Crossing Borders: Origins


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John Wagner bears it all in Judge Dredd: Origins and Franquin and Jidéhem elevate the comics medium to greater heights with Spirou's  Crooks At The Fair.

Judge Dredd: Origins by Wagner & Ezquerra

This volume of Dredd basically sells itself!

So there it is, the latest Dredd epic neatly describing all events leading up to the world of the Judges by Dredd über-scribe John Wagner himself and all drawn by the artist most associated with Dredd Carlos Ezquerra - with the exception of the introductory tale which is drawn by the ever stylish Kev Walker. I am glad to say that Origins doesn’t disappoint. Wagner crafts an ingenious tale connecting years of Dredd continuity and lays it all out in a chronological manner with Dredd telling the tale to a select band of judges while trying to rescue the body of Judge Fargo, the founder of the instant justice judicial system, from a bunch of muties.

Wagner hits all the high notes. What are the political events that lead America on the road to become a nuclear wasteland? How did the Judges rise to power? How did Judge Dredd and Rico came to be cloned from Fargo? What was their first experience on the streets? What really happened to the last American president Robert L. Booth? You’ll read all about it in Origins

Even clocking in at 192 pages, it’s a rather wordy volume with lots of information and tidbits of Dredd history connected together to weave an exciting near-future tale of politics. The action adventure framework of the quest provides some answers in itself and provides a good framing sequence for Dredd’s tale of the early years of the 21st century.

Carlos Ezquerra turns in the usual superb art job, his gritty pencils and scrawny figure work are perfect for this gruesome tale of democracy gone wrong, according to the judges anyway, things are never this black and white in Dredd’s world. His pages of the nuclear apocalypse are interspersed with pictures and collage work, poignantly adding a real world feel to the holocaust. Colour wise, things could have been a bit less ‘airbrushed’ and shiny but at least it is done consistently.

Fans of Dredd finally get to see how it all played out and how tightly Dredd is woven to the origins of this post-apocalyptic world. Wagner and Ezquerra once more provide a Dredd epic that not only unravels the world of the Mega Cities but also lays the foundation for the future with a rather surprising and emotional whopper of an ending that I won’t spoil here.

Judge Dredd: Origins by John Wagner, Kev Walker and Carlos Ezquerra is published by 2000 AD and Simon and Schuster. It is a full colour paperback counting 192 pages and retails for $19.99.

Crooks At The Fair by Franquin & Jidéhem

Originally published in 1959 as a short interlude in between longer serials and later published in album form in tandem with The Marsupilami Nest, Crooks At The Fair is actually an often overseen little gem of a story. For the first time Franquin works together with Jidéhem whose backgrounds are often slightly darker and more detailed than Franquins’ own works befitting the noir feel of the story perfectly.

Now Crooks At The Fair has been fully remastered, coloured and published as a hardcover album on quality paper. As an extra, text pieces by José-Louis Bocquet and Serge Honorez are added describing Franquin’s mastery of the comics language in detail side by side with the original drawings and providing cultural and historical context for the story leading to a truly immersive experience in the world of Franquin.

Franquin’s genius aside, Jean De Mesmaecker aka Jidéhem’s contribution is not to be overlooked. His fascination with cars and urban cityscapes is perfect for a story dealing with American-styled gangsters, baby kidnappings and a boxing ring at the local fair. All these elements are combined in a Spirou adventure that is fast paced with Franquin turning tricks at every page. As an extra Gaston LaGaffe puts in an appearance with his first attempt at logical thinking! A sight that must be seen to be believed.

I highly recommend this album for everyone interested in not only the genius of Franquin but also the language of comics. A truly exemplary presentation of a superb story.

Crooks At The Fair by Franquin and Jidéhem is published by Dupuis. It is a full colour oversized hardcover counting 88 pages and retails for €23.95. This review was based on the Dutch edition.

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