Here is a book that’s sure to get a lot of attention now that folks are giving the film Dredd 3D a chance on Blu-Ray. I know I’m a comic book guy, but even I have never given Judge Dredd a chance. I always think of a yelling Sylvester Stallone piggybacking Rob Schneider. I’ve always heard that the movie didn’t do the book justice but I never really had the urge to find out more about the character. Well, all that’s changed now because I watched Dredd 3D the other night and thought it kicked ass. Yes, I’ve heard the comparisons to The Raid, but I haven’t seen that flick so I was able to really immerse myself in Dredd. That was a great action movie and easily one of the best comic book films in recent memory. It didn’t waste time with an origin story ,it didn’t squeeze in an unnecessary romance, and it didn’t try and go over the top with a save the city/country/world plot. Dredd was just another day at the office for its hero and that’s why I dug it. Fully charged up from watching Dredd, I immediately grabbed my copy of The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection and started reading and guess what– it was fun too!

Content

The Batman vs. Judge Dredd stories are still considered among the most brutal crossovers in comics more than 20 years since they were originally published. 2000 AD and DC co-published this work which includes all 4 team-up adventures between Judge Dredd, a lawman from the future, and Batman. These stories take place outside of any continuity which means that the creative teams were able to have as much fun as possible and you, the reader, don’t have to stress out about seeing Batman fighting ghost/alien monsters from future (I know that’s usually a problem for me, but when it comes to stand-alone elseworld adventures like this, I’m A-Okay with it). Speaking of the talent behind this thing, this brand new hardback edition has the original creator of Judge Dredd, John Wagner, working with Alan Grant on all of these so you know you’re getting a solid depiction of both heroes. And as if that wasn’t enough, the artwork in this book is jawdropping. I was left stunned by the work of Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry. In addition to these 4 Batman/Judge Dredd stories you’re also getting one bonus comic which I consider supplemental material and will talk about it a bit after this segment. All I’ll say for now is that Batman is not the guy Judge Dredd is teaming up with. These aren’t thought-provoking stories. Not by a long shot. What they are, however, is fun escapism and a must-read for fans of both characters.

Judgment on Gotham

Our first story was originally publishedi n 1991 and its artwork by Simon Bisley is pretty impressive. His style feels like a mis between Heavy Metal and a Salvador Dali painting! The story deals with a time-travel belt and we have villains from the Judge Dredd universe winding up in Gotham and teaming up with Batman’s villains and that leads to all kinds of shinanigans. Actually, the villains were given more attention than Batman or Dredd. Instead, the stars of Judgement on Gotham are Judge Death, an alien spectre that can posess dead bodies, The Scarecrow (You know him. You better know him, anyway), and The Mean Machine. The story gets more bizarre with every turn of the page, culminating in a rock concert that parodies The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”. Seriously. The surprisng thing is that although that sounds pretty ridiculous, it wasn’t bad. It was pretty funny and very entertaining. I don’t want to say “Shut your brain off when you read this and you’ll have a great time.” because I feel like even that statement craps on someone’s creation, I’ll just say that the stories collected here are ones where you don’t need to get hung up on plot so much because just the idea of these two characters ever crossing paths is utterly ridiculous so you might as well accept the fun of it. The evil schemes are pretty simplistic, I mean it’s instead all about character interaction. What would it be like if the death-themed villain from this comic met the fear-themed villain of that comic! And would Batman and Judge Dredd get along if they met or would they fight? THAT’s what you’re reading a team-up book for! You don’t drop a Mentos into a cola to enjoy the flavor, you do it to watch the bottle explode.

Vendetta in Gotham

One thing I found most interesting about this anthology is that all of the books are connected. Since it’s the same pair of writers handling every story the Batman/Judge Dredd team-up gets its own continuity where they reference events from the previous adventure which would have been published years ago. With Vendetta there really wasn’t as much on the line as there was in Judgement on Gotham, nor was the artwork as memorable. It looked kind of like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in its style and the story is basically one long grudge match between Batman and Judge Dredd in which neither character can come out on top. These hero team ups with their inevitable fights always require that both heroes are evenly matched and while seeing your favorite heroes duke it out may be fun for some it can get a bit boring in my opinion. Not to give the heart of the story away, but the subplot with Scar-Face came off especially disturbing after the events of Sandy Hook.

Spoiler
The Ventriloquist plants a bomb inside of Scarface and uses the doll to try and blow up a senator’s child in the middle of an elementary school play. It’s pretty fucked up.

