Sunday, June 24, 2012

When Judges Go Bad

(Reprints Judge Dredd stories from 2000 AD Progs 615-618, 623-625, 872, 968-969, 1306-1307 and 2006, and Judge Dredd Megazine #4.04 and 230)

It's hard for me to believe, but as of this week I've been doing Dredd Reckoning for a year. (For the benefit of the curious: it looks like there's going to be enough material to take us up through mid-January.) Cake for everyone!

There haven't been a lot of thematically organized Judge Dredd collections, and as far as I can tell there isn't a compelling marketing reason for this one; "crooked future cops" isn't particularly a plot point in the forthcoming movie. But there are also only so many rubrics for reprinting nice-looking stories by artists who don't have big chunks of the series to their name, so why not? The only previously-reprinted-in-book-form material here is "Crazy Barry, Little Mo"/"Banana City," one of the first memorable bad-cop stories of the full-color era, and that one was split across Case Files 12 and 13 anyway.

The pair of typically lightweight Mark Millar stories that follow it are a bit of a comedown. "Crime Prevention" seems like two half-stories grafted together, and the second half has a particularly Millar-y premise--that the Judges will lock you right up if they think there's a good chance you're going to commit your first crime sometime in the future. It's also a premise that falls to pieces if you think about it for three seconds. (Other writers have taken a stab at the same general idea, but it always seems pretty untenable.)

"The Man Who Broke the Law," one of Millar's final published Dredd stories, ran in 1995, while he was still collaborating frequently with Grant Morrison. I have to wonder if it's at least partly a parody of the club-hopping Morrison of that era, with its rave-y smiley face and flower graffiti, and its gag about a message projected on the moon (a trope that Morrison has pulled out a few times), as well as "Voodoo Jim," who looks a whole lot like Papa Ghede by way of The Invisibles' Jim Crow. (Papa Ghede, incidentally, is supposed to carry an apple in his left hand; for a second I conflated that with the "stolen apple" bit from "Crime Prevention.") It may be just be that I associate Steve Yeowell's artwork with Morrison after their collaborations on Zenith and The Invisibles and Sebastian O. Who knows.

The rest of the volume is much more solidly written. I like the look of Greg Staples' line art on "Class of '79" a lot, too, although the "Judge Staples" that I assume is a self-portrait is slightly too cute a gesture, and Kimble looks like he's in his mid-20s--if he made full eagle in the class of 2079, he'd be about 66 years old at the time of this episode. And "Judging Ralphy" has some really nice, post-Moebius-ish art from Dave Taylor. There's a page of Taylor's original art reproduced below, from his site. He's only drawn a handful of Dredd stories, but I like the look of them a lot. It's great to see his work again in the new Megazine; he'd spent the past few years working on that Batman graphic novel Death By Design that came out a couple of weeks ago.

It's a bit frustrating, though, that this collection is so brief--another signature or two would have made it possible to flesh it out with more contextualizing material. "Judging Ralphy," for instance, is a direct sequel to Progs 119 and 121's "A Tale from Walter's Scwapbook." That's a terrible story, but it's not long, and including it would have made it possible to show John Wagner rectifying one of his early missteps. "A Tale" claimed that Dredd visits Ralphy every week (stifling giggles here) and treats him "just like a real son." If that's the case, then the conclusion of "Judging Ralphy," in which Ralphy spells it out that Dredd gave up on him at exactly the moment he needed help most, and Dredd blows his head off and dismisses it as suicide by cop, is even more bitter than it seems. Dredd's only got room for protective feelings about one surrogate child, apparently, and that's Vienna. (Who, as it happens, first showed up three weeks earlier than Ralphy.)

Likewise, it's good to see both "Bad Manners" and "Rotten Manners" in here, but that's not all of the Judge Manners storyline--the reprint that appeared in Megazine #286 a few years ago included the middle sequence, "Flippers," which makes it more than a set-up/knock-down scenario. And this is yet another missed opportunity to reprint "Flashback 2099: The Return of Rico"--the color remake of the original Judge-gone-bad story.

Next week: one of the odder inter-franchise team-ups the series has been involved with, Predator Vs. Judge Dredd.  


  1. ["crooked future cops" isn't particularly a plot point in the forthcoming movie.]

    Sure about that?