Monster (2016)

Monster

Monster is a strange comic. It’s British, was serialized weekly, running a couple years in a couple different comics magazines–Scream then Eagle–and there’s a very British comics storytelling sensibility to it. There’s also the reality of a weekly four-to-five page chapter and how doing recap–doing some really effecient recap too, using repetitive dialogue to force events into memory. It’s also about a kid who discovers his deformed “monster” of an uncle locked in the attic and has to take care of him. But it’s still a little strange on its own.

First, because it never becomes a morality tale. Second, because the twelve year-old kid goes from being a protagonist to the subject of the adults’ attention. Cops, doctors, lawyers, social workers, all talking down to the kid. Because the kid thinks his uncle shouldn’t be hunted down like a monster.

It takes a long, long time before the kid even gets one adult to agree. The writers–and especially the artist–aren’t really interested in making the uncle a comfortable presence. He’s always extremely dangerous.

Alan Moore writes the first installment. Not sure his name deserves top-billing; I get it from a marketing standpoint, but seriously… four pages? He wrote four pages on Monster. Most of the writing is John Wagner writing solo, but there’s also some with he and Alan Grant sharing duties. They take a single pseudonym, Rick Clark. Wagner continues using it alone. Wagner’s workman. He’s good workman. But the writing isn’t the draw on Monster (though, when the book seems like it’s going to be a riff on Frankenstein, maybe it could’ve been).

The draw of the book is the art. Jesus Redondo black and white horror art. It’s magical. The first strip has a different artist, Heinzl, who’s got some great gothic detail going but Redondo makes it into a gothic horror action comic. He definitely does the Frankenstein riffing, even if the writing doesn’t keep it up.

Because eventually the kid–Kenny–stops being the protagonist. And the protagonist becomes the uncle, Terry, who’s never going to stop killing people even though Kenny tells him not to kill anyone ever again and Terry promises. Terry always promises, but then Terry gets mad. And, really, it’s nearly always self defense. Or defending Kenny. There’s the occasional rage attack, but by the end of the book, Terry’s fairly in check.

Because Terry gets all the character development. He doesn’t really realize it because he’s three, but he goes from being confined to an attic for thirty-two years-old to traveling the British countryside, Scotland, Australia, whatever else. There’s definite development. There’s also the constant danger, constant threat.

The book has three text stories from a later Scream series where Terry is basically a hero. Clearly, over the run of the strip, there were some changes made to the trajectory.

Even with every fifth page effectively being a repeat of the previous page, Monster is a good read. Kenny’s not the best lead, because Wagner and Grant have zero interest in writing a kid, but Terry’s great.

And the art. The gorgeous, beautiful, haunting, horrific, glorious art.

Not quite the “Alan Moore’s Monster” I was expecting, however.

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The Batman/Judge Dredd Files (1991-99)

The Batman/Judge Dredd Files

Batman. Judge Dredd. They ought to be an interesting team-up, right? Judge Dredd is the law, Batman isn’t. There’s a lot of gristle for competing philosophies, if one wanted to do a story with a lot of gristle. The Batman/Judge Dredd Files consists of three one-shots and a two-parter. It took DC eight years to get these comics out. The first one-shot, Judgment on Gotham came out in 1991 (I remember buying it, my first exposure to Dredd). The second issue of the two-parter, Die Laughing, came out in 1999. The first one-shot still stands out. It’s an interesting mix of a 2000AD Dredd adventure with a Batman comic, with some truly beautiful art from Simon Bisley. The rest of the Files is a waste of time (through it varies depending on the one-shot).

Since Judgment’s the only one worth spending much time on (or reading at all), I’ll go through its “sequels” first.

Glenn Fabry paints the Joker and friends for DIE LAUGHING.
Glenn Fabry paints the Joker and friends for DIE LAUGHING.

Each of the included issues–including both parts of Die Laughing–have different artists. They have the same two writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner, who both wrote a lot of Dredd and a lot of Batman. It seems like they should be the perfect creators for these team-ups, but things go dreadfully wrong with the second special and never get any better.

