Sunday, 25 November 2012

'The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection' - Various (DC/Rebellion)

There’s nothing quite like reading comic books over a rainy weekend. Well, except when I’m being hassled by the toddler but there you go. The point still stands :o)

My weekend reading, this time round, was the ‘Batman/Judge Dredd’ collection and (a few minor criticisms not withstanding) I had a great time working my way through the stories here. How could I not? How could you not? We’re looking at two iconic comic book heroes, both dedicated to upholding the law but both going about it in entirely different ways. One is dead set on arresting the other, for ‘vigilante activity’, and neither will go down without several preceding pages of all out slugfest (and supporting villains from Mega City One and Gotham). You can’t ask for a lot more than that, can you? Well, maybe…

This collection starts and ends with its best stories and no, I’m not counting the Lobo story right at the end. That seems to be there more as a favour to collectors rather than anything to do with the two main protagonists.

‘Judgement in Gotham’ is as ‘off its head manic’ as I remember, from all those years ago, with Dredd and Batman having to settle their differences in order to take down Scarecrow and Judge Death. Batman finds himself in Mega City One and watching his reactions to his new surroundings (as well as how he deals with a Justice Department interrogation) is a pleasure. The real pleasure though is watching Judge Death having to get used to life in Gotham, especially his new uniform and having to confront his worst nightmares courtesy of the Scarecrow. It’s as chilling as it is laugh out loud funny, all more than ably illustrated by what looks like pretty much everyone judging by the credits. Take it from me, it’s all good.

It’s a shame that the same can’t really be said about ‘Vendetta in Gotham’; several pages of Batman and Dredd beating the (you know) out of each other with a time travel subplot bolted onto the end. Watching Scarface deal with his temporary new owner makes for some funny moments but everything screams ‘filler’, presumably while the following two stories were in development (although Cam Kennedy’s art made for a nice break from the full on madness of ‘Judgement in Gotham’)
‘The Ultimate Riddle’ is more of the same; there’s some lovely artwork here (courtesy of Critchlow and Power) but the actual plot relies a little too much on the fight sequences to cover up a conclusion that you can see coming. Nice dialogue between Dredd and the perp though.

Don’t worry, the best is saved until last with the entrance of the Gotham villain that everyone has been waiting for. ‘Die Laughing’ benefits from a wide range of artists combining (once again) to really show off the weirdness that is Mega City One. If you can think of something outlandish, the odds are that these guys have crammed it into a panel somewhere. Especially with the focus on hedonism…
The plot is a little straightforward but the quality of the villains more than makes up for this with Gotham’s most insane criminal teaming up with extra-dimensional creatures who have decided that all life is a crime. Even though you know where this one is going, the dialogue and dynamic between the villains is compelling; even more so once the Dark Judges realise just what they have accepted into their ranks.
Dredd and Batman are almost relegated to mere spectators but prove that there is still enough about them to justify what they are able to do. ‘Die Laughing’ is a great read, that’s all there is to it.

‘Batman/Judge Dredd’ is a mixed bag then but with just enough verve and energy to get you through the bumps and onto the good stuff. Well worth picking up whether you’re filling in the holes in your collection or are completely new to the stories.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

P.S. I understand that is likely that we won’t see ‘Judge Dredd vs Predator’ collected because of legal stuff. Please sort it out guys… For me?

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