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 Part 2
John Wagner (script) Dan Cornwell (Art) Chris Blythe (Colours) Annie Parkhouse (Letters)
Christopher Egan: Part Two of ‘The Victims of Bennett Beeny’ starts with a brief look at the mayhem caused by the terrorists through the lens of the local news. We’re quickly thrown back into the action with the Judges as they assess the situation and prepare to survive this mission.
The format of this chapter is really great and a nice change from the typical “Judge Dredd” strip. Unlike most stories with the heroes stuck in a situation that’s nearly impossible to escape, the Judges are in constant contact with the Hall of Justice. The task force come across more destruction and bodies, we get a sense of how nice this city block is, and what would make it an ideal living space for the rich and powerful. This beautiful and stylish setting is all the more jarring with death all around, and the Judges marching through.
True to “Judge Dredd” form, this chapter boasts big moments of action and gore. Many guns are a-blazing. The story turns to absolute mayhem as the Judges, their robot partners, the Beeny Block security force, and the terrorists come to a crossroads of gunfire and explosions.
The art work is bold and exciting. It’s all pretty to look at and keeps things moving along as the script for this month is a little thinner than last time. We got all of the set up last time. This chapter gives us all the action, and a nice look into how the Judges work in a group. While a fundamentally different style, this chapter is just as good as the opening.
Plenty of things to like this time around, and a harrowing cliffhanger will have reader scrambling to grab the next Megazine.
Megatropolis, Part Two
Credits Kenneth Niemand (script) Dave Taylor(art) Jim Campbell(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The adventure into the noir retrofuture metropolis of “Megatropolis” continues as Kenneth Niemand and Dave Taylor throw more familiar faces at us in different sets of clothes. The first entry in “Megatropolis” did pretty much everything one could do to set up the mystery and plot. For their second episode the creative team push it forward a little bit, but also complicate it a whole lot by leaning into the associations they, and we as readers, are able to create by introducing us to these new-old characters.
The first new character we meet is this universe’s version of Judge Hershey. In the world of Megatropolis, the sometimes-Chief Judge is a crusading reporter for the aptly named Defender. She is shaking the cages of powerful men, which results in us learning some valuable intel about the world. Their equivalent to Eustace Fargo, also named Eustace Fargo, is the co-founder of this fair city and a Howard Hughes/Andrew Ryan like figure secluded from public life. Until recently as he appears to be backing a change in the mayorship. Due to their shared use of the art deco aesthetic, as well as the fact that Mega City One is a dystopian nightmare, it’s not hard to see this story slowly devolving into a Bioshock-esque narrative of civilized fall and fascist rebirth. It would fit the mood of everything.
That mood is one of the real joys of this strip. Jim Campbell and Dave Taylor make the somewhat monotonous things appear interesting with a little bit of mood lighting. Take for example the Mayor’s trip through a secret Egyptian themed tunnel, the layout and paneling are fine and not particularly noteworthy. It’s the way Campbell uses the setting to play with every shade of blue-grey imaginable and how that compliments the bright light bulb flashes at the top of the page that gives this page the mood that pushes something simple into being something more.
We also get confirmation of something I should’ve realized from the start. Officer Jara is not the equivalent to America Jara! Officer Jara is the analog to America Beeny, America Jara’s daughter. While her mother was in the classic “America” story, Beeny was featured in several follow up stories that saw her join the Law Academy. Beeny’s presence marked a shift in perspective to how the Judge system was looked at in world and a good example of how “Dredd” as a narrative and universe can contain multiple dissonant presentations at once.Continued below
“Megatropolis” is taking a slow burn approach, the kind that is afforded a Megazine strip. It didn’t really do a lot, but how it did was worth it.
Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground: Part Two
Credits: Mike Carroll (Writer), John Higgins (Art), Sally Hurst (Colours), Simon Bowland (Letters)
Ryan Pond: The world of “Breaking Ground” is perfectly designed to bring an outside perspective to the environment that has come to define the United States in 2020. “Dreadnoughts” are special Judges that are inserted into communities to work with local law enforcement to restore law and order. The protagonist in this story, Veranda Glover, is a new judge in Boulder, Colorado that follows the law to the letter and falls between two extremes; local citizens that overestimate their rights and law enforcement that oversteps their rights.
Carroll’s writing shines most in the internal commentary on the world around Glover. When the citizens are beyond themselves, the narration helps explain why this can be a problem. At the same time, Glover has no problem pointing out the flaws in the arguments made by police officers. But the thing that brings it all together and makes Glover such a great character for this adventure is when she empathizes with the opposite side. To be judge, jury, and executioner is both an honor and a burden, and Carroll expresses this through Glover without making her preach to the audience.
