There is a new Judge (or in this case an old one) on the case and the people of Mega-City One have committed the ultimate crime: living.
Will Judge Dredd be able to combat this foe? Is it good?
Judge Dredd Classics: The Dark Judges #1 (IDW Publishing)
Judge Dredd Classics: Dark Judges #1 is a collection of four different Judge Death tales all rolled into one. The first three stories all come from the creative team of John Wagner (writing as John Howard) and Brian Bolland while the final story comes from Alan Grant (writing as T.B. Glover) and Brian Bolland.
Wagner and Bolland make no bones about it and introduce Judge Death in a very dramatic manner right on the first page. By the second page you know what this bad guy is about. His goal is simple and to the point: Death. He does have a unique style of bringing death to his victims which Bolland shows off not once but thrice in the first short, each time giving a different view point as to how his victims meet their end. Bolland’s artwork only gets better and better; he depicts an extremely gripping rendition of Anderson attempting to resist possession. His shadowing is top notch, drawing out and expressing the pain and terror she is experiencing.
Since the book is a collection of four shorts rather than a complete story, there is a risk in the transitions and flow from short to short. However, Denton J. Tipton does a wonderful job of editing them together especially with the last short not originally being published in sequential order with the first three. The only way to tell the stories were separate shorts is the reintroduction at the beginning of each one.
One of the biggest standouts throughout all four shorts is Tom Frame’s lettering of Judge Death’s speech bubbles and dialogue. The speech bubbles appear as if they are dripping blood and it creates a unique tone of voice for Judge Death, one to be feared. He also exaggerates the “s” sounds usually by adding an extra “c” or “s,” which gives his voice a serpentine feel.
There are so many good qualities to the book and I haven’t even talked about the story yet! It is compelling with a touch of investigation, action, and horror. It has everything all the crime shows on TV have but with Judges Dredd and Anderson (who really steals the show) on the case. Speaking of the two Judges there is one highly enjoyable panel where Dredd, with the biggest smirk on his face, lets Anderson know “I have no guilty secrets” and Anderson just smiles back at him. Bolland and Wagner create instant chemistry between the two.
One of the few things that may give new readers difficulty is the language used in the 22th century. The Judges and the ancillary characters use some interesting curse words to express themselves. It took a couple of times reading them to figure out that is what they were.
Is It Good?
Judge Dredd Classics: Dark Judges #1 is an entertaining collection that provides everything you look for in a comic: strong characters, good character development, an interesting storyline, great artwork, excellent transitions, and some unique lettering, not to mention a touch of horror and plenty of suspense and action.