Monster is a strange comic. It’s British, was serialized weekly, running a couple years in a couple different comics magazines–Scream then Eagle–and there’s a very British comics storytelling sensibility to it. There’s also the reality of a weekly four-to-five page chapter and how doing recap–doing some really effecient recap too, using repetitive dialogue to force events into memory. It’s also about a kid who discovers his deformed “monster” of an uncle locked in the attic and has to take care of him. But it’s still a little strange on its own.
First, because it never becomes a morality tale. Second, because the twelve year-old kid goes from being a protagonist to the subject of the adults’ attention. Cops, doctors, lawyers, social workers, all talking down to the kid. Because the kid thinks his uncle shouldn’t be hunted down like a monster.
It takes a long, long time before the kid even gets one adult to agree. The writers–and especially the artist–aren’t really interested in making the uncle a comfortable presence. He’s always extremely dangerous.
Alan Moore writes the first installment. Not sure his name deserves top-billing; I get it from a marketing standpoint, but seriously… four pages? He wrote four pages on Monster. Most of the writing is John Wagner writing solo, but there’s also some with he and Alan Grant sharing duties. They take a single pseudonym, Rick Clark. Wagner continues using it alone. Wagner’s workman. He’s good workman. But the writing isn’t the draw on Monster (though, when the book seems like it’s going to be a riff on Frankenstein, maybe it could’ve been).
The draw of the book is the art. Jesus Redondo black and white horror art. It’s magical. The first strip has a different artist, Heinzl, who’s got some great gothic detail going but Redondo makes it into a gothic horror action comic. He definitely does the Frankenstein riffing, even if the writing doesn’t keep it up.
Because eventually the kid–Kenny–stops being the protagonist. And the protagonist becomes the uncle, Terry, who’s never going to stop killing people even though Kenny tells him not to kill anyone ever again and Terry promises. Terry always promises, but then Terry gets mad. And, really, it’s nearly always self defense. Or defending Kenny. There’s the occasional rage attack, but by the end of the book, Terry’s fairly in check.
Because Terry gets all the character development. He doesn’t really realize it because he’s three, but he goes from being confined to an attic for thirty-two years-old to traveling the British countryside, Scotland, Australia, whatever else. There’s definite development. There’s also the constant danger, constant threat.
The book has three text stories from a later Scream series where Terry is basically a hero. Clearly, over the run of the strip, there were some changes made to the trajectory.
Even with every fifth page effectively being a repeat of the previous page, Monster is a good read. Kenny’s not the best lead, because Wagner and Grant have zero interest in writing a kid, but Terry’s great.
And the art. The gorgeous, beautiful, haunting, horrific, glorious art.
Not quite the “Alan Moore’s Monster” I was expecting, however.
I always forget how much Neil Gaiman threw himself into the DC Universe when he’d write in it. This Secret Origins Special is all about Batman’s villains; a TV investigative journalist has come to Gotham to do a special. Gaiman seems to enjoy writing those scenes–the ones with the behind the scenes, the Batman cameo, the anecdotes about living in Gotham City and the DC Universe in general. He doesn’t do well with the characters though, not the TV reporter and his crew. These framing scenes have art by Mike Hoffman and Kevin Nowlan. They do better at the start than they do the finish. By the finish, they’re getting tired and the detail from the opening isn’t there anymore.
Alan Grant writes the Penguin’s origin story, which isn’t a straight origin. There’s something modern to all of the Secret Origins here. Penguin’s grabbed a childhood nemesis–who just happened to grow up to be a gangster too–and Batman’s trying to find the guy while the Penguin’s torturing him. It’s an okay script, not great, but the Sam Kieth artwork is gorgeous. Kieth does action, he does Batman, he does Penguin, he does gangsters–he does kids. The best part of it is the tenderness Kieth shows when he’s doing the kids. I always forget Kieth really does know what he’s doing.
Gaiman handles the Riddler’s origin, which ties in a lot to the framing plot. The TV crew goes to interview him. Bernie Mireault on pencils, Matt Wagner on inks. Gaiman’s enthusiastic but misguided. Lots of monologue from the Riddler, but never particularly interesting. The details about the giant objects used in Gotham’s advertising in the past is more interesting than the Riddler teasing the TV crew with the truth. The art’s solid though and gets it over the bumps.
Then there’s the Two-Face story. Mark Verheiden writing it, Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano on the art. Broderick’s pencils are full of energy and light on restraint. It’s a messy story and a fairly cool one, focusing on Grace Dent (Harvey’s wife) and her side of the story. Verheiden doesn’t write the TV crew well and Grace Dent’s a little too slight, but it’s a solid enough story. The art is brutally violent and full of anger. Everyone looks miserable and angry about it.
The issue would’ve been better with stronger art throughout from Hoffman and Nowlan and either more or less from Gaiman. The TV crew ceases to be characters after the introduction, like one of the stories came in a page or two short and Gaiman was padding it out. But the Penguin story is good, the Riddler story could be a lot worse and is technically strong, the Two-Face story is super-solid mainstream DC eighties stuff. It’s good stuff.
Writer, Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant and Mark Verheiden; pencillers, Mike Hoffman, Bernie Mireault and Pat Broderick; inkers, Kevin Nowlan, Matt Wagner and Dick Giordano; artist, Sam Kieth; colorists, Tom McCraw and Joe Matt; letterers, Todd Klein, Albert DeGuzman, Mireault and Agustin Mas; editor, Mark Waid; publisher, DC Comics.
Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite are arguably DC’s greatest creations. As respective foils to Superman and Batman they’re perfect critiques of the characters: Mxy the childish trickster-god to a godlike man, and Bat-Mite a child playing god with the man he worships…who is still a child inside, at least emotionally. They’re both insanely powerful and also stand-ins for any precocious young comics readers, trying to imagine the most impossible situations to challenge these men who can do virtually anything. Bat-Mite’s version of the routine underscores the irony with an ill-fitting fan costume – he’s the original comicon cosplayer. World’s Funnest collects Evan Dorkin’s one-shot of the same name from 2000 along with the imps’ first Golden Age appearances and several other quality stories, and it’s a nearly perfect greatest-hits showcase for these uniquely irreverent characters.
The titular story alone is worth the price of admission. With a stunning list of guest artists doing either parodies of their own style (Frank Miller re-creating The Dark Knight Returns)or perfect imitations of classic styles from DC history (David Mazzucchelli doing Jack Kirby’s New Gods), Evan Dorkin sends Mxyzptlk on an apocalyptic death hunt for Bat-Mite across the DC Universe, offhandedly obliterating continuities and timelines with all the slapstick ferocity of Milk and Cheese filtered through an Eltingville Club level of inside-joke comics geekery. Arguably the only flaw is how some of his best jokes rely on the reader’s familiarity with obscure DC references like Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew, but Dorkin goofs on so many other, better known targets like Superfriends and Kingdom Come that there’s something for everyone Like Eltingville Club, this is Dorkin spinning his fanboy self-hatred into comedy gold, subversively under the official DC banner – Batman and Superman are literally murdered within the first few pages, and then murdered several more times before the story is finished, as the Brian Bolland cover promises. It’s a breathtakingly hysterical, once-in-a-corporate-lifetime event that seems even more audacious sixteen years later.
This is followed up by the first appearances, with Siegel and Shuster’s “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk” from 1944 and “Batman Meets Bat-Mite” from 1959, written by Bill Finger and drawn by Sheldon Moldoff. These stories have been reprinted a lot over the years but are obviously essential to an official Bat-Mite and Mxy compendium. Joe Shuster’s original design for Mxy is the most adorable he ever looked, as if a 1920s newspaper comic strip character came to visit Superman’s (slightly) more realistically-rendered world. Bat-Mite skirts the uncanny valley a little closer, resembling a midget in a Batman costume rather than a child – which is technically correct, since as he points out, he’s not an elf but comes from a dimension where all men are his size. This explanation is preceded by one of the greatest panels in comic book history:
Their debuts are followed by another oft-reprinted but essential landmark: Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite’s first crossover story together from a 1960 issue of World’s Finest with art by Batman luminary Dick Sprang, by which point Mxyzptlk was redesigned to be an uglier imp, something more akin to Coiley the Spring Sprite. The story by Jerry Coleman is an inconsequential spectacle, but established the dynamic between the two pests for every subsequent meetup: Bat-Mite as the annoying goody-two-shoes to the more malevolent Mxy. Sightings of either character were pretty scarce afterwards, as the collection’s next story is plucked from nearly 20 years later – an odd six page back-up story from a 1979 Detective Comics entitled Bat-Mite’s New York Adventure! In what’s basically just an excuse for some DC staff to put themselves in a comic, Bat-Mite poofs into the offices of, yes, DC Comics and cajoles the vintage 1979 nerds (not a one without glasses, several with sideburns) to put him in Detective Comics. Which is the comic you just read. Get it? While the joke fails to have a punchline, at least the art by Michael Golden features a disgustingly cute version of Bat-Mite. And to give credit writer Rob Rozakis, while his story fails to be funny it may be the first to realize the self-referential, fourth-wall breaking possibilities of Bat-Mite as a fifth dimensional imp, and by corollary Mr. Mxyzptlk.
DC wasn’t yet ready to full dive into post-modernism, however, as Bat-Mite’s sole appearance in the 80s was a one-page cameo in a 1983 anniversary issue of The Brave and the Bold. Just as in his prior outing, he demands recognition from the corporate overlords (this time breaking the fourth wall outright by addressing the reader) only to be erased by a giant pencil a la Duck Amuck. The art is by Stephen DeStefano, although it’s such early work in his career that his personal style isn’t yet recognizable – unlike the page he contributed 16 years later to Dorkin’s World’s Funnest. While not quite a hidden gem, the inclusion of this forgotten rarity is definitely the kind of bonus indicating the volume’s organizers relished their task. The next two stories are Mxyzptlk tales from the late 80s era of Superman, first with writer/artist John Byrne’s re-introduction of the character and then a later appearance by writers Roger Stern and Tom Peyer, with art by Paris Cullins. Byrne’s story is as exemplary of high quality mainstream superhero comics as anything else he was doing during the 80s, while Stern & Peyer pit a fun novelty matchup of Mxy against Lex Luthor for a change. Cullins, whose art I wasn’t previously familiar with, has a style similar to John Byrne’s only more unhinged – he gets some wild expressions into his human characters, while Mxyzptlk often looks like a demonic gremlin. In other words, cool stuff.
The second best comic in the collection after Dorkin’s is Alan Grant & Kevin O’Neill’s post-Crisis reintroduction of Bat-Mite from 1992, Legend of the Dark Mite, which I cajoled Andrew into reading and reviewing here. Surprisingly, generously also included is Grant & O’Neill’s perennially unpopular follow-up from 1995, Mitefall (it’s great, but shops are still trying to get it out of their discount bins to this day) which continues the adventures of Bob Overdog and Bat-Mite in order to take the piss out of Knightfall storyline. Between this and Dorkin’s story, Bat-Mite really achieves his full potential as an avatar for writers seeking to mock DC from within. Sandwiched between these tales is a more sedate 1999 World’s Finest meeting of Bat-Mite and Mxy, which actually isn’t out of order thanks to an opening caption declaring it to take place “five years earlier” so the continuity commissars can’t complain. The Imp-Possible Dream has a humdrum plot but a surprisingly wry and snarky script by Karl Kesel – only Mxy could really get away with a Batman/Robin gay joke, right? Artist Peter Doherty’s versions of the imps kind of resemble Sylvester P. Smythe of Cracked magazine, while his human figures and faces are unfortunately stiff by comparison. Overall, it’s okay. Really, the book’s sole offensive inclusion is the concluding two-parter from 2008, Lil’ Leaguers, from the series Superman/Batman. In what Mxyzptlk admits to be a sales-generating gimmick (the most crass use of fourth wall breaking), superdeformed chibi versions of the DCU invade Batman and Superman’s world to run around being cuter, more marketable versions of them. Bat-Mite shows up for two pages at the conclusion to explain his collusion in the prank. It’s not a Mxy story, it’s not a Bat-Mite story and there’s a creepy lolicon vibe when lil’ Catwoman jumps on regular-size Batman. While not a bad comic – Rafael Albuquerque’s art is certainly appealing – it feels like unnecessary filler.
Born of the era in comics when superheroes excelled at flights of fancy, Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite’s history is almost as long as Superman and Batman’s. In 1986, the year of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns when superheroes were being put to bed, Alan Moore’s revelation of a malignant Mxy as Superman’s ultimate nemesis in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow spoke slyly to the genre’s sea change; that powerful forces once joyful and innocent were degenerating into something sinister. Bat-Mite has enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years, with media such as the animated Batman: The Brave and the Bold employing him as a post-modern mouthpiece for multiple generations of Bat-fans, with the inspired casting of Paul Reubens. As superheroes are ultimately creatures of the comics medium no matter how many movies and cartoons are shoveled out for the illiterate masses, Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk are creatures representing the medium’s unlimited possibilities for pure anarchic imagination. The talents who contributed to this book are many of the greatest in the industry. World’s Funnest –both the Evan Dorkin story and now the expanded collection bearing the same name, is an absolute must-have.
World’s Funnest; writers, Evan Dorkin, Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, Jerry Coleman, Bob Rozakis, Stephen DeStefano, John Byrne, Roger Stern, Tom Peyer, Alan Grant, Karl Kesel, Michael Green, Mike Johnson; artists, Mike Allred, Frank Cho, Stephen DeStefano, Dave Gibbons, Jaime Hernandez, Stuart Immonen, Phil Jimenez, Doug Mahnke, David Mazzucchelli, Frank Miller, Sheldon Moldoff, Glen Murakami, Alex Ross, Scott Shaw, Jay Stephens, Ty Templeton, Jim Woodring, Joe Shuster, Dick Sprang, Michael Golden, John Byrne, Paris Cullins, Kevin O’Neill, Peter Doherty, Rafael Albuquerque; collection editor, Robin Wildman; publisher, DC Comics.
Batman. Judge Dredd. They ought to be an interesting team-up, right? Judge Dredd is the law, Batman isn’t. There’s a lot of gristle for competing philosophies, if one wanted to do a story with a lot of gristle. The Batman/Judge Dredd Files consists of three one-shots and a two-parter. It took DC eight years to get these comics out. The first one-shot, Judgment on Gotham came out in 1991 (I remember buying it, my first exposure to Dredd). The second issue of the two-parter, Die Laughing, came out in 1999. The first one-shot still stands out. It’s an interesting mix of a 2000AD Dredd adventure with a Batman comic, with some truly beautiful art from Simon Bisley. The rest of the Files is a waste of time (through it varies depending on the one-shot).
Since Judgment’s the only one worth spending much time on (or reading at all), I’ll go through its “sequels” first.
Each of the included issues–including both parts of Die Laughing–have different artists. They have the same two writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner, who both wrote a lot of Dredd and a lot of Batman. It seems like they should be the perfect creators for these team-ups, but things go dreadfully wrong with the second special and never get any better.
Vendetta in Gotham, with some rather light art from Cam Kennedy, is mostly about Batman and Dredd fighting while Scarface and Ventriloquist kill some kids. No, really, they’re going to kill some kids. It’s a good Scarface and Ventriloquist story from Grant and Wagner, but it’s a terrible comic. Batman and Dredd’s issue long fist fight is a bore. The whole thing is a setup for the next special, which promises something interesting given the title–Die Laughing.