The Ultimate Riddle

Entertaining and very fast paced, The Ultimate Riddle isn’t your typical Riddler story. Usually when Edward shows up Batman and the rest of Gotham have to test their brainpower, but in this adventure it’s all about brawn! Riddler teams up with aliens to abduct Batman and Judge Dredd and put them in an arena with the most bad ass fighters in the universe. There can be only one survivor and everyone is targeting Batman. So, like I said, definitely not your typical Riddler story. The artwork looked cool, but it also seemed very static for such an action-packed story. However, it’s still gorgeous. The whole book looks amazing and has some of the best artwork you’re going to find in a crossover anthology or any other graphic novel for that matter.

Spoiler
The ricochet bullet used by Dredd at the end was a cheap deus ex machine. I understand he uses a gun with a lot of different ammo options but had that same exact tactic been used earlier in the book to set this scene up down the road then would’ve been a big payoff it would’ve played much better. Instead it came off as a cheap way to tie things up neatly. All the zero hour stuff is a bit confusing to modern readers who aren’t as familiar with past events and Riddler’s use of the gadget was kind of strange. If he was willing to make an illusion of an entire world, then why didn’t he make a fake Judge Dredd and fake monsters as well? Were the other aliens illusions? Oh well, it’s best not to ponder the plot of this one too much, it’s just good fun.

Die Laughing

Easily the biggest in scale of all the crossovers, the final Judge Dredd and Batman partnership goes out with a bang. It does this by bringing things full circle back to Judgement on Gotham only this time the plot is reversed with Batman chasing his arch nemesis to Mega City One. Adding the Joker and all other Dark Judges into the mix definitely raises the stakes and the artwork is my personal favorite of the entire book as well. Anyone who has read Preacher will be familiar with Gelnn Fabry’s work, he did every single cover of that series only here he’s doing interiors that are some of the most detailed and photo realistic illustrations you’ll ever see. However, since it takes so much time to deliver artwork of this quality and it is such a lengthy story, Glenn Fabry wasn’t able to complete the tale in its entirety. Artists Jim Murray and Jason Brashill filled the gaps and those pages, you’ll be happy to know, are just as stunning as the Fabry stuff. It’s really a gorgeous book and easily the most insane and enjoyable of all the Judge Dredd/Batman team-ups. Topping this story would’ve been incredibly hard to do.

Supplemental Material

As I said earlier, there isn’t any traditional backup material like essays or sketches or anything like that. In its place you’re getting a bonus comic:

Lobo/Judge Dredd: Psycho-Bikers Vs. The Mutants From Hell

Things were definitely darker when Batman was around. With The Main Man teaming up with Judge Dredd, the ludicrous alien/space travel/mutant stuff gets turned up to 11 and artwork even takes on more vibrant colors and cartoony characteristics. Stories like this really aren’t my cup of tea so I admittedly just skimmed through it. Those who enjoy extremely over-the-top action adventure in their comics will probably be thrilled by this book being added to the collection but if you’re like me and came here more for Batman than anything else you’ll probably skip this and still be satisfied with all the other stories added to this collection. It’s a nice bonus for Judge Dredd fans, but Batman folk will likely not see the appeal.

Value

If you don’t care anything about Judge Dredd or team-ups between comic book characters then I can see how this might not appeal to you. However, if you’re love these guys and can appreciate great comic book art, this book is worth every single penny even at the cover price of $29.99! And at the price of $19.79 on Amazon I say you’re foolish to not pick this book up. There’s so much great, fun material inside and the way this book was put together looks great. Take off the dust jacket and you’ll find a glossy hardback that’s fully illustrated from front to back!

Overall

Even though it doesn’t have much depth I had a great time reading this. I’ve said before that with superhero comics you have those that try to have deep, meaningful stories and you have those that make you feel like you’re a 6 year old smashing your action figures into one another all over again. This is a perfect example of the latter. Of course it isn’t for everybody since it relies just as much on your knowledge and appreciation of Dredd as it does Batman, but even with my limited understanding of the Judge Dredd universe I had fun reading this and the artwork may have been worth the price alone. A couple stories in the middle weren’t quite as interesting as the rest and I don’t think the book as a whole is all that re-readable, but it’s still one of the finest examples of how to release a crossover in hardback format. Completionists will be ecstatic to have every single Judge Dredd/Batman team up all in one book just so you know your collection is complete. I also could have done without the Lobo/Judge Dredd team up, but why complain about getting extra content? It’s beautifully drawn, a great throwback for comic readers of the 90s and it’s available at an affordable price. Go pick it up.

SCORE: 9/10