Previewing ‘Lawless: Boom Town’ – Incredible Thrills, Magnificent Characterisation And Now With Added Musical Numbers

by Richard Bruton

Welcome to Badrock, frontier mining town, way, way out from Justice Department control. And welcome to Marshal Metta Lawson, who’s been bringing law to the lawless for over 50 episodes of Lawless now, in one of the greatest serials spinning out of the Judge Dredd Megazine.

Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade have been crafting this incredibly great strip for 50 episodes and four collections now, with all the ups and downs of Badrock chronicled perfectly by Abnett and illustrated in meticulous to the point of insanity style by Winslade, an artist you could never, ever accuse of leaving anything off the page.

If you don’t know the saga of Colonial Marshal Metta Lawson by now, there’s a whole world of incredible adventure, fabulous characterisation, thrills, spills, conspiracies, double-dealing, corporate greed, a goodly amount of swearing from Lawson, plus a great way of making an entrance…

Anyway, just to give you the very briefest of catch-ups, Colonial Marshal Metta Lawson has come into the frontier town of Badrock to bring her own version of the Law to this wild west outpost, a very different version of the Law to that seen in Mega-City One. But she’s already had the hardest of jobs, facing resistance from all concerned when she attempts to draw the disparate parts of Badrock together. And then, when she finally unites Meks, Muties, Uplifts, and Humans, she falls foul of Munce, Inc. who send in the big, big guns, figuring best to wipe Badrock from the face of the planet rather than let certain uncomfortable truths come out.

Now, with Book 4, having narrowly avoided said wiping from the face of the planet, Badrock’s turned into a thriving boom town, with Metta Lawson responsible for transforming it into a free trade zone, where everyone, muties, uplifts, meks, humans get along and the alien Zhind come to trade.

Well, that’s the theory anyway, one that’s about to be tested – hard – by the forces of free trade, criminality, greedy corporations, an SJS detachment just waiting to see the experiment fail, and many, many secrets about to come out.

I’ve made no secret of my absolute love of Lawless, both with Abnett’s excellent writing and Winslade’s incredibly detailed and quite beautifully rendered b&w artwork. And the true gift of Lawless is how Abnett and Winslade have managed to navigate through so much and still always come up with soemthing fresh, fascinating, thrilling, and involving around the wonderfully varied cast of expertly realised characters.

It’s long been a favourite of so many, myself included, in the Megazine, but having it in collected form just gives it fresh life, the storylines playing out more naturally than in serialised form. Seeing Lawson and her gang head off out to the badlands to deal with what initially looks, to many except Lawson, a Zhind massacre of new settlers is a thrilling first half to Boom Town, but it’s the second half where the story really does the best of Lawless, dealing with the town itself, the machinations, the corruptions, the cast facing up to their demons and their secrets. It’s a brilliant, brilliant second half.

And then comes The Ballad of Badrock, the frankly insanely magnificent double-sized 50th episode that appeared in a Christmas Megazine, almost completely done in song, something Abnett and Winslade were aided with by Abnett’s daughter and her partner, roping in a host of performers, all over zoom. A product of lockdown craziness, Ballad of Badrock is no mere novelty thing though, it’s a stunning thing, giving readers a perfect recap of recent events, having a hell of a lot of fun whilst doing it, with Abnett managing to figure out a reason for the singing outburst AND set up what comes next.

Seriously, invention, craft, inspiration, and sheer damn wonderful read… that would be what you get from Lawless.

Lawless Book 4: Boom Town

Written by Dan Abnett, art by Phil Winslade, letters by Jim Campbell

Published by 2000 AD / Rebellion on 23 June 2022

(Boom Town originally serialised in Judge Dredd Megazine #415-423, Badrock Melody originally published in Judge Dredd Megazine #424)

Now, as promised, a preview of Boom Town , surely one of the greatest strips ever to have come out of the Megazine…

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