The Return of Crossing Borders


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Something new

After a well deserved summer break, Crossing Borders finally returns as a bi-weekly installment. I grabbed the chance to catch up on some books like Julian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot of which I must admit I liked Sense of an Ending much more. Thanks to Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series I got to know Megan Abbott whose latest crime novel The End Of Everything hits you square in the chest with an unexpected tale of innocence corrupted. I finished Ian McEwan’s Solar because I’m interested in green energy but found nothing more than a light hearted romp with a few comedic moments. And I read two novels by Belgian writer Erwin Mortier whose Sleep Of The Gods looks pretty untranslatable to english to me so if you can read Dutch, run to read ‘Godenslaap’. This one blew me away. And I got started on Dickens’ Oliver Twist so as you can see, I didn’t diddle dally during my almost two and half months away from Broken Frontier. 

It was a necessary time out in order to avoid burnout on the column but we’re off and rolling again and I decided to keep the structure much looser than my usual one-comic-review-per-column approach which in the end became a bit stale. So lets dive into it with one of the alltime great Belgian graphic novelists... Frans Masereel.

Something old

Born in 1889 in Belgium, Frans Masereel is mostly known as a graphic artist for his woodcuts detailing city life though he has always been a very political philosopher on life in general in his art. He has illustrated novels by Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde and Tolstoi and in 1925 he finished a series of woodcut panels entitled The City compiling over 100 panels detailing his vision on life in the city in the early 20th century. 

In 1919 however he created a series of panels entitled The Sun. It is basically one large pictorial novel depicting one man’s search for peace, happiness and the sun. This quest takes place in a smoke stacked industrial city, juxtaposing the inner and outer quest of the protagonist with the harsh realities of the outside world. Masereel’s woodcuts feature bold line work, his graphic shapes conforming to the inner worlds of his characters. You can easily see the influence he had on great comic artists like Ho Che Anderson, David B. and Marjane Satrapi.

Masereel always said that in his woodcuts, he found the perfect medium to attract a large audience in a comprehensible way. A true graphic novelist if I ever heard one. You can read the complete story The Sun scanned from a Japanese edition by a comic collector by clicking on the link below.


Something Borrowed

DREDD has arrived in the UK on the big screen to raving online reviews and though I am not a movie-goer at all preferring the mano-a-mano interaction of books and comics I do make an exception once or twice a year. First one was Nolan’s latest Batman and the second will be DREDD. It is therefore not a big surprise that I’m reading and enjoying DREDD the novel by 2000 AD & Abaddon Books collecting three previously published tales: Dredd Vs Death by Gordon Rennie, Kingdom of the Blind by David Bishop and The Final Cut by Matthew Smith. I have finished Dredd Vs Death and will discuss the other two whenever I have finished them.

If you’re looking to draw people into the world of Dredd, you can never go wrong with Judge Death and the other Dark Judges so Dredd Vs Death was the easy route in. All stories in DREDD seem to take place in continuity and Dredd vs Death is the first confrontation between Judge Dredd and the Dark Judges after the events in Necropolis where, aided by the Sisters of Death, over sixty million citizens of Mega-City One found their death. 

Gordon Rennie is a 2000 AD mainstay having scripted numerous Judge Dredd tales, Necronauts (a personal favourite of mine with art by Frazer Irving), Rogue Trooper, Absolom etc. His prose is fluid and lively and he has an excellent grip on the Dredd universe and the voice of Dredd which has a very particular stanza as exemplified by John Wagner. It is not an easy thing to get right if it is not accompanied by the visual of Dredd’s grimy face like in the comics. Dredd vs Death is filled with injokes and numerous tidbits of information recalling earlier adventures. This however doesn’t detract anything from a first time reader point of view. The concept of the Judges and their anti-thesis, the Dark Judges, is easy enough to grab. 

Rennie approaches this tale of Dredd as a sci fi horror tale adding on top of the Dark Ghouls demonic cults, rabid vampires and even zombies. Events happen fast and Dredd struggles to keep up with it all while Rennie often interjects the proceedings with tales of the ordinary citizens that will find themselves entangled in the Dark Judges’ plan to exercise final judgement on the entire city. It’s a nice bit of worldbuilding and in keeping with the launch of the movie, it not only features Judge Dredd but also the ever popular obstinate Judge Anderson showing once more that an effective Dredd story is as much about its future world and its inhabitants as about its titular lawman - which in effect could be a drawback for those expecting to read a story about Dredd himself. The only thing that is missing is the satire that make Dredd stories so attractive but the high octane speed of the story makes up for this lack.

Dredd Vs Death certainly delivers on the goods and for a first time reader, attracted by the success of the movie it is a worthy, clear and exciting introduction into the world of Dredd.

DREDD is published by 2000 AD & Abaddon Books. It is a paperback edition counting 704 pages and is available in stores right now.

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  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Sep 14, 2012 at 1:22am

    Dredd Vs Death..... damn! You know it is my birfday today? Looks like a perfect gift!!

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Sep 14, 2012 at 3:14am

    Nice try Richard! you get a No-Prize from me though! HAPPY BIRTHDAY dood! You'll get three big sloppy kisses at FACTS :)

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Sep 14, 2012 at 4:33am

    would have settled for less :p
    Thanks man

  • ripsterling

    ripsterling Sep 23, 2012 at 8:26am

    Masereel born in 1989, wow he's younger than me!

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Sep 23, 2012 at 3:02pm

    oops, it's 1889 obviously :-s

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