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Hondo-City Law: Meet Judge Inspector Toru Sadu

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What if Judge Dredd was born into Japan? What is the dark reflection of Dredd’s Mega City? Where Mega City One is chaotic and dirty, the Japanese counterpart Hondo-City is orderly and clean. Where in Mega City One all forms of power abuse are not tolerated (unless for the betterment of the law of course), in Hondo-City the Judges have an unofficial liaison with the criminal organization known as the Yakuza. I guess the least you can say about Mega City One would be that it wears its tears, at least, on its sleeves.

Robbie Morrison, co-creator of beloved 2000AD characters like Nikolai Dante and Shakara, has created a shiny yet dark reflection of a Mega City in Hondo-City. A place perfect on the outside but rotten on the inside, the only force for good are the Judges and even there corruption is present in the highest ranks. Hondo-City Law collects a variety of stories, all born in the streets of Hondo-City.

Our Man in Hondo recollects the first meeting of Judge Dredd and Judge Inspector Sado (who would later play a pivotal rol in one of Dredd’s multi-arc events). Sado is Dredd’s perfect reflection in another part of the world, Clint Eastwood versus Toshiro Mifune. Written by Dredd’s co-creator and main chronicler John Wagner, it is a stunning game of chess (well... chess with robots, explosions and rogue sleeper agents) between the two seemingly perfect Judges, trying to find the crack in each others harness. They find themselves to be two Judges riding the same bleeding sharp knife of the law but on different edges of the blade, who will crack and who will turn out victorious? Colin MacNeill paints it all in hues that are bright and grungy at the same time, topping off the inner duel to perfection.

Next up is Shimura spotlighting Hondo-City’s other top cop, Judge Shimura, accompanied by cadet Judge Aiko Inaba, who take on a cybernetic corporate entity bend on dominating the Japanese megacity. The story is a nice mix of action and cyberpunk with some Japanese storytelling mixed in, but is especially noteworthy for deepening the dark underbelly of the Judges in Hondo-City, revealing questionable ethics for the sake of profit and ties to the Yakuza underworld. Glimpses of the dark beast beneath the shining pavements of Hondo-City. It also features one of the earliest published works of current superstar artist Frank Quitely. From the start his excellent  sense of staging and space is apparent. His clean style is spot on for Hondo-City’s antiseptic streets, while his posed and transfixed figurework and facial characteristics exemplifies the inner troubles of being a Judge in Hondo-City.

From the same dynamic duo comes Babes with Big Bazookas, a Seventies action romp and Russ Meyer spoof which is quite literally a blast to work through!

Dredd shows up again in Executioner where Shimura, who has now gone rogue (for the full story see the older TPB Shimura), as a Ronin needs to decide whether or not to play judge, jury and executioner for a corrupt Judge out of the reach of Dredd’s jurisdiction. Morrison puts on a nice play on morals and ethics for each character, working off the triumvirate of Dredd, Shimura and (now-)Judge Inaba. Andy Clarke from Batman & Robin is also an excellent stager and his crispy clean linework also fits Hondo perfectly. 

The last tales is a solo adventure of Judge Inaba who goes in full Akira mode for a manga-inspired psychic battle for the future of Hondo-City. It is the most straightforward tale of the book and perhaps therefore also the least enjoyable and takes itself a bit too seriously. Judge Inaba comes off as a rather typical hard core female cop and largely misses well … a personality I’d say, beyond her typical stubbornness and flair for leveled reflection. The hyper-kinetic art is by Neil Googe whose cartoony artwork will probably look familiar to readers of WildStorm's deceased WildC.A.T.S. book. It fits the story nicely though, and it's a nice effort, but pales besides the more challenging earlier tales.

Hondo-City Law is an action fest TPB full of double ententes, shady ethics and ofcourse uncompromising characters in a shady world where nothing works as good as a big explosion. The clean Japanese counterpart of the American Mega Cities is highly recommended as a visiting place in all tourist destination packages in the worlds of 2000AD!

Hondo-City Law by John Wagner,  Robbie Morrison, Frank Quitely, Colin McNeil, Andy Clarke and Neil Googe is a 160 pages graphic novel, published by Rebellion. It retails for $18.99 and is available from August in bookstores.

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