Apparently inspired by the storyline featured on the above cover and created by Owlmask aka 2000AD’s own Boo Cook, check out The Slavers of Druule then visit his SoundCloud page for more
Review written by Eamonn Clarke
To read more of Eamonn’s reviews go check out his Thank you for your Attention blog
Total War by John Wagner, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint and Jason Brashill. Colours by Chris Blythe and lettered by Tom Frame. These stories originally ran in the Prog in 2004 so they are from that long period when I wasn’t picking up the comic regularly and just buying the occasional trade. I know I’ve read this story before but a recent trip to Forbidden Planet in London gave me the chance to pick up the latest edition and revisit it.
It’s hard to remember it sometimes but Judge Dredd is the bad guy. He is the very visible embodiment of a totalitarian police state that is a terrible way to run the future, except it may be better than all the alternatives. That doesn’t mean we can’t admire Dredd’s dogged determination, but he is still not too far from the SS lightning symbols that appear in the light reflected on his visor. There are two ways to make Dredd seem less appalling, the first is to slowly soften his beliefs and show him having doubts like he did over the Mutants in Mega-City One issue, and the second is to make the forces that he fights even worse. In Total War the opposition is a grim and brutal terrorist organisation of the same name. They want the Judges out of the city and are not opposed to killing innocents with bombs, up to an including nukes, in order to achieve their aims.
As ever Wagner slowly builds the tension. Concentrating the original chapters on two citizens who are falling in love amidst the chaos of a terrorist campaign is particularly effective. One of them is a member of Total War who is having his own doubts which makes the fate of the doomed lovers even more poignant. Meanwhile Dredd and the Hall of Justice show what lengths they will go to in the hunt for the terrorists. It’s a clever commentary that makes us question just what government actions are acceptable in the war on terror. The only reason the Judges are not water-boarding their suspects is that they have found worse things to do to them. Judge Roffman from the public surveillance unit shows up and despite their mutual dislike he helps Dredd while making us wonder how much surveillance of our lives is justified.
NacNeil’s art is full of figures who conceal their true selves behind dark glasses or helmets. Shadows play over grim interrogation scenes and all the action takes place at night in the deepest, darkest corners of Mega-City One. I think MacNeil is doing his own colouring here and the palette is a little bright for my tastes compared with the fine work that Chris Blythe is doing in the Prog just now on Wagner and MacNeil’s Mega-City Confidential.
The second part of the Total War story introduces a new element in the form of Nimrod, another of Dredd’s clones that has gone horribly wrong. The Tech department that created him want Dredd’s permission for termination but Dredd refuses to get involved, seeing no connection between himself and the deformed creature in the cells. So the techs turn to Joe’s niece Vienna and set off a new plot thread that plays out over the escalating war with the Terrorists. Again, this forces Dredd to face his own humanity and consider the family ties that he constantly tries to reject. It reminded me of a similar interlude in the Day of Chaos storyline when Dredd went to rescue Vienna from her besieged apartment block.
Henry Flint takes over on art duties for this chapter and produces some of his best work. Recently his line work has become looser and more abstract, but here he’s in his gritty realist phase. Interestingly he shows just as many nasty interrogation scenes as MacNeil but uses more close ups on tortured faces with Dredd’s visage looming over them. Both approaches are equally effective and unpleasant. I also prefer Flint’s version of Chief Judge Hershey here to the teenage Goth girl who turned up in the recent Titan.
Overall this is a top trade with some of the cream of 2000AD’s current creators at the top of their games. Five star stuff.
Flint and Mr. B review City of Courts #3, Rogue Trooper as well an issue of a Prog. And again it’s ROUNDS not BULLETS!!! Click the link…you know the drill!
Review by Seth
Jennifer Blood appears on this hallowed ‘Blog by virtue of the 3 writers of the series, “Judge Dredd“ script robots Garth Ennis, Al Ewing and Michael Carroll. Recently concluded and collected in a series of volumes published by Dynamite.
Created by Garth Ennis, Jennifer Blood begins as a revenge thriller. Jennifer Fellows has it all, the white picket fence, married to meek accountant Andrew, with two kids Mark and Alice in a suburban stereotype. However, Jennifer has a secret; she is actually Jessica Blute, the daughter of Sam Blute a famous crime lord who has been murdered by his brothers. Jessica was a young girl at the time,her mother marries one of her father’s murderers and takes her own life. She leaves a note explaining to Jessica what and how she ended up in that situation and sows the seeds for a long, very carefully and obsessively planned revenge.
For his 6 issues, Ennis uses a number of imaginative ways for Jen/Jess to off her Dad’s siblings, occasionally tasteless, sometimes blackly amusing, but always graphic (he does seem to have an obsession with entrails). Jess/ Jen’s mission is at an end, and so you would think is the series. “Not so” said Dynamite, “we can spin this out”.
Ewing picks up the baton from Issue 7, continuing from the very last scene of issue 6. The black humour remains, but Jess’ gets sloppy at the end of her mission; inquisitive children and a pervy neighbour and elements of hard edged and (bloody) farce begin to creep in. Jess’ attracts the attentions of a police detective with some iffy personal habits, poor interpersonal skills and the grieving, but fabulously wealthy and criminally connected, parents of her victims. Jess’ gets caught and finds herself in the slammer, but leaves a trail of dismembered bodies and a river of blood in her wake.
Inevitably, Jess’ escapes with some outside help, but desperately wants to re unite with her kids. This takes her into direct conflict with the FBI and her extended family but with little asides and filling in the background to the Blute family (with a little origin story), and the influence that Jess’ had on wide society. Carroll eschews the black humour, taking the story into more serious, but still violent, territory, until the climax with issue 36 and the end of the series.
The first 6 issues read like an unused, or if I were to be unkind, a recycled and remixed plot line from Ennis’ acclaimed Punisher run. Ennis contrasts Jess’ family chores with the rather less mundane preparation for the run against her next target; domesticity and suburban life interspersed with gangland style executions. It’s good, but not great, not helped by the art which starts well by Adriano Batista, but suddenly changes to the flat, angular characterless Marcos Marz, by the end of Ennis’ run the wonderfully named Kewber Baal had taken over. By no means a great artist, workmanlike, with occasional flair, Baal stays with the series until the very end, alternating with the marginally more wooden Eman Casallos.
Ewing’s run continues in the vein of Ennis’ run. The humour becomes blacker, his characters have few redeeming features, even the ones working on the side of law and order, it’s the highpoint of the series. He runs with the set up, develops the foundations and puts Jess’ into some increasingly desperate situations. Seemingly writing himself into a corner, Ewing takes the only logical (if somewhat brutal) conclusion, and there is no going back for Jess’.
By the time Carroll takes over the series begins to run out of wriggle room. By now it’s clear that all the cast members are expendable, but this also means that the plot begins to run into dead ends. Carroll’s run has a few false starts, feels padded and lacks direction. This is less Carroll’s problem and more to do with what Ewing had left him with. There is only so much you can do with a clearly unbalanced, homicidal former housewife and mother now internationally (in)famous and on the run. The ending feels curtailed and rushed. Carroll’s accompanying series “First Blood” origin series is better.
Don’t rush out and buy it, it’s lots of fun, occasionally hits a few bumps on the road and perhaps could have been shorter. The spin off series’ “First Blood” is good, though it wasn’t really necessary. “Ninjettes” is pretty non essential and is one of Ennis’ jokes spun out over six issues, but Ewing makes a good fist (and sword, machine gun etc etc) of it.
Top covers though.
“Jennifer Blood “ – 1-16 and annual 1 (being collected)
“Jennifer Blood : First Blood” (origin story) 1-6