Pulp #635

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Pulp #635

Well hey there, gang! Once again, it’s that wonderful time of the week where I get to ramble on about comics, and you guys ‘n’ gals get to read it – or, more likely, skim through on your way to the CD reviews. It’s okay, I don’t judge you. Much.

Now, if you’ve been reading Pulp for a while, you might remember that I’m an unabashed sci-fi comic nut. If there’s one thing I love about this gig, it’s that I get to sample some of the best (and occasionally, the worst) comics out there. Some of the books I read are critically acclaimed masterpieces, written by some of the world’s best authors – the Sandman Chronicles by Neil Gaiman comes to mind – and some are pure escapist fun that aren’t designed to make you think so much as make sure you have a rollicking good time. This week’s book definitely fits into the latter category, and for good reason: it’s a Judge Dredd comic, and you know that means you’re in for a fun time.

Mega City Two: City of Courts is a rather hefty trade from IDW Publishing that collects the entirety of the five-part mini-series of the same name, and boy, is it a doozy. Written by comic journo Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics: How Graphics Novels Work and What They Mean) and spinning out of IDW’s main Judge Dredd series, Mega City Two: City of Courts sees Joe Dredd reluctantly assigned to a new beat – Mega City Two, the sprawling metropolis built over the ruins of what was Los Angeles. Dredd is sent to MC2 to track down a gang that smuggles prisoners out of the iso-cubes in MC1 and gives them new IDs and lives in MC2. Mega City Two may not have the grittiness of his home city, but Dredd learns very quickly that the rules are very different in a city where image is everything.

While there is an overarching story, Mega City Two: City of Courts really just seems like an excuse to take the world’s surliest law-man and drop him into what is easily the most ridiculous city in the Judge Dredd universe. Dredd’s frustration about being saddled with a camera crew and the PR-obsessed MC2 judges is both obvious and palpable; it strikes me as a really extreme version of a “fish out of water” storyline.

While Dredd is obviously the focus of the story, the real appeal of this book is getting the chance to explore the JD universe outside of its usual setting. Mega City Two’s opulence is a radical departure from the gritty slums of Mega City One; most of its Chief Judge’s attention is focused on self-promotion and PR rather than actual law enforcement – advertising is everywhere and materialism is off the charts. Everyone’s out to get famous, regardless of the consequences. So, basically, it’s a slightly exaggerated version of modern L.A.

Given the chaos of Mega City Two, the storyline fades a bit into the background, and as a result some of Dredd’s work seems a bit odd and disjointed. It almost feels like Wolk had the initial idea for the story, forgot about it for a bit and came back to it at the end. That said, I ended up being too distracted to notice until the end, anyway, and the story is wrapped up nicely. While I’m not a huge fan of artist Ulises Farinas’ character designs, his landscapes of MC2 are fantastic and his colouring is spot on. Despite being chaotic beyond belief, Mega City Two is worth the risk.

Written by Alastair McGibbon