Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Judge Dredd: Quaranteens
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Clint Langley (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters).
Tom Shapira: Another one off Dredd story for the Megazine, playing up the violent comedy angle as a group of rowdy teens go on a crime spree under the encouragement of the school’s resident jock (whom they all look up to and revile at the same time).
There is a chance here to engage with many different subjects – the stress for social obedience teens are constantly under, the hardships of peer pressure, the place of the young and rebellious in a society has highly authoritarian as that of Dredd’s etc. Instead, possibly encouraged by the high-octane and highly-volatile nature of Clint Langley’s art Rory McConville’s story is mostly surface, here to provide the thrills and ramp everything up for the inevitable cruel twist ending, but at least it’s an enjoyable surface – giving us lots of the good stuff (chase scenes, action, bloody violence) while putting the pedal to metal.
Clint Langley’s art is the main attraction here. I am not a big fan of this style, overtly textures with computer SFX galore, but Langley makes it work: the key to his success is that his characters never get lost in the chaos of the scene, while the world is often overtly rendered he knows how to keep up the readability. It’s not just a collection of cool moments, like Dredd running over a fallen punk turning him into bloody chunks, but a full story the flows well from one scene to another.
Not a lot of depth, but a lot of fun.
Lawless: Ashes to Ashes, Part 2
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Phil Winslade (art), (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade raze Badrock this week. And we’re witness to every inch of it laid to waste in bloody, dusty detail.
Abnett frames ‘Ashes to Ashes, Part 2’ as a vision, seen in real time, of the chaos and carnage. This structure lends an extra level of existential dread to the devastation, delivered as it is through a lens of foresight. Because there truly is no stopping it. There’s no last minute heroics. There’s no salvation. It’s happening – already happened, by the time we see it. And, being shown in stark black-and-white, this helplessness is made with so much more impact.
Winslade packs so much nuance and action into each one of his frames, that you could stare at it all week and still pick out a morsel of gritty brilliance nested somewhere in the background. And for as overloading as this might be, he grounds it all by coming continuously back to the lone, horrified face of Hetch, prostrate in the howling rains, and watching it all unfold in his mind’s eye. The sickening realty of what he’s responsible is painted over his wide-eyed expression. It’s almost more unsettling than the images of skulls being blown apart or holes being borne into people’s chests.
‘Ashes to Ashes, Part 2’ is about as devastating an installment as this strip has seen before.
Storm Warning: Over My Dead Body Part 2
Leah Moore and John Reppion (script), Jimmy Broxton (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Creating a sense of dread and horror is not easy, but both script and the art in this second part of ‘Over My Dead Body’ do it pretty well. Reaching into British history in its use of the St. Agness Hospital, Moore and Reppion bring their protagonist Lillian Storm into an ancient place of pain, death and unrestful spirits. Artistically Jimmy Brixton creates great juxtaposition flipping between Storm’s perspective and the everyman view of the old haunted building. Broxton’s play between how the world looks to Lillian Storm and how it seems to everyone else is a disturbing dichotomy, you fully understand why she gets ill once she’s “alone” with the poor dispossessed spirit. The entire chapter is filled with excellent panels showing the old next to the anachronistically new or old/new looking tech like flying cars and motorcycles. Under Braxton’s pens and brushes, the Brit Mega-City looks little like the iconic Mega-City one and it comes off as very British. All the background and characters we see in passing seem to have their own stories to tell that we’ll never know. Brixton also has great sense continuity and staging in his style making his action easy to follow and read.Continued below
Moore and Reppion reveal the full details of the lost spirits last day in his body. He was someone who experienced some pretty mundane horror but it’s something all too possible. Losing your job, your girlfriend, and your home on the same day is a stretch but it’s easy to see how it could happen. It’s a horror that resonates with today’s very cold and unfeeling world.
Blunt II, Part Two
Credits: T.C. Eglington(script) Boo Cook (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Rowan Grover: “Blunt II” continues to be the hard, otherworldly sci-fi story of the Judge Dredd universe. The opening featuring the mutant colony is balanced with classic British cynicism and noble savagery. I love that even in this almost post-post apocalyptic landscape, there’s still bitter old people complaining about “mouth-breathing muties” and yet there’s still a speech of hope before a display of an interesting and futuristic subterranean colony. Blunt’s crew also have great rapport together, making for a scene of good character development and light humour. Boyd’s high-on-painkillers state is the perfect icebreaker for Blunt’s hard edged toughness. The succeeding moment between Ilya and her mother is really touching stuff and builds a good relationship between the two, creating a good support cast for the book.
Boo Cook has a very stylized, early-2000s style that, although looking slightly dated, portrays the crazy alien environment of “Blunt II”. The opening pages with the hidden mutant colony is really beautiful stuff. The abstract rocky outcrops, the underground caves, the twisted looking worm riders and other crazy concepts are all on display in these pages, concepts that could have a whole book written about them are used dismissively in a literal panel. Cook’s panel structure is also really solid. The first page with Blunt and the crew appearing has the panels appearing over a huge page-size picture of Blunt drinking Moonshine to numb his pain from the surgery. Even smaller things like characters popping into other panels has a certain charm that lends a lot to the book.
Although it’s tough to follow somewhat over the monthly period, “Blunt II” continues to be an interesting book when paid enough attention. This is expansive sci-fi with the typical cynicism of the Dredd books, and it creates something unique amongst the rest of the Megazine stories.
The Dark Judges: The Torture Garden – Part Two
Credits David Hine (scrip) Nick Percival(art) Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: There’s always been a connection between comics and early children picture books, which sounds like an odd thing to consider with a strip like “The Torture Garden,” however that’s how it read. Nick Percival’s art is grotesquely beautiful with their painterly application of colors. Annie Parkhouse letters Hine’s script in big super imposed blocks, when it’s narration. The lettering of dialog also has that super imposed, disconnected, feel. In those children’s books the prose and pictures are fairly separated, both almost trying to tell the same story instead of working synergistically. The second part of “The Torture Garden” is a very stiff read that lacks synergy.
While Percival’s art is beautiful, there isn’t a feeling of energy within it. Take the first page for example, 4 panels building towards the Stink Bug attack. Compositionally it makes sense, the Stink Bugs loom in the distance before their shadow looms large and they strike in panels two and three, only to be shot in the fourth. Yet those last two panels read as stiff, due to how rigid the internal structure of Percival’s figures. On some level the individual panels are stiff but the overall reading orientation for them lack flow and help to highlight the jerky motion between actions.
One of the best things Percival does in this strip is the double page spread of the renewed Dark Judges. The dark trio are all drawn in motion and curved, despite their skeletal forms. Judge Death’s cape and the torsos he carries contrast and bent hips give the character a real sense of energy. The same goes for Fire and Mortis, who have various environmental tells to give a curve to their figure. It is a highly effective spread, and it’s overall lack of paneling allows it to stand by itself. The complaint about only having near-dead to maim and kill is worth a chuckle.
In contrast the squad of troopers being sent to Dominion, in a half page panel, are stiff and lifeless. Percival focuses in on the eyes in that sequence and the eyes elicit some feeling, just what exactly that is I cannot tell.
The revelation of what the Dark Judges are making is the most effective moment in the strip. Annie Parkhouse’s lettering ties together the three panel sequence that splits between two settings. That is a moment of synergistic storytelling. The idea of a wind organ is some real Hannibal stuff.