Showing posts with label Graphic Novel Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Graphic Novel Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Review - Spider-Gwen: Vol. 0 - "Most Wanted?"

Spider-Gwen: Vol. 0 - "Most Wanted?"
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez
ISBN: 978-0785197737

This graphic novel collects the following comics:

  • Edge of Spider-Verse # 2
  • Spider-Gwen (Vol. 1) # 1 - 5

In one universe, it wasn't Peter Parker who was bitten by the radioactive spider, but Gwen Stacy! She's smart, charming and can lift a car — just don't tell her father, the police chief! And now, in the wake of Spider-Verse, Gwen swings into her own solo adventures! And she soon finds herself between a rock and a hard place when the Vulture attacks, and NYPD Lieutenant Frank Castle sets his sights on bringing her down. Then, still haunted by Peter's death, Gwen visits his only family: Ben and May Parker. But what really happened the day Peter died? Find out right here as the spectacular Spider-Gwen steals not only the spotlight, but also the hearts of comic fans worldwide!


Much like how the original Spider-Girl sprung out of a single-issue alternate universe storyline, Spider-Gwen took the comics world by storm soon after the solicitations for her debut issue Edge of Spider-Verse # 2 appeared online. Most of this was down to her distinctive costume, designed by Robbi Rodriguez, which made a definite statement about the character – this wasn’t anything like any Spider-Woman we’d ever seen before. With its distinctive mix of white and neon purple colours, coupled with the hooded cowl, the costume was an instant hit and sent the cosplayers running to their sewing machines before the first issue had even dropped. Internet word-of-mouth went into overdrive, leading the first issue to sell out almost immediately and receive a further four more printings – not to mention a re-branding as Spider-Gwen # 0 later in the year. Sure, the Marvel hype machine had done its job and built up plenty of anticipation and speculator interest in the single issue, but was the story any good?

Well, the simple answer to that is a resounding “yes!” – skipping over the well-trodden origin story with a fantastically effective double-page spread, Jason Latour showcased the familiar beats from Amazing Fantasy # 15 spliced with some new tid-bits that sets Spider-Gwen’s Earth-65 from the mainstream Marvel Universe we all know and love. In this universe, Gwen was bitten by the radioactive spider instead and Peter, consumed by his inadequacies and jealousy, attempted to gain his own powers using Curt Connors’ formula, becoming The Lizard. In an inspired twist, Peter dies in Gwen’s arms (mirroring “The Death of Gwen Stacy” in the mainstream universe) and teaches Spider-Gwen the importance of power and responsibility, whilst the circumstances of his death causes her to become a wanted felon. It’s truly impressive to see that origin condensed into a single splash page without losing any of the impact at all. Later issues in the ongoing series revisit key scenes from this sequence to flesh out Gwen’s part in Peter’s death, as well as the impact that it has on the Parker family.


The single-issue acts largely a set-up to the “Spider-Verse” event, which ran through Amazing Spider-Man during 2015 and saw every alternate version of Spider-Man ever come together to defeat the dimension-hopping Inheritors. However, Latour had sown enough seeds to warrant a return to Earth-65 once the event was over, and the enduring popularity of the Spider-Gwen character meant that an ongoing series was quickly commissioned. While it might be tempting to label Spider-Gwen as a Spider-Girl or Spider-Woman knock-off, the character really does hold its own place in the Marvel Universe with a distinctive tone that sets her apart from her predecessors. To distil it down to an elevator pitch, I’d say it was “Spider-Man meets Scott Pilgrim”, mainly due to her band “The Mary Janes”, and the slight punk attitude seen in both the script and art. There's a wonderful post-modernism feel to the series and youthful energy to Latour's script and Rodriguez's striking artwork.

