Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Anderson: Psi Division – NWO Part Six
Alan Grant (script) Paul Marshall (art) Dylan Teague (colours) Simon Bowland (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: This story of Judge Anderson and Psi Division comes to an end, and I’m left wanting. There isn’t anything spectacularly bad in this strip, it’s just all so blandly normal. Well, as normal as something can be when it features a psychic dragon fight. The strip comes to a tidy end, with none of the style or dark humor. That straight quality is a bit odd.
There are a couple of revelations in this strip that may have had greater impact if there were more page space to play with. Instead everything gets wound up into a nice ball as Judges Anderson, Millz, and Dredd come down to put a stop to this criminality. Artist Paul Marshall does a good job of composing pages with an unobtrusive flow. The use of a full page to show the ferocious psychic dragon turned against its master, while pretty sweet, maybe eats up more page space than it is worth. The roughly 2-page sequence is the equivalent of being banished to the Shadow Realm and that psychic damage doesn’t really come through, even with the shattered glass motif. If you contrast it to the fate of Juve’s Father, the sequential nature of that sequence carried more impact. (And had the added bonus of ludicrous display of State power).
Not every Judge story needs to have some dark comic twist to it, but if things are going to be played straight like this it needed more time for there to be some kind of impact. You could argue in favor of the nonchalant, by the book, nature of the strip as being indicative of the kind of futile displays of power and control found in these stories. However, even police procedurals land dramatic beats in their nebulous emotional continuity at the culmination of something like this. Here it’s just another case closed and as Anderson says they’ve got a “city to run.”
Devlin Waugh: Blood Debt, Part 3
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Mike Dowling (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: The majority of ‘Blood Debt, Part 3’ takes place on the shores of the hallowed gambling palace that’s called in on the markers seemingly owed by Devlin’s brother dearest. That Rory McConville’s strip plays out largely in the shadow of this den of ill-repute is one thing. But through Devlin’s description of the mindless, soulless hordes descending on his team one gets the impression that McConville does not look the least bit favourably upon such an establishment pandering to such vices.
“Once you’ve run out of anything worth gambling, the casino’s security charms automatically eject you,” Devlin says, looking dapper and composed as ever, even caught up in the midst of the fray. “You can’t get back inside, but you can’t get back to your old life either. So you end up here, waiting for something to come along that will let you buy your way back in.”
“So they strip you of everything?”
“Worse, they leave you with all the dark miserable, hateful little parts of yourself.”
McConville laces ‘Blood Debt, Part 3’ with about as cutting a criticism of an industry that preys on addiction that you’re likely to find this week. Luckily, it never feels heavy handed. There’s a sparseness to Mike Dowling’s panel composition that fits perfectly for a siege occurring in the wastelands between the casino’s faux-grandeur and the infinite void. In that way, there’s an authenticity that jives between the desolation of the setting and the hopelessness described above.
The strip closes with Devlin and his troop finally entering the dragon’s lair. Along the way, Dowling makes a subtle shift in how he depicts the gentleman vampire. Devlin is still shown to be a large man, but his framing no longer overpowers the panels that he’s present in. Since we rarely see his whole profile, he’s made to seem slightly less imposing than he has been through the first two installments. In that way, there’s a legit sense of danger as he lists the threats that may befall them should they be caught.Continued below
In ‘Blood Debt, Part 3’ Dowling’s fine-lined artwork cuts Devlin as a figure of composure under pressure. But as McConville’s script torques the nut, we’re about to find out just how much pressure the main man can handle.
Dark Judges: Dominion, Part Five
Credits: John Wagner(script), Nick Percival (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: The sci-fi zombie apocalypse tale of “Dark Judges” trudges on with Part Five. It’s entertaining for the most part, providing some base thrills. What Wagner does best is make Judge Death endlessly entertaining and sinister: Wagner has him commandeering a snowplow to try and smash into the survivors dome screaming “JUSSSTICCE MUSSST NOT BE DENIED”. Another positive is the survivor’s lament of the situation at hand – the narrator telling about how his father was lucky not to live to see this feels genuine as it’s linked to the real living and breathing Dredd universe. The main problem I have with this script is how openly and heavy handed it is with lending plot points from other zombie tales – for instance, the survivors at one stage choose to cover themselves in zombie flesh to conceal themselves from the dead, à la “The Walking Dead”. It’s pretty disengaging to those who have read those other texts, and keeps the chapter from being truly enjoyable.
Nick Percival, as always, provides luscious and haunting painted artwork. The spacious and eerie nature of his colors serves well to convey the emptiness and despair outside the dome, while also portraying the loneliness of being trapped within it. What I find Percival also excels with is the absolute harshness of the elements. The snow and environment outside the dome works well with the dead citizens to create a fearful environment, while Percival makes spectacle out of Judge Fire, one of the original Dark Judges who here alights much of the setting around the dome as well as some of the dead themselves. What I’d love to see is more setting here – I know I’m guilty of saying it a lot, but I feel what we get of inside the dome is so beautiful and complex that when offscreen it is sorely missed. Give us more of the quarantined plantlife and cold feeling machines that Percival skillfully adds early on, and I’ll be pleased as punch.
“Dark Judges” is a fine zombie tale, if a little by the book. Wagner makes it fun to see the setting used with these sci-fi enhanced classic villains, but sticks to overly familiar tropes that keep the story from being truly original. However, Nick Percival’s art is always a beauty to behold. If nothing else, stay for the pure eye candy.
”Lawless Breaking Badrock Part 2”
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Phil Winslade(art), Ellie de Ville(Letters)
Greg Lincoln: The frontier town of Badrock is under siege, well, not literally at this moment but psychologically and that pressure is breaking people bit by bit. At first read I felt Dan Abnett’s story telling was a bit heavy handed and possibly too blunt, but when I recall my personal experience with anorexia I saw the reality in the way he handled the story he’s telling about Deputy Nerys Petifer. Much of this chapter shows the Deputy going about her duties and kind of becoming a reflection of her more loud and prone to action boss Marshal Lawless, but in her approach there is an outright sense of over-reaction. The once kinder woman now easy to anger has come to concern her fellow deputies and boss. She even reacts very ill tempered a fumbled attempts at greetings. It takes the psionic onetime Marshall Hetch to point out the toxicity of Nerys Petifer’s mental health and her self abuse to bring home the truth to Lawless that something is truly wrong. There is a bit of humor spread through this chapter and it says a lot about Abnett’s compassion that Nerys is not the object of these jokes.
Phil Winslade’s pages continue have that light and wispy inked quality that create a definite tone to “Lawless,” his art could be spot illustrations for an old dime pulp western. Looking back on early chapters he has subtly changed the way he draws Petifer and like her friends and co-workers unconsciously caught up in a critically body-conscious culture, I too didn’t notice the changes till the various talks about her weight loss pointed it out. It’s telling that even paying critical attention to the art I still missed that detail. Winslade also showed his skill humanizing a non-human without anthropomorphism. His Kill-a-man Jaroo is unmistakeable a gorilla, literally, but he gives him real, recognizable expressions. His emotions play well through his face, moments of jest, frustration, boredom and shock all very palpable.