Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Judge Dredd: Krong Island Part 2
Credits: Arthur Wyatt(script) Jake Lynch(art) John Charles(colors) Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: It’s the little things that get me sometime, like purposefully driving down a certain stretch of road because of the bends or hills. Or in the case of this strip: Jude Dredd and the ape Judge Heston running from the gigantic, robotic, titular Krong, an effective backstory for the strips big bad, Serpico, all executed by solid art from Jake Lynch and John Charles. This isn’t some profound treatise, but it hits all the right beats.
Arthur Wyatt’s script hits the absurd and the human, like when he describes a particularly bad moment for Mega City One with “possibly there were zombies” before emphasizing that good people do exist in that dystopian hellscape. It’s just too bad that Serpico wasn’t found by the good people; instead, he’s indoctrinated into a life of crime before eventually realizing his inescapable place within it, and the desire to simply become the greatest criminal the world had ever known. The requisite “training montage” shows off the various crimes Serpico commits (Euro-Crime, Space-Crim, etc). Serpico is shown to be this over the top villain, but this stuff gives him just enough grounding that you can see why he’s doing these things.
Lynch’s page design is wide open, often overlapping or centralized around a big image, which feels appropriate for a strip that features both flashbacks and a gigantic robot ape. The former builds an efficent visual langue for the narrative and the latter emphasis on size makes Krog seem massive. To that end, one panel is actually cut into two, with the large figure of Krog roaring over head and the other panel acting as a detail that shows Heston rummaging through a supply pack for anything useful. It makes for an effective comedic moment.
It’s interesting to note how deemphasized Jude Dredd is in a strip bearing his name. He isn’t full on buddy mode, but is pretty much reduced to make pointless action guy one liners as more capable sentient beings try and get them out of this mess. The lack of emphasis does give Wyatt ample room to explore the many types and forms a tough guy grimace can take as they run through the jungle.
With how effectively this strip handles the absurdity of its own premise, the eventual “Planet of the Apes” moment will be very interesting to track. But first, there’s a matter of figuring out who’s really pulling the strings.
Lawless Breaking Badrock: 5
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Phil Winslade(art), Ellie de Ville(Letters)
Greg Lincoln: The Munce Inc. aerial assault on Badrock gives the supporting cast a chance to shine while Marshall Lawson is absent and Deputy Petifer is in an iso-cell for her own ‘protection.’ Kill-A-Man Jaroo rallies the townspeople and leads them in their improvised defense of their homes in this full on action chapter. Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade, throughout the attack, spotlight many of the recurring characters that have appeared before and some, like the crack-shot Addie, make significant contributions to the fight. By far the hero of the day is Kill-A-Man Jaroo whose support, organization, and speedy decisions make it possible for Lawson to have a town to return to and force Munce forces to go to stage two of their planned attack. Between the art and the script, they created a palpable sense of the loss and damage the town faces in the aftermath of this ‘opening volley’ of their fight to survive.
The pages Winslade created for this battle are near literally filled with detail, at points near too much detail to take in. Winslades line work is as always skillfully executed, he does as well with complex emotional expressions as he does damage and mechanical detail. At times, the only place your eye has a place to rest is on the empty space created by Ellie De Ville’s multiple layered sound effects. Together their work created a sense of snapshots of the battle. In addition to the action, Winslade gave a real sense of scale to Badrock that I have not gotten before; the town is actually much more massive than I had assumed.Continued below
Devlin Waugh: Blood Debt, Part 5
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Mike Dowling (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: “My poor beloved face,” Devlin laments, bloodied and haggard-looking, as his brother helps him to his feet. “No amount of lavender moisture will be enough to undo this vandalism.”
His body may be broken, but Devlin Waugh’s affectatious spirit remains unbroken in the capstone that is ‘Blood Debt, Part 5’. Rory McConville’s script illuminates the full range of Devlin’s personality, from the erudite gentleman to the savage vampire to the conflicted brother. And these characteristics never feel forced into the story, they’re written in as authentic reactions to the tieing up of the plot’s loose ends. It’s deftly efficient writing, made all the more poignant by the closing image of one brother walking away from the other on an empty beach.
But the real star this week is Mike Dowling. There’s a sparse, sketchy quality to his linework that evokes the exhaustion and resignation coming at the end of a bloody brawl between siblings. And Dowling’s details are just messy enough to capture the chaos, destruction, and desperation as the soulless hordes from outside the casino swarm and overtake the opulence within.
‘Blood Debt, Part 5’ shows McConville and Dowling closing out a fantastic Devlin Waugh story. They’ve seemed to perfectly capture the idiosyncratic nature of their lead, all while telling an impactful story that touches on the scourge of those who prey on addiction and the infinite complexity of familial bonds.
Cursed Earth Koburn: The Law Of The Cursed Earth, Part Two
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Carlos Ezquerra (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Rowan Grover: McConville gets the ball rolling here as it’s clarified who the shooter was in the last issue, and that it came from within the gang’s ranks. We’re given someone to hate, and props to McConville for making it the pretty easily detestable Boyle, who seems to be attacking Koburn and Alonso for having developed mild racism living with the Cursed Earth mutants for so long. What I love is how much McConville displays Koburn as a protective figure, something that you don’t generally find in Dredd comics, and he seems to genuinely want to look after and nurture Alonso without any overt motives.
Ezquerra gets more of a chance to stretch his legs here, being able to some great action and some of the more terrifying aspects of the Cursed Earth. One of my favourite panels is in the second page, where Koburn takes a Kirby-esque leap at Boyle from afar, leading into a kinetic brawl sequence spanning the rest of the page. And then there’s the sandflies. I find it interesting that Ezquerra only really needed to fully display them once to truly get them under our skin. We’re shown the full display against the stark red of the Cursed Earth sky, and that’s enough that whenever we see the black fog appear later on, it’s enough to cause alarm. But it’s also worth pointing out how nice the quiet moments between Koburn and Alonso are. There’s not necessarily romance or intimacy between the two, but Ezquerra handles their expressions and body language to a point that displays their respect and understanding of each other.
This was a much greater improvement from the last installment, which I initially felt just needed more time to clarify the plot. McConville gets to develop his characters more, and Ezquerra gets more opportunity to work on action, worldbuilding, and just expressive emotional work. Hopefully, the team keeps the quality going up from here.
Dredd: The Dead World, Part 2
Credits: Arthur Wyatt & Alex De Campi (script), Henry Flint (art), Chris Blyth (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Tom Shapira: Two episodes in, and I’m still not convinced that adding Judge Death to the movieverse strip was a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry that they’re doing him differently (the Brian Boland design, though a classic, doesn’t translate well into the low-fi esthetic of the movie) or at the level of writing involved (a slow-burn supernatural thriller); but I really think a different reality is a nice way to explore subjects that wouldn’t work in the regular strip rather than another chance to play a cover version of the “greatest hits.”Continued below
That being said, there is a lot to like here: the idea that Dredd is so used to the chaos of city life that he fails to notice something is wrong until it’s right on top of him is worth exploring (regular Dredd is too often proven right, it’s nice to see a version that stumbles a bit). It’s also a fine-looking strip: Henry Flint, the best Dredd artist of this century bar-none, ups the creepy with the lyrical scenes of the Dark Judges trying to break into our reality. Judge Death is definitely an overused concept – but it’s nice they’re at least trying to give him a fresh coat of (dark) paint.