The artwork is great all the way through, with Higgins linework making slight adjustments to better represent different aspects of the story. Broad, wide lines are used in a flashback scene to make it stand separate from the thinner lines used in the main story. And even then the citizens are drawn in a looser, more chaotic style that lends itself to their violent, but unorganized nature. Meanwhile the officers feature heavy shadow work that evokes thoughts of their corrupt nature and the judges have a regimented, tight style that provides them with more definition than the rest of the cast.
The colour palette used includes a lot of dark tones, and plenty of muted colors. However there are bright accents used for the more important elements in the panel that do draw the eye, and the focus, as if it is laying out the clues Sherlock Holmes style. During a late night, high speed chase for instance, the Yellow van and red patrol lights pop against the black and grey backgrounds. Even the dark green suit Judge Glover wears is easy to identify against the dark black crowds of protestors and law enforcement.
“Breaking Ground: Part Two” has sufficient social commentary from a unique perspective, but the characters are also well rounded enough that the story is engaging even if you don’t care for the socio-political elements. Carroll lays out a blueprint for the story from page one and expertly weaves from situation to situation without losing the heart of the question at hand; is anyone 100% innocent?
The Returners: Heartswood, Part 2
Credits: Si Spencer (script), Nicolo Assirelli (art), Eva De La Cruz (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Noel Thorne: Our four immortal heroines are cornered by Brit-Cit judges – what’re they gonna do?! More importantly: what are they doing there in the first place – what’s going on in this story?? I don’t know either. So “Part 2” is another terrible episode in the awful “The Returners: Heartswood” series.
“Part 2” reads like a storyboard for a dull cut scene in a bad video game. The characters need to get from point A to point B and nothing that happens in between has to make sense as long as they make it. So “magic” is used as the contrived excuse to get them out of their initial tangle, along with the video game-esque trail of magic hearts appearing, and then Si Spencer’s lazy writing gets them the rest of the way.
The gang just happen to find an empty van that’s accessible and allows them to drive simply by bashing the control panel – how convenient! Then it crashes right before the doorway they need to go through – did the van know to crash there? And it deals with the utterly useless Brit-cit judges at the same time – HOW CONVENIENT.Continued below
Nicolo Assirelli draws most of the characters’ facial expressions well, along with the figures of the Brit-Cit judges, though giving some of the characters cat’s eye pupils in some panels is a weird choice. I also don’t understand the full page blackout scene where the characters sneak away from the judges – one of them walks right into one of the judges’ lights, so why wasn’t she spotted? It’s not the best laid-out page.
Eva De La Cruz colours most of the comic in varying shades of pink to subtly hint at the subtitle – Heartswood – and the episode’s heart theme. The judges’ colours seem a bit drab throughout – possibly to under-emphasise their prominence in the story – but the washed-out look still seems unimpressive.
By the final page, the characters look like they’ve made it to the crux of the story, though, given how weakly written the comic has been up to this point, my hopes aren’t high that Spencer’s going to wow us with anything that won’t be as sloppily thrown-together as what we’ve seen so far. “The Returners: Heartswood, Part 2” is a rushed addition to this unengaging and boring story.
The Dark Judges: Deliverance, Part Two
Credits: David Hine (script), Nick Percival (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: The saga of masochistic space cults and the fan-favorite “Judge Dredd” they worship continues here with the same grim humor and almost slapstick uses of violence as the debut. Hine does a great job detailing and fleshing out some of the side characters in the Mortarian cult to disturbingly entertaining effect. Archbishop Frrk is a terrific character here, being a cyclopean being who stabbed spikes through his neck as a child for personal penance and now struggles to form coherent words. Hines manages to turn this into a creepy gag when they try to awaken Judge Death by offering more penance, to which Frrk stabs yet another spike into his neck for good measure. There are other parts of the story here that are more plot-driving, like Judge Whisper plotting to kill the crew of the Kimodo with his ssssnake-like internal monologue, but it’s not as fun or as memorable as the more ridiculous throwaway gags like Frrk’s offering.
Nick Percival’s painterly style is so elegantly done that it almost betrays the comedic tone of the script and dialogue. Almost. Percival has a tendency to render the inner architecture of the Navis Mortis and the ghoulies that inhabit it with such vivid hyper-realistic exaggeration that it actually amps up some of the key moments in the script to have a deadpan yet hilarious landing. As I mentioned earlier, the Frrk offering is great because of how ridiculous it is in and outside of context, but Percival paces and renders it nonchalantly over two panels that give it such a casual, of-course-I-would-stab-my-neck-for-Judge-Death feel to it. The shot of Mother Kalula proposing to free Death from the Boing® substance is done with such grandeur in contrast, with Kalula raising her hands and the camera tilted at a regal angle that takes such a silly term with complete seriousness.
“Deliverance” continues to be a wild ride in the apocalyptic “Dark Judges” universe. There are some slower moments, but the more wild, slapstick gags keep this strip entertaining.