Sunday, March 1, 2015

Urban Warfare

Exploring the world of Dredd as seen in the 2012 movie here is the first collection of parallel Dredd-verse stories in a lovely hard back format with a clever title (and yes, it took me a while to get the reference to the actor's name).

First we have the film prequel Top of the World, Ma-Ma by Matt Smith and Henry Flint, then Underbelly by Arthur Wyatt and Flint, and finishing with Uprise by Wyatt and Paul Davidson. Coloured throughout by Chris Blythe, with lettering Ellie De Ville and Simon Bowland. Also there are some extra artwork images on the end papers and title pages by Trevor Hairsine, Greg Staples, Ben Willsher, Boo Cook and Jock.

All the stories originally appeared in the Megazine where they got a mixed reception to be honest. Some fans want their Judge Dredd straight up and are not particularly interested in this other version of Mega-City One but here we have a chance to reappraise the stories. The prequel is very brief and to the point, it certainly reproduces the atmosphere of the movie but it's so short that it just feels like a deleted scene from the cutting room floor. Henry Flint's artwork is always fantastic to look at but somehow his surreal images always feel more at home in the traditional Dredd stories and seem slightly out of place in this gritty vision of the future. Arthur Wyatt''s first story Underbelly seems like a familiar retread of the drug gang plot from the film. It has moments of brilliance particularly as the Judges move through the criminals' factory lair and Wyatt's handling of Anderson starts out as interesting,but she gets forgotten as the story progresses and overall it feels a little underwhelming.

Uprise on the other hand expands the world and the character in a new direction and does something interesting with its version of the Occupy movement. There are hints and tips of the hat to the mainstream Dredd world with robot Judges, a Wally squad, and a computer called Walter. Paul Davidson creates some lovely looking pages, the whole thing is more satisfying in story terms than the first two, and it suggests that Wyatt and Davidson may bring us some interesting stuff in the future.

There are no extras in the book and sadly the Megazine covers by Staples, Willsher and Cook get rather lost when reprinted in moody monochrome on the title pages, However there is some compensation in the lovely look and feel of this hard back which appears to be the same size and thickness as an old school Christmas annual. It is a strange thing to comment on but it sits in the hands beautifully and produces a strange tactile reminder of the excitement of those volumes of childhood.

2000AD and Rebellion have clearly decided that we fans will lap up these lovely hardbacks and it appears to be working for them. The beautiful design work tips this book over into the must have category for me. Nice work by the House of Tharg.

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