Vendetta in Gotham, with some rather light art from Cam Kennedy, is mostly about Batman and Dredd fighting while Scarface and Ventriloquist kill some kids. No, really, they’re going to kill some kids. It’s a good Scarface and Ventriloquist story from Grant and Wagner, but it’s a terrible comic. Batman and Dredd’s issue long fist fight is a bore. The whole thing is a setup for the next special, which promises something interesting given the title–Die Laughing.

From Dermot Power's half of THE ULTIMATE RIDDLE.
From Dermot Power’s half of THE ULTIMATE RIDDLE.

Only the next special is The Ultimate Riddle, with some incredibly wanting painted art by Carl Critchlow and Dermot Power (they split the special). Judgment on Gotham, with that glorious Bisley, shouldn’t have been the visual standard for the team-ups. Before I forget, it’s interesting how the Batmobiles in each series look like whatever’s in the movies at the time. It’s like DC wasn’t sure a 2000AD reader coming to the team-up would be familiar with the latest Batman continuity.

Except there’s a terrible tie-in to Zero Hour in The Ultimate Riddle, which has Dredd and Batman trying to get out of a Most Dangerous Game-type situation. It’s dramatically inert and often really dumb, but Dredd’s got a criminal along with him and it does provide some comic relief. There’s very little for 2000AD fans in Riddle, so it helps a lot.

Then comes Die Laughing, with the Joker. DC published it as two issues, each with different artists. One wonders if Ultimate Riddle originally had a similar publishing plan. Anyway, Glenn Fabry does the art on the first issue, Jim Murray does the art on the second. Both painted; it’s Batman/Judge Dredd after all. It needs to be painted.

Jim Murray paints Batman getting his reward for a job well done in DIE LAUGHING.
Jim Murray paints Batman getting his reward for a job well done in DIE LAUGHING.

Fabry’s painting is okay. Murray’s is bad. Murray’s is a little more ambitious though. Fabry’s just churning it out as fast as he can. There’s no enthusiasm to Fabry’s issue, just magnificent competence. Murray flops, but he tries for some humor, which is important since the story’s so strange. It’s like a 2000AD Dredd story, with the Dark Judges trying to take over a hedonist biodome (or some such location), but Batman’s around. And he gets together with Judge Anderson. He seduces her, rather creepily. It’s disappointing. (For her; Batman’s a bit of a tool in Die Laughing).

Oh, and the promise of the Joker and Judge Death and Dredd and Batman and so on? It’s lame. Wagner and Grant have no story involving Joker and Batman going to Mega-City One. Did they sign a deal for these series with DC after the success of Judgment and spend almost a decade churning out lame scripts?

Simon Bisley knows what Judge Death fears in JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM.
Simon Bisley knows what Judge Death fears in JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM.

Now for Judgment on Gotham, which features Dredd in Gotham hunting down the Scarecrow. Judge Anderson’s along. Bisley’s Anderson is a lot different than Murray’s. She gets to be just as iconic, as a female Judge, as the boys do in Bisley’s Gotham, whereas Murray tries for cheesecake in Die Laughing. Fabry does a little better, but not much. Her writing is terrible in Die Laughing. It’s great in Judgment. Judgment is this great Judge Dredd 2000AD story where Batman guest stars.

JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM: Bisley imagines Batman's rogues gallery.
JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM: Bisley imagines Batman’s rogues gallery.

The comic has that early nineties Batman enthusiasm–after the movies, DC thought they’d get new readers and went all out creatively. Bisley’s perfect for it. His Gotham is nightmarish but incredibly realistic. It’s scary because Bisley’s got so much reality to the physicality of everything, he can sell the darkness. This approach to the painting is what the other team-up specials choke on (and what Vendetta doesn’t even attempt). Bisley’s engaging in the characters’ iconic natures every page. Even Scarecrow. It’s glorious to behold.

At the time Judgment on Gotham came out–and I was thirteen years old–I remember Scarecrow seemed a strange villain choice for a team-up. But having since read some 2000AD–by Grant and Wagner–Scarecrow makes such a better villain for Dredd. Mean Machine Angel shows up too, facing off against Batman, who’s hilariously out of place. Judgment has the humor of a Dredd comic. The rest of the collection doesn’t.

JUDGMENT: Bisley illustrates the fast friends.
JUDGMENT: Bisley illustrates the fast friends.

