In which the blogger lists in no particular order of priority some of the many virtues of Al Ewing and Henry Flint latest Judge Dredd tale. Reader beware, there are substantial spoilers in what follows;
So, why is Judge Dredd: Bullet To King Four such an impressive achievement?
1. Because it succeeds in loading up a single six page chapter with an extraordinary degree of plot, sub-plot and character. Most importantly, it does so without ever causing the story to feel as if it lacks purpose, pace or a distinct identity all of its own.
2. Because it takes a substantial amount of plot-seeding for future stories and skillfully delivers it without making the reader feel as if they're experiencing set-up rather than story.
3. Because it draws off Dredd's unprecedentedly rich continuity and brings into play a significant number of characters and events without ever making the less experienced reader feel alienated.
4. Because it embraces the recent and remarkably daring changes to Dredd's status quo while enthusiastically adding to them, proving yet again that continuity doesn't in any way have to be a conservative influence on serial fiction.
5. Because Henry Flint's artwork evokes a fearsomely claustrophobic,
perpetually anxious world in which Mega-City One's variously harassed and usually
twisted citizens are doomed to endless disasters both great and small. The precisely-evoked emotions of his characters
absolutely dominate the panels they've been
placed in, which creates the uncomfortable and yet entirely compelling
sense that the
reader's far too close to events for comfort. Pages constructed of such
intense, frequently askew scenes run the
of appearing cramped and overwhelming. Yet each of Flint's panels has a
precise focal point, and each of them is
placed so that they lead the reader's gaze efficiently on to its
successor, and so on. No
matter how densely packed his storytelling, and no matter how nervously
the thin black guttering on his pages helps to make this world appear, Flint's
work is always both compelling and surprisingly easy to follow.
6. Because it shows how well artist and writer work together in
collaboration. In the story's very first tier, for example, Flint shows Dredd being
scanned prior to interrogating War Marshall Kazan's clone. By breaking the single event into three panels barely separated by the most narrow of
black borders, and by confining Dredd in the relatively circumscribed centre
frame, Flint suggests how
constrained Joe Dredd now is by circumstances. As such, Flint and Ewing combine to wordlessly establish the story's theme and mood from the off.
7. Because Ewing's dialogue is so sharp and convincing that it can be read out loud for the playful pleasure of doing so. This is not, as the reader will surely agree, a commonplace in even some of the very best of the modern-era's comics.
8. Because it sees the reintroduction of the wonderfully reprehensible Judge Bachmann, who's for my money the most bewitchingly intimidating antagonist be found in any of 2012's fantastical comics. The very fact of her silent, insidious presence in a meeting of the city's most powerful Judges results in a powerful, telling spat between Dredd and Hershey. Of all the 50 million or so survivors of the Chaos Plague and its aftermath, only Bachmann, it seems, has good reason to be beaming like a zealous, newly-appointed Sunday school teacher dosed up to the gills with MDMA. Sinister doesn't begin to describe her character.
9. Because it continues the laudable, long-running process of showing how Dredd's strengths as an indomitable hero of fascism are also terrible, terrible weaknesses. Here Ewing shows how Dredd's refusal to involve himself in the politics of Mega-City One has resulted in Bachmann 's elevation to the Council. In emphasising how Dredd's ideal of fascism is entirely unworkable, Ewing helps undermine the glamour which the character's uber-masculine approach to problem-solving inevitably generates.
10. Because it surrounds Dredd with characters who are nearly all, to a lesser or greater degree, outmanoeuvring him, which leaves the reader caught between the pleasure of seeing him humiliated and enraged, and the frustration of not knowing how all this politicking will eventually play out. Something more substantial than a chess-set is inevitably going to end up being shot through before these plot-threads are all tied up and laid aside, which leaves the reader snared and anxious to know just what it is that happens next.
Plus special bonus, classical music referencing, reason;
11. Because it references Birdhouse In Your Soul by They Might Be Giants..