Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Judge Dredd: Defrosted
Credits: Rory McConville(script), Paul Davidson (art), Chris Blythe (colours), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: Rory McConville continues to prove his worth as an up and coming writer for 2000AD with this latest “Judge Dredd” comic. At its core, it’s well-made speculative fiction. Guy freezes himself to escape the present, turns out the futures somehow worse, goes mad and tries to go back. It’s using this within the context of Mega City One that makes it so much fun. McConville writes Dredd at his most satirical and uncompromising. He’s the boneheaded, stubborn lawman lawman: he’s Batman who’s tired of putting up with Arkham Asylum’s bullshit, he uses unnecessarily large amounts of firepower, and he’s derivative and intimidating. We feel sympathy for Wanda, the ‘defrosted’ councillor, even though she’s never successfully helped one of said defrosted become fully conditioned to the future of Mega City One. We even feel sorry for the defrosted-gone-wrong, because his problems stem from a very human and modern happenstance. It’s a great morally ambiguous story, and McConville pulls it off with sci-fi panache.
Davidson and Blythe are a spectacular art force together. Davidson draws the with anatomy and eye of a political cartoonist – bodies are never quite right, being either laughably small, painstakingly musclebound, or some disproportionate amount in between. Wanda is big eyed and lipped, Steven the defrosted from 2017 is a 90-pound weakling, and so forth. He has a great, almost ‘90s sensibility when it comes to depicting Dredd, however – the first time we see him, he towers over his associate in an aggressive stance, with an almost Sam Kieth level of absurd anatomy structure. But I have to mention his setting work, too. There’s a panel depicting Mega City One, and it’s cramped, futuristic and dirty in the best possible ways – and as I mentioned, he only needed a panel to do so. Blythe on colours is a great pic – he adds the surreal sci-fi nature to Davidson’s eccentric cartooning. From the rough shine of the Judges’ scuffed helmets, to the dynamic light working of the plasma cannons, Blythe shows he’s got a good eye for “Dredd” comics.
“Defrosted” is a great done-in-one cautionary tale. McConville packs the script with action and allusion, and tight dialogue, while the art time of Davidson, Blythe and Parkhouse really bring it all together. Make sure you check this Megazine opener out!
Anderson, Psi-Division: NWO, Part 5
Credits: Alan Grant (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Rodney Ortiz: After the last installment of ‘Anderson, Psi-Division – NWO,’ Rothman MacCallum was causing all sorts of havoc in and around Mega City. A bigtime player in the Mega City scene with his hands in almost all aspects of city management, and deep pockets to boot, MacCallum is hell bent on getting rid of the judges. As chaos erupts throughout town, Judge Anderson comes up with a plan to use his son, Keir MacCallum as bait.
Sure enough, after locating Keir it’s not long before he’s telepathically reaching out to his dad. With their target located, Judge Anderson and Judge Millz are set to spring the trap. Before they can though, they’re called in by Dredd. Seems like MacCallum’s hands are dipping into the Judge pool as well, having recruited various so-called Dragon-Judges. These judges, infiltrated amongst the rest, are set to cause some major mayhem by opening fire into a crowd of civilian protestors. Luckily, our two leading ladies and Dredd are able to identify, and neutralize (that means assassinate!) the threats before they can act on their terrorist plans.
With the immediate threat out of the way, our trio goes back to track Kein as he’s picked up by his father’s enforcers. In the next installment we’ll see how the trap unwinds, as the ladies now have the added firepower of Dredd on their side.
As before, this remains a great installment, with the writing by Grant and the art by Marshall tight and vibrant all around.Continued below
Devlin Waugh: Blood Debt, Part 2
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Mike Dowling (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Devlin Waugh is very much his brother’s keeper. At least that’s the vibe Rory McConville is giving off in ‘Blood Debt, Part 2.’ And while Devlin admits to having had at the ready an obituary for his sibling since the age of eighteen – sounding less than elegiac and more like a laundry list of sins and slights – he’s resigned to the reality that if his brother is truly in peril, he’ll swim across an endless, soul-crushing void without a second thought.
McConville and Dowling delivery this truth with efficiency by opening this month’s strip with a flashback to what we can only assume is one of the myriad other times this has been done. The first image we see is Devlin bending the knee, bowing a head, and begging the pardon of the Pyclotraxsis royal family in his brother’s absence. Contrasted with the barrel-chested power positioning that Dowling used to depict him in the first part of this arc, Devlin is made smaller. And while the smooth, thin lines with which he’s drawn convey an air of pomp and honor-bound contrition, there’s a subtle implication that he’s made to seem weaker. It’s as if this loyalty is being foreshadowed as a potential achilles heel.
