Judge Dredd: Judgment Day
Written by Garth Ennis
Drawn by Peter Doherty, Carlos Ezquerra, Chris Halls, Dean Ormston
Published by DC Comics/2000 AD; $14.95 USD
Judgment Day collects the twenty-one chapter serial that originally ran in 2000 AD 786-799, 816 and Judge Dredd: The Megazine 2.04-2.09. The catalyst for the story is pretty simple, a man named Sabbat has the ability to raise and command the dead, and now heís come to Earth shortly after Necropolis (or the Big Nec as they call it), an incident in which sixty million people died.
Dredd and his partner, Judge Perrier along with twelve cadets find themselves in a seemingly abandoned mining colony in the Cursed Earth when the dead begin to get up and walk. The first few chapters focus mainly on Dredd and his crew and their fight for survival as they make their way back to Mega-City One, with a few pages devoted to the introduction of the other main characters in the story, mainly the villain, Sabbat, and Johnny Alpha, a Strontium Dog (a bounty hunter from the future).
Once back at Mega-City One, Dredd and the other Judges fight off the walking dead for as long as they possibly can, eventually burning their own city walls and finally napalming most of the corpses into dust. Meanwhile, Johnny Alpha materializes inside of Hondo City in search of Sabbat but runs afoul of the Judges, who do not believe his story. They come around, but only after a few rounds of kicking zombie ass.
In due course the world powers call a meeting of the best Judges, with a plan to track down Sabbat and cut off the problem at its source, however, not until theyíre forced to nuke five of the worldís largest cities. So, Dredd leads a team of the worlds finest, including Johnny Alpha, into the Necromancerís fortress to take him out once and for all.
Sporting hi-tech battle suits, the group takes out most of the dead, but not before losing a soldier or two, and even wind up betrayed by one of their own. The end is rather fitting, and somewhat unexpected, though Dredd does get to dispense his brand of justice rather swiftly.
Ennis does a fine job with the script, based on a story by both John Wagner and himself, infusing it with his usual brand of over-the-top action and low-brow comedy. Itís often hard to keep a straight face simply because of some of the character names. The story predates the current zombie trend by well over a decade, but doesnít feel dated in the slightest, and the incorporation of the Strontium Dog (whom Dredd has had a run in with before) into the story adds a bit of originality to what otherwise could be a pretty standard zombie plot.
The art is truly the most enjoyable part of the book, and surprisingly the somewhat different styles mesh very well together. Each chapter stands out visually, but the book still maintains a rather consistent look. Carlos Ezquerra stands out above the rest, likely because he co-created the character (with John Wagner) and has a much better feel for Dreddís mannerisms.
Overall Judgment Day is a beautifully violent, engrossing, and sometimes gross piece of work that feels fresh even after so many years have passed. The story does move quickly at times, but given the fact that itís a collected serial, thatís quite understandable.
Ennis displays the skills that would eventually bring him to write a character that could be categorized as Americaís version of Judge Dredd, The Punisher, but thereís no sign of his brilliant characterizations as witnessed in Preacher. Not that that is a requirement for writing Judge Dredd, a character not exactly known for his depth.
Judgment Day is a wonderful example of Britainís most well known anti-hero out in the States. If youíre looking for hysterically exaggerated, brutally gorgeous entertainment, you canít go wrong with this collection. Grade: 4/5
-- Logan Polk
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