Espresso-sized book reviews for readers on the go.
Karl Marx wrote in his 1852 book, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, “Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as a tragedy, the second time as farce.” This occurs in Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two, written by Douglas Wolk and illustrated by Ulises Farinas. The notorious Judge Dredd gets relocated to Mega-City Two in a judicial exchange program. Although one would not think so with this grimdark postapocalyptic setting, but hilarity ensues. Mega-City Two is a media-saturated, gridlocked, crime-ridden, but otherwise sprawling megalopolis appearing like a ‘roided out Los Angeles.
During his time in Mega-City Two, Judge Dredd goes undercover, appears on a reality show, meets a Judge dressed like Santo the Luchador, battles a giant crustacean, and attends a con. The tone remains consistently farcical and absurd. As with other science fiction works, Mega-City Two is a witty satire on our present age. But this is satire with giant guns, golden eagle-shaped should armor, and mutants. It felt refreshing to see a comic franchise notable for its dark vision of the future and a relentlessly bleak tone not take itself too seriously. (Nolan Brothers take note, since The Dark Knight Trilogy was exciting and enjoyable, but also overlong and exhausting.)
I’d be remiss not to mention the fantastic art by Ulises Farinas. Imagine the hyper-detailed design work of Geoff Darrow (Hard Boiled) with figures that look like they belong in an episode of Doug or Daria. There are giant set-piece illustrations looking like postapocalyptic Where’s Waldo spreads. (We see Judge Dredd’s mug in a bubble and a tiny arrow pointing to a dot amid the urban sprawl.)
Mega-City Two reminded of why I liked Judge Dredd so much (and its delivery system, the Tharg-edited 2000AD.) It’s a great five-issue run that pokes fun at Hollywood’s predatory dream factory and creepy SoCal super-optimism. Nothing like a little sun to refresh Judge Dredd. And, true to form, the Hollywoodized Dredd got a cute doggie sidekick. Enter: Pug Dredd.