Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two #1
Art by Ulises Farinas
Writing by Douglas Wolk
Published by IDW
2000 A.D.’s blunt instrument of fascism gets a Brandon Graham-style makeover when he’s moved to the West Coast. Farinas and Wolk’s vision of Mega City Two (previously nuked in a Garth Ennis story) is no less crowded, polluted, and dystopian than the East Coast hellhole Dredd hails from, but covered in a sunnier disposition. With climate-controlled bio domes over the vast chunk of the city–saturated with 24/7 media coverage and politically correct sloganeering–and a decentralized government allowing individual communities to self-regulate (one has more lax smoking laws than another) promises a superficial Change and Hope for transparency and economic freedom, which Ulises Farinas details with the loving eye for satire and Absurdism found in Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads. The feel-good leftness of Mega-City Two is a momentary frustration for Dredd, whose quick workarounds to tepid human rights laws (which mostly concern mind-numbing narcotics available almost exclusively to the middle- and upper-class) raise red flags that all is not as it seems. Corruption is far more rampant, as Douglas Wolk reveals in a plot twist, and Dredd has to navigate these gussied-up, polluted waters with a tool he’s not familiar with: diplomacy. Still, he prefers lethal force. The brilliance of Mega-City Two is how Wolk and Farinas show the two aren’t mutually exclusive in the age when mouthpieces for state-sponsored violence and surveillance apparatuses can get a Nobel Peace Prize.
Revolutionary War: Alpha; Revolutionary War: Dark Angel
Art by Rich Elson; Dietrich Smith
Writing by Andy Lanning & Alan Cowsill; Kieron Gillen
Published by Marvel
More 90s nostalgia, the Marvel Way. This crossover, based around the characters and particulars of Marvel’s UK comics, plods along in its first two installments, its individual character one-shots attempting to streamline the concept behind the Grant Morrison-written mega-series Seven Soldiers, jumping characters off the (mostly fannish, uninteresting) plotline about the return of a shadowy cabal of evil. Rich Elson and Dietrich Smith, respectively, are workmanlike in their balancing of homage to Marvel UK’s version of 90s muscle art and sticking with the comics realism favored in contemporary mainstream work. Smith and colorist Ruth Redmond offer slightly more panache with their Dark Angel one-shot, dropping the punk-chic heroine into stark white backdrops and black/blue/red hellscapes–accentuating the way reality bends around the character–yet it’s all in service of a Kieron Gillen script on cruise control. Floating the idea of Dark Angel being kept perpetually in debt to Satanic stand-in Mephisto because of her father, Gillen surprisingly avoids exploring this tension between Baby Boomers/Gen X baggage and Millennial resentment (the frankness of his and Jamie McKelvie’s depiction of the latter’s changing mores was a highlight of their Young Avengers series). The Dark Angel one-shot’s Alpha predecessor, however, is a mess: written by former Marvel UK alumni Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsill, it plays like any one of Lanning’s work-for-hire microcosms (the cosmic comics he and Dan Abnett did for the Big Two; their Hypernaturals series for Boom), relying on nostalgia for B-list cult characters rather than ideas (Hypernaturals was, in essence, a redo of their Legion of Superheroes). Character faces and exposition are copious, memorable storytelling and characterization scarce: never has Excaliber‘s rakish government specter Pete Wisdom been so listless, here playing the el blando audience surrogate. Even Cowsill’s fond recollection of Marvel UK’s early days sounds bored.