Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Judge Dredd: The Victims of Bennett Beeny
Credits: John Wagner (script) Colin MacNeil & Dan Cornwell (Art) Chris Blythe (Colours) Annie Parkhouse (Letters)
Christopher Egan: “Judge Dredd: The Victims of Bennett Beeny” Part 1 sees “Judge Dredd” co-creator John Wagner returning to pen this latest on-going strip. We get dropped into the story in the middle of a terorrist takeover of one of the apartment block buildings – named Bennett Beeny. Dredd, a handful of Judges, and some Judge robot units arrive on the scene knowing that the situation is dire, and there will most likely not be a good outcome to this particular scenario.
Wagner’s script piles on the problems, danger, and interesting coincidences (?) pertaining to some of the characters. This block is home to celebrities, stock brokers, and other upper echelon types. And the terrorist group, TW Ops, are taking out any of them that have spoken out positively or donated money to the Judges or other branches of the Mega City One government. As they pick and choose their victims, the body count rises quickly and without mercy.
MacNeil & Cornwell’s art follows the modern take on all things Dredd and the world of Mega City One that we’ve seen over the last decade or so. It’s all pretty, and isn’t trying to be overly perfect or neat. The lines are clean, there is a cartoonish vibe to certain aspects, which makes the violence and action a bit more jarring, but in a great way. The same goes for Blythe’s colour work. It’s gorgeous and gives a ton of safety, in this extremely unsafe world. On some level the artwork as a whole really adds to the satirical side that has always been a part of “Judge Dredd.”
The action, dark storytelling, and brutal action that kicks off this new strip will definitely draw in “Judge Dredd” fans of all kinds. New or old. It pulled this reader in immediately, and I have no doubt that the action and violence will only ramp up as the chapters get released. While not subtle, the ideas and foreshadowing that are sprinkled throughout will only serve to get you ready for what’s to come.
Megatropolis, Part One
Credits: Kenneth Niemand (script), Dave Taylor (art), Jim Campbell (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: After 30 years of Megazines and over 40 years of Progs you would expect the Dredd property to be showing its age and running on nostalgia. That is part of the equation to the property these days, however, the editors and creative teams still manage to keep me interested and every now and again throw something new at the page. “Megatropolis” isn’t exactly unique, it is an elseworlds take on the Dredd property wherein it is reconfigured with a retrofuture, art deco, aesthetic and narratively shifted from black humor and satire into a moody noir. There aren’t Judges, not yet at least, just a bunch of crooked cops in a sprawling Megatropolis and one choirboy trying to do his job, Joe Rico. “Megatropolis” feels like when I returned to Rapture in Bioshock Infinite, there are all these variable elements but also constants that act as the foundation to everything.
Dave Taylor’s art fits the setting and creates the mood immediately with a giant splash page showing the expanse of the Megatropolis from a relative ground level. The core content of the splash page and the news report on the left hand side create tension as the reading lines cross. Taylor’s use of perspective makes you want to read the page bottom up, but the news broadcast with Jim Campbell’s lettering makes the reading line go from top to bottom. It just prickles the back of your neck that something feels off, inequitable, about the space.
The use of color is an interesting twist on the normal noir conventions. Stylistically noir is understood by its use of chiaroscuro, a heavy emphasis on the interplay of black and light. As Officer Amy Jara wanders through the Steam District there is plenty of black, as in inked line work, the same goes for the sky above. However, the dominant color Taylor employs is greyish blue. There are heavy lights in Megatropolis and they burst with pure white, but they quickly fade out and bathe everything in a sort of sickly grey light. Taylor seems to have mixed water color with colored pencil creating this weird texture to everything. Taylor’s use of color is understandable as noir and echoing the hardboiled crime narrative, but there is this light haze to the coloring that makes everything look muggy. The coloring is what ties Megatropolis to Mega City One, it makes everything seem unbearable but everyone is comfortably numb.Continued below
Kenneth Niemand’s writing does everything you’d want out of an introductory script. We meet Officer Jara on the third page and know everything we need to know about her by the fourth. The same sort of efficiency is used for Rico. It will be interesting to give this to people who haven’t read a lot of Dredd or only saw the movies. Rico being the “choirboy” is based on this version being the opposite of his previous incarnations. Jara’s analogous character is America Jara from “America,” a story that runs throughout in Megagzine 424. By using those characters as the basis for these ones, I as someone more read in Dredd, have an idea of what role they’re supposed to play and what they mean. At the sametime Niemand’s writing is such that new readers shouldn’t feel lost. Or like they’re not getting the joke.
