♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer Tim Hayes took a look at Rebellion’s collection of Judge Dredd: The Cape And Cowl Crimes…
Judge Dredd: The Cape And Cowl Crimes
Writers: Alan Grant, John Wagner, Si Spurrier and various
Artists: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer, Simon Bisley and various
The coverage of 2000AD’s fortieth birthday included several reminders of something that was already clear in 1977: that the comic wasn’t born from any deep love of US superheroes among its founders, with Pat Mills the most vocally opposed to any sympathetic treatment of the costumed fascists in his neck of the woods. But they seep into most sequential art eventually, with second and third generation creators more inclined to see how Mega-City One’s law enforcement operation might deal with superheroic intruders, and indulge a few playful homages while they’re at it.
This collection of Judge Dredd stories with spandex connections spans a hefty timeline, all the way from 1987 to 2016, so both past and present attitudes are covered. The original ambivalence is obvious in the story from Dredd’s Alan Grant/John Wagner heyday when Dredd meets the square-jawed Fairlyhyperman, refugee from the doomed planet Kapok, whose do-gooder code has a stale complacency about it. The same era’s Batman lookalikes fair even worse: the figure in a story drawn by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer doesn’t even pretend to be more than a Bat-mugger, and the ones drawn by Simon Bisley in six pages of ferocious cartooning originally from heavy metal magazine Rock Power are all modelled after then-Prime Minister John Major.
At the more recent end of the book, mockery slides into satire and parody, as two stories by Simon Spurrier summon up a cosmic entity named Digestus, several agents of ACRONYM, a mutant with claws made from Unbrakium who calls everyone “Bob,” and many, many others. There’s a book or two to be written about the role of overt comedy in Judge Dredd, and it should include this scheme by an ex-judge to make justice a multimedia cross-over event for credulous spectators, along with Dredd’s staunchly conservative response that the population should go home and grow up.
All these stories are fine, although the book is a bit off-balance thanks to the hefty 60 pages in the middle given over to a very serious 2009 story in which Dredd plays no part. Robbie Morrison and Richard Elson’s Marauder is all about revenge, in this case by a boy who saw his mother murdered by a corrupt Judge. He grows up to be a vigilante with a red costume and rooftop acrobatics borrowed from Daredevil, but finds little happiness. As it happens, readers of a Megazine story eight years earlier witnessed the mother’s death too, plus the look on the same boy’s face when he was inducted into the academy of law at Dredd’s request. The story is noticeably up-front about its homoeroticism, but equally notable as another example of 2000AD’s ability to exploit its own real-time chronology, and of writers laying long-term plans; but this collection leaves that first story out, missing the chance to flaunt the nuances that Dredd’s world can aim for.