Monday, November 10, 2014


Usually, crossovers between franchise characters are structured as one-shots.  However, they can become more ambitious when two different companies agree to cross over their characters. Such is the case with the four Batman/Judge Dredd tales, the result of a collaboration between Britain's Fleetway and DC Comics.
Though the individual stories can stand alone, there are touches by writers Alan Grant and John Wagner that tie them loosely together.

The first, "Judgment on Gotham," is also the best, skillfully alternating between Judge Dredd's futuristic Mega-City domain and its gang of crazies, and Batman's Gotham. Dredd-villains like "Mean Machine" and "the Dark Judges" receive the bulk of the two crimefighters' attention, but the villain Scarecrow is a nice change from some of the more overused Bat-villains.  "Judgment" sports the best art, thanks to Simon Bisley, and begins the fractious association of the two heroes, whose dislike for one another goes beyond the bounds of the average "meet-and-beat" encounter.

"Vendetta in Gotham" is merely fair overall, though it does feature an enjoyably-long, kickass fight-scene between Batman and Dredd.  "The Ultimate Riddle" works Batman, Dredd and the Riddler together in a tedious gladiatorial-combat plotline.

"Die Laughing," however, works almost as well as the opener, even if it does spotlight that most overused of overused Bat-villains, the Joker.  The Glenn Fabry excels Bisley in one respect: Fabry does the best job of depicting the polychromatic yet sleazy world of Mega-City One.

The crossover of Dredd and Batman works as well as it does not simply because the two heroes don't like each other: because Dredd considers Batman a "vigilante" while the Caped Crusader deems the Judge to be a brainless fascist.  It works because they mirror opposing interpretations of the megalopolis as simultaneously a Pleasure-Dome and a City of Dreadful Night.

In the Dredd franchise, the opposition is more extreme: Mega-City is an overcrowded mess filled with discontented citizens, and the non-criminals can be even more dangerous than the criminals to the commonweal.  Dredd and his fellow Judges just barely control the chaos through the use of a justice that recognizes no compromise, but their struggle, while offering the thrills of a straight adventure, is always tainted by a whiff of irony; by the awareness that This is No Way for People to Live.

Batman, of course, inhabits a city where a humanistic approach to law and order is still possible, even though he too has any number of "I Am the Law" moments.  Gotham was not portrayed as especially corrupt until the 1990s, but even in the sunny eras of Sprang and Infantino there always remained some inkling that the city was the place of constant, unfulfilled desires-- symbolized not by the egregious misbehavior of the ordinary citizens but by the repetitive acting-out of Batman's endless array of antagonists.

By the bye, the volume collecting all four also includes a Lobo/Judge Dredd crossover, but this particular crossover is far from exceptional.

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