COMIC REVIEW: Judge Dredd - The Garth Ennis Collection
Ennis Does Dredd Justice...
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There's no such thing as a "bad" Judge Dredd comic, some just happen to be better than others. Case in point: 2000 AD's latest North American release, the incredible Judge Dredd: The Garth Ennis Collection. In book stores now priced at a budget-friendly $19.99US, this new compilation of everyone's favorite future lawman features stories written by Garth Ennis, Garth Ennis and Garth Ennis. Best known for the Vertigo series Preacher, Garth Ennis flexes his Judge Dredd writing muscles with an eclectic mix of styles, from somewhat serious in tone ("Raider", "A Magic Place"), silly and surreal ("When Irish Pies Are Smiling!", "Almighty Dredd"), to everything in between.
Kicking things off with a good dose of action and humor, the 6-part Emerald Isle reunites Ennis with Preacher artist Steve Dillon. Ennis taps his Irish roots for this tale where Judge Dredd is sent to future Ireland (now a theme park!) to investigate a high-profile murder. Once there, Dredd teams up with Judge Joyce (created by Dillon) and the odd couple must track down and stop the radical Sons of Erin. Irish culture stereotypes fly in this Dredd adventure, Ennis tipping his hat to Guinness beer and coming up with crazy cool concepts such as the "Spud Gun" (yes, it fires deadly potatoes!). It's all so over the top and fun, just the way Judge Dredd should be.
Sobering up the mood is First of Many. With crisp graphics by Cliff Robinson, the short piece delivers Dredd a shocking blast from the past: the first guy he ever arrested! Almighty Dredd, on the other hand, is outright zany with its tall tale of a cult that worships Judge Dredd. The manic artwork of Ian Gibson (pictured above) only accentuates this delirious yarn; like the Sunday Comics gone mad (in a good way!).
It's back to serious in A Magic Place, probably my least favorite story of the bunch. While not "bad" (there's no such thing as a "bad" Judge Dredd comic!), the tragic romance at the heart of the tale just felt... unnatural and out of place. I didn't feel any real connection between the two lovers. Things get even odder and disjointed when you have a fugitive criminal named "Blender" running around with an actual kitchen blender for a weapon. I think Ennis was a little distracted when writing that one. Luckily things quickly get back on track with Innocents Abroad. It's back to the Emerald Isle where the O'Dilligan brothers are up to no good. This 4-part story explodes off the pages with amazing art by Greg Staples (below) - easily my favorite artist in this book.
My favorite story in the Garth Ennis Collection is Raider. Richly illustrated by John Burns, this very film noir-like story stars an ex-Judge named Raider trying to redeem himself in his own mind. A vigilante of sorts, Raider's violent actions draw the attention of the law... and Judge Dredd. There's also a tragic romance here that, unlike "A Magic Place," actually works - Raider's long lost love giving the story an emotional, cinematic quality.
Closing the collection is Snow Storm - a gorgeously painted story by Colin MacNeil about a drug called "sugar", and When Irish Pies Are Smiling! - which returns Steve Dillon to the artist's chair for one demented sendoff. It gives a new meaning to meat pies...
I have a few Judge Dredd books under my belt now, all of which have been immensely entertaining and fun to read. Judge Dredd: The Garth Ennis Collection ranks as the best Dredd I've experienced so far. Funny, serious, surreal... Garth Ennis does Judge Dredd justice.
Review by Jeff Saylor
Review Sample Courtesy of 2000AD