Reprinting the first seven issues of the DC Comics series from 1994… this is Judge Dredd for the USA.
Judge Dredd and 2000 AD has, to the absolute chagrin of all of us UK fans, never really established a beachhead over there in the USA.
Is it the format and frequency? Certainly, the very idea of a weekly magazine-sized sci-fi anthology comic is a really hard sell to comic readers stateside who’ve grown up with monthlies. Is it the character of Dredd? Well, I’d say absolutely not. After all, there’s a hell of a lot of US comics that also feature that same anti-hero figure as their lead. Maybe it’s the longevity of the strip and the back-story that puts US readers off? Well, considering the amount of reading around the continuity you need to do for even the E-list Marvel and DC heroes nowadays, that surely can’t be anything to do with it.
To gain ground in the USA, 2000 AD has ramped up its graphic novel collections and made so many different attempts to break the USA market. And here’s just one of them. Published in 1994, just in time for the Stallone Judge Dredd movie in 1995, Judge Dredd: Legends of the Law should have been, could have been, a contender. After all, it was Dredd written by the two men who wrote him and knew him best – John Wagner and the sadly just lost to us Alan Grant – but it lasted a mere 13 issues, seven of which are reprinted here in this first collection.
Thing is, for us Brit readers, there’s a pretty fine Dredd tale leading off here – Organ Donors, written by Wagner and Grant, where Dredd investigates a body-snatching organisation led by a music-loving organ harvester, Doctor Bliss.
It’s pure Wagner/Grant doing a daft villain preying on the MC-1 cits sort of thing. It’s funny at times sure, the whole first issue plays out the Brit Cit tourists adrift in MC-1 thing, Wagner and Grant laying it all on very thick, but it still works. Likewise, the over-the-top musical interludes with Doctor Bliss is pure Wagner/Grant so cleverly cone silliness. But, as 80+ pages of Dredd that would probably have been closer to 20 in the pages of 2000 AD, this one feels just that little flabby.
On top of that, there’s my issues with the artwork. Now, Brent Anderson is a great, great artist who I loved on Astro City which launched the same year as this. But I don’t know, I just can’t get it out of my head that it doesn’t have that classic Dredd look, the Anderson and Jimmy Palmiotti art just looks muddy and too thick of line here. Whether that’s in Anderson’s pencils or Palmiotti’s inks I don’t know, but it just looks that little off. And certainly, comparing it to Anthony Williams and Andy Lannings‘ art on the second story, it’s definitely not a reproduction problem, here in the collection or the original, as the art there is way tighter, a much thinner line. Perhaps it’s simply that, by this stage in a long career, Anderson has a certain style, a certain look, just way too US superhero for the character.
In Trial By Gunfire, the other tale here, a three-parter written by DG Chichester and drawn by 2000 AD artist Anthony Williams with Andy Lanning, it’s Dredd doing rookie Cadet evaluation in Mega-City as they attempt to track down an insectoid mutant thingy.
Once the insectoid escapes into the Cursed Earth, Dredd naturally follows. Unfortunately, the simple mission gets complicated by the way too eager, way too perfect little Cadet Quisling being assigned by the Chief Judge to tag along as part of the continued evaluation.
Again, there’s nothing really wrong with it at all and certainly, it actually feels less flabby than the first storyline and there’s much to enjoy in Williams and Lannings’ artwork that seems just more suited to the world of Dredd, Mega-City One, and everything here.
As for the actual story, well it’s one that’s got a load of familiar story elements, the Cursed Earth mission, the rookie evaluation, the mutie threat, that sort of thing. But the ending is telegraphed from so far off and, again, it’s a 15-20 page story in 2000 AD that’s been stretched out here to 60+ pages. Chichester does a good Dredd, gets the tone right, but it’s just way too long for the flimsy story here.
Judge Dredd: Legends of the Law
Written by John Wagner, Alan Grant, DG Chichester. Art by Brent Anderson, Jimmy Palmiotto, Anthony Williams, Andy Lanning. Cover by Dave Dorman.
The Organ Donors – written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, pencils by Brent Anderson, inks by Jimmy Pamiotti, colours by Stuart Chaifetz, letters by Willie Schubert
Trial By Gunfire – written by DG Chichester, pencils by Anthony Williams, inks by Andy Lanning, colours by Stuart Chaifetz, letters by Bob Pinaha
Published by 2000 AD/ Rebellion on 13th September 2022
Now, a little preview for you…
First, The Organ Donors…
And now, second tale, Trial By Gunfire…