Robbi Rodriguez is just a tour de force in this series, creating a distinctive style that cuts down deep into the heart of the Spider-Gwen character and her world. While it might be easy to dismiss the character as just a gimmicky costume, Rodriguez and Latour quickly prove that there is more to this version of Gwen Stacy than meets the eye. Fans of the mainstream Spider-Man continuity will notice plenty of nods and variations on classic characters, such as beat-cop Ben Grimm (aka the Fantastic Four’s Thing) and Frank Castle (aka the Punisher). Aside from this minor nods to classic continuity, Latour makes some striking changes such as introducing Matt Murdock as a slimy, villainous lawyer who works for the Kingpin – the complete antithesis of his character in the regular Marvel Universe. Familiar foes are also redesigned for the series with The Rhino and The Vulture making an appearance in this volume, alongside Felicia Hardy – who undergoes a more drastic change to become the French jewel thief, La Chat Noir. While these are fun in-jokes for hard-core Spider-Man fans to pick up on, the comic is completely accessible to new readers as well – in fact, it was one of the first titles my girlfriend begun to read and she loves it!


On that note, Spider-Gwen fits in nicely with Marvel Comics' current pattern of introducing and developing “All-New, All-Different” variations of its iconic characters with Miles Morales, Kamala Khan, Cindy Moon and Jane Foster stepping into the shoes of established 'franchises' and building up strong fan-bases. With a definite message of female empowerment, Spider-Gwen is a fantastic role model for young women and female comic book fans, in general. Yet, there's no reason to shuffle the title off as a “girl's book” - while Latour has stripped away some of the familiar elements that makes Spider-Man who he is, the core essence of the character is still there – much like it is in Miles Morales' Ultimate Spider-Man book. This is Spider-Man viewed through a different prism, and the result is a fantastic spin on an old classic. With the initial rush of interest and subsequent high sales of its ongoing series, it seems that Spider-Gwen has made an impact on the fan-base that preceding female Spider-Man titles have failed to make, even Spider-Girl which had its own loyal fan-base. Could it be that readers are more accepting of alternate realities, following the “Spider-Verse” cross-over, or perhaps the unique 'punk rock' tone of the series has struck a chord with comic book readers?

This collected edition features all five issues of the pre-Secret Wars volume of Spider-Gwen, which mainly revolves her attempts to prove her innocence whilst battling The Vulture, Frank Castle and Le Chat Noir. Each issue is filled to the brim with surprising plot developments as Jason Latour creates fun and exciting parallel versions of established characters. It reminds me of the early days of the Ultimate Universe when Brian Michael Bendis would put his own stamp on Spider-Man's rogue's gallery – in some ways, reinventing them completely. With the Ultimate Universe in ashes following Secret Wars, it is titles like Spider-Gwen that allows Marvel Comics to exercise its “What If?” muscle, yet Spider-Gwen feels so much more than an imaginary story given her appearance in “Spider-Verse” and subsequent role in the Web Warriors series. Also, if Old Man Logan and Miles Morales can make the transition from their own pocket universes into the Marvel Comics Universe proper, I wonder how long it will be until Spider-Gwen becomes a permanent fixture. Having read this debut graphic novel, it is clear that the character is a major landmark in the Spider-Man chronology, and I suspect she will be around for generations to come. My advice – get in on the ground floor and read up on this fascinating take on the Spider-Woman format. You won't regret it!

Spider-Gwen: Vol. 0 - "Most Wanted?" is available from a range of retailers including: Amazon.co.uk, Forbidden Planet and from Comixology in a digital format.

Score - 9.7 out of 10

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Review - Death Sentence: Vol. 1

Death Sentence: Volume One
Written by: Montynero
Art by: Mike Dowling
ISBN: 978-1782760085

What would you do with superpowers if you only had six months to live? That’s the dilemma facing three people who've contracted the G+ Virus, a terrifying new STD which gives you incredible superpowers, but also kills you within six months! What will struggling graphic designer Verity, failing indie guitarist Weasel and roguish media personality Monty do in the time that remains? Fade away – or go out in a blaze of glory? And if they choose to kick back... will there be anything left of the world when they're through?

Death Sentence is a six-issue miniseries, originally printed in Mark Millar’s CLINT magazine before its release in a US format comic by Titan Comics. This hardback collection features all six issues, alongside some selected supplementary material and a ‘directors commentary’ of the story from both the writer and artist, which looks page-by-page at the work behind the scenes.

