credits: T.C. Eglington (script), Dan Cornwell (art), Jim Boswell (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Christa Harader: Eglington and Cornwell treat us to a good ol’ gun-toting Dredd morality tale in “Judge Dredd: Bad Wiring.” This month, we’re introduced to Clayton J. Woad, an extremely wealthy recluse with a passel of dark secrets. Dredd’s called to the scene to investigate a murder but takes a quick tour through Woad’s psyche, with us along for the ride.
Eglington nails Dredd’s reactions and grim humor, and Cornwell and Boswell work well together to signify that something’s up past a simple argument gone wrong. Corrnwell sets up imposing architecture from the first-page details of the elite sector of Mega-City One, and echoes that grandiosity in every detail of Woad’s apartment. Boswell pumps up the tension as the warm glow of the exterior lights gives way to a moody, intriguing interior full of secrets.
As we follow Dredd’s point of view through the penthouse we’re treated to more and more disturbing sights: a beleaguered android gives way to a scene mirroring the tabloid trash emblazoned on Woad’s many screens, and then to a domestic memory gone horribly wrong. Woad’s spent much of his reclusive life and fortune on reliving, and in his mind rectifying, the sins of his past and the slights of his present. Boswell’s palette relies on deep nighttime hues against which the garish colors of his family’s clothing pop most unpleasantly. Parkhouse’s lettering is clear and crisp, and the font blends well against Cornwell’s clean line and orderly shading.
There’s an explosion, a revelation and a nice one-liner from Dredd to round out this entertaining one-shot. Money might be able to buy you revenge but it sure doesn’t buy you pity, and Dredd’s most critical character traits remain intact throughout. Justice is served.
Tale from the Black Museum: Tainted Love
Rory McConville (Script), Joe Palmer (Art), Ellie De Ville (Letters)
Christopher Egan: This short story balances humor – both black and silly, haunting heartache, corruption within the ranks of Mega City One’s Judges, commentary on modern dating and technology, and even a touch of retro horror comics, all rolled into one neat and exceptionally well told one-shot. McConville’s script puts us in the hands of an unlikely guide; Henry Dubble, an undead curator of the Black Museum. The museum is a tourist spot deep beneath the Grand Hall of Justice and it houses some famous items tied to the biggest and most terrible criminals and crimes to ever set foot in Mega City. Dubble tells us a story about a woman who sought love for years and finally found someone to share her life with until everything went terribly wrong.
McConville impeccably moves the story along touching on a laundry list of emotions and genres while keeping it all equally balanced. You will be chuckling one moment and feeling every bleak gut punch as it rolls along. It’s not an easy feat, but it all works straight through. Everything he includes gets a moment to shine, even if a point is made with one line of dialogue. For being such a quick read, his ability to cover all narrative beats, both emotional and plot necessary, is perfectly done.
Palmer’s artwork is an excellent minimalist style. He gives just enough detail to touch on important beats, but overall it’s a simple high contrast black and white piece that gives us just what we need to follow along. It’s wonderfully ordinary and beautifully nightmarish. His style is perfect for this off-center tale.
‘Tainted Love’ is a delightfully bizarre story that moves between off the wall horror, soap opera level heartbreak and absurdity, and the tones of classic 2000 AD oddities. You will be left thinking about this silly and dark story with a sly smile on your face after it’s over.
Diamond Dogs, Part Five
Credits: James Peaty (script), Warren Pleece (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Rowan Grover: “Diamond Dogs” keeps things exciting this issue by having Nia run back in with her old gang, the titular Dogs. Readers can practically feel the tension in this scene and the rest in the prog as Nia lies her way out the situation. Knowing that she has so much riding on getting away with it all, which Peaty has cleverly built up within the last few issues, makes the tension and worry that much higher, and the story that much more engaging. Peaty also has Nia use a few clever tactics, like the use of a sign taped to a homeless man to send a message to a high-ranking mob group (grim, British humor at it’s finest). But that’s not all! We get thrown another curveball as we find out Nia is blackmailing a Judge to finish up her little simulacrum, which makes this veritable Jenga tower of stakes even more precarious.Continued below
Pleece’s art is super solid throughout the issue. The atmosphere of the story is well set from the start, with nice establishing shots of the run-down block that Nia used to live in. Pleece even goes above and beyond to ensure the decor of the apartment suits the theme: the only things present are bare floorboards, sleeping bags, and a camping lantern to light the room. I also love the use of high angle shots and heavy shadows to suggest the dark metropolis setting of this comic. It makes the Crachitt’s bar look menacing and sleazy and it makes the alleyways besides bars and buildings look decrepit and longing. My only qualm with Pleece’s work here is that sometimes the shadows serve to make the art a little too muddy, and emotion struggles out. When the Dogs are acting surprised at Nia’s news, it’s hard to tell because most of their facial expressions are obscured by heavy inks.