Only the next special is The Ultimate Riddle, with some incredibly wanting painted art by Carl Critchlow and Dermot Power (they split the special). Judgment on Gotham, with that glorious Bisley, shouldn’t have been the visual standard for the team-ups. Before I forget, it’s interesting how the Batmobiles in each series look like whatever’s in the movies at the time. It’s like DC wasn’t sure a 2000AD reader coming to the team-up would be familiar with the latest Batman continuity.
Except there’s a terrible tie-in to Zero Hour in The Ultimate Riddle, which has Dredd and Batman trying to get out of a Most Dangerous Game-type situation. It’s dramatically inert and often really dumb, but Dredd’s got a criminal along with him and it does provide some comic relief. There’s very little for 2000AD fans in Riddle, so it helps a lot.
Then comes Die Laughing, with the Joker. DC published it as two issues, each with different artists. One wonders if Ultimate Riddle originally had a similar publishing plan. Anyway, Glenn Fabry does the art on the first issue, Jim Murray does the art on the second. Both painted; it’s Batman/Judge Dredd after all. It needs to be painted.
Fabry’s painting is okay. Murray’s is bad. Murray’s is a little more ambitious though. Fabry’s just churning it out as fast as he can. There’s no enthusiasm to Fabry’s issue, just magnificent competence. Murray flops, but he tries for some humor, which is important since the story’s so strange. It’s like a 2000AD Dredd story, with the Dark Judges trying to take over a hedonist biodome (or some such location), but Batman’s around. And he gets together with Judge Anderson. He seduces her, rather creepily. It’s disappointing. (For her; Batman’s a bit of a tool in Die Laughing).
Oh, and the promise of the Joker and Judge Death and Dredd and Batman and so on? It’s lame. Wagner and Grant have no story involving Joker and Batman going to Mega-City One. Did they sign a deal for these series with DC after the success of Judgment and spend almost a decade churning out lame scripts?
Now for Judgment on Gotham, which features Dredd in Gotham hunting down the Scarecrow. Judge Anderson’s along. Bisley’s Anderson is a lot different than Murray’s. She gets to be just as iconic, as a female Judge, as the boys do in Bisley’s Gotham, whereas Murray tries for cheesecake in Die Laughing. Fabry does a little better, but not much. Her writing is terrible in Die Laughing. It’s great in Judgment. Judgment is this great Judge Dredd 2000AD story where Batman guest stars.
The comic has that early nineties Batman enthusiasm–after the movies, DC thought they’d get new readers and went all out creatively. Bisley’s perfect for it. His Gotham is nightmarish but incredibly realistic. It’s scary because Bisley’s got so much reality to the physicality of everything, he can sell the darkness. This approach to the painting is what the other team-up specials choke on (and what Vendetta doesn’t even attempt). Bisley’s engaging in the characters’ iconic natures every page. Even Scarecrow. It’s glorious to behold.
At the time Judgment on Gotham came out–and I was thirteen years old–I remember Scarecrow seemed a strange villain choice for a team-up. But having since read some 2000AD–by Grant and Wagner–Scarecrow makes such a better villain for Dredd. Mean Machine Angel shows up too, facing off against Batman, who’s hilariously out of place. Judgment has the humor of a Dredd comic. The rest of the collection doesn’t.
I didn’t even know there were subsequent Batman/Judge Dredd team-ups. I’ve always had a decent memory of Judgment (Bisley’s art is fantastic), but it’s better than I remember. Even when compared to its entirely lacking follow-ups, Judgment on Gotham is a high point for “event” crossovers.
Judgment on Gotham; writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Simon Bisley; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kelly Puckett and Dennis O’Neil. Vendetta in Gotham; writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Cam Kennedy; colorist, Digital Chameleon; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Dennis O’Neil and Richard Burton. The Ultimate Riddle; writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Carl Critchlow and Dermot Power; letterer, Richard Starkings; editors, John Tomlinson, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Dennis O’Neil and Steve MacManus. Die Laughing; writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Glenn Fabry, Jim Murray and Jason Brashill; letterer, Ellie de Ville; editors, Andy Diggle, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Dennis O’Neil and David Bishop.
Kevin O’Neill doing Batman is already a thing on its own, but O’Neill doing a “realistic” Bat-Mite story. Writer Alan Grant is perfect for the material–a criminal recounts his crime to Batman, this time explaining how he wasn’t hallucinating on peyote, but he was actually attacked and then somewhat befriended by an inter-dimensional elf in a Batman costume.
There’s constant drug use from the narrator so it’s never exactly believable, but there’s so much muted enthusiasm in the way Grant presents the story, the reader wants it to be real. More than just real, the reader wants Batman to discover Bat-Mite, even though they have two very separate storylines.
Grant opens the comic with a humorous tag–“this is not an imaginary story”–it’s just the ramblings of someone whose brain has been destroyed by hallucinogens. It’s really strong work from Grant–the art is outstanding and all, but Grant finds the right angle to tell the story. He plays with the Batman mythos without having to address Batman the character at all. This story belongs to the icon, not a man.
And the dimension of elves dressed up as DC superheroes fighting–with the O’Neill artwork (not to mention it being early nineties DC superheroes)–is just wonderful.
Legend of the Dark Mite; writer, Alan Grant; artist, Kevin O’Neill; colorist, Olyoptics; letterer, John Workman; editors, Bill Kaplan and Archie Goodwin; publisher, DC Comics.
Gibson finally gets a story with content matching his style to my liking–lizard-men aliens who zap you and make your worst fears attack you so you lose your mind. Very fantastical stuff in a very fantastical setting–a housing block designed to be a maze, only its abandoned because no one could find their way around (thanks to hoodlums pulling off the directional signs).
Oddly, after coming up with such a strange setting, Grant and Wagner don’t do anything with it. It’s a lame shoot out and then a “rah rah” Judge Dredd twist at the end. It makes a fine final panel for the comic (in its last issue here), but the story’s a flop. Except for that Gibson art.
Gibson illustrates the other four stories in the issue to various effect. Grant and Wagner cowrote all of them as well. There are the humanizing ones–like when Dredd’s got to save his niece or when Walter gets into trouble (I missed Walter)–and the funnier ones–Dredd and a fascist alien, Dredd and, oddly, a dirty judge (it’s funny by the end), so it’s a good mix of what Grant and Wagner do with the character and setting.
I’m just upset Mazny Block wasn’t better utilized.
Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Ian Gibson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Some real good art from Dave Gibbons closes this issue of Crime File. His story is the least in terms of writing–Wagner’s script is rushed–but it’s very cool to see young Gibbons on Dredd. Unlike the rest of the issue, which has good (though awkwardly not great) art from Barry Mitchell, Gibbons even keeps the Ian Gibson chin for Dredd. It’s just not so cartoonish.
Mitchell has some great panel composition and layouts, but his judge figures seems out of place. They seem a little too small, a little too static for the panels, which are rather detailed otherwise. Still, he knows how to tell a story and it works.
There are four stories in this Crime File. The first might be the best–irresponsible kids bouncing around the city in giant plastic pinballs–though the showdown between Dredd and a psychic insurance criminal is pretty cool in the second. Mitchell does better with Mega-City One from the rooftops than the streets (it feels too reserved).
It’s a solid issue. Very readable, some good Dredd punchlines, even if Wagner and Grant (who co-writes on one of the stories) aren’t trying very hard.
Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Dave Gibbons and Barry Mitchell; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Ron Smith only illustrates a fourth of this issue. Then “big-chin” Ian Gibson takes over for the rest. Something about Gibson’s cartoony style doesn’t work for me on Dredd. He goes too obviously to the humor and if Judge Dredd is nothing but a laugh, it can’t sustain itself past a punchline.
The writing–of three stories–in this issue is decent. Not so much the last story, which has to do with a game show where contestants try to top each other’s couples’ confessions to felonies. Something about it doesn’t work. Writers Wagner and Grant don’t give it any charm and Gibson makes everyone so visually repugnant, there’s no sympathy to it. There’s no hook.
The first story is the best. And not just because it has the Smith art. It’s Dredd hunting down dirty cops in the candy trade. All of a sudden Crime File has the problem of too much picking and choosing on the 2000 AD source material. The assembled stories for this issue don’t go together well. They seem too forced a compilation.
The second story, with Dredd defending cute aliens slaughtered for part of their brains, is okay. Gibson does real well on the cute aliens. Wagner and Grant are a tad too cynical for the story though. It goes for an ironic cheap cuteness; it gets there, but another creator team could’ve gotten it further with sincerity.
Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Ron Smith and Ian Gibson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
The first story, with art by Ian Gibson, is a flop. Gibson’s style might be how I always think of Judge Dredd–visibly British, visibly stilted. Such long faces. Literally.
Grant and Wagner’s script is about a Block War, sort of. There’s a simple explanation though and a moral to the story. Dredd might even get touchy-feely at the end. It doesn’t come off with the Gibson art.
But the second story is a major improvement, with Colin Wilson taking over. Wilson makes one bad style choice–he casts one character as a noir villain instead of a luckless sap, which is more appropriate; I think an evil mustache is involved. The story’s solid. Dredd versus loan sharks who keep your loved one in suspended animation until you pay.
The last story, again with Wilson art, isn’t particularly good. It’s better than the first story, with Wilson showing how the right artist can make anything in a Grant and Wagner story work, but Dredd versus hackers is boring. Except how well Grant and Wagner forecast cybersecurity threats.
Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Ian Gibson and Colin Wilson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Again, it’s an excellent issue. Eagle really puts together a great combination of Dredd–though it isn’t hard with the Smith art. He just gets better and better throughout the issue; the third manages to have almost Eisner-esque thugs, the ultra-realistic future, but then the slightly cartoonish Dredd. It’s awesome.
Alan Grant joins Wagner on the scripts. The first one is a longer story involving Dredd going undercover and a bunch of other stuff. It’s going into space, it’s introducing aliens real quick and criminal interstellar shipping activities. The scenes are good–especially with the aliens; Grant and Wagner don’t hesitate to use them as a mean punchline–but the overall story is a little broad.
The second story, involving alien mobsters wrecking havoc on Mega-City One’s underworld is goofy but the storytelling is really tight. The first story is from two issues of 2000 AD and they aren’t paced well together. The second and third story are so much stronger.
The third story’s sort of the best. It’s just a Dredd action story with great Smith art. There’s some future details, but it’s like Grant and Wagner apply all their action experience, usually done in broad strokes, finely.
It works out.
Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
This issue has two stories–a long feature (or a combination of at least three 2000 A.D. chapters) and a backup. Wagner and Grant write both, Ron Smith does the art on both. Smith’s an interesting artist for Dredd because he doesn’t take any time with the judges. Both stories require judges to be distinguished, Smith doesn’t care. But he does care about the rest of the story.
The rest of the story–for the feature–has to do with a town of refugees and what happens when Dredd brings the law. Lots of big action and small future post-apocalyptic stuff. Wagner and Grant do a whole exile thing with the criminals; it’s fairly awesome Dredd. Once one gets over Smith’s inability to draw Dredd.
The backup has judge impersonators (while the feature just has lots of judges). The scheming criminals distinguish it (in their silliness) most of all.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Dave Elliot; publisher, Quality Periodicals.
It’s an excellent issue about a vigilante hitting various organized crime guys in Mega-City One. Does it make any sense for there to be mobsters above the Judges? No. It’s sort of weird and has something of a retro vibe–like it doesn’t really star Judge Dredd but his training officer.
Nice art from Ezquerra and Ian Gibson. There’s a lot of precise action in the story–Dredd is sure the vigilante has been trained as a Judge and the vigilante has a couple intricate plans to execute. The art on those sequences is real strong and would be surprisingly ambitious if Ezquerra and Gibson didn’t also take a very grand approach to Dredd himself this story.
It’s big and awesome.
The backup has Dredd fighting a giant ape robot. Ezquerra’s art is inventive, Malcolm Shaw’s script is short and goofy.
That lead story is rather good Judge Dredd.
Writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Malcolm Shaw; artists, Ian Gibson and Carlos Ezquerra; letterers, Tom Frame and Stan Richardson; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Quality Periodicals.
This issue of Dredd seems to be the strange issue, like they found all the absurdly funny strips from 2000 AD and gave them their own issue. And artist Ron Smith works for it. He has a jovial, cartoon-y style. He doesn’t draw Dredd very well, but everything else is good. Dredd–and the rest of Judges–seem inserted and static.
Wagner and Grant’s stories range from what happens with the morbidly obese following the Apocalypse War, where the foodstuffs of the future come from (it’s oddly prescient), then a rabid robo-dog one (probably the weakest) and one about plastic surgery to all look alike. Besides the robo-dog story, Wagner and Grant are certainly getting better at their sci-fi elements. Sure, Dredd and the Judge stuff feels shoehorned in, but shoehorned into a thought-out story.
Mega-City One’s not quite plausible, but can be intriguing.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Dredd has his showdown with the surviving Angel brothers. It’s an oddly incomplete story just because Walter has a silent but important role and Wagner and Grant never get around to resolving it. At least not in this collection of progs; maybe in the actual 2000 A.D. they got to it in a good amount of time.
There’s some more silly stuff–the rat going to get Dredd at the Hall of Justice–but the showdown is good. Wagner and Grant pace it out well and Ezqerra’s energy is good. The final resolution for the Judge Child is fine; pointless, but fine.
Unfortunately, the second story–with nice, if too comedic, art by Jose Casanovas Jr.–is idiotic. Wagner and Grant try too much for social commentary. And they don’t even have anything to say, they’re often clearly padding out the exposition.
But they do reference the Apocalypse War well.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Carlos Ezquerra and Jose Casanovas Jr.; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Besides having some very odd angles from Ezqerra, this issue does pretty well. Even if Wagner and Grant have a really, really silly setup.
The Judge Child, across the galaxy, is able to control minds back on Earth. And I think read minds too. He wrecks havoc as he plots against Dredd. Part of that plot is releasing Fink Angel, the creepiest of them–the one with the pet rat who wears a hat–and that part of the issue works out well.
Unfortunately, then the Judge Child raises Mean Machine from the dead. So he can control minds across the galaxy and resurrect people. It’s silly.
Dredd has a good encounter with Fink; what Ezqerra doesn’t do in detail, he at least breaks out well into panels.
Besides the goofy elements and some wonky art, it’s a rather good issue. Wagner and Grant keep the storytelling precise and brisk.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
It’s a tough issue. Not in a bad way, but in a post-Apocalypse War, the future is a tough place, tough issue. Wagner, Grant and Ezquerra do both stories. The writing is better than the art, but Ezquerra does pretty well with it. There’s humor and humanity. Can’t ask for much more.
The first story has Dredd dealing with a robot city’s tyrannical ruler. Wagner and Grant manage to make it silly and still rather affecting; maybe because Dredd seems to be in actual danger after a point. And the handling of the War’s aftermath is fantastic.
The second story–the much longer one–has a fungus outbreak putting the struggling Mega-City One in danger and Dredd has to race to stop it. It’s a rather good story, with Wagner and Grant roaming with the focus for a while.
The toughness never feels overdone or tongue in cheek.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
It’s almost a great issue of Dredd. The opening story, with Wagner and Grant sending Dredd into the Cursed Earth (no longer called Mutieland) with a bunch of cadets for a test, is awesome. Smith’s art is good, the story has a nice flow and the supporting cast of cadets is good. It’s probably the best mix of narrative and Wagner wanting to expound on the judges’ rigorous training.
Unfortunately, the second half of the issue has two Judge Anderson stories and neither of them is particularly good. The first one at least has good art from Kim Raymond. Raymond gives it almost a horror comic vibe, which is appropriate given Anderson is fighting a demon.