Set predominately in London, Death Sentence tells the story of three individuals, infected with the deadly STD called G+ Virus, which endows its host with superpowers in exchange for their life expectancy, leaving them with just six months to live. As writer, Montynero, states in his foreword, the concept of the G+ virus (and the comic itself) originated from his desire to express himself creatively, in a burst of recklessness, before his first child was born and he would have to grow up. With his wife’s pregnancy giving him a six month deadline, this notion inspired him to come up with the "death sentence" which sits at the heart of the series.

The G+ Virus is such a brilliant concept that other writers out there must be kicking themselves over not thinking of it first. The idea of an AIDS-like virus which offers the ‘double-edged sword’ of super-powers along with a dramatically shortened life expectancy is ripe for dramatic possibility, forcing the reader themselves to consider the pros and cons of the deadly STD – while I'm sure many comic book readers out there would love to become superheroes, would they be willing to sacrifice their chance of a long life to do so?

It's just a phase she's going through

Despite the central conceit of super-powers, this isn't a 'tights and capes' kind of universe – there's no superheroes flying out of the sky to save the day. These people 'blessed' with super-powers are rife with flaws, self-doubt and self-loathing and struggle to keep their own lives on track, let alone save other peoples, however some of the familiar superhero tropes, such as the origin story and the grand showdown with the 'big bad' are present here albeit disguised in a fresh and exciting way. 

In a universe where super-powers are sexually transmitted, it comes as no surprise that the language and behaviour of the central characters is somewhat adult in nature. Those easily offended would do well to avoid this title and read the brightly-lit four colour worlds of the Marvel and DC universes, because Montynero paints an explicit tale of sexual exploration and violence, with some scenes of questionable taste and ethics involving real-world personalities. However, those who like their comics to challenge them and talk to them in a mature and adult way will love the risky nature of Montynero's daring script, which truly takes the safe options off the table and lets the chaos begin.

Throughout all six issues of the series, Mike Dowling handles the art duties (ably assisted by the beautiful covers by Montynero, himself) showcasing a great deal of artistic range as he nails the quieter introspective beats in the beginning chapters, before moving onto the bigger cinematic moments, as shit begins to be flung against the fan. The fight sequences are perfectly realised, capturing the spirit and energy of the action as it unfolds, managing to evoke memories of war-torn Armageddon movies such as Akira, with the book's central villain coming across Russell Brand mixed with Tetsuo.

Lunch with the Windsors

Montynero’s gritty realism, mixed seamlessly with his blockbuster movie set pieces, is very reminiscent of Mark Millar’s work, with echoes of Kick-Ass and Nemesis evident in the series, representing anarchic British comics at their best. I would not be surprised to find out that Hollywood is sniffing all over this one, as just like Millar’s work, it feels cinematic in nature and offers a subversive, more adult take on the superhero movie genre. Of course, they might have to clean up some elements to make it more palatable for mainstream audiences, but there's definitely enough content here to produce an interesting adaptation. Besides, we all know that the books are always better than the films!

There are further comparisons to be made, with Weasel appearing reminiscent of the classic 2000AD character, Zenith, albeit viewed through a modern-day prism, as opposed to the mid-80’s Thatcher-ism in which Zenith was set. In Weasel, we have a drug-addled, self-loathing musician who is instantly recognisable, thanks to any number of real-world cyphers such as Pete Doherty, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. As with Monty's passing resemblance to Russell Brand, these parallels with real-life figures makes it easier for the audience to connect with the character, understanding their personality types because of frequent exposure to the same behaviour in the tabloids.

As Montynero's debut into creator-owned comics, Death Sentence truly is a masterclass in storytelling and the only disappointment is that the 'Making Comics: A Practical Guide' sections which he included in the single issue editions of the miniseries are not present in this hardback collection. As a budding comics writer myself, those gems of knowledge from someone who has recently undergone the experience himself would be invaluable, and I will do my best to hunt down the rest of the single issues, solely to get access to those supplementary materials. Perhaps Montynero will write a short book based on this 'warts and all' guide, as I'm sure there are plenty of people out there like me who would love to read more about the behind-the-scenes aspect of the industry.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel – not only was the hardback presentation by Titan Comics amazingly lavish and well-crafted - but the story and artwork was top notch. Heavy concepts about life, mortality, greed and selflessness are explored with an expert’s eye, whilst Mike Dowling manages to create and sustain a grim, bleak tone amongst the debauchery and graphic violence that escalates. This is a fantastic exploration of a brilliant ‘elevator pitch’ – in lesser hands, the story could have become cloy and superficial, but Montynero delivers a truly effective narrative, delving into three distinctively different mindsets of his leading characters to explore the repercussions of a terminal illness with unusual side-effects. In fact, you could remove the super-powered aspect from the story completely and still be left with a thrilling exploration on how three individuals choose to deal with the time they have left, but obviously everything is more fun with levitation, energy pulses and exploding heads!

Death Sentence is available in hardcover format from a range of retailers including: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Forbidden Planet and directly from its publisher, Titan Comics, in both a physical and digital format.

Score - 9.3 out of 10

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Review - Judge Dredd: The XXX Files

Judge Dredd: The XXX Files
Written by: John Wagner, Alan Grant, Robbie Morrison, Gordon Rennie and Al Ewing
Art by: Ian Gibson, Simon Bisley, Greg Staples, Paul Marshall, John Burns, Cliff Robinson, Carlos Ezquerra, David Roach, Ben Willsher, Vince Locke, Jon Haward, Mike Collins, Andrew Currie and Paul Peart
ISBN: 978-1781082430
Price: $24.99 (US) £13.99 (UK)

This Graphic Novel reprints the following stories:

  • Love Story - 2000AD Prog 444
  • Love Story II: Futile Attraction - Judge Dredd Mega Special 1991
  • Love Story III: End of the Affair - 2000AD Prog 1281
  • The Great Arsoli - Judge Dredd Megazine 3.15
  • Attack of the Sex-Crazed Love Dolls - 2000AD Prog 1066
  • Bum Rap - 2000AD Prog 1070
  • To Die For - 2000AD Progs 1074 - 1076
  • Sleaze - Judge Dredd Megazine 3.40
  • Stone Killer - Judge Dredd Megazine 3.43
  • Sex Beast! - 2000AD Prog 1230
  • Driving Desire - 2000AD Prog 1271
  • Cheating Drokkers - 2000AD Prog 1272
  • The Girlfriend - Judge Dredd Megazine 4.15
  • The Marriage Game - Judge Dredd Megazine 203
  • Holding On - 2000AD Prog 1357
  • Crime of Passion - Judge Dredd Megazine 213
  • Love Hurts! - 2000AD Prog 1388
  • (This is Not A) Mega City Love Story # 1: Callista - 2000AD Prog 1405
  • The Sex-Mek Slasher - 2000AD Prog 1521
  • The Performer - 2000AD Progs 1635 - 1636
  • Tour of Duty: Lust in the Dust - 2000AD Progs 1672 - 1673
  • Sex, Vi and Vidslugs - Judge Dredd Megazine 295
  • Harry Sheemer, Mon Amour - 2000AD Prog 1705
  • Judge Hershey: Naked and Ashamed - Judge Dredd Yearbook 1994

Just as sex and pornography are prominent in the underbellies of capital cities around the globe during the 21st century, the same is also true for the Mega-Cities of the 22nd century, as this new collection from 2000AD proves. By looking into the various vices that ordinary citizens and corrupt Judges embark upon, Judge Dredd: The XXX Files offers an intriguing glimpse at the filth that pervades the streets of Mega-City One.

Over the years 2000AD has grown up with its core audience and relaxed its rules surrounding the depiction of nudity and sexual behaviour in its pages, and this shows in this collection with the majority of the nudity-heavy stories appearing chronologically in the magazine after the notorious 'sex issue' of the late 1990's – one of these days I will have to write a blog post on that particular Prog (Prog 1066) as it sticks out in my mind so vividly.

There's nothing worse than looking like a bit of a tit

Most of the stories are stand-alone affairs, originally appearing in 2000AD or Judge Dredd Megazine, and offer glimpses into the perverse desires of the Mega-City One citizens, most of which are warped, exaggerated evolutions of our own fetishes. One recurrent theme, however, is the use of Robots (or Sex-Meks) to fulfil the carnal pleasures of the lonely, which considering the market for blow-up dolls, ‘real girls’ and other imitation sex aids, it feels like a likely progression of where humanity might be going once technology catches up.

For the majority of the stories, the only connecting tissue between them is the recurring theme of sexuality and nudity, but there are a few stories that link together, such as the ‘Love Story’ trilogy which opens the collection, charting the journey of Judge Dredd’s obsessive stalker, Bella Bagley, who gradually becomes more unhinged and fixated on her fictitious relationship with the no-nonsense Judge until the inevitable conclusion. The Sex Olympics are also featured prominently with multiple stories featuring the conveniently named Hardy Dix as he first takes part in the erotic games himself, and then later on when he becomes the coach to his unlikely mutant protégé.

Despite the consistent theme of sex, there is a mishmash of genres present in this collection ranging from the comedic tones of stories such as ‘Bum Rap’ and ‘Holding On’ where the nudity is light-hearted with an almost 'Carry On' tone to its usage, to the more grim and grittier approach seen in stories like ‘The Sex-Mek Slasher’ and ‘Stone Killer’ which highlights the darker side of the sex trade.


One ‘bum’ note in the collection is ‘The Great Arsoli’ which stretches credibility (among other things) to deliver a rather slapstick punchline. While the appearance of a woman crawling out of a magician’s rectum might sound funny, it doesn't quite fit the world of Judge Dredd and feels like a slight misstep in an otherwise brilliant collection of stories.

As with any anthology, there is a multitude of artists and writers involved in the creation of the stories. The majority of stories come from the pen of John Wagner, who manages to showcase his talent for writing offbeat comedy as well as more serious, tense thrillers. There were also a handful of stories from other stalwarts of the Judge Dredd universe, such as Gordon Rennie and Alan Grant, as well as relative newcomers to the series, Robbie Morrison and Al Ewing. It’s a testament to their writing skills that there is some difficulty in noticing when there is a change in writer, aside from the occasional credits box on the page, which signifies a consistent narrative tone of voice across the stories, as well as a high bar of quality throughout.


While there are a handful of writers featured, there is a much greater quantity of artists, too many to delve into detailed analysis of their work here, but Ian Gibson stands out as a frequent contributor, bringing the sexy into Dredd’s world with his wonderfully drawn females, synonymous with his artistic style. I also loved Greg Staples' artwork for ‘Attack of the Sex-Crazed Love Dolls’, especially the shocking panel of a male Sex-Mek planting a smacker on old Joe’s lips.

Overall, this is a great release for the North American audiences, giving readers who were introduced to the character through the movie, Dredd, a glimpse in the seedier inner workings of Mega City Life, much like how the earlier collection, Judge Dredd: Fatties, showcased the series' satirical nature in relation to obesity. Running the full gamut of emotions, there is something here for everyone – mechanic sex-workers, sexual Olympics and even a bottomless arsehole. It’s a fantastic idea for a themed collection and despite its tawdry connotations, there’s actually a great deal of story here – not just cheap titillation and double-entrendres, although there’s a fair bit of that too, if that floats your boat!


Judge Dredd: The XXX Files is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in both the UK and North America.


Score - 8.6 out of 10

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Review - The Complete Zenith

The Complete Zenith
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Steve Yeowell, M. Carmona, Jim McCarthy and Simon Coleby
Price: £100 (UK)

Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell's classic 1980's science-fiction superhero masterpiece, Zenith, has been out of print for over a decade, with the final installment, Phase IV, never actually collected as a trade paperback at all. Tied up in legal issues over ownership, it seemed like it would be one of those lost classics that would be unavailable in a collected edition. However, on 29th May, 2000AD announced plans to produce a limited run of 1000 hardcover collected editions called, The Complete Zenith, which would collect all four Phases of the main series, plus subsequent bonuses such as: Cover Art, Spin-Off appearances and concept sketches by Steve Yeowell. This special edition was strictly available through 2000AD's online store and priced at £100. Needless to say, there was a strong interest in this rare collected edition amongst fans who never thought they would see it collected again.

