¦ Reviews ¦ Judge
Dredd - Total War
Judge Dredd - Total
Wagner, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint, Chris Blythe, Jason Brashill
this book from Amazon.co.uk
What to Expect:
The terrorist democratic fringe group Total War resumes hostilities against
the judges in spectacular fashion...
Review by Gavin
7th January 06
It seem apt that
Total War should be the next Dredd collection to be released after Satan's Island
(AKA Sin City). Between that epic and this one, Dredd had been going though some
hard times. There was something of a lack of continuity in the strip - something
to get our teeth into. The only "epic" of note in that period was Dredd
Vs Aliens - something which really doesn't count given its lack of lasting impact
on Dredd's world. The other was the disappointing "The Satanist" - although
this tale did set up the return of Vienna Dredd to the fold.
But it wasn't really
until the story Brothers in the Blood (to be collected in March) where Wagner
really seemed to be getting his mojo back. Following this up with Terror, the
first tale collected here, he established himself once again as the undisputed
king of Dredd writing. That this renaissance came along at about the same time
that Gordon Rennie was proving to be a very capable Dredd scribe may well have
been a coincidence, but it certainly seems to have spurred Wagner onto raising
Terror starts with
the latest work of terrorist faction "Total War", a group dedicated
to bringing democracy back to Mega City One through the expulsion of the judges.
Any available means are deemed acceptable to achieve that goal. Total War first
came to prominence in what is widely regarded as one of the best Dredd stories
ever told, America, also by Wagner and MacNeil. In many ways, Terror is the spiritual
successor to America (while we try to forget about the poor actual sequel).
Looking at the two books side by side, they are quite similar structurally. As
the main tale moves along, told mainly from the perspective of Sonny Castilenno,
we occasionally get a spread where Dredd "tells" us his view of terrorism
- a format also used in America.
The artwork is
also comparable, with MacNiel using painted artwork as opposed to the linework
currently seen in Shimura. Indeed, this is possibly MacNeil's best work in years
and really makes up for the lack lustre job on the former America sequel. Topping
even his recent work in Devlin Waugh, there are a wealth of touches that make
Terror particularly impressive, such as the clever use of colour to differentiate
between the viewpoints of Castilenno and how the judges watch his actions through
the recording devices. As with America, MacNeil also isn't afraid to shy away
from some brutal violence, which in this case is used to emphasise the brutality
of Total War.
Perhaps where this
story differentiates from America is the firm grounding into regular Dredd continuity.
Total War is set up as a credible threat and is clearly gearing up to more atrocities.
In the past Dredd epics have been curiously unrelated, and after the last episode,
things quickly revert to the status quo. While terror is a self-contained
tale, its repercussions spill out into the main event collected here - Total War
by Wagner and Flint.
Flint and Wagner
last worked together (alongside Andy Diggle) on the aforementioned Aliens crossover.
However, without the need to break the overall plot down into easily reprintable
four chunks for the American market and with a much stronger place in Dredd continuity,
this is a far better Dredd epic. Wagner effortlessly sets the agenda in the first
few pages and keeps the pace breakneck all the way through. The countdown to the
first bomb in the boingbowl is extremely well paced, effectively ramping up the
tension on every page (the constant view of a clock helping this enormously).
The rest of the tale carries on in suitably bombastic fashion, with Total War
managing far more damage than many readers expected. Wagner does manage to balance
this action with the search for the Terrorists behind the scenes, as well as further
laying the groundwork between Dredd and his Niece Vienna. Indeed, it's with this
detective/surveillance work in Total War and Terror that particularly sets up
the basic workings of the Mega City One judicial system. It's certainly not a
one-man show where everyone from PSU through to the Texas City judges having a
hand in the operation.
This tale feels like
a high class Hollywood action picture - and much of this is down to the visuals
of Henry Flint. In recent years, no one has managed to match him on the spectacle
front and he certainly gets room to show off here. He really manages to pull off
the devastation inflicted on the city and its people - especially with the first
huge explosion seen from Dredd's perspective. He also has fun in designing new
uniforms for each justice department - the jagged eye pieces on the bomb disposal
judges being a nice touch. But just as much as Wagner, he contributes to the pacing
of the story - with highly detailed smaller panels in the "detective"
scenes and expanding to widescreen mode when the action takes off. This is possibly
Flint's best work to date.
Much of Flint's
success here is also down to Chris Blythe's colouring who once again proves why
he's such an asset to the comic on either these showy scenes or on other dark
basements where the judges are trying to defuse another bomb..
After Total War
concludes, we are also treated to a final storyline "After the Bombs"
from Wagner and Brashill. This short story reminds us that, just when we were
starting to feel sympathy for the judges, they really are a bunch of fascist bastards
when it comes down to it. An ideal way to end the collection, and helped by Brashill's
art being extraordinarily good, and showing vast improvement from the last time
we saw him in the comic.
As for the collection
itself? Reproduction qualities are flawless, especially in Brashill's work which
shines on the much clearer stock. My only complaints, and this is one that echoes
down the rest of the 2000AD collection line, is that it could really do with an
introductory page to help set the scene - especially with regards to the character
of Vienna. Also - the back cover blurb only talks about the main attraction and
doesn't mention "Terror" at all. Given that Total War doesn't start
till a third of the way through the book, something a little more all encompassing
would be better. Finally - some behind the scenes work from either Wagner or any
of the artists would have been a good touch - or at least some original covers.
But these are small concerns given that the overall presentation is so impressive
and that it's also so affordable.
So, should you
consider getting this? Unequivocally yes. If you've got the original comics, it's
still a worthwhile purchase to have the tales in one collection and on much better
quality paper. If you haven't read it yet - then you have no excuse but to go
out and buy one of the best Dredd tales ever created.
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