Thursday, April 12, 2007

The very worst of Judge Dredd?

Yes, I'm afraid it did happen again - Mark Millar and Grant Morrison teamed up to script the Dredd mini-epic 'Crusade' in Progs 928-937. And boy was it worse than their last kick in the head, the woeful 'Book of the Dead' (in which Egyptian Judge Rameses, as pictured above, first appeared). Mick Austin's art, competent and fluid as it is, is not up to the level of Dermot Power, so there's not much solace in the pictures either. Oh well.

Now let me make myself clear. Crusade is bad. It's not so bad it's funny (like, say Harlem Heroes: Cyborg Death Trip, which ran alongside this very tale). It's so bad it's just annoying. I struggled to even find individual panels to scan that were either informative or amusing. So, what's the problem? Let's start at the beginning:

This to me smacks of a Mark Millar premise. I actually have quite a lot of time for Millar. I don't think he's a great writer, but he knows what people want, and he knows some ways to deliver it, which are two great things in any writer. You see, when I first read Crusade, I was really excited about it. Over the previous few years a whole load of International Judges had been introduced to readers of 2000 AD and the Megazine. Often by teaming up with Dredd in order to be shown up by him. There's never been much sense of how well these Judges and Judge systems connect together, except that they'll happily 'sacrifice' each other if need be, as seen in Garth Ennis's 'Judgement Day' epic.

So anyway, along comes Millar with the suggestion 'wouldn't it be well fun if the toughest Judges from all the Mega-Cities had a team up and tried to kill each other?', and dammit if my 15 year old self didn't think 'Hell yes that would be fun.' Actually my 28 year old self still does think it would be fun, but now that I've seen it done so badly, perhaps that means it's not possible to do it well?

So, where does it go wrong? I'd say it goes wrong with Vatican Inquisitor Judge Cesare: who is a complete tool. This one smacks a bit more of Morrison than Millar to me, but I'll let both take the blame. There's just no way this kind of character fits in to any part of Dredd's world, especially given that we've got a glimpse of the Vatican as the sort of place that employs folk like Devlin Waugh. Cesare is just there to poke a stick at religiosity and to be built up as super-tough without ever doing anything in the story to justify this reputation. God, I hate that.

But then, the whole story is full of examples of this. Let's just re-iterate the premise here: A Mega-City Judge Eckhart has been into Deep Space and done an 'Event Horizon' (admittedly before that film came out). It's possible that he's met God, essentially. Now he's crashed onto neutral territory in earth - Antarctica - and Judges from each big City want to find him and hear his story. This is an interesting idea, but I'd sooner deploy a Psi Judge like Anderson than a meathead like the Millar/Morrison version of Dredd to tell it.

The rest of the story follows various Judges as they make their ways through a very poorly described abandoned mine setting, not really explaining how they're making any progress. Occasionally they bump into each other and fight a bit, with victors being decided by random writer fiat than any plot or character driven likelihood. I hate that, too. In the background, Cesare is not doing any searching himself, he's busy being Dick Dastardly and footling around with the transport system and other larks. Which could be funny if Cesare wasn't presented as a hulking bully with a pea brain.

After various Judges have killed / maimed each other, Dredd often arrives to get beaten a bit, and then hit back, again with the help of poorly scripted and even worse thought out fight scenes. Since all the Judges are portrayed as equally hard, it's all a bit pointless trying to wonder what will happen. Beyond a bit of cheap ethnic stereotyping...

Again, this sort of thing could be funny, seeing as the whole concept of Judges around the world is all about ethnic stereotyping, but this gag would need to be the main point of such a story, and it isn't. Here, it's just a 'light-hearted' backdrop to some ultraviolence.

In an attempt to get some characterisation going, M&M dredge up a rivalry between Dredd and East-Meg 2 Judge Spassky. Their banter is kind of old. Didn't Ennis already do this? And better?

The pain is immense.
Take that, Morrison and Millar. Shame on you!
More next time...

(No, this 'next' caption isn't from 'Crusade'. Even those weren't funny or clever enough. Gah.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard nothing but bad things about this Dredd story arc. That makes me want to check it out that much more.


Post a Comment

<< Home