Dredd vs Bats’ : Round Four
with support from :
Part 1 can be found here
Part 2 is here
Read on for part 3. (You glutton for punishment, you)
Not much longer to go now- I promise.
Still with me? Then let us begin.
The much vaunted “Die Laughing” is finally released in 1998 after being trailed and prologued in the Meg and the Prog’ for months. 7 years after the publication of “Judgement On Gotham”, Wagner and Grant were on script duties again, but whilst Glenn Fabry was due to draw both issues he needed an assist, great artist he maybe, fast he is not. Jim Murray – a more cartoony, “shinier” version of Mr. F alongside hot 2000AD artist at the time Jason Brashil (he of “Space Girls” fame) completed the book. Similar art styles, all of the same ilk meant the changes weren’t too jarring. The plot is as thus :
The Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum. Finding a Deadworld dimension jump belt (from I dunno, somewhere), his spirit form escapes to MC1.There, with some locally hired help, he steals the crystals containing the Dark Judges. Freeing them, the fearsome five wreak havoc in MC1. In the meantime, a wounded Anderson reaches Gotham, raises the alarm with the Batman, and the two of them head back to assist Dredd in bringing the latest Dark Judges’ rampage to an end.
Like the others, sophisticated this is not. It’s fun enough, and has a direct tie into JD continuity as we see a high ranking and reasonably important supporting character offed. Issue 1 is the set up, and Issue 2 the extended battle. Simply gorgeous art, but story wise it’s lacking. Even though Dredd had, had his ups and downs around this time, there had been a perceptible shift in tone on the strip. We’d had the “Pit” and the strip (or at least the Wagner scripted strips) had become more sophisticated without losing the black humour, “Die Laughing” didn’t reflect that. Perhaps it was because it was written so many years earlier, or perhaps Wagner and Grant gave the audience what they thought the audience was expecting. The Dark Judges had also lost their “teeth” as baddies, “Necropolis” was their last hurrah, and every appearance since seems like a re run. How can you top controlling MC1?
The whole Dredd / Bats thing looked old now. That ship hadn’t just sailed, it had gone over the horizon, been intercepted by Somali pirates, debated at the UN security council, rescued by US Marines and was on its’ way to the breakers yard.
Whereas some heroes can occasionally figuratively speak out of their arse, Bats looks like he is talking out of his ankle here :
Tut – editors eh? You’d never see mistakes like that on ECBT :).
Perhaps the biggest problem with this series is the wait between “Judgement” and “Die Laughing”. The momentum was lost. Yes, they ramped up the stakes – all four Dark Judges, the Joker, but did you care? I remember feeling flat after reading this. It didn’t improve on “Judgement” (though was a million times better than the excerable “The Ultimate Riddle”). As a concept, it had run it course.
And as for that last panel with Bats and Anderson. Sheeeeeeeit, what kind of ending is that? Are they really going to get it on?
Things get better with the next Dredd match up.
Dredd versus Predator Round 1. Wagner writing solo, published jointly in the Meg’ and by Dark Horse (who have a reputation for sympathetic treatment of licensed properties). This isn’t half bad. A Predator comes to MC1, starts offing cits and Judges, taking trophies. You know – Predator stuff. Assisted by Auxillary Psi Judge Schaefer, Dredd tracks down the alien hunter, but not before some of MC1s finest have fallen in the line of duty. Dredd wins of course, but not before his team, including war droids and a team of Judges, are mangled.
Bit of a pyrrhic victory there Joe.
There isn’t much of a plot really, but what do you expect? Wagner is at the helm, so you know Dredd will be handled well, and the Predator doesn’t really do dialogue. But all is in keeping with his cinematic version and Psi Auxillary Schaefer ties the strip in with the original film.