Narratively, ‘Blood Debt, Part 2’ feels like a bus ride – and not just because the majority takes place on an interdimensional space-yacht. After the first part, we knew where Devlin was headed to find his brother; at the end of this one, he’s still only showing up there, knocking on the front door as it were. But like any good commute, there’s an interesting story or two to be heard if you keep your ears open. Devlin’s conversation and lamentations about his kin make up the bulk of McConville’s script, but there’s an erudite flair to the way Devlin exposits his backstory. The cadence rings with a touch of elegance that’s only barely treading water above faux-grandiosity. It’s the perfect voice for the character, and reads silky smooth even when it’s not saying much more than we already know.
“Devlin Waugh” relies heavily on the charm of its main character. Sure, Dowling gets a page or two to dream-up an endless void that threatens Devlin and his tagalongs with an eternity of non-Euclidean contortions and a menacing squid-maw that could be the great Sarlac in the sky. But it’s McConville that gives Devlin ample time to sip a cocktail along the way and charm the pants off all of us. In his words, not mine, “Tally-Ho!”
”Lawless Breaking Badrock: 1” Dan Abnett (script), Phil Winslade(art), Ellie de Ville(Letters)
Greg Lincoln: Science fiction westerns have been a great marriage since way back in 1966 when Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, initially envisioned as Wagon Train to the stars, first aired. “Lawless Breaking Badrock” drops us into the space frontier town protected by Marshall Metta Lawson and her deftly capable Clerk/Deputy Nerys Petifer. Badrock is recovering from an attack by the Zhind and strong-arming by the Munce Corporation. Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade, and Ellie Ee Ville tell parallel tales of toxic masculinity in the wake of the recent violence as the two law-women go about their ever difficult job of interpreting justice.
The juxtaposed tales of violence dovetail together nicely through the storytelling. Marshall Metta Lawson confronts a pair of muscular toughs in town offering their aid and Nerys Petifer goes to check on Audie who lost her husband in the attack. Abnett’s story touches on the underlying bigotry that exists in Badrock as well as revealing hidden or ignored spousal abuse and the devastating fallout of years of abuse. Abnett and Winslade do an excellent job of juxtaposing the active violence in the first with the toxic after effects of a lifetime of it in the second.
The striking aspect of Lawless is Phil Winslade’s finely inked super detailed and at times almost ethereal artwork. His black and white line-work alone deftly defined different textures, colors and surfaces. Lacking color and heavy inks his pages have a lightness to them, the pages appeared to be bare pencils compared to the heavily lined computer colored world that is out there today. It created an airy, dry desert frontier kind of atmosphere to the comic. He chose his use of shade well in the facial expression he gave Petifer in the moment she realized what Audie was telling her giving that moment and her handling of it the weight against rest of the story.
Dark Judges: Dominion, Part 4
Credits: John Wagner (script), Nick Percival (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Alice W. Castle: If you put “30 Days Of Night,” “The Walking Dead” and the Dark Judges into a blender, you would expect the resulting product to at least retain some of what worked in those original ingredients. Despite calling the previous chapter of ‘Dominion’ a “gut-punchingly brutal showcase of… horror,” I have to say that I’m pretty disappointed in this chapter on a number of levels.
For one, this chapter smacks very much of the problems of a serialised second act. Namely, not a whole lot happens. A character starts off in one place and ends up in another, seeing some stuff along the way and meeting up with some other characters by the end of it. That’s pretty much it. There’s little in the way of a genuine threat, despite being beset on all sides by zombie-like creatures affected by the influence of the Dark Judges and part of that comes down to the artwork.
I praised Nick Percival’s moody and atmospheric painted style in my review of the last part of this story, but this chapter showcases a weakness in Percival’s storytelling. There are multiple instances throughout this chapter where a page is barely readable. With little flow between panels, it’s near impossible to get a read on what’s actually happening to the characters and how they’re reacting. There’s a moment where Rosco’s transport is suddenly engulfed in flames after what I think was a skeleton throwing a fireball at it? But between the wide shot framing of the panel, the blurry effects of the snow detailed and just the general lack of focus in any of the panels, I couldn’t accurately gauge what was happening or why.
And that’s a problem with pretty much every page of this chapter.
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “Judge Dredd Megazine” 389 is on sale this week and available from:
- The 2000 AD Newsstand app for iPad and iPhone,
- The 2000 AD app for Android devices,
- 2000ADonline.com in print or DRM-free PDF and CBZ formats, and
- Finer comic shops everywhere
So as Tharg the Mighty himself would say, “Splundig vur thrigg!”