Crossing Borders: Dredd Goes Raaargh
Posted by Bart Croonenborghs on Dec 18, 2012
Original alt comics from Belgium, Judge Dredd goes werewolf and Creepy Chronicles from the underbelly of 2000 AD.
With many of Belgium’s big game talent discovered by publishing houses like Fantagraphics, Self Made Hero and NoBrow, it’s important to point out that the web can focus on talent that isn’t necessarily as big as f.i. Brecht Evens. Grandpapier.org is an e-publishing house founded by Sacha Goerg and provides a platform for oncoming graphic talent. They have a great selection of short stories online with some truly outstanding art and to top it all off, they have an english language version of Grandpapier (though many of the comics themselves are in French) so what are you waiting for? Click already for the eyecandy.
Joe Dredd has always been a versatile protagonist, able to deal with satire, parody, horror, police procedure and straight forward action adventure equally. Want to take a stab at which genre this 2000 AD volume tackles?
Dredd versus Werewolves.
That’s right. Judge Dredd: Cry Of The Werewolf bundles a bunch of stories with Dredd battling werewolfs in the broadest sense of the word. The best are John Wagner & Steve Dillon’s classic Cry Of The Werewolf and its follow up Out Of The Undercity with artist Carl Critchlow.
In Cry Of The Werewolf Wagner presents a horror tale where Dredd is send into the Undercity (the old New York hidden away beneath Mega City One under a layer of concrete) to find the source of a werewolf pandemic. Along the way he is rescued by Judge Prager who returns in Wagner’s sequel Out Of The Undercity almost 20 years later that features a rather lackluster plot of a mutant uprising and seems to serve the sole purpose of making the reader aware of a new mutant leader keen an on uprising. No doubt he will return in later progs. However it’s great seeing Judge Prager again since he is a rather likeable character. The first is a great fast paced action horror story with some great moments and soundbites and while the sequel isn’t nearly as good, it still has its moments if artist Carl Crithlow can suppress his need to look too much like Cam Kennedy.
Taken from the Megazine, Dog Soldiers features Dredd in the wasteland townships of the mutants that Dredd co-instigated just outside the city. Written by Robbie Morrison (of Nikolai Dante fame) and drawn by Leigh Gallagher in a rather gritty and dirty style, Dog Soldiers is Dredd delivering frontier justice with a Dredd truly worn by his experiences and showing his age. Reading like a cross between Django and a classic Morricone western, the plot revolves around revenge with Dredd stuck in the middle in a place where justice bears a different and less straightforward face than he is used to. Morrison comes up with a great solution for Dredd’s dilemma that is at once hardcore and soft hearted and shows a Dredd that for once does not resolve a problem with either his fists or his lawbreaker. ‘Hey, where are my werewolves?’ I can hear you say. Don’t worry, the titular dog soldiers are mythical indian shapechangers who prefer the guise of humanoid wolves. There you go.
The last entrance is a one-off prog entitled Asylum by Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving and is the least of the bunch in terms of story quality. Irving turns in some spectacular art with a great Dredd that visually lends more from the ‘bucket helmet’ version of early Ezquerra but the story is only tangentially related to the werewolf theme of the collection. The by-the-numbers story of a mythical monster haunting the streets of Mega City One resembles on more than one front the Nosferatu stories of the Dredd verse, alien vampires from the planet Garr but hey, it does feature Frazer Irving so I’m not complaining all that hard.
So if you’re looking for balls to the walls horror action with guns blazing and werewolves shedding hair everywhere, you’re pretty well off with Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf.
Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf is published by 2000 AD & Simon & Schuster. It is a full colour softcover and retails for $17.99.
Tharg’s tales of terror are always a guilty pleasure and collected volumes are excellent showcases because when the Teror Tales formula works, it can deliver great comics on par with the late great EC Comics. For this latest US release, 2000 AD certainly pulled out all the stops on the creator front:
From the deepest, darkest recesses of the Nerve Centre vaults, the eerie alien editor of 2000 AD known as the Mighty Tharg presents some of the creepiest, kookiest tales to terrify this Halloween. Featuring stories from reknowned comic talent: writers – Mark Millar, Gordon Rennie, Chris Weston, Arthur Wyatt and artists – Dave D'Antiquis, Frazer Irving, Lee Garbett, Chris Weston, Edmund Bagwell, Greg Staples.
We start off with Millar’s and Dave D’antiquis’ long form serial Silo that is an effective moody and claustrophobic piece of two soldiers standing guard in a missile silo, in charge of simultaneously turning the keys for a missile launch when the order comes. One of the two gets possessed by the ghost of a murdered writer and Millar just takes the premise and plays with the limited setting and character play which turns out to be quite creepy. D’Antiquis’ black and white art perfectly complements the script with his heavy use of shadows and realistic art style. The big letdown is at the end when Millar fails to provide a satisfying ending and introduces a subplot instead of following through on the main plot of the murdered writer. Tales of Terror thrives on plot twists in the final act so it is a shame that such an effective piece is rendered moot by such a stringy ending.
Next up is Gordon Rennie & Frazer Irving’s serial Storming Heaven tackling superheroes through a hippie filter. This is a particularly strong piece and Irving never disappoints in his bright and vivid art. The colours just leap off the page while Irving’s design sense just takes the seventies concept and runs with it. Rennie’s story of transformation and psychedelica seems written especially to let Irving shine but it’s also a roarin’ read from start to finish. Great pacing and timing, good character play and innovative ideas on the evolution of hte superhero. It has been reprinted before but it is still one of the great Terror Tales of 2000 AD.
Tharg then takes us on a ride of various shorter tales of terror of which Chris Weston’s Counts As One Choice is a particular funny look into the dangers of collecting comic books and artist Edmund Bagwell of the impressive John Smith written Cradlegrave turns in some nice moody artwork in Pea Patch Podlings about a series of children’s dolls that turn out to be even creepier than they originally looked. Scene Of The Crime by Al Ewing and A Little Knowledge by Steve Moore are both solid entries with a twist but Jock’s short Reapermen tale and Cam Kennedy’s Revelations splutter towards their ending without any kind of satisfying resolution. I would have done away with the name dropping and would have selected stronger tales for these short additions. The same goes for the Kevin O’Neill drawn Shok! which seems to be included only to namedrop the now popular penciller of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on the cover. His art in Shok! looks a gazillion miles apart from his stylized linework in the present.
2000 AD’s alien editor Tharg once again presents a nice selection of tales from his terror vaults and delivers a nice showcase of the talent 2000 AD has on display.
Tharg's Creepy Chronicles is published by 2000 AD & Simon & Schuster. It is a full colour softcover and retails for $15.99.
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