Judge Dredd: The Carlos Ezquerra Collection review

Carlos Ezquerra, says Grant, draws Judge Dredd meaner than anyone else. And this collection of his work proves it...

Judge Dredd: The Carlos Ezquerra CollectionBy Carlos Ezquerra, John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Gordon Rennie and Henry FlintPublisher: Rebellion.ISBN-10: 1905437358ISBN-13: 978-1905437351When it comes to depicting the violent, mean streets of Mega-City One, nobody draws them meaner than Judge Dredd’s co-creator Carlos Ezquerra. His thick, prominent foreground linework with blobby inks immediately pulls the reader’s eyes towards his gruff, powerful heroes, and his use of overstated body language to convey emotion is unsurpassed. His depiction of Dredd’s world as a violent, crumbling metropolis, sirens always audible somewhere in the distance, behind one mile-high city block or another, is bleak, powerful, and for many readers, the definitive one.Judge Dredd: The Carlos Ezquerra Collection is the second of Rebellion’s artist-centred volumes, following a Cam Kennedy book from last year. A third, spotlighting Henry Flint, is anticipated in the spring. This volume includes five Dredd adventures of varying lengths, and several from the spin-off Cursed Earth Koburn. Most of the episodes are from the last six years, but the book also has room for The Taking of Sector 123, a two-parter from 1992.

The editors must have had a difficult time in choosing the material in the book. Ezquerra is most often reserved for the more important Dredd episodes which advance the ongoing storylines, such as those already compiled in Rebellion’s Brothers of the Blood and Origins . However, Ezquerra occasionally gets to tackle a one-off, such as the incredibly silly Phartz episode about gaseous aliens. You can almost hear the schoolboy chuckle from its writer, John Wagner, on every page. Wagner and Ezquerra also team up for The Girlfriend, a tragic little tale which shows that the wealthier citizens of the future can purchase lifelike robot companions, and that the foolish citizens of Mega-City One will treat them as terribly as they do eachother.

Almost half of the book is given over to a 2001 serial by Garth Ennis called Helter Skelter, and this proves to be a very interesting, if not always compelling reread. The script repositions Judge Dredd as a conventional superhero, with a rogue’s gallery of alternate-universe versions of several old foes that our Dredd had already killed off.

That the talented Ennis would misread Judge Dredd so badly as to think he needs a battalion of arch-enemies who would hop from dimension to dimension looking for another chance to get revenge on him is very surprising. As a love letter to 2000 AD on its 25th anniversary, and including brief cameo appearances from a host of characters from older series, it might have made a nice twelve page story, but 72 feels a little long for such a slight, and misguided, premise, although it is packed with memorable moments and fine character interplay between Dredd and the scientist who causes the episode’s dimension-hopping trouble.

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Gordon Rennie understands Dredd’s character more than Ennis does, and his episodes are considerably more successful. In a wonderfully funny two part story called Sturm and Dang, Rennie introduces a former judge named Koburn who was demoted to frontier duty in the wildlands outside the city, and then incapacitates Dredd to act as Koburn’s straight man. Koburn, a Dreddworld reincarnation of Ezquerra’s old “Major Eazy” character from Battle Picture Weekly, got a short spinoff series in the Judge Dredd Megazine after the success of this story. The nine episodes of this series close out this collection.

Koburn is the absolute antithesis of Dredd, a scruffy, laconic iconoclast who doesn’t do anything by the same book that Dredd himself lives by, but nevertheless gets the intended result. The bleak desert setting also serves as a fine counterpoint to Ezquerra’s decrepit urban landscapes in the Mega-City. While it would have been preferable to see a longer, stand-alone Koburn volume after the series racks up some more episodes, it’s certainly nice to have all of these in one place.

Ezquerra has been working on Dredd for so long and has produced so many memorable episodes that a proper “collection” would be hundreds of pages longer than this, and probably not make for as satisfying a read since it would have to thread in and out of longer storylines. This book serves as more of an introduction or a sampler, and overall, it’s a very fun read that shows off Ezquerra’s solid artwork against a variety of writing styles. It is certainly recommended for either new readers or long-time 2000 AD fans.Grant GoggAns is a single father in the suburbs of Atlanta, where hespends as much energy as possible blogging about comics, music,restaurants and minor league sports at hipsterdad.livejournal.com