The last story, with too busy art from Ian Gibson, is really lame. Grant and Wagner write the final one together, with Wagner writing the first Anderson alone. So he’s worse with help, apparently.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith, Kim Raymond and Ian Gibson; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame, Tony Jacob and Steve Potter; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
It’s an uneven issue. Except the art, of course. Smith does a great job on the art. And Wagner and Grant do have some highs. The issue opens with the low–and the only time there’s a lot of forced symbolism about Dredd and the law. I think it comes up later, but the writers actually counter it.
The highlight of the issue is about Dredd being on graffiti detail. It’s not a violent story at all and it sort of just shows regular life for a kid in Mega-City One. Because Grant and Wagner open with it being a Dredd story, then switch the protagonist, it feels expansive, something these short stories usually don’t.
There’s a so-so story about a cult and then a murder mystery. The latter tries too hard with future details, but it’s solidly written. Wagner and Grant have a good tone this issue.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith and Robin Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
There’s a lot of imaginative Ron Smith art this issue. He does an excellent job mixing action with setting detail, especially since all of Wagner’s stories have something to do with Mega-City One, whether with the block architecture or with the people.
Unfortunately, Wagner’s stories of Dredd and the general public, even when they’re good, are too much of Wagner trying to play up Dredd’s ideals. The first story has a minor crime turn into a major, the second has Dredd showing compassion (while appearing not to show compassion), the third and fourth are Walter stories.
The final story, from Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell, is this way too conceptually big, but way too small in terms of pages–and Smith’s scale–story of a runaway mobile traffic thing.
These Mega-City One details, even with good art, are really hard to take one after another. There’s no story.
Writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Peter Knight and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
The first story is about an ugly clinic (people go to get plastic surgery to look ugly). It’s a little silly, but it does get more interesting as it goes along. The problem is writers Wagner and Grant want to basically do some future musing and they don’t really have a narrative to it, much less a reason for Dredd to get involved.
It’s a really weird ending too, because Dredd wants to shut down the ugly clinics and has to figure out a way to do it legally (in Wagner and Grant’s terms of legal). Only… I couldn’t figure out why he cares so much.
The second story has a community group worried about the judges being too harsh. Does the shrill harpy change her mind about her shallow, liberal affectations when confronted with actual criminals?
Besides being obvious, it works out.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Peter Knight and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
The Apocalypse War saga ends. There’s some silliness–like Wagner and Grant referring to Dredd’s “Apocalypse Squad”–but most of the comic works out, at least as far as narrative.
Dredd’s got to take care of the enemy’s mega city, which proves easy thanks to Anderson (who the writers use to get out of plotting difficulties), and then he heads home to win the war.
There’s a little bit too much exposition and it doesn’t work because Wagner and Grant are overextending themselves. They’re giving more information than the story needs to succeed and it weighs down a lot of sequences. The subplots don’t really provide any additional texture, they just fill pages.
And those pages have really bad art. Ezquerra is worse than he was in the previous issue. His composition is worse, his detail is worse. It’s a hideous looking comic.
But the writing is effective. So… yeah.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
From the start, Ezquerra’s art is off. His figures are weak, his composition is worse. Maybe he just burned out on all the war stuff–there are constant empty backgrounds, like he’s trying to do less work. It actually feels like someone doing an Ezquerra impression and and a rushed one.
As for the writing… Wagner and Grant have two things to do in the issue. First is to resolve the Soviet brainwashing of the Chief Judge. Dredd has to infiltrate and take him out, which doesn’t cause Dredd any consternation because the Chief Judge knows he’s been brainwashed and wants to die. What that plot lacks in dramatic impact, at least the infiltrating should be interesting (and the extraction).
Sadly, Ezquerra’s weak art hurts it a lot.
Ditto the second plot point, the judges waging war against the Soviets. Or getting ready to.
The art significantly impairs the issue.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Wagner and Grant amp up the block war storyline, but turn it into a long investigation. Dredd is trying to track down the person responsible for the block war mania. It’s strange, once the suspect is identified, he also refers to the condition as block mania. It’s a small thing, but it does show where Wagner and Grant aren’t paying attention.
The investigation is exciting, with some very nice art from Smith and Steve Dillon. There’s enough content the issue feels very substantial, especially the way the story of the suspect goes. The cliffhanger is a good one and kind of cool to be the aftermath of a mundane investigation. It’s well-done, but it’s not as interesting.
So a good feature. Then the second, shorter story has Dredd stopping criminals while the people around them respond with apathy. It’s neat one.
The big story was far more impressive though.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith, Steve Dillon and Brian Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Not a lot happens this issue–well, there’s a lot of block warring and very little the judges can do about it–but there doesn’t seem to be an overarching story. Except why everyone wants to fight in a block war. I was sort of hoping Wagner or Grant would lay out the battles with some connections, but they just hop around.
The blocks all have memorable names–everyone and everything in Judge Dredd has a memorable name–and the initial conflict does have some block vs. block motivations, but pretty soon everything goes crazy and they don’t much matter.
There’s a lot of good art from McMahon and Smith and the writers definitely keep the comic moving–not the easiest task as it’s a compilation–but it’s all action. There’s personality, sure, and some great details, but there’s not a lot of ambition (even measured, Dredd ambition) going on.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
It’s not a bad ending. It’s not a good one, but it’s also not a bad one. Writers Wagner and Alan Grant–one of them does a terrible job on the first half of the issue, with the resolution to the Angel family, where the writer goes overboard with exposition. Especially about Dredd’s judge training.
