Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Judge Dredd: Titan

Prog 1869 gave us the last part of the eight part story by Rob Williams, Henry Flint and Annie Parkhouse, and a chance to look back and read the story in its entirety. I notice from the 2000AD forums that there was some confusion about whether this was planned as a Judge Dredd 'epic', and let's be clear, 2000AD never said that. What we have instead is another story reflecting on Dredd's age and his doubts about what he does.

(I reckon John Glenn was older)

Dredd along with a bunch of gung-ho space marines, an ex-judge called McIntosh, and SJS Judge Gerhart, are sent to Titan to sort out a mutiny. Dredd finds himself prisoner of former Wally Judge Aimee Nixon, takes quite a beating, and then the place blows up and everyone gets to go home and have a snow day.

Remember how we all got so excited about the opening episode. It had that perfect action movie set-up as Dredd and the marines head towards Titan with some cuts scenes giving us a quick back story from Chief Judge Hershey, and then we're off and plunging towards the surface of the prison moon. However it turns out this was not going to be that type of story after all, Williams and Flint had something rather different planned for us.

Let's deal with the art first, Henry Flint is one of the current definitive Dredd artists. His style on this strip seems looser and more experimental than the stuff he did for the Dredd movie sequel comic Underbelly. At times he produces fantastic images like this.

(Plays right into the fist of Dredd etc etc)

But elsewhere there are some weird art choices: while Dredd is ancient Hershey appears to be growing younger all the time. The Judges' spacesuit design does some strange things with the shoulder eagle, Dredd wears a flat logo type eagle similar to the movie uniform, but SJS Judges wear the eagle on their left shoulder and it does rather come and go throughout this story. Flint did tweet that he had messed up the shoulder pads several times and hoped to be able to fix them before the trade came out.

Then there is Aimee Nixon's right arm. If I remember correctly she was given a weaponised robotic arm by the Yakuza in the final Low Life story. It would make sense to remove this before putting her in jail, but if that's the case why leave her other robotic arm which may not be able to fire missiles but is certainly much more powerful than a regular human arm. Not the sort of thing you want a prison inmate to be walking about with.

Dredd is severely injured in this story which I have already blogged about, and really is mostly just a supporting character. SJS Gerhart turns out be made of mostly cogs and wheels or Lego, instead of flesh and blood. And then there is all that snow, a dodgy weather control snowstorm in MC-1 begins the story, and an ice volcano on the moon Enceladus features in the final panels of part eight. And Dredd sees snow in his field of vision when he is struggling with the oxygen supply in his spacesuit. Struggling being what Dredd mostly does throughout this story.

And the whole plot has so many holes in it. The mission is daft, trusting McIntosh makes no sense and Gerhart would have been watching him like a hawk anyway, and then the relative ease with which Gerhart and Austin blow up the explosives is bit too convenient as the story moves into its final act.

In Greek mythology the Titans were the older gods who were usurped by a younger generation. I get the impression Rob Williams wants to tell us something about the Titanic figure of Dredd and the order he represents, and how he is slowly being set up for replacement, retirement or death. It is fascinating having this ageing anti-hero as the title character, but I don't think that Tharg has any plans to get rid of Dredd just yet and all these stories about his age don't seem to be going anywhere.

In retrospect Titan was a pretty good story which never lived up to the promise of that first episode. It will probably be out in trade at some point but it's not for the new Dredd reader, being too gloomy and rather confusing in places. Still not sure what the best book is to try and get someone into 2000AD for the first time but I'm working on it.

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