Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Tales From the Black Museum: Fake News
Rory McConville(script) Neil Googe(art) Simon Bowland(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: With a title like ‘Fake News’ my immediate response is to gnash teeth and bemoan the state of things. However, with the conceit of the ‘Black Museum’ serving as a Night Gallery-esque journey into the strange and macabre, there was hope we’d get something halfway decent out of it. And for the most part that’s what we got; Rory McConville and Neil Googe come together to tell a story about how it’s easy to inflame passions with a kernel of truth wrapped around a sweet false exterior. And like candy it’s just plain bad for everyone without moderation.
Back in another day when things where bad in Mega City One, passions where inflamed over how Judges may have been dealing with the outbreak of a disease. Supposedly the Judges were summarily executing the infected … which is pretty much how the deal with all their problems. At the time it turns out they weren’t, but for the populace that’s all they needed to know. In the ensuing chaos millions more died because of this.
Even with this being a strip in a Megazine, there isn’t much space to delve into nuance. However, the overall statement of “Fake News is a corrosive agent on the body politic” is quite effective in the context of Mega City One. There was truth in the fakery. Mega City One is run by a fascist organization that in true fascist fashion arbitrarily create and maintain narratives meant to justify their hegemonic violence. All of that is at play in this strip. I wouldn’t say McConville creates some great treatise, but it makes the most out of our shared understanding about the world of Mega City One as part of a metaphoric reckoning with the present.
Neil Googe’s page structure is on point for this recursive narrative. There are strict panels, but he also fills pages with plenty of open ended ones. This construction creates a layered page with easy flow and visually represent the mutability of narrative. His designs and clean inking are reminiscent of Jorge Jimenez which is a style I never imagined I’d see in the pages of the Megazine.It gives his character designs a kind of naive purity, where they don’t realize they’re the baddie. That’s how you can get the true emotions out of Judge Stanton even as he’s clearly lost all his marbles and is rendered monstrous by the rest of the page.
Devlin Waugh: Blood Debt, Part 4
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Mike Dowling (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Devlin Waugh finally finds Freddie as ‘Blood Debt, Part 4’ closes out. But before he gets there, we’re given a burly brawl on the casino floor, a dash of mind control, and some moustache-twirling discourse regarding wagers and honor courtesy of Cornelius Manzoor, chief advisor to the Spider Palace.
The parley between Devlin and Manzoor carries a liltingly playful banter between enemies that feels more than a little bit like 007 in execution. Rory McConville even starts things off with a flashback cold open that shows our hero’s first encounter with one of the pit boss’s henchmen. Mike Dowling draws this with a swashbuckling verve that plays up the more devil-may-care attitude Devlin had in his younger days. The contrast makes the composed man in the present feel all the more suave as Manzoor leads him deeper and deeper in to the heart of his den.
“I make wagers, not deals,” Manzoor emphasizes, as Devlin strives to reach some sort of agreement to absolve Freddie of his debt and transgression. When it comes to a wager, there’s always a winner and a loser. And when it comes to this sort of gambling den, the house always wins. Dowling and McConville are emphatic in showing how ruthless this fact is. Gaunt, greying bodies are strapped like zombies to video lottery terminals slowly draining them of any vitality or spirit. Even the gods are not immune, as one panel shows a hall where massive chthonic leviathans are slaves to Lovecraftian blackjack tables.Continued below
In ‘Blood Debt, Part 4,’ McConnville and Dowling have crafted a lively transitional chapter. And the family reunion they’ve coordinated is shaping up to be a bloody affair indeed.
Dark Judges: Dominion, Part Six
Credits: John Wagner(script), Nick Percival (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: This chapter concludes the tragedy-filled story of the Dead World survivors. Like in the last chapter, there are some cheap plot decisions made to progress the story. Wagner has the Dark Judges infiltrate the dome through one of the residents whose ‘head’s not right’ after she sees a zombified version of her son. It’s implied that one way or another that they would’ve found a way at some point regardless, and while this does hold up, the creative decision to make this the method seems a little lacking. What I do love is how commanding the Judges are whenever the scene is set upon them. Wagner plays up their fearsomeness as the only dead capable of progressive conscious thought. When they finally take the dome, Judge Death’s short monologue is perfectly haunting, ending in the rhythmic “RESSST IN PEACCE, SSSINNER.”
Painterly style suits the tone of this series just fine, and has so for the last few chapters with Nick Percival’s art. One of the most striking additions here is how well negative space is used to convey tone and atmosphere. Once the dead have infiltrated the dome, most of the environmental setting we get is overcut by an almost sonically ambient blue, filled with dust and light speckles that you can’t help but feel and see and hear the chilling nature of the Dead World. What’s also interesting is how these stripped back versions of the Dark Judges can still remain just as haunting as their fully-dressed versions. The choice to depict their decaying flesh without costume works well with them in the spotlight here, making them feel more savage and primal. It undercuts how cunning they are at times, especially when they stand revealing their master plan about halfway through, but makes them look as fearsome as ever.
While not one of the most thought provoking or layered stories, “Dark Judges: Dominion” works as a serviceable expansion to the famous Dredd villains’ lore. This chapter wraps up most of the plot threads neatly, with some beautiful art and a tasty hook to draw you in for the next addition to this twisted world.
”Lawless Breaking Badrock Part 3”
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Phil Winslade(art), Ellie de Ville(Letters)
Greg Lincoln: Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade, and Ellie De Ville deliver a pretty devastating chapter for besieged town of Badrock and the upticks in tension are well-earned. The big reveal of just what Kill-A-Man Jaroo discovered following the trail of clues in part 2 leads to the town doctor and mech priest and affects all the major players in ways are pretty unpredictable and disheartening. A lot of the tension hinted at in the last part cones to a head as it’s shown that the town doctor and priest are involved in more than just preaching the mech faith. Marshall Lawless already warned that there are ill omens in the air by the ex-Marshall and current jail resident gets faced with an escalating problem that losses the town resources it really can’t afford at the moment. You can pretty much feel the betrayal in the looks on her face. These ten pages put Badrock in real jeopardy of falling all on its own just as impatient forces from Munce Inc. arrive to hasten its fall. I have hope that it won’t all end in tears and bones in the desert because I really like the messed up Mad people who live in Badrock.
Though the events in this part are sure enough to keep me reading, but the art by Phil Winslade is a real demonstration of his skill with ink on paper. His work goes from ethereal and dream-like with opening page of the Ex-Marshall Hetch’s prophetic vision to the hard reality of the mech church and the textured detail detail he brings to different scenes. He needs no colorist to add reality to the sand, the metal, the leather, the blood, and the viscera when changing his style and application of ink is all that is necessary. It’s worth taking the time to look at his work to see what he quite obviously spent a lot of time creating.