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 3
Credits: John Wagner (script), Dan Cornwell (Art), Chris Blythe (Colours), Annie Parkhouse (Letters)
Christopher Egan: Explosions! Destruction! The third chapter of “The Victims of Bennett Beeny” brings the Judges to the other side of the chaotic conclusion from the last issue. Judge Beeny and company are only mildly shaken up and ready to take down the remaining terrorists. Bullets and lasers fly as she chases down their most recent assailant. She sees the attacking woman and for a moment hesitates, just long enough to take a shot to the chest and gut.
Separated from the other Judges and Judge Bots, Beeny looks like she could die right there. The Judges find themselves in their own troubled predicament. A team of building security members make their way out of an elevator and a round of friendly fire from both them and the Judges ends in some casualties. The death toll rises as the terrorists continue to murder Mega City One celebrities that reside in the apartment block. Judge Beeny faces a dark truth that she can’t believe, even when it is staring her in the face.
This is definitely the bleakest chapter in this miniseries. Terrible, unnecessary deaths occur on nearly every page. It brings certain truths to light and focuses heavily on brutal action. It also sets up a lot of possible future story material by the end. Aside from a few key moments, it never feels like the story is living in the moment. It’s looking ahead and losing focus with each scene change.
This miniseries works quite well when focusing on action and danger, and while it raises some interesting story points, they mainly feel rushed and crammed into a space too tight to hold it all. To the point that certain plot threads that were established almost immediately feel left to wayside by the time this final chapter wraps. Still, a solid “Judge Dredd” outing overall, but nothing that will make new readers overly intrigued.
Megatropolis, Part Three
Credits: Kenneth Niemand (script), Dave Taylor (art), Jim Campbell (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: One of the more enjoyable aspects for reading these strips is to see how the creative teams deal with the limited page budget and how that forces them to compress plot but still keep narrative continuity and hopefully tell a story. When we last left off it wasn’t looking good for Bernice Hershey, a classic cliffhanger. Niemand and Taylor tie up that cliffhanger with the first word balloon, showing us she is still alive. What follows is a psychically driven montage contrasting Hershey’s memory of what happened with their violent results and putting Detectives Jarya and Rico no closer to figuring out what happened. The specter of Judge Dredd has haunted the peripheries of this story, but that ghost gets a little more corporeal as he makes his first appearance as he saves Hershey from assassination.
The uniform of a Judge is iconic in all the ways that make me want to throw semiotics at it to understand and breakdown how it functions in this elseworld tale. From a design perspective that iconicity is on some level a limiting factor, if the outfit is pushed too far it no longer has the referent that gives the uniform any sort of meaning. It just becomes the outfit of a murderous vigilante. Dave Taylor rightly focuses on the executioner’s hood-helmet aspect of the Judge’s uniform reimagining it more like a plate armor helmet but keeping the streak of red for the visor. An association that helps to characterize this Dredd as a white (or I guess black) knight. We haven’t seen him enough to see how anthropomorphic Taylor is going to make this helmet, but there is something fitting that the mouth section has a permanent scowl on its face.
I have been rather complementary to Dave Taylor’s artwork and this strip features one of the few missteps. It isn’t anything to do with the composition or the line work but in their coloring. The chase sequence to get Hershey out of Calhoun’s clutches becomes muddled in a sea of blues and greys and similarly shaped vehicles. After a second look it is an overall effective sequence, but it isn’t immediately readable in the way previous sequences have been.Continued below
The strip returns to form in the final pages as Rico drinks his club soda with extra fizz. Jim Cambell’s lettering helps to isolate him and expose the reader to his thoughts, but Taylor more than captures the solitude of Rico and the knowledge that solitude brings. It creates the real feeling of a hard boiled character and mood to leave the reader on.
Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground: Part Three
Credits: Mike Carroll (Writer), John Higgins (Art), Sally Hurst (Colours), Simon Bowland (Letters)
Jacob Cordas: There’s trouble brewing in a country about to rip itself apart. Who would’ve thought?
Mechanically, “Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground: Part Three” works. The story is compellingly written by Mike Carroll with fully realized characters, well paced drama, dynamic new locations. John Higgins’ art seems to improve each part giving the world a sketchy haunted quality. Sally Hurst’s coloring provides the whole story a disquieting darkness, like the shadows off a flame were illuminating these rain lit days.
This is a gritty, dark and grounded Judge Dredd. And there is the problem.