The art is by Enrique Alcatena, of “Batman : Legends of The Dark Knight : Clay” and in “Makabre” from “Toxic”, both written by Alan Grant. He does the job well, but I can’t help but have flashbacks to “Starblazer” – it’s that kind of art style. The colouring could have been more subtle, golden and shiny kills the atmosphere, it needed a Gray Caldwell or Peter Doherty. Not a classic by any means, but good fun for a bit. Think of it as a grittier “Trapper Hag”.
Next up was the Predator’s 20th Century Fox stablemate.
The 2002 series, written by Wagner and then 2000AD editor Andy Diggle and drawn by god like genius Henry Flint, is definitely more like it.
The MC1 criminal fraternity have got their hands on some xenomorphs. Except, as is always the case, they grossly underestimate them. A low life perp’ double crosses his employers and wants to use them for pit fights, the Aliens of course, have other ideas.
The now impregnated perp’ ends up in the hands of Justice Department. The alien makes his bloody and visceral appearance, and heads off into a hospital’s ventilation system. A verminator squad is sent into to dispose of it, whilst Dredd tracks down the source of the alien within the city.
The threat escalates once the reason behind the Aliens presence in MC1 is revealed, the verminators are torn apart and all hell breaks loose.
Wagner and Diggle pull out all the stops. A hard edged, economical action strip – no flab’ and does justice to both properties. This is a great Dredd strip and an equally geat Aliens series. Wagner has experience with the “Aliens” franchise, having written “Berserker” back in 1995 and Flint was born to draw them. Awesome.
The next extra terrestrial threat was equally disturbing, but in a different way.
“Mars Attacks Judge Dredd” was an IDW production. Thankfully, this one had 2000AD alumini attached. Al Ewing on writes, John McCrea on scribbles.
A meeting of Mega City crime lords draws to an abrupt end when mob boss Crusty Smalls brings along a grotesque companion, who incinerates the other attendees. It’s all part of a grand plan by the Martians to take over the world by infiltrating and backing rival judge factions or organised crime groups within each of the mega cities.
Al Ewing is one of the best of the new Dredd writers, he captures the black humour of both JD and the Murtians. Sharp script, cracking with wit and with the most silly Sov Blok Judge names (Brianklov – bwah hahaha) since Ennis was writing Old Stoney Face. McCrea adopts a scratchier style than his “Hitman” run, exaggerated poses and violence, reading like a bloody thirsty “Tom & Jerry” cartoon. This delves deep in to Dredd history with appearances by Don Uggie Apelino, Anderson, a cameo from Judge Larter, and the introudction of the Manta Prowl Tank. Firmly in IDW continuity, but with 2000AD sensibility. Not as good as “Incubus”, but a riot all the same. A rare win for IDW.
And that, just about brings us up to date, oh, other than this thing :
So, are Dredd intercompany crossovers actually any good?
One the whole, yes. There is some guff there, but some of them are worth picking up. My favourites are “Incubus”, “Top Dogs” and “Mars Attacks”. I think there were some missed opportunities. Whilst Editorial played on the whole justice (batboy) versus the law (JD) it wasn’t used as a plot point in Judgement on Gotham or its sequels. Arguably Dredd works better against his co stars than working with them, particularly superheroes.
There is no doubt that crossovers raise Dredd’s profile, I can live without them. But if you are going to do them, do them well, and for grud’s sake, be picky with the co star.
(Yeah I know it’s only a cover – but I don’t trust IDW)
Where to find them:
The Predator and Aliens crossovers can be found in one nice hardback published by Dark Horse.
Mars Attacks Judge Dredd was collected by IDW
Judgement Day can be found in JD Case Files v.17 and issue 25 of the Mega Collection, Mandarin and Rebellion both published collections of the strip.
Judge Dredd / Rogue Trooper : Casualties Of War is in JD Case Files v.21.
All 4 Batman / Judge Dredd stories , and the Lobo one off has been collected into one volume by DC.
Top Dogs can be found in the 1991 Judge Dredd Annual and reprinted in the Best of 2000AD special 2002, and the Hamlyn collection Judge Dredd : Top Dog.