Showing posts with label Judge Dredd. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judge Dredd. Show all posts

Monday, 23 March 2015

Spotlight on...Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection


After an extensive run of hardcover graphic novels, collecting key storylines from the Marvel Comics continuity, Hachette Partworks has turned their hand towards the law-man of the future, Judge Dredd. Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection is comprised of eighty hardback graphic novels that collect stories relating to Judge Dredd and key members of his supporting cast, such as Judge Anderson and Devlin Waugh. What distinguishes this series from the existing Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files series is that while the Case Files offer a complete and unabridged collection of all of Judge Dredd’s adventures chronologically, the Mega Collection instead groups stories thematically, allowing for a greater relevance within an individual volume.

Upon first seeing promotional materials for the Mega Collection, I was struck by the amazing cover designs chosen for the series. The stark black and white artwork, enhanced by splashes of red, is simply fantastic and really distinguishes this collection from anything that either Rebellion or Hachette have produced before. There is a real sense of prestige about these books, which becomes even more abundantly clear once you hold one in your hands. Opening one up, you get that luxurious smell of freshly printed pages and the artwork is perfectly replicated on the thick, glossy interior pages. As expected from Rebellion, there is a keen attention to detail with a foreword from current 2000AD editor, Matt Smith, as well as supplementary materials to bookend the stories, normally in the form of bonus artwork, interviews or even articles from 2000AD PR droid, Michael Molcher. It’s clear that this has been a labour of love between Rebellion and Hachette, and their “offspring” is certainly a thing to behold.


Book One - America

As with all part-work collections, the initial book is offered at a discounted price to encourage readers to try the series, with the intention of getting them hooked and onto a subscription, so naturally the first story has to be the most popular and most mainstream storyline to attract repeat customers. For those well-versed in Judge Dredd’s universe, it comes as no surprise that Hachette went with “America”, quite possibly the most influential storyline in the Judge Dredd, at least in terms of how the strip was viewed by its fan base. In his afterword, Michael Molcher delves into the impact that this story had for both Judge Dredd and 2000AD, moving the strip into more adult territory and providing its readers with some challenging questions about the character and his role in Mega City One.

As I mentioned before, this series collects tales thematically and rather than just collecting the initial America storyline, readers are also treated to America II: Fading of the Light and America III: Cadet, as well as a selection of other stories featuring Colin McNeil's artwork. While I was initially sceptical about the thematic approach, it really works well here, allowing readers to follow the main threads of the story throughout the years, without deviation into other storylines. Each story is broken up with a distinct chapter header, allowing customers to recognise the passage of time and get an appreciation for the way the story unfolds over a number of years.

I’d read America before, and wholeheartedly agree with everything that everyone before me has ever said in praise of this great story. From John Wagner’s fantastic script focusing on the star-crossed lovers of America Jara and Bennett Beeny, to Colin MacNeil’s absolutely gorgeous painted artwork, this story earns its iconic status with every page. These “day in the citizen’s lives” stories had been told before on a smaller scale, even casting Dredd as the villain of the piece, but none had the same impact as this tragic love story did. I was less familiar with the sequels, and was very interested to read them – America II: The Fading of the Light is a very worthy follow-up to the original, picking up the story four years on from its dramatic climax. The most compelling thing about this story, and its eventual follow-up, Cadet, is the wild-card it introduces in the form of Cadet Beeny. A child of the revolution, she seems determined to affect change in the Justice Department from within, gradually earning Dredd’s respect and becoming a valued ally in current adventures, proving that the after-effects of America continue to be felt in Mega City One, over twenty years after its publication. No wonder this vital story was chosen to launch Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection.


Book Two - Mechanismo

A surprising choice for the second book in the series, this 1992 story addresses the question of why the Judges don’t use robots to enforce the law, and why the human element is so vital. Interestingly, there are parallels to the film, Robocop, which itself features many of the same themes as Judge Dredd. Whereas the preceding volume solely consisted of Colin MacNeil’s artwork, this edition is more of a medley of different artists, thanks to a collection of different robot-themed stories making up the collection.

The trilogy of Mechanismo stories are also notable for acting as a prelude to the Wilderlands story-arc, which saw the wedge between Dredd and McGruder widen even further as Dredd is accused of criminal damage and perjury and sentenced to twenty years on Titan. Presumably, this storyline will be dealt with in a future edition of the collection, perhaps one focused on Chief Judge McGruder.

As with America, the attention to detail for this collection is staggering. It looks absolutely gorgeous with a similar black, white and red cover image, this time featuring one of the Mechanismo robots. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the spine reads Vol. 24 instead of Vol. 2, and the reason for this is because the volumes are numbered by themes, and not chronologically ordered by release date. Once complete, the eighty volume set will span a number of key themes, including Democracy, The Dark Judges, Supporting Characters, Robot Rampage, The Mega Epics and Mad City.


Conclusion

Future books include collections such as: The Apocalypse War, Origins, Judge Anderson: Shamballa and Mandroid, reflecting a mix of both classic and modern stories. While there is the unfortunate conflict and cross-over with the Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files, I honestly think that this thematic approach utilised by the editorial droids in assembling this collection definitely warrants long-time Dredd fans checking this out. In some instances, entire series that will never been collected in the Case Files banner will be brought together as part of the Mega Collection. As well as the core books, Hachette are also offering subscribers some additional bonuses such as a replica Judge Dredd badge, takeaway mug, tin coasters and metal bookends. There’s even the option to upgrade your subscription and receive six ultra-limited edition prints from top Dredd artists, adding an extra level of exclusivity to the collection.

Subscriptions are available on the collection’s dedicated website, and can currently be started from any of the first ten issues, ensuring that even if you missed the initial editions, you can get a full set of books. It’s easily one of the best, and most lavishly produced part-work collections I've ever seen and should be an essential buy for both casual and experienced Judge Dredd fans alike.

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

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

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Review - Dredd 3D


Judge Dredd is a comic series that has been running in the British anthology comic, 2000AD, since 1977 and more-or-less appeared in every one of its weekly issues (or Progs, as they are known). The series was originally conceived by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra as a Dirty Harry in the future, and many of the early strips were rather action-heavy featuring the borderline fascist Judge Dredd as he dispensed instant justice to the citizens of Mega City One. Unlike most US comic creations, Judge Dredd aged in real time and his characterisation has vastly changed over the years, to the point where he has grown more disillusioned with the Judges and their role in society, particularly in terms of the mutant segregation.

Most popular in the UK where he was created, Judge Dredd did manage to spawn one big-screen outing where he was portrayed by Sylvester Stallone and memorably bawled out the words, "I am the Law" in a Rocky-style bellow. It wasn't well-received by critics, yet some people (including myself) have a minor soft spot for it, thinking it was probably the only time we'd see Mega City One realised on-screen...until now, that is. Released in September 2012, Dredd was an attempt to reboot the franchise with a story and a tone appropriate to the source material. The script, written by Alex Garland, featured heavy input from the series creator, John Wagner, ensuring this attempt had the blessing of those who had worked on it from its beginnings as a comic strip. The film utilised 3D effects, as well as "slo-mo" - a side effect of an illegal narcotic manufactured by the film's villain, Ma-Ma.

Having seen both film versions of Judge Dredd, I can easily say that Dredd is the better of the two. Not only does Karl Urban play the tough-as-nails Judge perfectly, but he also doesn't feel the need to remove the helmet in order to showcase his own face. Stallone, on the other hand, whipped off his helmet as soon as he could and paraded through the film acting rather emotional in a non-Dredd manner.


The storyline focuses on Dredd taking a new recruit, the psychic Judge Anderson, on a routine assessment and they manage to pick a homicide at Peach Trees block as their assignment. Quickly, events escalate and the two Judges find themselves trapped in the tower block with a blood-thirsty gang of criminals after them, whilst attempting to escort their prisoner out of the building. 

Rather smartly, in my opinion  the plot skirts from some of the more absurd elements of the Judge Dredd mythos such as: Droid Revolutions, Clones, Judge Death and the other supernatural villains. I would recommend any sequels stick to this more realistic tone for the world in which Dredd lives. It doesn't look as hi-tech as the stories in 2000AD, nor does it have to. The post-apocalyptic Mega City One in this film feels somewhat similar to Mad Max and I think that mood suits the franchise better. Perhaps future sequels could focus on the Cursed Earth and possibly the Angel gang?

Olivia Thirlby acts as the emotional centre of the film, portraying the fresh-faced Anderson, who spends the entirely of the film without her helmet, as a nice contrast to Dredd. In fact, later on in the film there are multiple Judge's on-screen and it does become difficult to work out which is which, so perhaps Stallone did have a point in removing the helmet all those years ago! I liked how the whole movie was effectively her probation test and how she was constantly quizzed by Dredd throughout it. I'm sure the rookie on trial storyline has been done several times in the comics, but it was nice to see it represented on-screen.


The film has a fair amount of gore and some inventive deaths, featuring the varied range of Judge Dredd's multiple ammunition. Also, surprising was the level of swear-words used in the film. The 2000AD stories obviously don't feature as many F-bombs as the film does and relies on its own in-story bad language such as "Drokk". While the film didn't stick to that language, there were plenty of nice references to the comic book in terms of graffiti in the Block. Keen eyes would be able to spot 'Chopper' (a sky-surfer character from the comics) and Sternhammer Block (a reference to Strontium Dog, another series by John Wagner)

Overall, this was a very stylish film that bucked the trend of the big-budget blockbuster and took an independent route. The design and mood was heavily influenced by the location (it was shot in South Africa) and felt like a nice combination of Mad Max and Die Hard, yet it still managed to carve out its own identity. I would recommend this to anyone who has ever read a Judge Dredd story and wanted to see it realised in live-action, as well as anyone who saw Stallone's portrayal of Dredd, in order to show them how it should be done. My only real concern is whether or not a sequel could be as successful, considering that they will need to introduce more elements from Dredd's world which may change the 'back to basics' tone of this iteration of the franchise.

Score - 9.2 out of 10

"Go see it, punk!"

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