I didn’t even know there were subsequent Batman/Judge Dredd team-ups. I’ve always had a decent memory of Judgment (Bisley’s art is fantastic), but it’s better than I remember. Even when compared to its entirely lacking follow-ups, Judgment on Gotham is a high point for “event” crossovers.

CREDITS

Judgment on Gotham; writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Simon Bisley; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kelly Puckett and Dennis O’Neil. Vendetta in Gotham; writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Cam Kennedy; colorist, Digital Chameleon; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Dennis O’Neil and Richard Burton. The Ultimate Riddle; writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Carl Critchlow and Dermot Power; letterer, Richard Starkings; editors, John Tomlinson, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Dennis O’Neil and Steve MacManus. Die Laughing; writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Glenn Fabry, Jim Murray and Jason Brashill; letterer, Ellie de Ville; editors, Andy Diggle, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Dennis O’Neil and David Bishop.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 6 (January 1986)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #6

Gibson finally gets a story with content matching his style to my liking–lizard-men aliens who zap you and make your worst fears attack you so you lose your mind. Very fantastical stuff in a very fantastical setting–a housing block designed to be a maze, only its abandoned because no one could find their way around (thanks to hoodlums pulling off the directional signs).

Oddly, after coming up with such a strange setting, Grant and Wagner don’t do anything with it. It’s a lame shoot out and then a “rah rah” Judge Dredd twist at the end. It makes a fine final panel for the comic (in its last issue here), but the story’s a flop. Except for that Gibson art.

Gibson illustrates the other four stories in the issue to various effect. Grant and Wagner cowrote all of them as well. There are the humanizing ones–like when Dredd’s got to save his niece or when Walter gets into trouble (I missed Walter)–and the funnier ones–Dredd and a fascist alien, Dredd and, oddly, a dirty judge (it’s funny by the end), so it’s a good mix of what Grant and Wagner do with the character and setting.

I’m just upset Mazny Block wasn’t better utilized.

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Ian Gibson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 5 (December 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #5

Some real good art from Dave Gibbons closes this issue of Crime File. His story is the least in terms of writing–Wagner’s script is rushed–but it’s very cool to see young Gibbons on Dredd. Unlike the rest of the issue, which has good (though awkwardly not great) art from Barry Mitchell, Gibbons even keeps the Ian Gibson chin for Dredd. It’s just not so cartoonish.

Mitchell has some great panel composition and layouts, but his judge figures seems out of place. They seem a little too small, a little too static for the panels, which are rather detailed otherwise. Still, he knows how to tell a story and it works.

There are four stories in this Crime File. The first might be the best–irresponsible kids bouncing around the city in giant plastic pinballs–though the showdown between Dredd and a psychic insurance criminal is pretty cool in the second. Mitchell does better with Mega-City One from the rooftops than the streets (it feels too reserved).

It’s a solid issue. Very readable, some good Dredd punchlines, even if Wagner and Grant (who co-writes on one of the stories) aren’t trying very hard.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Dave Gibbons and Barry Mitchell; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 4 (November 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #4

Ron Smith only illustrates a fourth of this issue. Then “big-chin” Ian Gibson takes over for the rest. Something about Gibson’s cartoony style doesn’t work for me on Dredd. He goes too obviously to the humor and if Judge Dredd is nothing but a laugh, it can’t sustain itself past a punchline.

The writing–of three stories–in this issue is decent. Not so much the last story, which has to do with a game show where contestants try to top each other’s couples’ confessions to felonies. Something about it doesn’t work. Writers Wagner and Grant don’t give it any charm and Gibson makes everyone so visually repugnant, there’s no sympathy to it. There’s no hook.

The first story is the best. And not just because it has the Smith art. It’s Dredd hunting down dirty cops in the candy trade. All of a sudden Crime File has the problem of too much picking and choosing on the 2000 AD source material. The assembled stories for this issue don’t go together well. They seem too forced a compilation.

The second story, with Dredd defending cute aliens slaughtered for part of their brains, is okay. Gibson does real well on the cute aliens. Wagner and Grant are a tad too cynical for the story though. It goes for an ironic cheap cuteness; it gets there, but another creator team could’ve gotten it further with sincerity.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Ron Smith and Ian Gibson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 3 (October 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #3

It’s an okay issue. It’s just too uneven.

The first story, with art by Ian Gibson, is a flop. Gibson’s style might be how I always think of Judge Dredd–visibly British, visibly stilted. Such long faces. Literally.

Grant and Wagner’s script is about a Block War, sort of. There’s a simple explanation though and a moral to the story. Dredd might even get touchy-feely at the end. It doesn’t come off with the Gibson art.

But the second story is a major improvement, with Colin Wilson taking over. Wilson makes one bad style choice–he casts one character as a noir villain instead of a luckless sap, which is more appropriate; I think an evil mustache is involved. The story’s solid. Dredd versus loan sharks who keep your loved one in suspended animation until you pay.

The last story, again with Wilson art, isn’t particularly good. It’s better than the first story, with Wilson showing how the right artist can make anything in a Grant and Wagner story work, but Dredd versus hackers is boring. Except how well Grant and Wagner forecast cybersecurity threats.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Ian Gibson and Colin Wilson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 2 (September 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #2

Again, it’s an excellent issue. Eagle really puts together a great combination of Dredd–though it isn’t hard with the Smith art. He just gets better and better throughout the issue; the third manages to have almost Eisner-esque thugs, the ultra-realistic future, but then the slightly cartoonish Dredd. It’s awesome.

Alan Grant joins Wagner on the scripts. The first one is a longer story involving Dredd going undercover and a bunch of other stuff. It’s going into space, it’s introducing aliens real quick and criminal interstellar shipping activities. The scenes are good–especially with the aliens; Grant and Wagner don’t hesitate to use them as a mean punchline–but the overall story is a little broad.

The second story, involving alien mobsters wrecking havoc on Mega-City One’s underworld is goofy but the storytelling is really tight. The first story is from two issues of 2000 AD and they aren’t paced well together. The second and third story are so much stronger.

The third story’s sort of the best. It’s just a Dredd action story with great Smith art. There’s some future details, but it’s like Grant and Wagner apply all their action experience, usually done in broad strokes, finely.

It works out.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 1 (August 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #1

Judge Dredd’s Crime File has three stories in this first issue, all written by John Wagner. They all have good art–John Byrne, Ron Smith, Colin Wilson–they all have slightly different art. Wilson’s future landscape is more stylish than Byrne’s, for example. Ron Smith is the most rounded for what Wagner’s trying to do with the differing stories.

The most significant thing about these stories in relation to Judge Dredd is the lack of Dredd. The second story, with the Smith art, has the most Dredd–it’s about these alien plants people are growing but the plants turn into little alien monsters. Dredd is investigating. But in the first story, the one with the Byrne art, Wagner goes way more into the game of the future than Dredd’s quelling of a footballer-like riot.

The third story–Wilson’s–has some guy going crazy and shooting up civilians. It’s about urban plight in the future. It’s not Dredd’s story (even though the guy ends up gunning for Dredd in a very cheap action movie revenge manner).

For the unfamiliar Dredd reader, Crime File might seem an odd collection of stories but it’s actually some of Wagner’s best work.

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, John Byrne, Ron Smith and Colin Wilson; colorist, John M. Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 35 (September 1986)

Judge Dredd #35

This issue has two stories–a long feature (or a combination of at least three 2000 A.D. chapters) and a backup. Wagner and Grant write both, Ron Smith does the art on both. Smith’s an interesting artist for Dredd because he doesn’t take any time with the judges. Both stories require judges to be distinguished, Smith doesn’t care. But he does care about the rest of the story.

The rest of the story–for the feature–has to do with a town of refugees and what happens when Dredd brings the law. Lots of big action and small future post-apocalyptic stuff. Wagner and Grant do a whole exile thing with the criminals; it’s fairly awesome Dredd. Once one gets over Smith’s inability to draw Dredd.

The backup has judge impersonators (while the feature just has lots of judges). The scheming criminals distinguish it (in their silliness) most of all.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Dave Elliot; publisher, Quality Periodicals.

Judge Dredd 34 (August 1986)

Judge Dredd #34

It’s an excellent issue about a vigilante hitting various organized crime guys in Mega-City One. Does it make any sense for there to be mobsters above the Judges? No. It’s sort of weird and has something of a retro vibe–like it doesn’t really star Judge Dredd but his training officer.

Nice art from Ezquerra and Ian Gibson. There’s a lot of precise action in the story–Dredd is sure the vigilante has been trained as a Judge and the vigilante has a couple intricate plans to execute. The art on those sequences is real strong and would be surprisingly ambitious if Ezquerra and Gibson didn’t also take a very grand approach to Dredd himself this story.

It’s big and awesome.

The backup has Dredd fighting a giant ape robot. Ezquerra’s art is inventive, Malcolm Shaw’s script is short and goofy.

That lead story is rather good Judge Dredd.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Malcolm Shaw; artists, Ian Gibson and Carlos Ezquerra; letterers, Tom Frame and Stan Richardson; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Quality Periodicals.

Judge Dredd 33 (July 1986)

Judge Dredd #33

This issue of Dredd seems to be the strange issue, like they found all the absurdly funny strips from 2000 AD and gave them their own issue. And artist Ron Smith works for it. He has a jovial, cartoon-y style. He doesn’t draw Dredd very well, but everything else is good. Dredd–and the rest of Judges–seem inserted and static.

Wagner and Grant’s stories range from what happens with the morbidly obese following the Apocalypse War, where the foodstuffs of the future come from (it’s oddly prescient), then a rabid robo-dog one (probably the weakest) and one about plastic surgery to all look alike. Besides the robo-dog story, Wagner and Grant are certainly getting better at their sci-fi elements. Sure, Dredd and the Judge stuff feels shoehorned in, but shoehorned into a thought-out story.

Mega-City One’s not quite plausible, but can be intriguing.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 32 (June 1986)

Judge Dredd #32

Dredd has his showdown with the surviving Angel brothers. It’s an oddly incomplete story just because Walter has a silent but important role and Wagner and Grant never get around to resolving it. At least not in this collection of progs; maybe in the actual 2000 A.D. they got to it in a good amount of time.

There’s some more silly stuff–the rat going to get Dredd at the Hall of Justice–but the showdown is good. Wagner and Grant pace it out well and Ezqerra’s energy is good. The final resolution for the Judge Child is fine; pointless, but fine.

Unfortunately, the second story–with nice, if too comedic, art by Jose Casanovas Jr.–is idiotic. Wagner and Grant try too much for social commentary. And they don’t even have anything to say, they’re often clearly padding out the exposition.

But they do reference the Apocalypse War well.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Carlos Ezquerra and Jose Casanovas Jr.; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 31 (May 1986)

Judge Dredd #31

Besides having some very odd angles from Ezqerra, this issue does pretty well. Even if Wagner and Grant have a really, really silly setup.

The Judge Child, across the galaxy, is able to control minds back on Earth. And I think read minds too. He wrecks havoc as he plots against Dredd. Part of that plot is releasing Fink Angel, the creepiest of them–the one with the pet rat who wears a hat–and that part of the issue works out well.

Unfortunately, then the Judge Child raises Mean Machine from the dead. So he can control minds across the galaxy and resurrect people. It’s silly.

Dredd has a good encounter with Fink; what Ezqerra doesn’t do in detail, he at least breaks out well into panels.

Besides the goofy elements and some wonky art, it’s a rather good issue. Wagner and Grant keep the storytelling precise and brisk.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 30 (April 1986)

Judge Dredd #30

It’s a tough issue. Not in a bad way, but in a post-Apocalypse War, the future is a tough place, tough issue. Wagner, Grant and Ezquerra do both stories. The writing is better than the art, but Ezquerra does pretty well with it. There’s humor and humanity. Can’t ask for much more.

The first story has Dredd dealing with a robot city’s tyrannical ruler. Wagner and Grant manage to make it silly and still rather affecting; maybe because Dredd seems to be in actual danger after a point. And the handling of the War’s aftermath is fantastic.

The second story–the much longer one–has a fungus outbreak putting the struggling Mega-City One in danger and Dredd has to race to stop it. It’s a rather good story, with Wagner and Grant roaming with the focus for a while.

The toughness never feels overdone or tongue in cheek.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 29 (March 1986)

Judge Dredd #29

It’s a fairly strong issue, with only one weak story–a retelling of Frankenstein, only in Mega-City One; the other three stories are good.

The first couple, with art from John Cooper, shows a kinder, gentler Dredd. The first deals with animal experimentation, the second with the plastic substance they use in the future dissolving. Writer Wagner goes for a final twist in the latter, which doesn’t do it much good (he’s thrown Dredd into a story not needing Dredd), but it’s still a good story. Cooper handles the humor of the situations and the action well.

The last story, with Brendan McCarthy art, opens with a New Year’s Eve thing, then reveals the actual story. It’s still kinder Dredd, but ruthless too.

As for the Frankenstein story–Brett Ewins does okay with the art, but it’s still weak. Wagner’s details are better than the plot.

Still, nice overall.

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, John Cooper, Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 28 (February 1986)

Judge Dredd #28

It’s almost a great issue of Dredd. The opening story, with Wagner and Grant sending Dredd into the Cursed Earth (no longer called Mutieland) with a bunch of cadets for a test, is awesome. Smith’s art is good, the story has a nice flow and the supporting cast of cadets is good. It’s probably the best mix of narrative and Wagner wanting to expound on the judges’ rigorous training.

Unfortunately, the second half of the issue has two Judge Anderson stories and neither of them is particularly good. The first one at least has good art from Kim Raymond. Raymond gives it almost a horror comic vibe, which is appropriate given Anderson is fighting a demon.

The last story, with too busy art from Ian Gibson, is really lame. Grant and Wagner write the final one together, with Wagner writing the first Anderson alone. So he’s worse with help, apparently.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith, Kim Raymond and Ian Gibson; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame, Tony Jacob and Steve Potter; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 27 (January 1986)

Judge Dredd #27

It’s an uneven issue. Except the art, of course. Smith does a great job on the art. And Wagner and Grant do have some highs. The issue opens with the low–and the only time there’s a lot of forced symbolism about Dredd and the law. I think it comes up later, but the writers actually counter it.

The highlight of the issue is about Dredd being on graffiti detail. It’s not a violent story at all and it sort of just shows regular life for a kid in Mega-City One. Because Grant and Wagner open with it being a Dredd story, then switch the protagonist, it feels expansive, something these short stories usually don’t.

There’s a so-so story about a cult and then a murder mystery. The latter tries too hard with future details, but it’s solidly written. Wagner and Grant have a good tone this issue.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith and Robin Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 26 (December 1985)

Judge Dredd #26

There’s a lot of imaginative Ron Smith art this issue. He does an excellent job mixing action with setting detail, especially since all of Wagner’s stories have something to do with Mega-City One, whether with the block architecture or with the people.

Unfortunately, Wagner’s stories of Dredd and the general public, even when they’re good, are too much of Wagner trying to play up Dredd’s ideals. The first story has a minor crime turn into a major, the second has Dredd showing compassion (while appearing not to show compassion), the third and fourth are Walter stories.

The final story, from Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell, is this way too conceptually big, but way too small in terms of pages–and Smith’s scale–story of a runaway mobile traffic thing.

These Mega-City One details, even with good art, are really hard to take one after another. There’s no story.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Peter Knight and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 25 (November 1985)

Judge Dredd #25

Smith handles the art on both stories.

The first story is about an ugly clinic (people go to get plastic surgery to look ugly). It’s a little silly, but it does get more interesting as it goes along. The problem is writers Wagner and Grant want to basically do some future musing and they don’t really have a narrative to it, much less a reason for Dredd to get involved.

It’s a really weird ending too, because Dredd wants to shut down the ugly clinics and has to figure out a way to do it legally (in Wagner and Grant’s terms of legal). Only… I couldn’t figure out why he cares so much.

The second story has a community group worried about the judges being too harsh. Does the shrill harpy change her mind about her shallow, liberal affectations when confronted with actual criminals?

Besides being obvious, it works out.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Peter Knight and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 24 (October 1985)

Judge Dredd #24

The Apocalypse War saga ends. There’s some silliness–like Wagner and Grant referring to Dredd’s “Apocalypse Squad”–but most of the comic works out, at least as far as narrative.

Dredd’s got to take care of the enemy’s mega city, which proves easy thanks to Anderson (who the writers use to get out of plotting difficulties), and then he heads home to win the war.

There’s a little bit too much exposition and it doesn’t work because Wagner and Grant are overextending themselves. They’re giving more information than the story needs to succeed and it weighs down a lot of sequences. The subplots don’t really provide any additional texture, they just fill pages.

And those pages have really bad art. Ezquerra is worse than he was in the previous issue. His composition is worse, his detail is worse. It’s a hideous looking comic.

But the writing is effective. So… yeah.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 23 (September 1985)

Judge Dredd #23

From the start, Ezquerra’s art is off. His figures are weak, his composition is worse. Maybe he just burned out on all the war stuff–there are constant empty backgrounds, like he’s trying to do less work. It actually feels like someone doing an Ezquerra impression and and a rushed one.

As for the writing… Wagner and Grant have two things to do in the issue. First is to resolve the Soviet brainwashing of the Chief Judge. Dredd has to infiltrate and take him out, which doesn’t cause Dredd any consternation because the Chief Judge knows he’s been brainwashed and wants to die. What that plot lacks in dramatic impact, at least the infiltrating should be interesting (and the extraction).

Sadly, Ezquerra’s weak art hurts it a lot.

Ditto the second plot point, the judges waging war against the Soviets. Or getting ready to.

The art significantly impairs the issue.

C+ 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 22 (August 1985)

Judge Dredd #22

It’s the war comic I’ve been expecting from Wagner for a while now. Dredd and the judges with him have a mission and they try to carry it through. There are changes, but minor ones. It’s just a war comic, even during the bewildering sequence where the judges have to knock down the supports on a giant highway system to stop the invasion.

It all looks too simple. Ezquerra has some nice panels but he never establishes the lack of reality in the set pieces. Instead of it being fantastic, Ezquerra instead goes for cheap thrills.

But the big silly action sequences are still mostly successful. Wagner writes them well, silly or not. The only drawback, other than the major problems, is Walter and the comic relief. Wagner goes too far with the comic relief, which leads to some lame jokes.

It’s fine enough, it’s just a little bit tiresome.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 21 (July 1985)

Judge Dredd #21

There are some amusing disconnects with Ezquerra’s art and Wagner’s script. It’s like Ezquerra didn’t get the jokes… or if he did, he paced them wrong. Or maybe there’s just no easy way to illustrate jokes amid a story about a nuclear attack.

Wagner figures out a way to both have nuclear attacks but still keep the story on a personal level. There’s both kinds of action, usually with some talking heads scenes between the two opposing sides. The story doesn’t hold much water, but it’s just supposed to move and move it does.

Even though there are some horrific ideas, the issue doesn’t leave much of an impression. It just moves so fast, so towards its goal, there’s nothing else going on. Except in the last few pages, Walter the robot gets some attention again. It’s amusing enough stuff, but just a little too silly.

Even for John Wagner.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 20 (June 1985)

Judge Dredd #20

Even though Carlos Ezquerra is an odd choice for a future war–Dredd co-creator or not, Ezquerra puts a lot of emphasis on the static parts of images instead of the moving, which is strange here–and even though Wagner goes overboard with some of the symbolism, it’s an awesome issue.

It’s the end of the world and Dredd is trying to keep it going. The action cuts between the Soviets, Dredd and company and general action. The general action is where Wagner does the lame jokes–usually related to a block’s name–and the rest has some real obvious anti-Soviet propaganda regurgitation. It’s amazing no one learned anything between the 1980s and the Dredd time period.

Still, Wagner and Ezquerra keep the situations tense and dire and the comic works out beautifully. It’s a plummeting elevator car more than a roller coaster.

Some nice humor throughout too.

A- 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Steve Potter and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 19 (May 1985)

Judge Dredd #19

Wagner and Grant amp up the block war storyline, but turn it into a long investigation. Dredd is trying to track down the person responsible for the block war mania. It’s strange, once the suspect is identified, he also refers to the condition as block mania. It’s a small thing, but it does show where Wagner and Grant aren’t paying attention.

The investigation is exciting, with some very nice art from Smith and Steve Dillon. There’s enough content the issue feels very substantial, especially the way the story of the suspect goes. The cliffhanger is a good one and kind of cool to be the aftermath of a mundane investigation. It’s well-done, but it’s not as interesting.

So a good feature. Then the second, shorter story has Dredd stopping criminals while the people around them respond with apathy. It’s neat one.

The big story was far more impressive though.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith, Steve Dillon and Brian Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 18 (April 1985)

Judge Dredd #18

Not a lot happens this issue–well, there’s a lot of block warring and very little the judges can do about it–but there doesn’t seem to be an overarching story. Except why everyone wants to fight in a block war. I was sort of hoping Wagner or Grant would lay out the battles with some connections, but they just hop around.

The blocks all have memorable names–everyone and everything in Judge Dredd has a memorable name–and the initial conflict does have some block vs. block motivations, but pretty soon everything goes crazy and they don’t much matter.

There’s a lot of good art from McMahon and Smith and the writers definitely keep the comic moving–not the easiest task as it’s a compilation–but it’s all action. There’s personality, sure, and some great details, but there’s not a lot of ambition (even measured, Dredd ambition) going on.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 17 (March 1985)

Judge Dredd #17

The issue has two stories–one from Mills, one from Wagner, both with art by Ron Smith. The first story, Mills’s, has a regular citizen turning into a were-dinosaur. It’s kind of dumb, but Mills’s plotting of the story is fantastic. The way he starts external to the eventual characters and moves in–presumably from chapter to chapter in the original 2000 AD progs.

The big showdown between Dredd and the monster happens in Old New York City, which looks a lot like seventies New York City (fire escapes, rooftops). It’s good Mega-City One has so many locations because the showdown wouldn’t look good in the futuristic settings… but tragically haunted man wandering rainswept New York? It works.

The second story has Dredd investigating a television game show. Wagner does a great job with both the mystery and the solution. The setup is rather imaginative too.

Excellent issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 16 (February 1985)

Judge Dredd #16

One of Dredd’s cases comes back to haunt him, with the sole survivor of a criminal family hunting judges. He’s a Cursed Earth mutant–with an evil super rat as a pet. McMahon draws them both very creepy.

And Wagner’s script plays up that creep factor. The villain is methodical, with Wagner showing his aptitude for the crimes. It creates a sense of foreboding, especially after the villain successfully assassinates a judge. Between the action itself (which Wagner immediately sets up as a big deal) and the eventual kidnapping of Judge Hershey, Wagner definitely implies this story–a collection of chapters from 2000 AD– has high stakes.

There’s a lot of action in the story too, with McMahon toggling between suspense and brawling. It’s an excellent longer story.

The other story, with Garry Leach on art, is short, to the point and successful.

Overall, it’s an excellent issue. Rather excellent.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon and Garry Leach; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 15 (January 1985)

Judge Dredd #15

The issue has Wagner looking at various aspects of the future–block life, block wars, reasoning apes, what happens when a judge needs to retire–but none of them really stand out.

The first story, resolving the Judge Child storyline while Dredd deals with a block war, has art from Brian Bolland. It’s gorgeous, but too static, too constrained. Bolland doesn’t have any fun with the future, but he also doesn’t have any fun with his composition.

In contrast, Mike McMahon goes crazy in the other pages. There’s humor built into the panels and the composition is inventive. The McMahon stories–even Mills’s pointless ape one–come off a lot better; there’s something distinctive about them, whereas Bolland’s is purely functional.

Of course, Wagner’s handling of that first story is a lot more functional and less narratively playful than the rest.

It’s a mixed bag, but with some definite pluses.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; artists, Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 14 (December 1984)

Judge Dredd #14

It’s a really weak issue. Both writers–Wagner and Mills–go as melodramatic and sappy as possible. How can Judge Dredd be sappy?

For most of the issue, Wagner focuses on Dredd’s sidekick robot, Walter. The joke with Walter is he is annoying and an issue of Walter stories seems a little too much. The Judge Dredd Christmas story, for example, is about as saccharine as Judge Dredd should ever get it but the subsequent stories take it even further.

In some ways, Mills’s story with Judge Rico’s return is even worse. Most of the story is told in summary with Mills focusing on tender moments from Dredd’s life. The ending is even worse. The difference between Wagner and Mills being Wagner makes Dredd sympathetic in the context of the comic, Mills tries to make him sympathetic overall.

Some nice art from McMahon but this issue is a stinker.

C- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; artists, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

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