“Diamond Dogs” continues to be a delightfully dingy street-level story, with a great protagonist set up in less-than-ideal circumstances. Layers continue to be added from issue to issue, and I look forward to peeling them back each month.
The Returners: Chandhu Part 5
Credits: Si Spencer (script), Nicolo Assirelli (art), Eva de la Cruz (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: With part 5, “Chandu” finally starts to give a little more meat on the bone, though most of it is done through a flashback. We see what the threat in Chandu started as, and we learn what is in the box encountered at the end of last month’s strip. While this doesn’t excuse the glacial pace of the first four chapters, it at least begins to paint a more detailed picture.
Of course, it still doesn’t move the story forward one iota. It gives context, and it allows the reader a little more information than previously known, but the characters we’ve been following do almost nothing, and the timeline shifts forward, tops, 5 minutes. Thankfully, Nicolo Assirelli is able to let loose a little more, and draw things that aren’t just abandoned sets and uncomfortable looking people meandering through them.
Assirelli and colorist Eva de la Cruz are able to go full on psychedelia on one page, and it is the most effective page in the entire story so far. Give these artists a more engaging story, and it would be a far more enjoyable read. But this feels entirely stretched, to the point of no return. Even if the next few strips are stuffed to the gills with action, there’s no coming back from being this boring for this long.
Anderson Psi Division: The Dead Run Part Four
Credits Maura McHugh(script) Patrick Goddard(art) Pippa Mather(colors) Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: After a brief action sequence, that cements the super heroic posture of the cadets from the previous strip, McHugh, Goddard, and Mather begin to give us answers of how this whole thing went sideways. The opening action sequence is well done and efficient, like previous entries, where all the cadets get to show off their skills in an action context and prove themselves after their less than by the book actions. Goddard’s framing is simple and iconic with Mather’s solid color palette giving things a late seventies early eighties look.
The strip takes a noticeable shift once Anderson and Cadet Viv jump into the remaining attackers head to try and figure out what it is that is going on here. The shift in pace and style comes through clearest in the paneling. The action on the previous three pages is defined by boxy solid panels. Anderson and Viv’s sojourn into this feral mind is the opposite with round shapes and panel borders accenting slightly surreal art as Anderson and Viv’s astral forms investigate the psychic past. The feral individual was named Stan, and like most people living outside of the MegaCity One are still forced to deal with the regimes garbage. In this case literally their garbage as Stan scavenges for useful junk to trade for food. It isn’t quite the same but it reminds me of the treatment of the displaced masses outside the MegaCity after the Apocalypse War and the neglect they were treated with by the City.Continued below
The nebulous time associated with the astral plane is a strength for these pages as McHugh and Goddard are able to simultaneously show a quick transformation into a feral Wendigo like creature and show the long term effects of Stan’s scavenging and the slow building, unending, hunger urged on by a rogue spirt. Like the action sequence, Patrick Goddard composes pages with all the visual information you need, while there is some dialog it isn’t the dominant storytelling device. The wavey panel borders help to guide the viewer down and lead to the inevitable conclusion of Stan’s feral state. The narrative of this sequence is simple and straightforward and executed in such a way that you have a real sense of tragedy to Stan and his fellow victims.
While it has two different and varied styles the creative continue to put together and pace out well done strips that read as thoughtful without overstaying their welcome or feeling overly simplified due to page space.