The Zenith saga is split out into four books, or 'Phases' which are supported by a handful of prologues and interludes. The first Phase, Tygers, introduces readers to the concept of this alternative 80's Earth to our own, where World War II was ended when American dropped a nuclear bomb on Berlin on two warring superheroes (Maximan & Masterman) - Post-war, a team of superheroes, Cloud 9, attempted a political statement but gradually faded into obscurity after they lost their powers, with the only legacy being Zenith, the only child born from two super-humans. However, rather than use his abilities in any altruistic fashion, he is more concerned with fame and his music career, whilst a decades-long conspiracy involving Lovecraftian creatures from an alternate dimension threatens to bring him into danger.

This first Phase does a fantastic job of setting up Zenith's world and the character of Zenith, himself, is a really good proxy for the audience since he is so self-obsessed, he is discovering the history and legacy of the superheroes alongside the reader, often speaking in our places. There is a Watchmen feel about this book, with the nostalgic look at retired superheroes and the 80's vibe, and the downbeat attitude towards superheroes. As someone who is only aware of Steve Yeowell's more minimalistic work on The Red Seas, it is strange to see his more detailed artwork here and I must admit I absolutely love it.


The second Phase, The Hollow Land, delves deeper into the history of Zenith's parents and the characters of Cloud 9, including their "father", Dr. Michael Peyne, who created them in the years after Maximan's death in Berlin. This Phase also introduces the concept of alternate Earth's to the strip, which would gain much more prominence in later Phases, as well as the understated appearance of Chimera, who plays a key role in the final Phase. With this Phase, Morrison fleshes out the concepts he introduced in the first, but the threat of the Lloigor takes a backseat compared to the cross examination of the Cloud 9 survivors and those who created them. It's a tricky storyline to review as its main purpose is to set up events for the upcoming third and fourth phases, as well as give us a deeper look into the back-stories of Zenith and the other superheroes of his world.

Phase III, War in Heaven, feels like a big budget epic and was described by Morrison himself as, "one of the greatest superhero crossover events ever" - it certainly feels akin to the Marvel and DC events of the past, such as Secret Wars or Crisis on Infinite Earths, with various superheroes from alternate Earths convened in one place with a mission to sacrifice two universes to prevent the Lloigor from gaining control. There is a nice 'Chekov's Gun' in place with Zenith's very own alternate version, Vertex, who is a more conscientious gentlemen and willing to help, which nicely sets up a sub-plot for later on. Running for over 25 episodes, this is the darkest Phase to date with a grim tone throughout, despite Zenith's best attempts to lighten the mood. There is a feeling of true hopelessness to the last ditch effort to prevent the Lloigor from taking over the multi-verse, and numerous sacrifices are made amongst the heroes.

Unlike its predecessors, Phase IV, is drawn in colour, due to its appearance in 2000AD when it had upgraded to a full colour magazine, rather than predominately black and white strips. It feels a bit disjointed having colours associated with characters you'd previously only seen in black and white, but it's a minor quibble. The final Phase ties up some of the loose ends, in surprisingly ways, with a glimpse into the creation of the Lliogor, themselves, as well as a cheeky twist or two. I really liked the Armageddon vibe to this storyline and while the resolution of the plot may have annoyed some, I thought it was a clever ending and worked well. As well as the final Phase, this complete edition collects the interlude pieces between some of the Phases and a Zenith's appearance in 2000AD since, such as a short story in Prog 2001, showing the character in a different phase in his life, and an out of canon appearance celebrating 2000AD's 25th anniversary at the Ministry of Sound.


Overall, I really enjoyed the Zenith saga, and can definitely see why long-time fans of 2000AD hold the strip close to their hearts. I think that the legal difficulties which stopped reprints from being available for so long has helped the strip obtain a mythic status amongst fans, but I am glad to say that there is a strong story behind this legendary status. It fully deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns as evidence of comics rising from simple superheroics for children to legitimate entertainment for adults. This isn't just a satire on superheroes, but a intellectual and well developed storyline that utilised science fiction and the concepts of alternate universes to their strengths - something Grant Morrison would continue to explore in his work for DC Comics.

Unfortunately, the limited edition hardback copies have sold out (within 48 hours!) from 2000AD's online store, where they were exclusively available. Due to the unprecedented interest and sales, I would imagine that further editions (possibly in a more affordable softcover format) will be released at some point. However, if you were one of the lucky thousand to pre-order a copy of this once-in-a-lifetime edition, you will be truly honoured to own such a beautiful and lovingly created version of this story, complete in all its glory, when they are released on December 1st.

Score - 8.8 out of 10

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Review - Judge Dredd: Fatties

Judge Dredd: Fatties
Written by: John Wagner & Alan Grant
Art by: Carlos Ezquerra, Ron Smith, Mick McMahon, Cam Kennedy, John Higgins & Jon Haward
ISBN: 978-1-78108-133-4
Price: $19.99 (US) $22.00 (Canada)
Release Date: July 16th 2013

This Graphic Novel reprints the following stories:
  • Anatomy of a CrimeJudge Dredd Annual 1982
  • The League of Fatties2000AD Progs 273 – 274
  • Requiem for a Heavyweight2000AD Progs 331 – 334
  • The Eat of the NightJudge Dredd Annual 1985
  • The Magnificent Obsession2000AD Progs 440 – 441
  • The Bazooka Judge Dredd Megazine 4.01 – 4.03
  • Fat ChristmasJudge Dredd Megazine 227
  • Fat Fathers2000AD Prog 1694

This latest North American collection of Judge Dredd stories focuses on one of the more extreme fads to take place within Mega City One - The Fatties! Covering the first appearance of the Fatties in Judge Dredd Annual 1982, this collection reprints choice stories that focus on the obese citizens known as 'The Fatties' or the Heavyweight Eating competitions that they participate in, right up until their most recent story, "Fat Fathers", appearing in Prog 1694. Recognised as a true American past-time, it is only natural that competitive eating events are pushed to their extremes within the futuristic excesses of Mega-City One life. The Fatties, themselves, are such an iconic aspect of citizen life, especially the genius design of the Belliwheel, and the stories focusing on them often show the more satirical side of Judge Dredd, such as "Fat Fathers", which lampoons the Fathers-For-Justice campaign with a Fatties twist.


One thing I like about this collection is the sense of continuity between each tale which take place over the span of several decades. References made in the initial appearances are followed upon in the later stories, written years later. There is the sense of a growing narrative as the earlier stories focus on the fact that food shortages, due to the Apocalypse War, have meant that speed-eating competitions have been outlawed and the Fatties themselves are placed under house-arrest, unable to leave specified segregation blocks until they have lost the required weight. Later stories drop this restriction as Mega-City One's fortunes improve and the Fatties become an accepted part of MC-1 culture, even becoming celebrities in some cases.

While this collection features many of the key Fatties stories, it is not a complete collection. Most notably there is a missing story between "The Magnificent Obsession" and "The Bazooka", which is referenced in an editorial box ("Fast Food" in Prog 1054 - 1057) - it doesn't affect the narrative too much, but the fact that it is mentioned on-page makes it an unusual omission from the collection, especially after the strong continuity between the earlier stories.


My favourite story from the collection is "The Eat of the Night" in which the Fatties overcome the food shortage by eating non-food items during their competitions, such as a 24-ton Mopad! It's a funny look at  how the absurdities of the Fattie craze become even more bizarre in the face of adversity. I also quite liked the Romeo and Juliet inspired tale, "Fat Christmas", which takes the Shakespearian tragedy of star-crossed lovers and adds what the bearded bard was missing all those years ago: competitive eating!

This collection is perfect if you want a light-hearted look at Judge Dredd's world, rather than the serious drama ("Day of Chaos") or the more supernatural aspects ("The Dark Judges"). It offers up a tonally different Mega-City One to the city presented in the movie and may be unfamiliar to American audiences who have only experienced Mega City One through both cinematic releases. I would love to see more themed collections like these, perhaps focusing on the Taxidermy Olympics, Max Normal, Walter the Wobot and some of the more oddball citizens and their one-shot stories.

Judge Dredd: Fatties will be available from 16th July from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in both the UK and North America.

Score - 8.2 out of 10

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Review - Judge Dredd: Origins

Judge Dredd: Origins
Written by:
 John Wagner
Art by: Carlos Ezquerra, Kev Walker
ISBN: 978-1-78108-099-3
Diamond Order Code: JAN131250
Price: $19.99 (US) $22.99 (Canada)
Release Date: March 19th 2013


Judge Dredd has been running in 2000AD for a weekly basis since it's second issue, with a handful of exceptions, and over the thirty years that it has been featured in the sci-fi anthology, there have been references to the back story of Mega City One and the creation of the Justice System. In particular, the fact that Dredd and his brother Rico were clones of the legendary Judge Fargo, was so ingrained within the character's history that the first feature film used the plot as it's focus - for better or for worse. However, there had never been a definitive story that filled in all the gaps, so as part of the 30th anniversary of Judge Dredd, creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra produced the mega-epic storyline, Origins, to show readers how the America they know became the sprawling metropolis that is Mega-City One and how the Judges rose to power over democracy under the guidance of Judge Fargo.

The graphic novel for Origins contains the five-part prologue called 'The Connection' which is a nice little introduction and sets up some foreshadowing in the form of Dredd's dreams about his clone brother, Rico, whom he killed in the line of duty and their 'father', Judge Fargo, from whom the two were cloned. The story focuses around a mysterious box that two mutants (three, if you count the talking armpit!) are attempting to deliver to the Justice Department. There is the sense of a Coen Brothers movie about this introduction (Fargo, perhaps?) as plans go awry and corpses begin to mount up. I really enjoyed this interlude and as always, I appreciated the artwork of Kev Walker, who in my opinion draws a fantastic Dredd, equalling that of the character's creator, Carlos Ezquerra, who comes aboard to draw the main event.

I love the crazy mutations in Dredd - such as this Armpit Mutant

The contents of the 'macguffin' are revealed in the first part of Origins and prompts a journey into the Cursed Earth. Without spoiling too much, the Judge's are concerned that a very important element of their history might be being held ransom by a group of Cursed Earth mutants. Sending Dredd and a select team of veteran Judges, the search party head off into the wilderness to locate what is theirs. Along the way, the encounter various groups, some hostile and some not. Throughout the adventures, Dredd recounts the history of Mega City One and his involvement in it, and they soon discover that not all history is dead and buried.

I'll admit that I found the flashback sequences to be slightly slow and they didn't hold my interest as much as the present day scenes. Wagner manages to inter-splice the flashbacks with action in the present to prevent them from being too slow, which considering that this book was originally published in six-page episodes, some of the flashback material could have seemed even slower when reading it on a weekly basis. For long-term fans of Dredd who are more intimate with the character's past from the hints dropped over the years, there was probably a lot more pay-off to seeing the history of Mega-City One recounted almost from start to finish. For myself, however, I did find myself slightly confused in parts, although that may be due to my pre-conceptions of Dredd's origins that I had picked up from the 1995 film. I was always under the impression Fargo took the Long Walk into the Cursed Earth, so I was slightly confused at the retelling here, although this could be a revision of events, as Wagner makes it clear that there has been falsehoods and inconsistencies in the tale as part of a plot point.

Young Dredd & Rico in action

Reflecting on the story as a whole, it makes sense on why the flashbacks go into such detail, since there is a pay-off in the final act. In fact, the whole story works well as a full package and neatly sets up the changes that will occur in Dredd's character in later stories, particularly his feelings about mutants and the laws preventing them from entering the city. This is clearly an important story that has had far-reaching consequences within the Judge Dredd series, in some ways fundamentally challenging the character's views and beliefs.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on this beautiful collection that contains both the five-part prologue and the main Origins storyline. As usual, the 2000AD graphic novels are perfectly crafted with a thicker page than the usual comic and a nice gloss on them. The reprinting is crisp and clear and the colours all leap of the page with a shine. There is a covers gallery showcasing some artwork from Jock, John Higgins, Rufus Dayglo, Simon Coleby and Boo Cook. Also included is a sketchbook from Carlos Ezquerra, which has some black and white sketches of early designs.

The North American & Canadian edition of Judge Dredd: Origins is available from 19th March 2013, whilst the UK and Europe edition is currently out now and available at Amazon.co.uk and ForbiddenPlanet.com

Score - 8.6 out of 10

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