Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our monthly look at the “Judge Dredd Megazine!” Let’s get right to it.
Judge Dredd: The Red Queen’s Gambit, Part Two
Credits: Arthur Wyatt (script), Jake Lynch (art), John Charles (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Christa Harader: Our jaunt into the Mediterannean Free States just got a whole lot more complicated, with Dredd picking up a source with an eidetic memory who’s poised to give up all the goods on the Red Queen and her criminal operations – until Serpico gets in the way.
This second installment wisely does away with some of the world-building of the first and gets straight to the action. Lynch gets to show off a lot of the city’s sprawling architecture as Dredd races through the water on a jet ski, and there’s one scene in particular, under the Bridge of Psis, that’s delightfully weird, surreal and just the right comedic note to brighten up an otherwise tense block of action. It also contrasts well with the chaotic but recognizable elements of a city gone to seed. Charles keeps the lighting relatively diffuse, as Dredd’s often out in the open, but Dredd’s uniform is a nice consistent pop of color against the omnipresent greys and muted tones of the city. Parkhouse’s lettering is consistent and readable, and there are a few good sound effects in this installment to help carry off some of the high action. Wyatt does tend to go for a lot of narrative detail while there’s a lot going on on the page, and a lot of it comes out in dialogue that can slow the pace. Still, Lynch and Charles keep the action going at a nice clip, and the installment ends on a good cliffhanger.
No sign of Orlok just yet, though he’s mentioned, and Dredd’s up to his neck in trouble as he’s taken prisoner by Serpico. Nothing’s going entirely to plan, least of all the stealth approach, so it’ll be up to Serota to track him down before the Red Queen can ensnare them all.
2000 AD Demarco, PI: An Eye Part One
Credits: Laura Bailey (Script), Paul Williams (Art), Ellie De Ville (Letters)
Christopher Egan: After a previous job goes bust, Galen Demarco finds herself flat broke and looking to take on any job that pays. Meeting up with a new client Charlu, Glaen realizes that this job may be a little outside the sort of work she is accustomed to. Charlu lives with his elderly mother who is suffering from a cognitive disorder of some sort. He tells Galen that his mother leaves the house for hours on end with no word on where she goes or what she does. He is convinced that her bizarre outings are making her more ill. He tasks Galen with tracking his mother to see what she is up to, and that is where things take a disconcerting turn.
Laura Bailey writes an engaging detective story that leans into disturbing mystery that touches on mental illness and possible supernatural forces. She keeps “Demarco, PI” comfortably nestled in the world of “Judge Dredd” by setting the story in Mega City One and including a handful of Judges on one page, but overall this story has very little to do with the rest of the greater Dredd universe. Bailey’s script is straight forward, but allows for an underlying mystery. Relying on our distrust of strangers and our discomfort around mental illness her writing pulls you in, in just a few quick pages.
Paul Williams beautifully illustrates this issue. His stark contrast and clear, open artwork doubles down on Bailey’s intentions with this story. Although everything is perfectly detailed and brightly lit, there is still an odd disconnect between what we are looking at and what the writing is telling us. It all works great. Williams attention to detail is something to behold, especially when it comes to faces. Charlu is an funny mix of Rage Against The Machine’s Zach de la Rocha and actor Steve Coogan. Williams’s updated take on Galen is a welcome one. Williams leaves behind the grunge look of her previous iterations and takes on a more action movie look. Attractive, yet tough, but not unrealistically so. She looks like more of her own person or character rather than adhering closely to the classic Mega City vibe.Continued below
“Demarco, PI: An Eye Part One” is a captivating premiere to this arc that leaves you with far more questions than answers. It’s a detective story and horror tale that is treated with similar sensibilities to the The Twilight Zone.
Diamond Dogs, Part 2
Credits: James Peaty (script), Warren Pleace (art), Simon Bowland (letters).
Tom Shapira: James Peaty’s script throws in some more complications in this months chapter, all for the best. This is still very much in the familiar realm of crime stories with a Dredd-world twist (think The Departed and you probably wouldn’t be far of), but as long as the story as well told I’m not going to complain too much. Warren Pleace’s art is still as solid as ever, bringing the necessary old-school charm and strong storytelling to the proceedings. My one major issue is that Nia apartment’s feels a bit large and undamaged for what is meant to be a crowded and underfunded housing estate, the script calls for grime but art provides little.
