Judge Anderson: The Psi Files Volume 3 (2013)

“You’re willing to kill Grud knows how many of our own children to get at people you don’t even know are our enemies?”

The latest volume of collected Judge Anderson stories from 2000AD, Judge Dredd Megazine and various annuals and specials was written in the main by Alan Grant – two illustrated prose stories are provided by Peter Milligan and Andy Lanning/Dan Abnett. The majority of the art in this volume was by Steve Sampson with another longer story being illustrated by Arthur Ranson and the single issue stories being illustrated by a variety of artists including the great Ian Gibson.

The book contains 4 longish stories, a couple of shorter stories and 7 single issue stories.

Something Wicked carries on from the end of volume 2 and sees Anderson on probation with Judge Dredd after going AWOL. A series of crimes where the perps were possessed, leads Dredd and Anderson to suspect the charismatic leader of a cult who is about to leave Earth with his followers to set up a new life on another planet.

Satan, illustrated by Arthur Ranson, sees the arrival of an omnipotent being to Mega-City One. It believes itself to the Devil incarnate and seeks the destruction of Mega-City One.

Wonderwall is an Alice in Wonderland inspired story that sees Anderson probing the defensive constructs of a young girl’s mind as she tries to understand why she is catatonic and who caused her condition.

Crusade carries on the theme of the life of children within Mega-City society and, in a tale reminiscent of the Pied Piper, Anderson and the senior judges must formulate a plan to save the city’s children when they follow a series of angelic child prophets on the promise of a new life.

Grant again uses Anderson to explore the more social side of Mega- City One. The main stories deal with the lot of children in the sprawling urban decay – abandoned without any parental control to run wild and their eventual slide into crime and abuse. While I love Judge Dredd, it is the more human side of the city revealed by Anderson and her outlook that really appeals to me and this collection is a good example of that. Although the stories carry on from what has gone on before and there are some fleeting references to past events, I think an interested reader could pick this volume up and give the world of Judge Anderson a go without too much of a problem.

Camelot 3000 (1988)

“But no need to stand on ceremony. You may call me King Arthur!”

This book is a collection of the first comic book maxi-series, as claimed in the introduction by Don and Maggie Thompson. The series was written by Mike W. Barr who is probably best known for his writing on various Batman titles such as Batman and the Outsiders, the Year Two story in Detective Comics and the Son of the Demon graphic novel. The art was by British artist Brian Bolland who is more often associated, these days, with fabulous cover art but also worked on early Judge Dredd stories for 2000AD and DC’s The Killing Joke.

It is the year 3000 and Britain is under attack by relentless aliens from the solar system’s tenth planet. In it’s hour of need, King Arthur, it’s greatest defender, is reborn. His first act is to restore Merlin to his side followed by the reincarnations of his knights of the Round Table. They discover that Morgan le Fay is behind the alien attacks and so old conflicts are renewed.

I bought this book because it is one of the few examples of a comic series illustrated by Bolland whose work I love. Unfortunately the story did not match my expectations. For a comic that was DC’s first for mature readers, it felt very immature – let’s mix Arthurian legend with the future and an alien invasion and it’ll be cool. It seemed very thin and being stretched over twelve issues did not help. This book has not aged as well as some of it’s contemporaries from the mid eighties. It doesn’t help that a number of later comics, such as Fables, deal with the updating of mythological or fantasy characters much better.

But I came for the art and the art was good but it didn’t blow me away in the same way that his covers can do. Partly this is because it does not have the same detail as his work in black and white does – Bryan Talbot is another good example of someone whose work I prefer in black and white because so much more goes into it. I was also expecting more due to the problems that I know plagued this book as regards to deadlines however I don’t feel that it necessarily shows in the finished page. So all in all a bit of a disappointment – maybe you had to be there to appreciate it.

Judge Anderson: The PSI Files Volume 2 (2012)

 

Quote:
They caught me reading from a banned book. All I can remember from it was one line – “The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime”.

 

This is the second volume of collected stories featuring Judge Anderson taken from 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine. All except one was written by Alan Grant (the exception being a collaboration between Grant and long time writing partner John Wagner) and features three longer stories with a number of short tales interspersed among them. There are a number of artists involved including Arthur Ranson, Steve Sampson, Kevin Walker, Ian Gibson among others.

