Orlok is bloody mindedly working his way through his backlog of Progs and Megs. Next up, Megazine 374 where the Dredd “epic” gets a bolted on epilogue…
If I’m honest, I didn’t like it. It’s simple and is nicely lit from below with some crazy wild red eyes but this could easily have been a panel from inside and that annoys me that an opportunity has been wasted.
The story that ran in the weekly gets an explanatory epilogue here because every 2000AD reader picks up the Meg. Wait…what? So, if you don’t, you get to miss the important decision being made here? Probably just as well.
The Judges are mopping up Texan resistance and this provides a backdrop for a chat that Hershey is having with Lewis that goes about a trip down memory lane before we get to the meat. And therein lies part of the problem with this but we’ll get to that in a bit.
The Texans are holed up in Sector 3 and so it seems despite that their limited numbers they were city wide and ensconced to the point where they can fight off the forces that the city can muster. The captured TC Judges are being retrained with Texas City still denying all knowledge of Oswin’s actions. It appears that only Oswin and the unfortunates slain by Dredd’s party at the Grand Hall were the bad guys then.
Lewis the Psi Judge says it will be weeks before she is back to normal after the screamer incident and this convenient malaise gives Hershey a great idea. Before all that though we get a hint of Hershey’s past which I am sure we have never seen before and it is revealed how she was essentially impounded by the Judges from some lowlife scum. Wasn’t it mentioned in one story that her parents were killed in a crossfire or something? Is that canon? Is this?
Regardless, she is handed over like so much street meat and she weighs this in the balance of things.
In the present and mindful of just how badly she fucked up, Hershey regrets what a fool she was with Oswin, falling for her dreamy blue eyes and salad dodging double chins. Despite that she is still in the big chair which is pretty stupid but that’s how Carroll has written it so we are stuck with it.
We plod on with the past where it is revealed that Pepper fast tracked Hershey for Strategies, afraid her marksmanship scores were going to get her booted. She then doubled down and spent every spare moment at the firing range and improved to almost Dredd like standard.
And there we have it, musings about Lewis aside this seems a bit more like a piece of Babs fanfic than anything else, though there was some nice talk about the cost of the uniform. Sadly this was buried in the rest.
It isn’t all plain sailing, though as Oswin apparently knew the Brits wanted payback for the Murphyville Spaceport massacre and planned to extradite Dredd and Joyce. However Armitage himself confirmed this was just for show so that doesn’t really track does it? Only when Dredd said he wasn’t going did the plot convenience of the bullshit teleporter come into play.
As for Lewis, she has big things ahead of her (probably since she has reached a comic dead end) and she reveals she has looked inside Dredd’s helmet- fnarr- and reports that he has “almost no ego”. Hasn’t that line been used before in one of the novels?
I’m not sure about the depiction of Dredd here because this is the same Joe who, under Wagner’s writing, still wears tight boots and agonises about the Lopez incident (he still keeps the man’s badge) and the decision he made for the good of the city. He is a very much a man with things on his mind.
Lewis is given a name badge instead of her Psi one and all record of her Psi career is expunged.
She is now going to be sent to Texas City so that Hershey can have a Psi on the inside but since they have Psis of their own this will almost certainly be detected pretty early on. Unless they are all teleported out or have suffered from some form of virus. And here’s hoping the two Judges who send the screamer her way were some of the bad ones and have been killed, eh?
While you are reeling from that, Lewis is going to be installed by Hershey as CHIEF of Texas City. Yeah, you just let that one sink in, champ. Since TC is independent and not on the bones of its arse like the Big Meg how is Hershey in any position to install a new Chief? Even if the Texans admitted some culpability they could still tell her to get fucked and there is nothing she can do. With them denying it of course, any capitulation will look suspicious so there’s a massive whiff of bullshit about this one, I’m afraid.
Also in the mix is Dredd getting a chewing off by the CMO. These scenes are very well written with Gregory acting very much like Leonard McCoy and the story perhaps would have been better with this being the focal point as Dredd’s apparent indestructibility is questioned. Dredd can keep going for decades it seems but just needs to remember he is not bulletproof. Is that an editorial edict being laid down so there is no more of this shooting Dredd (and he’s only got seconds to live!) for shock value bollocks?