“Megatropolis” isn’t original but it is a well done introduction to a look at the Dreddverse from a certain point of view.
Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground: Part One
Credits: Mike Carroll (Writer), John Higgins (Art), Sally Hurst (Colours), Simon Bowland (Letters)
Jacob Cordas: There’s a pertinence on the page here that can’t be ignored. This is a story almost exclusively about police violence against protestors. I’ve watched footage just as violent as what’s on the page. It makes this story of the moment and, much like the best Judge Dredd stories (here’s looking at you, “Judge Dredd: America”), it makes the fasicst satire at the core of Dredd a hauntingly relatable tale.
The writing by Mike Carroll overarchingly works well. Occasionally the dialogue slips into being a bit on the nose, but the character’s ring true. The depth he imbues Veranda Glover, our fresh new Judge, with, in such a limited space, is incredible. And that time spent developing her humant makes her use of violence even harsher. There’s an ugliness in this world that he is able to bring out in every narrative twist and turn.
John Higgins and Sally Hurst make a great compliment. Together they make a hazy, smoke filled nightmare. If a panel has nothing obscuring the view, it’s only to allow the harshness of the violence to hit home. They make a fascinating choice to have the violence far more visceral with the billy clubs than with the guns. It sets up a through line about distance to and the efficiency of weaponry that will be exciting to see develop.
“Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground: Part One” is a fantastic start to a new arc. It has interesting characters, a dynamic world, great writing, dynamic art, and, most importantly, something to say with the confidence to say it.
Anderson Psi Division: No Country For Old Psis
Credits: Maura McNugh (script), Steven Austin (art), Barbara Nosenzo (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Ryan Pond: In “No Country for Old Psis,” McNugh pairs Judge Anderson with Judge Shakta for an active duty assessment after Shakta’s vision was restored with stem-cell regene technology.The open of this story shows some great heroics by the judges as they stop a bomb plot at a race track, but Anderson is momentarily crippled by a psi-flash.
This story is a fun descent into a dangerous situation, noted by Shakta when she tells Anderson “Just one time I’d like a kitten in a tree situation, Cass.” The victories don’t come easy, and it feels earned when the characters come out the other side. The one problem I had with the story is that the epilogue is very specific that Judge Shakta recently regained her vision, in fact that is the very reason Anderson is with her. And when the judges enter the building with no power, Shakta comments “Darkness, my old friend.” However that angle is completely dropped after that, and never does it come in advantageous to have someone with that skill set.
Austin’s artwork looks great, and it is easy to discern every character. The action shots and psi effects are well done, and do a great job of representing what is going on in the panel. The colors are solid and really bring to life the psi abilities. They are especially well done on the pages where the power is out because everything is mostly black and could become muddy but they are consistent and clear all the way through.Continued below
The Returners: Heartswood, Part 1
Credits: Si Spencer (script), Nicolo Assirelli (art), Eva De La Cruz (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Noel Thorne: When four women arrive in Brit-Cit, one of whom is missing an arm and another is wearing a hospital gown, they’re completely unchallenged by anyone in authority because this is the future and nothing’s weird! They’re also immortal which means, obviously, heist. How else does anyone pass infinite time? Erm…
The first part of “The Returners: Heartswood” isn’t very good. The four characters are a gloomy, cynical bunch and their story isn’t a particularly imaginative one – this is what people do when they have immortality? The heist is briefly sketched out – much like the character development – and then Si Spencer throws us right into it. No build-up, no tension, no real idea of what’s happening or why – underwhelming stuff. I’m not even sure why the immortality aspect is even mentioned as it doesn’t seem to play a relevant role at all.
Nicolo Assirelli’s art is similarly underwhelming. The character designs are forgettable though his facial expressions and body language are emotive. Much like the rushed plot, the backgrounds are dashed off and look vague and amorphous at the best of times. It doesn’t help that the settings of the script don’t allow for anything eye-catching: we’re either in a prison-themed pub(!), the dark, rainy outdoors, or a dreary mall. It also limits Eva De La Cruz’s colour palette though she is given some range to introduce some more vivid colours towards the end.
The first part ends on a slightly interesting cliffhanger but it’s hard to care about what happens next when you’ve got a story that doesn’t draw you in or compel you much at all. “The Returners: Heartswood Part 1” is an unimpressive beginning to the series.
The Dark Judges: Deliverance, Part One
Credits: David Hine (script), Nick Percival (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: The latest instalment in the Dark Judges saga, “Deliverance” takes a look at two separate factions that deliver two different types of story tones. The first part of this debut deals with the survivors that dealt with the Dark Judges on their planet and how they are escaping and dealing with their victory. There’s an especially interesting, if a little on the nose, usage of Survivor’s Syndrome through the characters. Rosco especially deals with this and different forms of PTSD, from holding onto the skull used as a helmet during the assault on Judge Death to feeling guilt for those that died for them to live. The other side of the story deals with a much more slapstick and bombastic horror take, feeling much truer to the roots of 2000 AD and Judge Death’s character in general. Things like the death cult that beat each other so that they can be blessed with the blissful release of death are the kind of alarmingly funny moments that you might nervously chuckle at whilst holding your collar, which is a success in its own way. Also, Judge Death promising vengeance on William Wordsworth is a terrific icebreaker moment.
Nick Percival has a surreal, almost carnival-like spray painted art style on this comic, which can look a little stiff and post-real at times for better or worse. It does make the first section lose a bit of its emotional weight due to some characters looking too exaggerated or not quite right in moments of seriousness. Santos especially has a weirdly macho and older body shape compared to his relatively teenaged-looking head, which creates an uncanny valley in the scene. It does make the more absurd section aboard the Navis Morris much more ridiculous and entertaining. The onboard environments take a healthy amount of inspiration from H.R. Giger, with Percival accentuating the ship with textures and shapes that look almost fleshy. The priest is also one of the more entertaining characters in this story because of how much fun Percival has with him. Between the priest raising his arms in abandon at his subjects whipping each other, and baring his spike-impaled chest towards the camera, we never miss a moment of this character acting wild.Continued below
“Deliverance” is a solid debut, with each section of the comic faring better with different artistic elements, and it will be interesting to see how these progress and intertwine with further Installments.
Lawless Boom Town: 10
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Phil Winslade (art), Jim Campbell (letters)
Matthew Blair: It’s the finale of the “Lawless: Boom Town” story, and while it’s a shame to see it go and plenty of intriguing ideas left for the future, the sad truth is that all good things must come to an end. So what better way than to end a story of small town politics, intrigue, and solid Western action than with a massive musical number?
Yes, this is the musical episode.
While Abnett’s writing has always been fantastic on this series, “Lawless Boom Town” #10 is probably his best work yet. This is definitely the longest story segment in the entire series and presents some pretty heavy challenges when all of the characters start magically singing out of nowhere. It’s an ambitious script, especially since transcribing sound and dancing to a static visual medium is already difficult enough, but Abnett makes it work. The biggest challenge is finding a way to make the words sound like a catchy show number and Abnett pulls through, creating sung dialogue that not only captures the spirit of the characters, but manages to recap what’s going on and be a good story in its own right. Granted, it can be a bit difficult for a reader to follow an imaginary tune in their head, and there is a serious real world explanation for these events that isn’t very well explained and is kind of boring, but the journey is still a lot of fun.
Just like the writing, Phil Winslade’s artwork in “Lawless: Boom Town” #10 goes above and beyond to make this finale memorable. Everything that made the artwork on the series so great, from the insane level of detail on the wide shots to the clear and raw emotions of the characters, is on full display. However, this segment is special since it allows Winslade to be even more experimental and show off his skills. The end result creates a complete comic book experience that has some great panel layouts, surreal imagery, and fantastic motion and energy.
“Lawless: Boom Town” #10 provides some of the best work by two great comic book creators who understand the importance of going out on a literal high note. It’s big, bombastic, and full of the kind of dangerous yet fun energy that has made the Judge Dredd universe so much fun.