Judge Dredd’s Crime File 4 (November 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #4

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.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Ron Smith and Ian Gibson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 2 (September 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #2

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.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 1 (August 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #1

Judge Dredd’s Crime File has three stories in this first issue, all written by John Wagner. They all have good art–John Byrne, Ron Smith, Colin Wilson–they all have slightly different art. Wilson’s future landscape is more stylish than Byrne’s, for example. Ron Smith is the most rounded for what Wagner’s trying to do with the differing stories.

The most significant thing about these stories in relation to Judge Dredd is the lack of Dredd. The second story, with the Smith art, has the most Dredd–it’s about these alien plants people are growing but the plants turn into little alien monsters. Dredd is investigating. But in the first story, the one with the Byrne art, Wagner goes way more into the game of the future than Dredd’s quelling of a footballer-like riot.

The third story–Wilson’s–has some guy going crazy and shooting up civilians. It’s about urban plight in the future. It’s not Dredd’s story (even though the guy ends up gunning for Dredd in a very cheap action movie revenge manner).

For the unfamiliar Dredd reader, Crime File might seem an odd collection of stories but it’s actually some of Wagner’s best work.

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, John Byrne, Ron Smith and Colin Wilson; colorist, John M. Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 35 (September 1986)

Judge Dredd #35

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.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Dave Elliot; publisher, Quality Periodicals.

Judge Dredd 33 (July 1986)

Judge Dredd #33

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.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 28 (February 1986)

Judge Dredd #28

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.

B- 

CREDITS

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.

Judge Dredd 27 (January 1986)

Judge Dredd #27

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.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith and Robin Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 25 (November 1985)

Judge Dredd #25

Smith handles the art on both stories.

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.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Peter Knight and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 19 (May 1985)

Judge Dredd #19

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.

B+ 

CREDITS

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.

Judge Dredd 18 (April 1985)

Judge Dredd #18

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.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 17 (March 1985)

Judge Dredd #17

The issue has two stories–one from Mills, one from Wagner, both with art by Ron Smith. The first story, Mills’s, has a regular citizen turning into a were-dinosaur. It’s kind of dumb, but Mills’s plotting of the story is fantastic. The way he starts external to the eventual characters and moves in–presumably from chapter to chapter in the original 2000 AD progs.

The big showdown between Dredd and the monster happens in Old New York City, which looks a lot like seventies New York City (fire escapes, rooftops). It’s good Mega-City One has so many locations because the showdown wouldn’t look good in the futuristic settings… but tragically haunted man wandering rainswept New York? It works.

The second story has Dredd investigating a television game show. Wagner does a great job with both the mystery and the solution. The setup is rather imaginative too.

Excellent issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 5 (December 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #5

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.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 4 (November 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #4

It’s another strong issue, with Wagner giving Dredd a series of imaginative sci-fi encounters. The first one is the most traditional, with Dredd trying to track down a human visitor to a strange alien world. But Wagner has already established the character–who has contracted a strange alien disease–so Dredd has to enter that story.

But there’s also some drama with Dredd and his fellow judges based on his treatment of one of the other judges. Wagner probably could tell this subplot better but it works well enough.

The second big story has Dredd and company against an intergalactic salesman. It’s s silly story, but s fun one. Some very nice start throughout it too. Smith handles the action well.

The last story has the Angel family on a desert planet. It’s a little too much how Wild West Wagner makes the planet.

But it’s still real strong.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 3 (October 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #3

A lot of the issue is rough going. Wagner tries out a few things on the second two planets–Dredd and company go to three–and has some success. But the adventure on the first planet, which has a bunch of different alien species at war, but as televised entertainment, is tedious.

Still, Wagner somehow distracts from Dredd not getting any clues about the location of the Judge Child. It’s just a trip through the galaxy, really.

The second story is more horror-influenced, which leads to some silly elements (like a giant monster in outer space grabbing Dredd’s spaceship), but the stuff in the scary castle is good. McMahon’s art on this section is utterly fantastic; he revels in the creepiness.

The last planet is prehistoric cavemen, with Wagner narrating from a storyteller’s song. It’s a cool little digression. Nice art from McMahon too.

That first story hurts though.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 2 (September 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #2

Wagner takes Dredd and company–though the company is rather indistinct–on an intergalactic quest. They’re in pursuit of the Angel family, who have kidnapped the Judge Child. There’s not a lot on the pursuit, but rather a series of imaginative sci-fi encounters.

The first has Dredd encountering a space station where the computer has taken over. Kind of 2001 with a lot of action. Not entirely original, but it works.

The second encounter, on a planet where the humans can download their consciousness into chips to live forever (another person loans out their body for the consciousness’s usage), is the best. This section is where Dredd gets a sidekick and Wagner gets to write the most.

Since Dredd is hopping from planet to planet, it never feels episodic.

The finale has him against a living, hungry planet.

Some great art from McMahon, Bolland and Smith throughout.

Excellent stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 1 (August 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #1

Judge Dredd heads into the Cursed Earth looking for a mutant child who’s going to have to save Mega-City One, or so one of the pre-cogs says. Writer John Wagner comes up with some decent encounters for Dredd–this issue’s primary villain is a “garbage god” who has thousands of slaves mining antiques from pre-apocalypse Memphis for him. There’s an ancient Egypt thing too; it doesn’t make much sense, but the Brian Bolland and Ron Smith are is excellent so it doesn’t need to make any.

The series is more compiled entries from 2000 AD but never feels too bumpy–with Wagner so focused on Dredd trying to find the child, it’s mostly action. The biggest bump comes after the end of the Garbage God episode, with Dredd continuining his hunt into Texas.

That finale, which leads to the cliffhanger, makes the issue seem a tad bloated.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, McMahon; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 13 (November 1984)

Judge Dredd #13

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.

B 

CREDITS

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.

Judge Dredd 12 (October 1984)

Judge Dredd #12

It’s a surprisingly awesome issue, with Wagner giving Dredd a big dumb sidekick, but one with a lot of character and comic relief value. They have to get back to the surface (Dredd and company escaped underground), so there’s a decent action sequence when Wagner brings them up against some other judges.

He also explains why the rest of the judges are falling in line with evil, crazy Chief Judge Cal. It’s sort of obvious and should have been handled better, but once Wagner has it out of the way, the rest of the issue’s smooth.

Especially once the focus turns to Dredd’s annoying robot. Wagner is able to follow it through the evil judges’ side of the story and since Chief Judge Cal is crazy, it’s very amusing. His jokes are a lot less forced now.

There’s some great art from Ewins at the end too.

Real good issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Garry Leach, Ron Smith and Brett Ewins; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 4 (February 1984)

Judge Dredd #4

The feature story, with Mega-City One under attack from mutants from the Cursed Earth, is fairly strong. Wagner foreshadows throughout the story, but gently enough it just looks like he’s doing a lot of texture. He’s enthusiastic about describing the various settings; even when connections seem obvious later, when he’s introducing them, Wagner never draws too much attention.

There’s a weird bigotry against the mutants. It’s very matter of fact and institutionalized. While Dredd is harsh, Wagner–and the comic–subtly work to make sure it isn’t glib. In the second story, a short one about a judge getting killed, Wagner has an unsurprising plot twist at the finish. But Dredd’s reaction to the twist and the story’s resolution are where Wagner most visibly gets to show the sincerity.

Some excellent Bolland art at the beginning–and for the disaster scene; Ron Smith does okay enough on the rest.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

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