Friday, February 16, 2007

Judge Dredd #8

Judge Dredd #8 (vol.2), July 1987, Quality Comics
writer: John Wagner
artists: Ian Gibson & Cam Kennedy
letterer: Tom Frame
art assistant: Vanessa Morgan
editor: Peter Hogan

Before Judge Judy, or Judge Joe Brown, the judges of Mega-City One stood up for justice against even the most minuscule of offenses, and rightfully so, to preserve the safety of the 800 million citizens dwelling in his futuristic uber-metropolis. ("Futuristic?" Didn't I say before Judge Judy? How old is she?) Leading the charge is Judge Dredd, the by-the-book tough guy whose first and only love is the law, as he makes abundantly clear in this issue, appropriately dedicated to tale of romance (however begotten) -- a fitting end to my short run of romantically inclined comics corresponding with Valentine's Day. Yes, days later, love is still in the air, but in Mega-City One, it's much more than a mere social trespass.

It's a criminal one. Particularly in the first issue, when a rescued damsel pursues Dredd, consequently "wasting his time," which is an arrestable offense. "I'm putting you away, creep!" Dredd bellows, as if he were barking at some dumbstruck gangster. No, Bella Bagley was only lovestruck, demonstrating an obsession akin to Harley Quinn's, if I don't have the latest issue of Batman still rattling around in my brain to explain the comparison. (The text-intensive issue, masterfully penned by Grant Morrison, is another interesting tribute to St. Valentine, and I recommend you swipe it off the new release shelf today lest you settle for its inevitable second printing!) This first story is a short one, but it draws a Dredd-novice like me in for more. I enjoyed Ian Gibson's art as much as I dug Wagner's quirky character study, but on the last page, the ink work becomes inexplicably muddy. The colors bleed . . . unlike Dredd's heart for the hopeless romantic that merely desires his affection. But I don't think the creators intended such a parallel.

The second story is the real show stopper, starring a rogue judge that has fallen in love with a citizen and who is willing to cover his tracks -- thus preserving his job in law enforcement -- at any cost. This tale begins with a simple mugging, but amidst their spoils the thugs find a cassette, evidence of the jaded judge's indiscretions. Turns out, the victim is our lady love's jealous ex-husband who has bugged his betrothed's apartment. When the thugs try to blackmail the rogue judge, he attempts to pop them off, until Dredd saves the ringleader and gets the whole story. "The Price of Love" balances serious criminal noir with light-hearted satire, to wit, the judge's corny pre-smooth pick-up line: "You're in serious trouble citizen . . . The charge is theft. Item: one heart. Mine." Wagner's script seems more focused than this issue's initial offering, and Cam Kennedy's art is more solid, more fluid and expressionist. Frankly, I'm surprised by how taken I am by this issue, overall. It's true, what they say: love will find a way.

I don't know if Judge Dredd is still around today as prominently as he was in the late '80s. His cinematic treatment at the hands of Sly Stallone might be a contributing factor to the character's hiatus, unless I'm completely missing him on the stands. Still, with Marvel Toys producing a Dredd action figure this year, in their line of notable indie comic book heroes, perhaps our future has naught to fear. Judge Judy may be a tough lady, but the law is just her day job. If Valentine's Day has taught us anything, it's that love cannot be confined by time. Romance is a lifestyle, if you do it right.

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