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Home ¦ Reviews ¦ Judge Dredd - Judgement Day

2000AD Review Extra 15th January 05

Judge Dredd - Judgement Day
Judge Dredd: Judgement Day
By Garth Ennis, Peter Doherty, Dean Ormston, Carlos Ezquerra, Chris Halls, Anthony Williams. (Plot by Garth Ennis and John Wagner)

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What to Expect: Judge Dredd and Johnny Alpha vs Zombies. Lots of zombies...

Review by Gavin Hanly

American comic readers must find 2000AD readers somewhat perplexing.

Currently receiving great acclaim and an even greater amount of money in the US are huge stars in the shape of Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and Garth Ennis, writer of Judgement Day (we’ll be using that spelling here). However, 2000AD readers often treat these writers with, shall we say, something less than respect. These creators may well be producing some stellar work across the pond, but all that was written for 2000AD in the early days was not gold. Current 2000AD readers’ very long memories aside (and even ex 2000AD readers I've spoken to have bad memories about Millar's efforts), it's easy to see why other considerations have to be taken into account with the US market. Garth Ennis is simply a more bankable name than John Wagner in the states, and it makes sense to kick off the Dredd collections with one by a proven US writer.

Of course, if "A History of Violence" does well in the cinema this year, expect Wagner's stock to rise considerably…

Judge Dredd - Judgement Day

But leaving aside the reasons for going with Judgement Day over more well received storylines, this is an opportunity to look back on the epic and see if it comes up to scratch all these years later. Ain’t it Cool recently reviewed the collection and gave it a… less than stellar review. They appeared to be expecting great things from the first standalone Dredd story – and this fell rather short of expectations. Looking at the collection side by side with recent Dredd tales in the comic and indeed some of the undisputed classics from the past, it’s easy to see why. Judgement Day clearly falls short when placed against some of the very best Dredd epics.

Judgement Day was one of Fleetway’s excursions into American style crossovers. This really got the readers backs up at the time and has never been handled in the same way since, with readers really having to buy both the weekly and the Megazine to understand the whole story. It exhibits the worst traits of such crossovers with jarring changes in plot and art style between episodes in the Megazine and the weekly - this despite the whole thing being written by the same writer. The art in suffers badly in particular in this collected form, with the artists in the weekly sections coming and going throughout with no discernable pattern. Dean Ormston puts in the most dependable stint in the bi-weekly Megazine sections, only once being replaced by Chris Halls. Everyone else puts in a competent job but, unsurprisingly, it’s only Ezquerra who lend his scenes some of the visceral urgency the series deserves,

In addition, the plot is very lopsided. Only towards the end, when you feel that Ennis has decided that he’d better devote some real space to background of the bad guy of the piece, do things really begin to gel. But if he’d done this earlier, the whole epic would have felt much more rounded. The scenes with the origins of Sabbat and his pet “Den” are the standout elements of the book and much more of this would have been welcome. And, with regards this collection in particular, surely a better explanation of Johnny Alpha in the introductory pages would have been a good idea?

But…

Judge Dredd - Judgement Day
Despite that – it’s still enjoyable. It’s a very easy read, a style that’s overlooked my many writers working in comics today, and it simply can’t be identified as an all-out bad Dredd tale. Occasionally Ennis pulls out an excellent set piece and the whole story never slows down enough to get boring. There’s some decent action interludes, some off-hand decimating of key members of the supporting cast that occasionally happens in 2000AD and despite it being handled rather cack- handedly, it’s quite easy to get a kick out of the team up between Alpha and Dredd.

But there’s still a nagging feeling that DC/Rebellion have dropped the ball somewhat with this choice for the first reprint, given that it’s been collected twice before. Either the Pit or even the Morrison/Millar penned Purgatory/Inferno would have been better first runs – especially the latter, given that it has never previously been reprinted.

So this comes with a tentative recommendation. If you’ve never read it before, then give it a try. It’s a decent enough Dredd tale that’ll easily keep you occupied. It’s also actually cheaper than the original Hamlyn collection that came out a good few years ago (although the print quality isn’t anywhere near as god – something of an issue with all the DC reprints) and it even has an extra story that was not included in that collection. But if you really want some excellent Dredd reprints, hang around to see what they’ll offer next.

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).