The concept of Judge Dredd is more metaphorical than literal. He is a facist wet dream brought to life to mock that very fantasy. But once you start grounding that idea, it actually begins to enable the very thing it is satirizing.
Don’t misunderstand, Carroll constantly reminds you of the level violence our protagonist jumped but, as necessitated by the story, you need a threat compelling enough to explain their existence. Without a degree of absurdism to enable the satire, it becomes very easy to squint and see how, well, this idea almost makes sense.
Maybe the story will engage with these ideas more thoroughly. Maybe I’m just being unfair. But I know enough about fire to know you don’t hold it in your hands without the risk of getting burnt.
The Returners: Heartswood, Part 3
Credits: Si Spencer (script), Nicolo Assirelli (art), Eva De La Cruz (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Noel Thorne: “The Returners: Heartswood” hasn’t been good thus far and “Part 3” continues that trend unfortunately. This story assumes the reader has read previous stories from this series because it doesn’t bother establishing why our characters are cursed, what that curse is (besides a nebulous immortality), why they want rid of it and how a mysterious house could possibly do this. And if you’re one of those readers, it’s that much harder to get a grip on the story, much less be invested in anything happening in it.
Though our characters are supposedly trying to end their curses (whatever that entails), they never seem very motivated – everything we’ve seen so far of their actions has been completely reactionary and they bumble from one disparate scenario to another, randomly and/or contrively. The lack of focus and purpose makes it difficult to care about them – Si Spencer’s writing remains the weakest part of this title.
Nicolo Assirelli draws some interestingly spooky pages as the group pairs off and investigates the house. Correira sees a zombified army officer looking back at her in a mirror in a skilfully drawn full-page panel – loved the detail of both figures and the nightmare mirror man was really creepy. Barrancourt is attacked by a tapestry on the wall that cleverly morphs into a humanoid hand. And the occasional cartoonish expressions on the characters – Barrancourt as he’s dragged off, Chavez as they crack a joke – are a fun choice to mix in with the macabre elements.
Eva de la Cruz’s colour choices on that first page work really well to establish the hallucinatory mood of this episode: the house looks moonlit but there’s a bright sun in the sky surrounded by patchy blackness with light blues and purples swirling amongst it. The lighting is well-considered too – in the stairwell, you really believe it’s candle-lit, while in the piano room you can see lamps and it feels lamp-lit as well, being lighter but also appearing dimmer in the corners of the room.
Three parts in and I’m still not sure where this story is headed but it seems like the previous two parts were irrelevant and “Heartswood” should have started with the Doctor Strange/Sanctum Sanctorum-esque house. Even so, this isn’t a very engaging comic to read and “The Returners: Heartswood” remains a dull, directionless series.Continued below
Credits: David Hine (script), Nick Percival (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: “Deliverance” is really starting to pick up and morph as a story in ways I certainly would not have expected given the tone set by the last few chapters. The focus here is primarily placed on Judge Whisper, and his relationship with Rosco, one of the last few survivors on the S.S. Kimodo. Whisper is an entertaining entity here as their power makes them menacing and fearful, yet they are toddler-esque in decision-making and have the memory of a goldfish. Regardless of this, they seem to have a strange attachment to Rosco, one of the female members of the crew, since Whisper keeps her alive and toys with her in ways that almost suggest a sick form of love. These parts of the story are less entertaining and endearing, feeling just plain old creepy and trite. I will say that they do seem to serve a purpose, with us definitely rooting for Rosco as she escapes in one of the leftover pods by the end of the chapter, and the new characters introduced on the last page leave me particularly excited for the next prog.
Percival’s art here is slick and filled with lots of deep, almost melancholic blues. It’s a strange tone and motif to convey for Judge Whisper, almost suggesting that we should feel a sense of pity for the character which seems to clash with everything we’re shown about them in this prog. Percival renders Whisper themselves with great attention to detail, however. We get to see the fluorogenic growths from the character’s decaying body with slick, oily detail, which is eerily beautiful but again seems to suggest a kind of inherent pathos that I just can’t see in this character conveyed through the narrative. Outside of these highly detailed scenes of Whisper, the other shot worth noting is the panel depicting phantoms of Judge Death and Mortis to Buckley, giving the two Judges a menacing, spiritual presence that elevates them even just for a moment.
“Deliverance” has its flaws, but it’s pushed forward by sheer ridiculousness and the ability to present some great plot threads and twists that keep me on my toes.