The first of the longer stories is called Shamballa and sees Anderson and academy colleague, Rickard, travelling to Tibet with two East-Meg 2 psi operatives to investigate the source of a worldwide spate of psychic visions of mythic creatures that are causing death and destruction where they appear. They end up travelling to the region formerly known as Tibet to track down a forgotten race of people with extraordinary psi abilities. The art on this story was by the great Arthur Ranson.

After a number of stories that slowly erode Anderson’s faith in the justice system she eventually cracks and attacks a particularly brutal judge. In the second of the long stories, Childhood’s End, she is sent on a mission to Mars to cool off. On the Cydonian plane, the head monument has opened a portal. Anderson is one of a number of assembled experts who make the expedition into the structure. While inside she must confront a deadly enemy of old and the return of an ancient race determined to wipe out humanity.

The third long story, Postcards from the Edge continues on from the last one and sees Anderson, having resigned as a judge, bumming round the inhabited worlds of the galaxy looking to find herself. This walkabout storyline is the most disjointed, having several different artists contributing to it, and with individual stories of variable quality and interest. Having said that I like the chapters with the distinctive art of Steve Sampson which are good to look at even if they are not necessarily good to read.

The beauty of this volume is that it allows an alternative look at the judges and the justice system of Mega-City. The sometimes brutal tactics of the street judge are questioned here by an increasingly doubtful Anderson as she struggles to get over the suicide of her friend, the empath Judge Corey, and assimilate some the spiritual experiences she goes through in this book and the philosophical questions they raise. Taken all together it is a worthwhile addition to the library even though some of the standalone stories and parts of Postcards from the Edge are not quite as good as the rest.

Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend (1992)

 

Quote:
Yessss, I too wasss a boy oncce – though of courssse I wasss far from normal, even then …

 

This book collects the twelve part story from the first volume of the Judge Dredd Megazine, the anthology comic from 2000AD set in the Judge Dredd universe. The story was written by Judge Dredd creator John Wagner. The art was the first introduction of Peter Doherty to a wide audience. Doherty has continued to illustrate stories in 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine but does not seem to have done much beyond this.

Set after the Necropolis story line in 2000AD, this story explores the early life of Judge Death as recounted to an unfortunate Mega-City journalist. Young Sidney is a sociopath in the making whose world view is reinforced by his father – a sadistic, psychopathic dentist. On turning his father over to the judges for a series of murders, Sidney joins the judges and refines his world view in which crime is committed by the living and so the living should be punished. Upon graduating he discovers two death cultists who help him complete his vision by removing the paradox of his continued living while sentencing others to death for the same “crime”.

I love Judge Death stories for two reasons. First of all they tend to feature an appearance of psi-Judge Anderson who I adore. Secondly he is, in many ways, the ultimate villain for Judge Dredd in the same way that the Joker is for Batman. I think that there are many similarities between the Joker and Judge Death: the fixed rictus grin; the disregard for human life; the dark humour associated with the characters. The humour in this story ranges from the lightly comical, in the shape of Death’s extremely short-sighted landlady, Mrs Gunderson, to the extremely black exploration of Sidney’s childhood environment. Although this a very good story, I have never been convinced that it was really necessary. I am happy to accept the Dark Judges for what they are and the detailing of an origin does little for my perception of the character – it is hard to imagine ever feeling sympathy for any of the Dark Judges and the choices they made. However, it is still a classic story that is worth reading if you like your humour on the black side and for the art of Peter Doherty.

Stone Island (2008)

[ Listening to Nine Horses Currently: Listening to Nine Horses ]

Quote:
C’mon then you pussies! Let’s have some!

 

This is an attempt at a visceral horror comic that was originally published in British comic institution 2000AD. It was written by Ian Edginton with art by Simon Davis (most well known for Sinister Dexter – also published in 2000AD).

The story is in two parts. In the first, David Sorrell is sent to Long Barrow prison after murdering his wife and her lover. Along with his cell mate, Harry Rivers, he finds himself in the middle of an incursion by a race of violent aliens. The aliens come from an inter-dimensional world between Earth and the afterlife where they feed on the souls of the departed. Deciding to move to the source of their food, the aliens take over human hosts, massively distorting their bodies in the process, before killing or recruiting the other inmates. Rivers escapes from the prison but not before his body has been changed in preparation to receive an alien host.

In the second part, Harry and another escapee from the prison, Sara McCandless, are recruited by a government agency to take part in a mission to take the fight direct to the aliens. In a virtual suicide mission the small team must pass through to the alien dimension and release a bio-weapon to kill the alien invaders.

I was looking forward to this book as I have enjoyed other comics by Ian Edginton such as Scarlet Traces but it was a bit of disappointment in the end. It would probably have been a better story if the origin of the aliens was left a mystery and then the story left off at the end of the first storyline. As it is there is too much formulaic storytelling and no emotional connection with main characters so I didn’t really care who lived or who died. I liked the art by Simon Davis very much – the figurative painting reminded me of work by Austrian expressionist artist Egon Schiele. Worth having a look at for the art alone if you can pick it up from a library.

Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing (1990)

 

Quote:
I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet.

 

This book collects the six issue mini-series that was published in the late eighties by Epic and was written by Pat Mills with art by Kevin O’Neill. The pair are both alumni of the British comic 2000AD and collaborated previously on the fantastic Nemesis the Warlock. Mills has written a number of other series for 2000AD including sword and sorcery epic Slaine and ABC Warriors. O’Neill is probably best known these days for his work on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The story is set in a earthquake ravaged San Francisco of the future that has been renamed San Futuro. Marshal Law is a genetically modified human – one of many produced as super soldiers to fight in a conflict in The Zone – who works for the San Futuro police department. He specifically targets the returned super soldiers who dress as superheroes but act like spoiled brats fighting rival gangs and terrorising the ordinary population. Marshal Law is hunting a serial killer who is targeting women dressed like the siren Celeste and suspects the holier than thou hero the Public Spirit. In the course of his investigation he uncovers the true killer but reveals dark secrets from the Public Spirit’s past.

Published just after Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, Marshal Law is a savage deconstruction of the superhero paradigm. Its bleak setting and black humour is perfectly captured by Kevin O’Neill – most panels deserve extra scrutiny for the humorous background details and random graffiti. The over the top storytelling might not appeal to all but I have always loved the amoral antics of the heroes and disproportionate response of San Futuro’s finest. One of the many comics of the eighties that I wish the creators would revisit.

Judge Dredd: Babes in Arms (1995)

This books collects a number of short stories that were all drawn by Greg Staples – a regular contributor to 2000AD having worked on such characters as Judge Dredd, Sláine and Sinister Dexter. His style reminds me of Simon Bisley which is appropriate as he was first introduced to 2000AD’s editor by him. The stories are mainly written by a subdued Garth Ennis with a couple from Judge Dredd creator John Wagner.

In Rough Guide to Suicide Dredd has to track down the creator of a dangerous video circulating Mega-City One that encourages its citizens to commit suicide.

Babes in Arms is the story of the revenge of a bunch of jilted wives from Mega-City Two who come looking for the husbands who married them only so they could rip off their money and start a new life in Mega-City One.

Innocents Abroad concerns the Emerald Isle Judge Joyce who comes to Mega-City One on the trail of the O’Dilligan brothers who have fled there after a bank raid. The brothers go to see a third brother who is set up in Mega-City One but who learns that he a has a weird disease, McSod’s Syndrome, that will mutate him unless he can treat it with gold.

In The Squealer Dredd thinks he has found the perfect informant when the wife of a dead squealer, Millard Klinch, claims that she is receiving information from his ghost. However the ghost of Klinch has its own agenda.

The last two stories were written by John Wagner. The first, Enter: Jonni Kiss, is an introduction to a character who assassinates a Sov-Block supreme judge and is then given his next target – Judge Dredd. The last, You Are the Mean Machine is a comic tale taking the reader into the thought processes (or lack of them) of Mean Machine Angel.

Judge Dredd stories are always entertaining and these ones are no exception – while not necessarily being classics. The art is great and it was interesting reading again some of Garth Ennis’s work where he was not allowed to give free expression to his love of ultraviolence (although the red pencil is required quite a bit) and the black humour is not quite as pitch black as it is in some of his later work.

Wardog (2004)

[ Listening to BBC Radio Scotland Currently: Listening to BBC Radio Scotland ]

This is a story that was first published in Judge Dredd: The Megazine 4.01-4.10 – a sister publication to the long running 2000AD. It was written by Dan Abnett (who has written many stories for Marvel UK and 2000AD) and it was drawn by Patrick Goddard and Dylan Teague (who have also had art duties on other 2000AD characters).

The story concerns Jack Wardog who is a bombhead – he has no memory of his past life but has had a bomb surgically implanted in his head that is connected to a countdown counter that is activated, as an added incentive, when he sent on a mission by the mysterious Endtrail Enclave. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world – it could be Earth or another planet there is no real clue –where humans live and trade alongside autonomous mechanoids. When he is not on missions Jack is free to earn a living doing jobs for the general populace. As a result of one of these he finds himself investigating why a populated area has become deserted with the human population missing and the mechanoid population destroyed. This leads to an enclave ruled by mechanoids who want to take on the attributes of humans – including harvesting skin for themselves – whilst destroying mechanoids who will not join their band.

This is a story with very little context given within it – the blurb on the back sets out the world and the role of bombheads much more than the story does and so is essential reading. Part of the reason for this may be that the story is based on a game produced by Rebellion – the publisher of both 2000AD and The Megazine. This may explain why the plot in the story has no real connection to the fact that Jack Wardog is a bombhead – he only goes on one short mission where he is on a time limit within the book – that narrative may well have been saved as part of the play within the game. Whatever the reason it is a weakness of the book that Jack’s condition is not really addressed and is virtually immaterial to the story. However it is a fairly typical example of sci-fi storylines produced by 2000AD and so if you like that kind of story you will probably enjoy this one.

The Complete D.R. & Quinch (2006)

This book collects all the D.R. and Quinch stories from that grand British institution 2000AD – a weekly anthology comic that introduced Judge Dredd and many other memorable characters to the world. The stories are written by Alan Moore and beautifully drawn by Alan Davis. The book also collects 9 one page strips, written by Jamie Delano (with Alan Davis), where D.R. and Quinch act as agony aunts.

Waldo D. R. Dobbs (it stands for diminished responsibility) and Ernest Errol Quinch are a couple of fun loving, alien college dropouts who believe that if a point is worth making it is worth making with military hardware and thermonuclear weaponry. The most interesting story, given that they were written in the mid 80s, is probably D.R. & Quinch go to Hollywood – the planet not the place on Earth as Earth was destroyed as a by-product of the boys’ very first prank. It is an early indication of Moore’s attitude to everything and everyone associated with movie making.

This collection is pure nostalgia for me as these stories formed my introduction to the writing of Alan Moore, along with stories like Skizz and The Ballad of Halo Jones. They still hold up well today and almost every line in the book is funny and the Alan Davis art is great. I was surprised at how slim the volume is as I thought there were more stories. Although this volume collects some pin-up art as well as the stories, for some reason it omits the two times that D.R. and Quinch made the cover of 2000AD – Prog 350 and Prog 352. There is also some interesting miscellany that they probably don’t have the rights for such as some Alan Davis convention art and this image where they meet up with Marvelman and Captain Britain.

Thoroughly recommended and as there is a recent, new American edition it shouldn’t be difficult to track down.

It Lives!!!

[ Cool Mood: Cool ]
[ Working Currently: Working  ]
Well it’s been a while and I am going to make an attempt to resurrect this blog. I’ve decided to give it a theme and that theme will be comic books that I am reading.

I have been reading and collecting comic books for the last 25 years or so. Although I was aware of and read American comics as a child, I did not have the funds or access to a regular supply outlet to follow series so it was often a frustrating experience. Instead I read the weekly British comics – the best of which was 2000AD which I started reading from issue 1. But when the specialist comic book shops started to appear in the main cities in Scotland I was there with open wallet.

I took a break from comic reading in the early part of this century when my two sons came along and I could no longer justify the expense. But in the last couple of years I’ve started picking up a couple of titles and buying a lot of collected editions of stuff that I have missed.

When I was buying comics I almost exclusively bought DC comics and then most of those were published on the Vertigo imprint. That probably tells you most of what you need to know about my taste – even my favourite superhero isn’t super-powered! – current favourites are Fables, DMZ, Unknown Soldier, Hellblazer and Madame Xanadu. As a consequence of this a lot of the books I am picking up are from Marvel because there is far more in their catalogue that I am unfamiliar with.

Anyway we’ll see how it goes – I might get bored with it after a couple of months. I welcome any comments as the posts start to appear and any recommendations will be gratefully received – though I have a fairly big backlog of books to read at the moment with more on the way.