Comic Club: Judge Dredd Volume #1 & Slaine: The Grail War

Posted on April 12, 2013

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Comic Club returns with a round up of two 2000AD related titles on sale now – Judge Dredd Volume 1 from IDW and Slaine: The Grail War from 2000AD. Let’s take a look!

Judge Dredd: Volume 1

Mega-City One lawmaker Judge ‘Joe’ Dredd is having something a good year. Portrayed by Karl Urban in a critically-acclaimed movie, the on-going strip in 2000AD has gone from strength-to-strength. But Dredd has yet to break the American market in the same way. So enter IDW’s new monthly series featuring Dredd. Written by Cable scribe Duane Swierczynski, Volume 1, collecting issues #1-4 is out now.

Featuring two stories in each issue – the main on-going story and a second ‘back-up’ strip, the main story sees Dredd and fellow Psi-Judge Anderson fighting errant robots, clones and murderers in their quest to rid the decrepid Mega-City One from crime. Nelson Daniel’s art, whilst suitably gritty in places, isn’t to my taste. Reminiscent to Paul Grist’s, the likenesses aren’t distinct enough during action sequences and almost too cartoony for the style Dredd requires. The back-up strips fare better with special mention to Brendan McCarthy’s art on The Good Parts which is suitably psychedelic.

For me, the story doesn’t do enough to delineate Dredd, or ‘Joe’ as he is constantly referred to, from the other Judges to make him a distinct character of his own which is unfortunate as this is a Judge Dredd comic. And herein lies a problem – the IDW incarnation of Dredd doesn’t know who it is aimed at. Long-term Dredd fans will likely find it unsatisfying, and newcomers may find the world too enveloping.

Half of me really liked it, the overarching story about the failure of the droids seeming very 2000AD, but also undermined by strange inclusions: Dredd’s lack of attitude, the tree with the exploding fruit. For those that stick with it though, there is some development –by the third issue, things have taken a sinister turn as Judge Tarjay finds himself acting against his own will and the back-up strip becomes a neat tie-in rather than inconsequential fluff.

Overall, a patchy start to a title that hopefully will be able to do what the main strip in 2000AD cannot – allow its longerlength to allow deeper, more meaningful stories that make this series a distinct voice rather than a pale imitation.

 

Slaine: The Grail War 

Also out this week is the latest volume of Slaine. This time he comes face-to-face with Crusader Simon De Montfort – sworn enemy of the Cathars. Forced into joining forces with De Montfort to seek out the Grail Stone, the quest won’t be easy as Slaine will have to defeat the dark forces of El if he stands any chance of saving the soul of his lover!

For those not in the know, Slaine is a barbarian fantasy series in 2000AD, heavily influenced by Celtic myth. It might be appropriate to think of this as the comic equivalent of the HTV series Robin of Sherwood in terms of its treatment of mythology. Broadly speaking Slaine offers up a fantasy story in a historical framework – with mixed success.

Sent through time by the Earth Goddess to do her will, Slaine and his dwarf sidekick find themselves in increasingly difficult situations – first aiding William Wallace before coming up against crusader Simon De Montfort. Paganism is pitted against Christianity with a power struggle for the fabled grail in the middle – but Slaine has bigger things on his mind as his search for a lost love stretches across time.

Nick Percival’s art oozes savageness and drips with detail whilst Steve Tappin’s art is similarly intricately detailed. Both men capture the essence of Slaine and produce some art that is divine to look at. And for the most part, Slaine is well-executed as well as being sublimely drawn.

Its stories have a sense of high fantasy lacking from other comics. Indeed, Slaine combines its meaty plot with some humorous moments – even if the humour doesn’t always gel with the serious tone of the story at hand. Case in point is the completely ludicrous way in which a certain twist is handled in Secret of the Grail, such is the bizarre nature of the twist and how it is handled that it almost threatens to derail the entire story.

Slaine fans will lap up the latest in the collection, but there is still much to enjoy if you are newcomer to this world. For those newcomers, Pat Mills’ mashup of historical settings and exploration of the theological problems and ideals is likely to enchant you. Mills’ script is certainly entertaining rather than enlightening as far as historical accuracy goes however. This said, The Grail War arc especially is fascinating for its exploration of the historical context at hand. I’d advise skipping Secret of the Grail, as it really isn’t up to the standard of the other stories within this collection. Overall, Slaine: The Grail War is a fun romp, if not a wholly satisfying read.

Judge Dredd Volume 1 and Slaine: The Grail War are both available from Amazon now.

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Posted in: Comics