Much is also made of Dredd being eviscerated by a harpoon. Did I miss that? Wasn’t he shot by Thorn using a very large machine gun? Even if it was firing rods, it still isn’t a harpoon.
Dredd being off duty for the time it took to walk back to his Lawmaster was a nice touch.
In Ezquerra’s capable hands this flows very smoothly and Hershey is starting to look old under his pen strokes.
There was also a cracking Carlos take on the original panel from the Judge Child with Dredd addressing his crew on board Justice 1.
Bottom line, this could have easily have been half the length and though ridiculous plots can sometimes be forgiven when augmented by amazing artwork and crisp witty dialogue but this story had no strength in the latter.
While we’re on, there has been some apparent confusion in how long this epic took. Unless Joyce went to Brit cit via pedalo, then this took four days.
I took one for the team and re-read it, breaking it down for you with this timeline taken from the story…
Day 1– Dredd is blown up. Four hours after, Hershey tells Joyce that Dredd copped it and sticks him on a shuttle to Brit Cit. Presumably a few hours later, he lands and is immediately abducted by fake terrorists. He awakes that night and escapes. On this same day, Oswin sends 1000 Judges to the city.
Day 2– Said Judges are let loose. Joyce is on the run and makes it to the safe house where he stays for no more than half a day because we see him rest up and then leave. For the benefit of the doubt we’ll say this leads to…
Day 3– Joyce meets Armitage after trying to break into his house. At this time Dredd wakes up and takes hostages. Joyce and Armitage head over there and hook up with him. At some point, Oswin swaps out all of the Control Judges for her own people. Armitage puts Dredd and Joyce in a shuttle back to the Big Meg.
Day 4– Rico is stood down for 24 hours and goes back to his apartment to find Dredd and Joyce there. Rico reports there are 4000 TC Judges in the city (presumably 1000 arriving per day). Oswin finally takes over. Dredd and co hook up with the rest of the resistance and attack the Grand Hall. Note that this has to be in the 24 hours Rico is stood down.
Well, I have to admit this looks great and Boo Cook gets to raid his paintbox and throw up some more multi-coloured myriad creatures including some fucked up headless monkeys. There are also some bizarre birds that appear to be anglers, having what seem to be pork sausages on their heads. At least I hope they are sausages.
Storywise it is a little bland but it moves along well. I’m still waiting for it to get going.
Blunt insults one party member with vitiligo which leads to him trying to make up for this with some magic mushrooms. We’ve all been there, pal.
At the crash, Anaya is burning the emergency beacon to save people befalling the same fate as them and that’s a nice touch since we don’t often see survivors having this thought. She confesses that some of the survivors were bitten and so she killed ‘em off. This gets her knocked out by Boyd and we get re-acquainted with the Captain who has succumbed to his infection and has warped into some sort of Swansea resident.
Meanwhile the rescue party are attacked and flee into a spider hole where they are rescued (except Reece but fuck him) by Blunt who throws the fungus at the arachnid pricks. Exposed to the psychoactive spores, everyone is about to start tripping balls. You think the art is weird now? Wait til next time.
REALM OF THE DAMNED:
The cunning Van Helsing has prepared for the worst and has a lockpick sewn into a scar. Yes, he’s really that mental.
Working on the sarcophagus to crack the side off before the roof caves in, he is assaulted by despair as the mask’s power takes its toll.
During this we get some past history of Van Helsing himself and how he was a happy man until his son died after being ill with cholera. And by “cholera” I of course mean “vampirism” much in the same way that Welshman says “pulling pants” instead of “velcro trousers”. Upon death the boy comes back like a Victorian Danny Glick and has the red eyes and fangs of a child who has seen too much of pornhub.
In a montage we see the boy staked but not before Van Helsing’s wife succumbs to death and the man breaks, seeking answers and taking on a regal vamp (hence the purple cloak) who may be the great Vlad Dracul himself. certainly looks like him.
