Thursday, May 27, 2010

136. Judge Dredd's in a Family Way

March 2004: Judge Dredd's supporting cast grows with another newly introduced clone in prog 1380. Inside is episode three of "Brothers of the Blood" by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, in which we meet Dolman, a rookie who, like Rico before him, is a clone of Old Stony Face. However, Dolman is very much his own man, and, as the story continues, he looks forward to leaving the academy and making his own way. Rico is assigned to spend a day with him on the streets to try to shake some sense into him. He introduces him to Vienna, last seen in progs 1350-1356, who is recovering from her ordeal in Brit-Cit, and who welcomes him to the "family."

Dredd's reaction to meeting another clone is one of stoic resignation. He's known for some time that he's had a few clones working their way up the system, and that he is getting older and can't keep working the streets forever. It's in the city's best interest, after all to take advantage of such good genetic stock. But Dolman proves to be far too loose a cannon for Justice Department and makes good on his threat. Vienna sees him off at the spaceport, and the young man leaves the city. He makes a couple more appearances over the next few years, reinforcing Old Stony Face's awkward acceptance of his "family."

Returning to action in prog 1380 are Sinister Dexter and Rogue Trooper, about which more next time. These step in to replace The V.C.s and The Red Seas, which concluded its second story, "Twilight of the Idols," in prog 1379. This was the one that I found extremely frustrating, and really colors my opinion of the series as a whole. It should have been an incredibly memorable adventure, filled with harpies and djinns, Sinbad's granddaughter and the immortal Aladdin, and an awesome fight between a kraken and the Colossus of Rhodes.

Unfortunately, it's one draft away from being one of 2000 AD's greatest moments, because Captain Jack Dancer and his still incredibly anonymous crew just luck their way out of danger every week. Ian Edginton and Steve Yeowell did a really good job on the story, and it's better than darn near any American superhero book, but if the hero is just handed precisely the magical items he needs to overcome whatever weird new obstacle comes his way, it's awfully hard to root for him. We prefer heroes who have to use their brains, not gadgets specially designed for each incident. Over time, Edginton and Yeowell got past this problem, and I think the series has evolved into one of 2000 AD's most wonderful series. The Red Seas will be returning to 2000 AD for its eleventh story in a couple of weeks, and everybody's really looking forward to it.

The two stories featured here have been reprinted in Rebellion trade paperbacks. Judge Dredd: Brothers of the Blood collects several stories from 1999-2004 which deal with Rico and Vienna, wrapping up with this adventure. The Red Seas: Under the Banner of King Death collects the first three adventures of this series.

Next time, the blog is about to take its summer holiday, but before we go, one last look at Durham Red and a gloriously awesome Rogue Trooper cover by Chris Weston. See you soon!

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