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“Not Unless He Had Three Legs.” COMICS! Sometimes It’s Nice To Have A Change Of Scenery!

John Kane

In which Judge Dredd is a right gadabout and doesn’t even have the decency to send a postcard.
!!BONUS MAP OF THE MEGA-TERRITORIES!!

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JUDGE DREDD: GULAG by Charlie Adlard

Anyway, this…


THE JUDGE DREDD MEGA COLLECTION REVIEW INDEX

JUDGE DREDD: THE MEGA COLLECTION Vol. 56: BEYOND MEGA-CITY ONE
Art by Brendan McCarthy, Steve Dillon, Dermot Power, Charlie Adlard and Inaki Miranda
Written by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar & Grant Morrison and Gordon Rennie
Lettered by Tom Frame, Mark King, John Aldrich, Annie Parkhouse and Simon Bowland
Colours by Wendy Simpson, Chris Blythe Eu de la Cruz
Originally serialised in 2000AD Progs 485-488, 727-732, 859-866, 1382-1386 & JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE 246-249
© 1986, 1991, 1993, 2004, 2006 & 2016 Rebellion A/S
Hatchette Partworks/Rebellion, £9.99 (2016)
JUDGE DREDD created by Carlos Ezquerra & John Wagner

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ATLANTIS
Art by Brendan McCarthy
Written by John Wagner & Alan Grant
Lettered by Tom Frame & Mark King

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JUDGE DREDD: ATLANTIS by McCarthy, Wagner & Grant and Frame

Have you ever seen a British Bobby’s helmet? Ooooh, don’t! Get you! Stop it! OoooOOOOooooOOOOOOh! No, really, back when they walked the beat tipping the wink to the ladies, dispensing directions  and gruffly moving on the ruffians and all that, before they became  swaddled in bullet proof jackets and started cradling matt black engines of death while licking their chapped lips, back before that, did you ever seen a British bobby’s helmet? We used to call them “tit heads”, because kids have no respect and, also, they were a pretty ridiculous bit of gear. And yet thoroughly British in their ridiculousness, due to their air of wonky pomp.  Brendan McCarthy’s design for the Brit Judge embraces this tradition and carries it into the future like a sheikh carrying a blonde lady on the cover of a Mills & Boon romance. Smoothly, that is. It also suggests he is the only person in existence who ever looked at Calos Ezquerra’s original Judge design and thought, “Hmmm, pretty impractical, but not impractical enough!” Pity the poor sap who has to patrol the mean streets of Future Little Tidworth in this get-up.

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JUDGE DREDD: ATLANTIS by McCarthy, Wagner & Grant and Frame

It works on the page though because Brendan McCarthy is  a design genius, and part of that genius must be due to his total refutation of physical practicalities.  Not only is the Brit Judge get-up visually delightful  it is also very British, what with its lion(s) rampant and multiple Union Jacks (The Royal Union Flag, to any Canucks out there).  All the kind of garish tat in fact which symbolises the overcompensation this nation makes for its reduced circumstances and present global irrelevance. I wouldn’t be surprised if the kneepads alternated playing the national anthem and Churchill’s speeches, and the belt pouches contained the fixings for a nice cup o’ char. Preposterously impractical and ostentatiously nationalistic, like fascism filtered through buffoonery Brendan McCarthy’s design captures the British character to a tee. I like it. Other than that though we learn little as Brit-Judges just act like Judges and the strip isn’t set in Brit-Cit but instead in Atlantis, which is not a mythical sunken city but a way station on the sea bed. The strip is a shaggy mutie story that earns its length by introducing Atlantis and Brit-Cit judges, and by being drawn by Brendan McCarthy; it’s worth reading just to see McCarthy’s giant manta rays alone. Throw in the bumptious bobby design to boot and it’s GOOD! Stuff.

EMERALD ISLE
Art by Steve Dillon
Written by Garth Ennis
Coloured by Wendy Simpson
Lettered by Tom Frame

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JUDGE DREDD: EMERALD ISLE by Dillon, Ennis, Simpson and Frame

Bejabbers! If and it isn’t the quare man hissownself now, Garth Ennis! To be sure, and there’s been many a pot o’ gold at the end o’ his rainbow o’writing! To be sure, to be sure! Oho, oho, oho! But this’ll no be one of ‘em! See and if he’s not brought his sense of humour with him!  Ah now, ‘tis a turrible, turrible ting his sense o’ humour is.  Aye now, ‘tis a sorry tale indeed. In the immortal words of Alan Partridge, “Der’s more to Oirland dan DIS!” What? Oh, it’s racist when I do it is it? I see. I better stop then. When Garth Ennis does it it’s satire. Except it isn’t. Unless you are a lot less demanding than me. You know that particularly poor satire that’s so bad it is actually indistinguishable from what it purports to satirise? Well, after reading Emerald Isle you will. I guess it’s a satire of people’s ideas about Ireland but it’s kind of painful. Mind you, me and Garth Ennis’ sense of humour will always at odds. Mostly because I have an outdated belief that humour should be funny. A little bird tells me though that  different people find different things funny, so if you think having a Guinness harp© on a Judge’s helmet and potato guns that you can set to “chips” are funny, then you tuck in!

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JUDGE DREDD: EMERALD ISLE
by Dillon, Ennis, Simpson and Frame

Unconvincingly mixed into this hilarious stuff is a more grounded tale of a M-C1 hitman who hides out with a bunch of terrorists. Terrorism is apparently just a bit of a jape until the proper crook turns up, then things get heavy. The insouciant  Emerald Isle Judges are unprepared for the sudden explosion of pitilessly thuggish activity. Luckily Judge Dredd lends a hand. Personally I’m a bit unconvinced that terrorism in Ireland and organised crime were not inextricably linked but I’m not going to argue that point with anyone from Ireland. Say, has anyone else seen that crackin’ John Boorman movie THE GENERAL (1998)? Brendan Gleeson’s in it and it’s well good. Based on Dublin Crime Lord, Martin Cahill, it probably soft soaps the harsher reality but still, Brendan Gleeson. Lovely, lovely Brendan Gleeson. ORDINARY DECENT CRIMINAL (2000) stars Kevin Spacey and apparently covers the same ground. I’ve not watched that one so I’d not know. Meanwhile, back at the point, the late, great Steve Dillon draws “Emerald Isle” in his usual sturdy fashion whereby he avoids drawing anything too demanding but his stylistic charisma prevents it all getting too bland. He’s also wise enough to know that Dredd’s the star, so he’ll ensure at least one really great image of Dredd being Zarjaz! He’s a right good choice for such a whipsaw mix of comedy larks and brutal violence given his style can accommodate both at the expense of neither. It may not be the craic it thinks it is but “Emerald Isle” is GOOD!

 

BOOK OF THE DEAD
Art by Dermot Power
Written by Mark Millar & Grant Morrison
Lettered by Tom Frame & John Aldrich

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JUDGE DREDD: BOOK OF THE DEAD by Power, Millar & Morrison and Frame

I’m stretching charity to its limits when I say that Mark Millar and Grant Morrison’s Judge Dredd work is the high point of neither of their careers. Considering how little I rate anything by Mark Millar this should be warning enough. At this stage of their careers (the crazysexyfuntime ‘90s!) Millar & Morrison had teamed up and were giving interviews like they were pop stars in the vein of Pepsi and Shirley or something; they seemed pretty committed to the novel artistic approach of just telling people they were awesome without actually making any decent comics to back that up. A right self-promoting pair of capering  mountebanks  they were. Preening narcissists, some might say, because people can be very cruel. Morrison and Millar were all mouth and no trousers, as we say over here. Morrison would eventually snap out of it and lower himself to write some decent comics, which very clever people would read a great deal more into than was actually present. I don’t know what happened to him after, because the last thing I read by him was something odious about Siegel and Shuster’s treatment by DC which, while I can’t remember the specifics, certainly sounded like “Goodbye, John” to me. Apparently, because I ceased paying attention long ago, Millar would just defiantly plod on regardless, cultivating his lucrative furrow of thundering chicanery and creative impoverishment to spectacularly rewarding effect. Financially, not creatively rewarding, obviously. Before that though, the team were steadfast in their belief that if they reduced Judge Dredd to the level of a shit ‘80s straight to video action twat, this would be a good thing. At no point in their complacently leaden tenure on the strip would their approach bear any fruit other than arse grapes.

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JUDGE DREDD: BOOK OF THE DEAD by Power, Millar & Morrison and Frame

“Book of the Dead” is a pretty representative bunch of those very arse grapes. Here the legends in their own minds send Dredd to the city of Luxor in Egypt, where they can’t be bothered to invent a future society, because they are busy modelling Speedos© for Deadline, or taking about being punk while actually being about as punk as Barry Manilow, or whatever and who cares, so they just make it a really superficial idea of how Ancient Egypt was, you know, pyramids, pharaohs, mummies, etc. but with hover cars, energy staffs and Resyk. Given the amount of thought involved we’re lucky the Judges don’t ride about on robot camels and Dredd doesn’t come home with a rug from a mega-bazaar. Whenever Dredd’s abroad some folk’s antennae start twitching in case any casual racism slips in, but I think the mental sloth on show here is damning enough. It’s just a multi-part punch-up and a piss poor use of Dermot Power’s not inconsiderable talents. Power fully paints the strip with a level of skill and artistry better suited to a script where someone was, you know, actually trying.  There’s some lovely muscle work on show reminiscent of the master of muscle magic, Mr Glenn Fabry, and at no point does Power succumb to the twin pitfalls of fully painted 2000AD art: drab colours and visual inertia. His work here is so lovely for seconds at a time I forgot how insultingly contemptuous the writing was of its audience. It’s only because of Dermot Power that this gets OKAY! rather than CRAP!

GULAG
Art by Charlie Adlard
Written by Gordon Rennie
Coloured by Chris Blythe
Lettered by Tom Frame

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JUDGE DREDD: GULAG by Adlard, Rennie, Blythe & Frame

Charlie Adlard draws this one. Charlie Adlard is famous for drawing The Walking Dead, which is itself famous for being successful and unerringly mediocre. You knew that, but did you know that Charlie Adlard is now the UK Comics Laureate. Disappointingly, unlike the Poet Laureate, this does not mean that he has to produce comics on the Queen’s birthday or royal births and marriages, and public occasions, such as coronations and military victories. Her Madge’s Royal God-appointed face as she opened up her birthday card to find a picture of a rotting corpse tottering around a valiantly nondescript America would be quite the thing! No, it seems it’s more of a charitable position whereby the noble art of The Comic is promoted with the hope that one day it will be as popular as poetry. (<— joke!) If you didn’t know that, then it probably evaded your attention that Dave Gibbons was the last UK Comics Laureate. As part of his promotional efforts I like to think The Gibbons used to squeeze himself into his Big E leotard from his Tornado days and leap into libraries scattering comics like startled gulls into the receptive faces of the next generation of comics’ readers. And old people sheltering from the cold. That probably didn’t happen but I think we all feel a bit better having imagined Dave Gibbons dressed as Big E. Take your pleasure where you find it doesn’t just apply to Wilson Pickett fans.

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DAVE GIBBONS: BIG E stolen from thefifthbranch.com

The story? Oh, “Gulag” is about Judge Dredd getting a bunch of stubbornly unmemorable Judges together to rescue some POWS from a Siberian Gulag. Yeah, by the way, in case it hasn’t become obvious these reviews aren’t the kind which tell you significant character appearances (e.g. here: Psi Judge Karyn), who created them (Dean Ormston and Alan Grant), which story they first appeared in (Raptaur), where that story first appeared (Judge Dredd Megazine #1.11-1.17) and when (1991). No, these are just what an old man of questionable lucidity manages to crank out in the time allotted by circumstance. Reviews, but not as we know them. There’s little rigour or design to them. It’s less Douglas Wolk and more a shaky old gent muttering to himself in a library (Dredd…zarjaz!…Rico…BAD! Pat Mills…lovely teeth! Space Spinner…Big news for readers inside! Etc etc), before Dave Gibbons unwisely clad in the rags of yesteryear, bursts in and causes me to vapor lock in shock. Prone to divergence at no notice, yeah? Particularly when dealing with Gordon Rennie, who here writes about Judge Dredd and chums in Siberia. In “Gulag” Sibera is less than rewarding as a locale as it is just full of snow and bits of barbed wire, and the differences in the Sov Judges’ uniforms is minimal. It’s not worth the trip really. Rennie huffs and puffs about the stakes at, er, stake but I could never rid myself of the impression that it was all just a big fight over an empty shed in a snowy field. Charlie Adlard fails to ignite events, but everything he draws looks like what it’s supposed to be. I mean, it certainly wasn’t worth a butt of sack but it was OKAY!  


REGIME CHANGE

Art by Inaki Miranda
Written by Gordon Rennie
Coloured by Eua de la Cruz
Lettered by Tom Frame, Annie Parkhouse & Simon Bowland

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JUDGE DREDD: REGIME CHANGE by Miranda, Rennie, del la Cruz, Frame, Parkhouse & Bowland

“Regime Change” is the second Rennie penned tale and had an equal impact on my memory as that one in the snow, what’s it called? The one with, uh, the snow and, uh…Anyway, Dredd goes to Ciudad Barranquilla (AKA Banana City) which spawls over most of Central America like a gaily coloured, city shaped metaphorical sombrero. Pretending to give a shit about missing cits Dredd and a multi-national  “peace keeping force” show up and nose about. Turns out though, in a twist that could only surprise a Daily Mail reader, that they are actually just there to depose the Judge Supremo and install someone more to M-C1’s liking. When the corpses of fourteen M-C1 citizens are found in a mass grave they have all the excuse they need. What shocking cynicism! The sheer gall of Gordon Rennie to even suggest to imply such a thing! It’s fine. It’s drawn by Inaki Miranda whose art I don’t like because everyone is drawn with a tiny wee head like Thrud The Barbarian, and it’s all just a bit too busy for me. One of the problems with comics is that you can come up against a style you just don’t like. It doesn’t mean it’s “bad”, it’s just not to your taste. Guess what? That’s right. So, “Regime Change” is OKAY!

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JUDGE DREDD: REGIME CHANGE by Miranda, Rennie, del la Cruz, Frame, Parkhouse & Bowland

It was a bit dull that wasn’t it, a bit normal. Sometimes I’ll do that, sometimes I’ll just start on a craven apology for not having done these sooner. Because, yeah, I started writing up these Dredd partworks in 2015 and then…I stopped. A lot of that was down to apparently I like to make promises I can’t keep. That way I think I get to keep the guilt up. I’m still feeding off the guilt of not carrying on with the Planet of the Apes Weekly, but that was a lot of work to be fair, I kind of aimed to high on that one. Not doing the Dredds as well was too much guilt though. It was getting oppressive. Mind you, about two write-ups in, when I first started, it was pointed out to me that Douglas Wolk had written up every Judge Dredd strip ever so…I felt a bit like a spare prick at a wedding. If Gus van Sant had been halfway through making PSYCHO when someone told him this guy Fred Hitchcock had already had a go, I like to think he would have had the sense to stop. It’s about knowing your place, innit. Alas, that didn’t stop me feeling bad; yes, I felt bad, and I still feel bad because “Drac” in the comments was all gung-ho about following along from his Australian location. And I just pisseded off and left him or her hanging. That’s shabby behaviour. So, too late to make up for it, I’ve started again. I’m banging them out now but that won’t always be possible (because, life), but as slow as the flow may become I’ll carry on. Sometimes I’ll try and do a proper job and sometimes I’ll just amuse myself, depends. Personally I find it difficult to say much about Gordon Rennie, so it’s unfortunate that we have two of his storylines in this book. Bit of a mixed bag this book, to be fair the Rennie ones are part of a longer uberplot involving the machinations of an embittered Sov, so they lose out by being isolated here. BEYOND MEGA CITY ONE is a GOOD! Read overall, I guess.

NEXT TIME: I haven’t thought that far ahead. So surprises in store for us all!

BONUS: A NO DOUBT OUTDATED MAP OF THE WORLD OF JUDGE DREDD!

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6 Responses to “ “Not Unless He Had Three Legs.” COMICS! Sometimes It’s Nice To Have A Change Of Scenery! ”

  1. Hiya, John!

    No worries about the scattershot nature of your Dredd reviews. Different intelligent perspectives on the same comics are always appreciated. Also, they offer ideas as to which Dredd stories might be worth a look and which should be treated as toxic waste. Speaking of which, thanks for warning me away from Morrison and Millar’s run. Too bad your warning on “Emerald Isle” didn’t come until long after I bought it in my “buy everything Garth Ennis has written” phase.

    On some of the stories you mention:

    Thanks for increasing my pop knowledge with the “tit heads” reference. From tons of old British movies, bobbies frequently said, “‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello! What have we here then?” Do the Brit-Judges still say that, or do they say something more Judge-like?

    The only things I remember from Gus van Sant’s take on PSYCHO were the images of Vince Vaughan’s Norman Bates masturbating to the sight of a naked Marion Crane (Anne Heche), the sight of Marion’s naked derriere after she’d been stabbed to death, and Julianne Moore stealing the show as Marion’s semi-butch lesbian sister. Other than that, meh.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Morrison and Millar were brought on to improve 2000 AD’s circulation. Clearly they couldn’t stretch their imaginations to make Old Stone Face interesting to them. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the duo avoided the recent Thrill Power Expo. I suspected if they had shown up, angry fans would have torn them to bits.

    Gee, who could’ve seen the twist in the second Gordon Rennie tale coming? I mean the story title bloody gave the twist away, dinnit?

    Sorry for blathering on so long, but looking forward to the next installment of your Dredd reviews.

  2. Its some time since I’ve read Atlantis, JohnK, but I do recall wondering if maybe there was a bit of a point being made about the British and their fawning relationship with the Americans, what with the story being set in the middle of the Atlantic.
    (Ha – that would explain why the Brit-Judges act the same as those from the Big Meg. Although for that to work properly, they really should be bitching behind Dredd’s back with an air of smug superiority)

    Well done calling Ennis out on Emerald City. What utter bollocks that story was.

  3. @Peter: And a howdooyado to you too, Peter. There’s an appalling lack of consistency to the portrayal of Brit-Cit. It all depends on the writers. Just for you I’ll keep an eye out for “‘ello, ‘ello ‘ello”, “let’s be having you, then!” and, of course, the evergreen, “You’re NICKED, sunshine!”.

    You remember more about Van Sant’s PSYCHO than I do, but you didn’t remember the best bit: THE COW! “MOOOOOO!” THE COW!

    You just blather on as much as you like. After all, I do!

    @sean: Oi, we don’t have a fawning relationship with America! We have a SPECIAL relationship! Totally different!

    Ah, Ennis was only young when he was on Dredd. Too much too soon. Still and all, rubbish is rubbish.

    Cheers all, stay sharp!

  4. Thats a good point about Ennis being young when he had his first crack at Dredd, so its only right that you should have balanced this with consideration of a later, more mature work like Ghost Rider.
    You are a fair-minded critic JohnK.

  5. If you don’t like Ennis’ uh “ethnic humour”, John, don’t ever, ever read Adventures in the Rifle Brigade. (Come to think of it, if you *do* like Ennis’ ethnic humour, still don’t read Adventures in the Rifle Brigade).

    What I remember about the Psycho remake is those outside shots of William H Macy. It may have been a wasted effort, but Christopher Doyle cinematographed the shit out of that film.

  6. @Sean: you give me to much credit, sir. Ghost Rider was just the next thing I picked up. It would have been fairer to do a good Garth Ennis comic. Which means a war comic, obviously! But I didn’t, because I am a big sh*t.

    Jones, one of the Jones boys: Oh, I’ve read both series of that. It’s amazing. It’s like the 1970s never ended in the part of Garth Ennis’ brain set aside for humour. Dear God, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade. It just needed a Johnny Hawksworth theme tune to cap it off. I hope Carlos Ezquerra had fun.

    Got to agree, after all, everything about that movie was top drawer except the actual idea of re-doing PSYCHO. I like a bit of Dean Cundey and Roger Deakins, cinematographically speaking.

    And take care out there, it’s hot!

    Cheers.

    John

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