He is a deeply conflicted man with the mask’s ability stating that he took pleasure in the slaughter and that he was not doing it out of holy duty but because he secretly enjoyed it. This makes him no different to the very foe he seeks. Also, he’s lost more family members than Sansa Stark so he’s going to be a bit off after all that.
In a fantastic move, the mask is revealed to be just a piece of junk and the psych torment was all just him and his own insecurities. The answer is clear then; Van Helsing regards himself as a monster and at his core he is conflicted in his faith.
Back up top, the Queen has bested Balaur and is about to finish him before the sun does. Unfortunately the trash talking eejit is coldcocked by the Goth dickbag and Balaur turns the tables, eating the canopic jar that contains her essence. Game over.
He is now sun proof and flies off (but not in the direction of Rome as expected) abandoning his faithful thrall who is left to the mercy of Van Helsing.
To this end, our vamp hunter delivers the great line “Our gods have abandoned us, boy” and we cut to a shaken Van Helsing being picked up by the extraction team. For the crime of starting all of this, he has imprisoned the dickbag in a sarcophagus. UKIP would love Van Helsing.
Artwise it is disgusting since page 2 has a naked Van Helsing showing off his meat mangler in the trip he is experiencing and like uncalled for female nudity I am certain that a string of protects will occur on the 2000AD forum by the social justice warriors (who really should keep an eye on the hypocrisy of their twitter feeds).
Moving on, there is some great spot colouring to highlight the standout details in the memories, focusing the reader on the very images that have driven the man on his century long murder spree.
There was a lovely image of the Queen’s head being pulped and some great comparative panel work with Balaur enjoying his first sunrise and the contrast between his hand and expressions and those of Van Helsing who is himself undergoing an existential crisis by being burned by the cross. He no longer has his holy spirit, it seems.
Top prize goes to that gorgeous sunrise.
Well, when it comes to lovely art you can’t go wrong here with some truly beautiful pencils. Even some of the mundane things are brimming with greatness (just check out that panel of the posse looking up at Munce Tower). The layouts are great and there is a lovely use of a Dutch angle to bring us back to the present.
Rather than dwell on the reunions and waste time on repetition, we get a simple flashback to Lawson walking in the office and Pettifer losing her shit. Lawson eschews celebratory drinking in favour of revenge of Brotherly and then we are off.
Speaking of whom, Pinkerton tells Brotherly to get fucked, knowing that the paymasters from Munce Inc are the real power and that his self-preservation has kicked in with Lawson on the prowl. Since he cannot overtly be seen to kill a Judge, any deals he had are off now that Munce Inc has thrown Brotherly under the bus.
In a nice twist, Brotherly proposes a trade to Lawson and will testify against Munce and their criminal activities in return for protection. This then sets us up with the prospect of a hated man being needed by the forces of Law and Order, who must risk their lives for him.
Munce then decide to go ahead and pull the trigger on him, having Pinkerton assemble a small army to silence the weasel, which is probably what they should have done to start with.
The Western pastiches are strongly felt here with the walk down the street as the posse meet up being very much like The Wild Bunch and the Pinkerton bunch waiting on the train is looking like 3.10 to Yuma.
It’s good stuff and clearly building to more than one thing.
This was Ok and just sorted of…ended.
Are these all Dark Judge related efforts from a short story competition or something?
Predator vs Dredd- we get four pages devoted to filler and background info that we really don’t need. If the story itself doesn’t mention it then it is surplus to requirements.
Interrogation- A 4 page Joe Hill interview. Fuck me, a Jonah Hill interview would have been just as relevant.
Floppy- A Sinister Dexter instalment. Yeah, no thanks.
Letters- With two in favour of Realm of the Damned it’s looking like a clean sweep, but one reader from London raises his handbag up to his chest while fearfully counting the expletives that have appeared before his prudish eyeballs. I’d suggest that he needs to drink a cup of concrete and harden the fuck up.
Realm of the Damned once again just bests Lawless this month. It really is neck and neck with these two.