Still, there’s nice buildup of tensions: Nia’s life as undercover operative / forced-informer was complicated enough, throwing old friends (and their troubles) into the mix adds some spice. It’s the type of story and setting that can become a long-runner if given a proper care on the editorial and artistic side.
The ole glaring issue, certainly in terms of 2000AD stories, is that Nia doesn’t really have strong enough personality two chapters in. both the Progs and the Megazine have made their reputations on the backs of strong, sustainable, characters – the kind that prosper even if the stories drop in quality. These type of characters (Dredd, Nikolai Dante, Rogue, Halo Jones etc.) tend to announce themselves from the moment they step on the page. If Nia is meant to be a similar focalizer for the plot the creative team needs to give the readers a stronger handle her.
Still, good art and a strong story (with a promise for more) carry the strip so far.
The Returners: Chandhu, Part 2
Si Spencer (script), Nicolo Assirelli (art), Eva De La Cruz (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: For a serialized tale, in a book that has decades of examples of serialized tales, “The Returns: Chandhu” is paced extremely oddly. This is now the second installment where, essentially, nothing happens. Both of these strips could have been combined into one, and it still would have been reasonably slight, compared to other Megazine stories.
Si Spurrier introduces a little dissension into the ranks, and tosses around some pretty hateful language between characters. It is effective, but for the reader, especially one who maybe didn’t read the first “Returners” strip from last year, it is a big step for the characters to take. Especially because, as so little has happened, it doesn’t really feel earned.
Nicolo Assirelli continues to do solid work here, and really excels at illustrating ruination coming to man-made structures. The final page of this strip is incredibly effective, both in showing the devastation that occurred and the human toll. Now that this crew is in their destination, perhaps the strip can grow into something more than sniping at one another.
Anderson Psi Division: The Dead Run Part One
Credits Martin McHugh(script) Patrick Goddard(art) Pippa Mather(colors) Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The new “Psi Division” strip is built on a tried and true Judge story, a good o’ll Hotdog Run aka the School Run, and explores a space from one of “Dredd” most well known stories the ‘Apocalypse War.’ And Judge Anderson thought she was going to not get a bad assignment today. Judge Anderson and Ryan catch double duty after a mutant from the cursed earth comes bearing an ominous message and Psi Division needs The creative team come together to make a plainly good opening strip for this “Psi Division” story that gets all the setup out of the way, with a solid amount of character, so that by the next Megazine they can get into the thick of it.
Patrick Goddard and Philippe Mather do a nice job of contrasting the cursed earth with Mega City One, even if both are appropriately recognized to be horror shows. In the opening attack on the scavengers Goddard’s line art is a bit thicker, scratchy, just kind of unkept while still being technically sound and readable. That style helps to add to the horror of the moment as a mysterious creature begins taking out scavengers with ruthless efficiency. Mather’s color pallet is not just earthy, it’s obviously earth, but it lacks the sorta perstince clenliness you get when the strip transitions to Mega City. Stylistically the art team make the Cursed Earth appear as if it is from a 70s comic book.Continued below
That sort of grit makes the cleanliness of the Mega City, with their industrially designed buildings, office space, and tech stand out all the more. Mather’s palette for the Mega City is richer and with cleaner gradients. If it wasn’t for the Judges things would look like a typical future city setting. When head Judge Shenker reveals the WNF gang flag the surviving mutant brought with him, it feels like it is out of place. The tattered yellow cloth doesn’t react to the lighting the way everything else does.
There is slight hiccup when the creative team introduces the cadets who are ready for their run. Anderson and Ryan give all of them a debriefing and the five specialists all sit their dutifully before introducing themselves. The introductions are well done and handled naturally. The art isn’t as seamless as it could’ve been. The five cadets all sit in a single row at the front. Their introductions, however, are split into two horizontal panels grouping them into a set of three and two. If Goddard had drawn them in two rows you wouldn’t have the awkward bleed over that occurs between panels and could’ve gotten the same information across in a single image. It’s just a minor bit of friction for an overall enjoyable and easy read.
I find myself oddly intrigued after the first strip. Things will definitely go sideways very quickly but everything in this one setup the second one so well and manages to work as an episodic unit.