The Angel story, with McMahon art, is vaguely pointless. The second half of the issue resolves the Judge Child, but the first half is basically a western. There are a few good moments, but it’s all rather derivative of other, familiar Westerns. The writer doesn’t set up the setting well, which doesn’t help either.
The last half of the issue has Dredd fighting a robot army. It figures into the big plot, but it’s still okay. Again, there are a couple surprises.
It’s too bad the finale is so rushed. It definitely needed more pages.
Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Wagner finishes the Chief Judge Cal storyline. There are a couple surprises before the end, with Wagner in something of a hurry. Smith doesn’t get much space on the art, which is unfortunate, but he uses the space he gets really well at times. It’s a satisfactory conclusion, but the denouement is way too abrupt.
The next story has Dredd contending with a block where people are reverting back to apes. Wagner gets a lot of good jokes in, especially with how he writes the misadventures of the affected residents. But he’s just as sympathetic when things go really bad. It’s an excellent story, with wonderful art from McMahon. He does well with the ape people in action.
The last story, with Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell writing, is a little obvious. Dredd is suspicious of an amusement center where people act out their violent urges.
Overall, it’s fine stuff.
Writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell; artists, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.
Wow, the first Terminator story in Presents. I thought they’d gone through all the licenses, but no. It’s not terrible. Grant’s writing is adequate and Teran’s art has an energy to it. He’s a little confusing in action scenes (Grant’s plotting hurts there too) but he’s got some great designs.
Martin and Rude’s The Moth is just a lot of fun. It borrows some Batman elements and I think Rude does an homage to Spider-Man in one panel. The Moth’s a superhero (maybe) posing as a supervillain and playing mobsters against each other. Rude’s art would make anything good, but Martin’s writing is fine.
Seagle outdoes himself on My Vagabond Days, revealing his protagonist to be not just unlikable, but idiotic. This kid is a complete moron. He’s bringing rocks to Canada because Canada might not have rocks. Maybe Seagle is writing him younger than Gaudino is drawing him….
The Terminator, Suicide Run; story by Alan Grant; art by Frank Teran; lettering by Gary Fields. The Moth; story by Gary Martin; pencils by Steve Rude; inks by Andy Bish; lettering by Willie Schubert. My Vagabond Days; story by Steven T. Seagle; art by Stefano Gaudiano; lettering by Charity Rodriguez. Edited by Randy Stradley and Terry Waldron.
Will Lex Luthor create Skynet? Will Lois Lane’s husband get jealous of her ogling Superman? Will Alan Grant get credit (and residuals) for coming up with the name Terminatrix? No to all three, I believe, unless Dark Horse and DC start doing these crossovers again.
It’s strange the epilogue cliffhanger for the series–Lex Luthor is going to take over the world–is something DC couldn’t follow up on without Dark Horse’s permission and participation….
They probably went that route to make the series feel a little less like a complete waste of time. Did it work? No.
Worse, Perkins is back inking Pugh and the art’s even sloppier than before. I feel bad because I only read the comic because of the Pugh artwork and it’s so weak, I’ve done little but comment on it (and mock the series as whole, but, really, what else could I have done?).
Writer, Alan Grant; penciller, Steve Pugh; inker, Mike Perkins; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Phil D. Amara, Eddie Berganza, Tim Ervin-Gore and Maureen McTigue; publishers, Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics.
Oh, no, will Superman be able to save the world from the Terminators? Crossovers like this one must be incredibly frustrating to plot because there’s no chance things aren’t going to be returning to the status quo at the end (I mean, did Dark Horse even have a regular Terminator series starring Sarah and John Conner at this time or were they just special guest stars for the crossover?).
Maybe I’m just mad Superman goes through all this trouble to save the future–a big nuclear explosion and EMP to wipe out all the machines on earth–when he’s just going back in time to prevent it from ever happening. It’s not like he had to complete the one goal to go back, it’s just filler for the pages.
More cameos here too–Lex Luthor shows up for a bit, weren’t he and Supergirl dating at one point?
Writer, Alan Grant; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Phil D. Amara, Eddie Berganza, Tim Ervin-Gore and Maureen McTigue; publishers, Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics.
Well, it’s not just Superman Pugh’s drawing funny–he’s inking himself here too–it’s a lot of people. Supergirl is who I’m thinking about in particular, Pugh gives her an expression like she’s just eaten a barrel of beans and is racing to the john.
Actually, most of the art’s bland. Pugh’s probably racing through this assignment himself, but it’s always shocking to me how mediocre 1990s comic art could get. There’s mediocrity today, of course, but at least they try to photoshop it a little, give it some oomph. This comic was, presumably, a big crossover event; one no one cared about at all?
The writing’s pretty lame too, but at least it’s competent in the continuity-heavy sense. It’s a Superman comic guest-starring Terminators, nothing else. Between Supergirl’s fight scene and Steel’s constant presence, it’s pretty clear.
Honestly, I’m really curious to see how it turns out.
Writer, Alan Grant; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Phil D. Amara, Eddie Berganza, Mike D. Hansen and Maureen McTigue; publishers, Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics.