Wednesday, 28 April 2010

‘Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 15’ (Rebellion)

It’s not all going to be about comic books this week. Okay, it might be depending on how my other reading goes. There’s a lot going on right now and it’s all distracting me from getting well and truly stuck into a book (which just happens to be ‘Spellwright’ at the moment, it’s ok but...) Anything where words are accompanied by pictures seems to be ok though so that’s where I’m at right now.

I don’t normally come into a series fifteen books in. I mean, what would be the point of that? Sometimes though, things are self contained enough for it to work out (the ‘Anita Blake’ series being a case in point although it didn’t help that the series itself was several degrees below poor...) This is very much the case with the ‘Judge Dredd Case Files’ where each case in a collection has a very definite beginning and end. There are links to a wider narrative but you only really need to know the basics of the story in order to be able to get the most out of the book. It’s the twenty second century, crime is rife in Mega City One and the Judges are empowered to keep the peace using sometimes lethal force. Simple yet effective every single time!

I’ve had a passing acquaintance with 2000AD over the years, certainly enough to appreciate the severity of the situation facing Mega City One in the aftermath of ‘Necropolis’ (sixty million dead at the hands of Judge Death and his Dark Judges). I liked the way that John Wagner takes a step back from life on the streets, in ‘Nightmares’, to look at the way the situation is being handled at the highest levels. It really gives the impression of a thoroughly well thought out cityscape where every action has a consequence that needs to be considered (in particular concerning the longer running ‘Democracy’ storyline). Garth Ennis’ ‘Return of the King’ takes this approach to another level entirely when the former Chief Judge Silver returns from the dead (literally) to resume his duties. I particularly liked the way that the law hamstrings the Judges yet ultimately provides them with the inevitable solution to their dilemma.

It’s not just the high level stuff that’s being dealt with here though. Throughout the opening stages of the collection we get to see how ‘Necropolis’ has affected the regular citizens of Mega City One. Wagner’s ‘Fixing Daddy’ makes it all too clear what traumas people had to go through and what it does to their mental state as a result. ‘First Offence’, by the same writer, aims for a similar target but doesn’t have the same affect. Yeowell’s artwork here was quite frankly poor (as far as I was concerned) and there didn’t seem to be any attempt to get into the characters as there was in ‘Fixing Daddy’. Shame really as it does pack a bit of a punch as far as the stark consequences of breaking the law go.
The aftermath of ‘Necropolis’ is also a good time to revisit old favourites and see what they’ve been up to in the meantime. I couldn’t find who wrote this particular story but the continuing adventures of teenage psychopath P.J. Maybe made for some darkly humorous reading. Here’s a character who always seems to land on his feet whatever life throws at him and you can’t help but laugh at the ways in which he kills people standing between him and his goals. Dark humour at it’s funniest.

Life goes on in the Big Meg and Dredd has plenty to keep him occupied while the city is rebuilding. Garth Ennis shows this off with sterling work in ‘Death Aid’ and ‘Emerald Isle’. ‘Death Aid’ shows us just what people can get up to in a city where the unemployment rates are almost a hundred percent. Crushing boredom can manifest itself in the strangest of ways and this time round the relief of tedium equals carnage on an impressive scale as hunters compete to see how many people they can kill... for charity! It’s a shame for them then that one of their number thought to take a pot shot at one Yassa Povey while Dredd was stood right next to him... This story is a lot of fun although maybe it doesn’t end with quite the punch it was promising...
‘Emerald Isle’ sees Dredd take a trip outside the Meg to solve a murder case where the chief suspect is now hiding in an Ireland that’s now a theme park. The ‘spud gun’ was a little too gimmicky for my tastes but the story itself flows along at a decent pace with plenty happening and a nice little line in culture shock for Dredd to work his way through.

The main stories are worth the price of entry on their own but it’s worth sticking around for the smaller ‘snapshot’ affairs as well. Anything can happen on the streets of Mega City One and sometimes it can happen in a split second. I’ve already mentioned that ‘First Offence’ wasn’t so hot but this is more than balanced out by Wagner’s ‘Theatre of Death’ and ‘The Apartment’. ‘The Apartment’ in particular is worth the look, a really personal account of the aftermath of ‘Necropolis’…

There’s some good artwork on display here that really gives you that ‘Mega City feel’. It’s all good really (apart from Steve Yeowell) but the real highlights for me were anything where Cam Kennedy and Carlos Ezquerra got involved. If I had to define Judge Dredd in terms of artwork it would be these two artists that I’d end up picking. Ezquerra edges things with his bright yet gritty style but it’s a close run thing. Any book with their artwork in is worth picking up.

It’s been a while since I’ve really got into ‘Judge Dredd’ but this latest instalment of the Case Files got me back into things rather nicely indeed with a perfect blend of good stories and art. Number sixteen in the series can’t come quickly enough (I’m hoping a favourite story of mine isn’t too far away now…)

No comments: