Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges – spoiler light

dark judges

Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges a graphic novel published by 2000AD

Writers:
John Wagner & Alan Grant

Artists:
Brian Bolland, Brett Ewins, Cliff Robinson, Ron Smith

Letterers:
Tom Frame

Previously published in Progs 149-151, 224-228 & 416-427

The most widely known villains outside 2000AD fandom, Judge Death has been an inspiration for many things. Most notably Dredd and his deathly nemesis have appeared on many Anthrax albums and t-shirts.

This collection brings us the stories Judge Death, Judge Death Lives and Four Dark Judges. These stories are reprints so I am assuming most readers will be aware of the general thrust of the stories. There are spoilers below but due to the fact they are reprints I’m tagging them as light. If you have never read these stories maybe they are medium. There is only one heavy spoiler if you haven’t read Judge Death.

I’m reviewing the Kindle version of this book and all pages are black and white. It does suffer slightly from the fact that famous double spreads are cut in half. However the story is still easily read and brought back good memories. Continue reading

Fox Fest at Snooty Fox featuring King Nothing – promoted by aLive Promotions.

Saturday 23rd February, Snooty Fox, Wakefield.snootyalive

Fox Fest, promoted by Jim Cameron of  aLive Promotions.

FOX FEST 2013 BAND SCHEDULE (reverse order)

1. King Nothing (LEEDS)
2. The More I See (PETERBOROUGH)
3. JD FDCS (MIDLANDS)
4. RONIN (Worcester)
5. Defy All Reason (WREXHAM)
6. THIRTEEN16 (LEEDS/BRADFORD)
7. Kill the Silence (LEEDS)
8. Sea of Abrogation (WAKEFIELD) Continue reading

Doctor Who: The Silurian Gift – a ‘Quick Reads’ book by Mike Tucker – spoiler light

QR2013This book is part of the 2013 Quick Reads released on 14th February 2013.

I’m assuming most people that have read anything on my blog read books. I may be wrong. After all one in six adults in the UK have difficulty reading books. That isn’t even counting people that can read books but don’t for whatever reason.

So why am I talking about Quick Reads to people I assume read?

These books are only £1.00. Why not buy one for someone who doesn’t read books. They are short, the print is larger than average without being large print. The books are always either by top authors or are popular subjects. Even if none of this years’ books are what you want you might find one on Amazon that is more what you are looking for.

sw silurian

This book, as you can see, features the Doctor as portrayed by Matt Smith. He doesn’t have any assistant with him and it isn’t clear where in continuity it is intended to fit.

The story is set in Antarctica and though the date isn’t mentioned I get the feeling it is in the near future. PelCorp, owned by business tycoon Rick Pelham, has found a new source of clean energy beneath the south pole ice-cap.

The Doctor is intrigued how PelCorp could find a new source of energy the first time they drilled in the Antarctic. He is further puzzled how they can extract it and refine it in mere weeks.

After one of his workers is attacked by a mysterious monster he accepts an offer of help from the Doctor. The Doctor accepts the help of a young woman, Lizzie Davies, who gets in on the trip by pretending to be the Doctor’s assistant.

What could be behind this intriguing plot? Well probably Silurians as they are in the title.

This is typical fare for a Doctor Who book, there are plot twists, there are a few surprises, there are multiple uses of the sonic screwdriver – but then that is what is required for a Quick Read. The whole point is to present an unchallenging but enjoyable read, this book manages this.

Try out a Quick Read or, as I suggested at the beginning, treat someone to one. Lets bring down that 1 in 6 figure.

Badger! – really cool tool by Michael Carroll

The title image for this blog was created with the Badger program by Michael Carroll (edit April 2015 – that was the original Badge, the current one is a higher-res version Michael made for me later in 2013). Michael is a writer of novels and comics. He has written several novels including the New Heroes series published by Harper Collins. In comics he has written several strips for Future Quake and Zarjaz before writing a few strips for the Black Museum in Judge Dredd Megazine. Since 2011 Michael has written stories for Judge Dredd published in 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, most recently in Prog 1816 in January 2013. Michael also co-wrote the fan film Judge Minty with Steven Sterlacchini.

Michael was also Webmaster for the wonderful novelist Harry Harrison, who sadly passed away on 15th August 2012. I’d like to dedicate this review to Harry Harrison who was my inspiration as a teenager to try to write stories, I’ve been rejected by Marvel and BBC but at least I tried, thanks Harry. Continue reading

Judge Dredd Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction – graphic novel – spoilers medium to heavy

Day-of-Chaos-The-Fourth-Faction

Judge Dredd Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction a graphic novel published by 2000AD

Writer:
John Wagner
Artists:
Ben Willsher, Staz Johnson, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint
Colours:
Chris Blythe
Letterer:
Annie Parkhouse

Previously published in progs 1700-1704, 1740-1751, 1753-1758 & Judge Dredd Megazine 307, 308, 310.

I picked this up in Travelling Man in Leeds. I missed Staz Johnson signing on Saturday 9th February due to work but Travelling Man hooked me up with a signed copy on the following Sunday.

There are spoilers below but as it is a reprint I’m saying they are medium as I expect most readers know something of the story. In more recent reviews of Judge Dredd reprints I’ve tried to keep the spoilers very light, this is because the stories, The Cursed Earth Saga and The Day The Law Died are much older and new readers are perhaps less likely to know much about them. Of course if you haven’t previously heard anything about this story the spoilers are heavy; in fact they get that way in my intro in the second paragraph following this, so beware.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. It’s an old saying, much quoted. This is a cold day for Mega City One, or rather this is the start of the build up to a cold day.

This story has its roots in 1981 when John Wagner and Alan Grant decided Mega City One was just a bit too big. Starting with Block Mania in Progs 236-244 where East-Meg assassin Orlok poisoned the water supply to several citi-blocks turning them in to warring factions. Then we entered the Apocalypse War in progs 245-270 when East-Meg One invaded following the chaos their agent had caused. Seeing his city devastated, Dredd led a hand picked band of Judges and in the end wiped the enemy city from the Earth with its own missiles.

30 years later…

Here we have a slow increase of threat to the city. There has recently been a change in Chief Judge, the outgoing Sinfield. sentenced to life on the Titan penal colony. The incoming Chief Judge Francisco, returned to the post after being poisoned by Sinfield. Dredd has been forced to be on the Council of Five, to all intents and purposes not only the leaders of the Judges but the Government of Mega City One, their Mayor being a symbolic leader only.

In an attempt to avoid what Dredd sees as tedium in the Council of Five meetings he initiates a policy of Zero Tolerance and starts with a crackdown in Sector 50. in The Skinning Room. This episode doesn’t have a great deal of plot linked to the main story of revenge. However it is essential for background of what state the city is in at the time. Every spare Judge is drafted in to Sector 50 and senior Cadets are also put on the streets. There is an interesting new element of Justice Department are seen, specialist snipers with unique uniforms and hover bike as a platform. This story centres on a Resyk employee with a murderous intent. Watch out for a cheeky cameo of the Justice Department’s Eagle symbol in one picture involving a female Judge strapped to an operating table.

Hot Night in 95 sees the tension on the streets increase as terrorist attacks take place throughout Sector 95, Where Dredd is temporary Sector Chief. This story re-introduces Judge Logan, who previously worked with Dredd in The Satanist, Total War, Origins and Tour of Duty. It also re-introduces Judge Hershey, a very longstanding character first introduced on The Judge Child and later rising in the ranks to become Chief Judge, replaced by Judge Francisco in his first term.

The Further Dasterdly Deeds of PJ Maybe sees the serial killer, a fan favourite, locked up in a high security iso-cube. He had been hiding in plain sight as Mayor Ambrose, oddly the best Mayor the city had probably ever had, now publicly assumed to be dead. He was considered such a threat that his very existence was supposed to be secret. If you know PJ you can guess what happens…

Nadia is the next episode, named after  mysterious woman who has recently arrived in the city. Nadia meets with a sleeper cell to arrange something big. Dredd meanwhile is now avoiding his duties on the Council of Five by teaching at the Academy of Law three times a month, when able. A PSI Cadet, Hennessy, brings him details of her precognition that some form of devastation was going to hit the city on the day of the upcoming Mayoral Election, to replace the ‘dead’ Mayor Ambrose. Hennesy leads Dredd slowly towards Nadia. Nadia’s sleeper cell successfully kidnap a scientist from the city.

The Fourth Faction, the eponymous episode of this graphic novel, reveals the enemy to be East-Meg One survivors led by Colonel Borisenko. The kidnapped scientist is a bio-engineer that had developed a deadly virus that he had refused to turn over to Mega City One’s Special Weapons Division. Now Borisenko wants the same organism.

The final episode in this graphic novel is Elusive. PJ Maybe gets revenge on political rivals as well as finding a new safe place to hide from the law.

There are continuity flaws in Judge Dredd if you look at it closely but to a greater degree the continuity is rather good given the 36 years the strip has been going, not only weekly in 2000AD but monthly (more or less) in the Megazine. And past stories can easily come back to haunt Mega City One.

As ever John Wagner has pulled together an interesting cast of characters, old and new. The wealth and depth of material in Dredd cannot be underestimated.

The artists all do wonderful work, with some interesting tweaks to many of the uniforms Judges other than Street Division wear. Interestingly the fact that the same colourist has worked on all the stories it gives this collection a uniform feel while still allowing each artist to use their own style. I really have nothing to criticise in the layout or delivery. Colin MacNeil sneaks in a visual reference to the Judge Dredd fan chat-room – Colin is often found in there, so am I.

TimeRiders 7: The Pirate Kings – a novel by Alex Scarrow

I’ve already reviewed three of Alex’s books, the Ellie Quin Series, so I am sure if you read my reviews you’ll be able to guess I like his work. Alex writes thrillers for adults, A Thousand Suns, Last Light, Afterlight, October Skies and The Candleman. Ellie Quin, currently available only on Amazon for Kindle (remember there are Aps for most platforms) is a Sci-Fi romp for young adults (and adults) with more than a hint of Halo Jones, Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, among others. This review is about the 7th book in the successful TimeRiders series by Puffin.

There are spoilers for the full series in this review, but I’m keeping them as light as possible. I’ll try not to include the bombshell from the 6th book for example… and it is a whopper. If you haven’t read the series and want a bit of background information see my article about the series so far

TimeRiders, I am picky about the title being written correctly all one word but two capital letters, is a Sci-Fi series about three young time travelers. In the words of the blurb on the back of this book:

TR7‘Liam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912.
Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.
Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2026.

But all three have been given a second chance – to work for an agency that no one knows exists. Its purpose: to prevent time travel destroying history…’

Now settled in Victorian London of 1889 the TimeRiders eventually find themselves bored. There have been no time-waves for some time.

Maddy decides she wants to see the Great Fire of London and the others agree. The four travel back in time without the Support Units, Bob and Becks. But the fire doesn’t quite behave as they expected and they wander too near. In the following confusion Liam and Rashid are separated from Maddy and Sal.

Liam and Rashid find themselves on the high seas travelling from London to Africa and then the Caribbean in the company of some rather unsavory sorts. But how long will they be lost for while Maddy and Sal try to find them without the internet to help them look for changes in history.

Without mentioning the big reveal from Book six I have to be careful what I say about this book. Liam, Maddy and Sal are still traumatised by the new knowledge of their place in the Agency. Maddy and Sal feel that Liam may have abandoned them and both consider running away to another time. Sal does exactly that at one point, travelling to 2026.

This book sees quite a lot of development in the three main characters while we see them reflect on the difficult changes they faced. They have decided to try to find a better future instead of keeping the future on the track Waldstein intends them to follow, Sal decides that there is one thing she must achieve, and that is the future of one little girl and her parents.

Liam, Maddy and Sal were well constructed characters from book one and the twists and turns they have seen has seen real depth added. Bob and Becks see much less action in this book, I do miss the old Becks though. We also learn a lot more about Rashim’s personality.

As usual their are scenes of violence in the book, something Liam has seen a lot of in the series. Modern ethics are shown in conflict with those of the 17th century. Colonialism is definitely not the heroic part of this book.

A very enjoyable read and aspects of it made me want to know more than Alex showed us. This series is very hard to pick a favourite from but I can easily see some people picking this one. After all there are PIRATES!!!

TimeRiders series so far (books 1 to 6) – novels by Alex Scarrow – spoiler light.

Alex Scarrow is the author of a number of thrillers for adults and the young adult sci-fi romp Ellie Quin. This review is an overview of the TimeRiders series, published by Puffin.

TR series 1-6

‘Liam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912.

Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.

Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2029.

Yet moments before death, someone mysteriously appeared and said, ‘Take my hand . . .’ ‘

The three main characters are teenagers plucked out of their own time just before they die by a mysterious man known only as Foster. They are initially set up in a base in a lock-up under Williamsburg Bridge in New York in 2001. Thier base is in a 2-day-time-loop with time moving on inside but outside it is always the tenth or eleventh of November 2001. Maddy is the appointed leader of the group, her organisational skills and computer knowledge are key.   Liam is given the job of going through time to locate and deal with whatever contamination is happening. Sal is incredibly perceptive and her task is to spot small changes in detail that precedes any major changes to time.

Foster works for an unknown Agency apparently set up by the inventor of time travel, Roald Waldstein, who after seeing the future managed to convince he world’s government to ban time travel. From 2001, the day before and the day of the destruction of the Twin Towers, the team watch for any alteration of time and do whatever is required to put time back on its preferred course. Foster gives the team advice, shows them how to perform their tasks, but then leaves them with little explanation.

Book one (TimeRiders) we are introduced to Bob, a vat grown clone with a vestigial brain that is connected to an AI. Bob is a genetically engineered soldier, or Support Unit, and accompanies Liam on his missions into the past or future.
The team follow a group of travelers from the future to Nazi Germany , intent on ensuring the Allies lose the war.

Book two (TimeRiders: Day of the Predator) a female Support Unit is grown, and called Becks. When attempting to stop an assassination the team accidentally send Liam, Becks and a group of children millions of years in to the past. Where they encounter an undiscovered raptor more intelligent than science is aware of.

Book three (TimeRiders: The Doomsday Code) sees Liam and Becks travel to 1193 in search of a time traveler that is trying to obtain the Voynich manuscript, lost for centuries containing details of the holy grail.

Book four (TimeRiders: The Eternal War) following a fatal accident Abraham Lincoln never became President of the United States. The American Civil War is still raging by 2001.

Book five (TimeRiders: Gates of Rome) the team travel to 1st century AD Rome to stop a group of time travelers escaping from a doomed future of 2070. Two popular characters from Simon Scarrow’s ‘Eagle’ series appear. The team are joined by Rashid Anwar, a scientist from the fleeing group . He brings with him a robotic lab assistant called Sponge Bubba, with the outward appearance and irritating voice of Spongebob Squarepants.

Book six (TimeRiders: City of Shadows) the team relocate to London of 1889 fleeing Support Units that have been sent to kill them. They find themselves in the middle of Jack the Rippers grisly deeds.

City of Dredd 2135 & Worlds of Dredd 2135 – reference book by John Caliber

(edit August 2015 – these books are currently out of print but will hopefully be back in 2016 – see this announcement)

John Caliber is a writer and artist who has worked on several Dredd products, including several works for Mongoose Publishing’s D20 version of the Dredd RPG.

City of Dredd

Worlds of Dredd

These two reference books were put together with the assistance of Ivan Noel and Jim McGibbon.

I have written with all three of these gentlemen when participating in PBF Dredd RPGs. I dedicate this review to all the fine players I knew on Play Dredd.

City of Dredd is the culmination of years of work, this is the 2nd, and updated, edition. The earlier version, City of Dredd 2134 was available in 2011 either in Pdf or on print-on-demand on Lulu.com. The current versions of City of Dredd 2135 and Worlds of Dredd 2135 are currently only available as Pdf downloads from Lulu.com.

Both books are self published with kind permission of Rebellion.

I’ve used several of John’s earlier works when looking at the world of Dredd, including the Rookies Guide to The Justice Department by Mongoose Publishing before I ‘met’ John online. His knowledge of the subject is encyclopedic, as these two books prove. I’m dropping the use of the year from here on in for ease of writing & reading.

Both books deal with the official world of Dredd, in other words anything in print that is produced by Rebellion in either 2000AD or Judge Dredd Megazine, including all specials and annuals.

City of Dredd deals with Mega City One. Following a brief introduction John sets out a detailed history from 2023 up to ‘Tea for Two’ in Prog 1785. John touches on most of the major story lines that have shaped the city, so while it covers such stories as The Apocalypse War and Necropolis it doesn’t mention the Cursed Earth Saga . That is obviously due to the focus of this book, it isn’t about Judge Dredd, it is about his City, Mega City One.

In the stories that have been published since 1977 Mega City One has been as much a character of the strips as Dredd himself. This book brings out all the richness with details of Blocks, Streets, shops, etc. Firstly dealing with general subjects, such as explaining what might be found in a citi-block and explaining what such things as a Pedway or a Stacker are. Then in a mind-blowingly in detail fashion we are given details of every block, street, business, etc that has been featured in the comic strips. Each entry includes a description of events that took place at the location and the story they occurred in. Some entries are obviously fairly brief but well used locales such as the Academy of Law are very extensive.

As if that amount of detail wasn’t enough there is also a section that details what can be found in the city by Sector. Again some Sectors have much larger entries than others. It is a simple fact that more stories have taken place in Sector 01 than Sector 05 for example. But obviously not every location used in a story has been locked down by the writer as being in a certain part of the city; John deals with this as well.

Finally we reach the Progology. A list of each story by year that it was set in, the list is alphabetical by year to make finding the story title easier than if the list was purely chronological.

Worlds of Dredd does more or less the same as City of Dredd but obviously deals with locations outside Mega City One.  In this book each location contains a history and annotations of the stories that occurred there.

The entries start on Earth and progress through the Solar System and out into the far reaches of space to finally give details of locations beyond Dredd’s universe and into other dimensions.

The Progology rounds off the Worlds of Dredd.

And yet there is more

These books are not illustrated but purchasers can obtain high resolution maps to accompany the books by e-mailing John. A 2136 version of City of Dredd is expected early in 2114.

These books are essential for anyone with a deep interest in Judge Dredd. I have found John’s research invaluable when plotting games and stories set in Dredd’s reality. I commend both books to you.

Judge Dredd: The Day The Law Died – spoiler Light

Dredd tdtldJudge Dredd: The Day The Law Died graphic novel published by 2000AD

Writer:
John Wagner

Artists:
Mick McMahon, Ron Smith, Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland, Brendan McCarthy, Brett Ewins, Garry Leach

Letterers:
Tom Frame, John Aldrich, Jack Potter, Peter Knight, Tom Knight, Dave Gibbons

Previously published in Progs 86 to 108 of 2000AD in October 1978 to April 1979

This story follows on straight after The Cursed Earth Saga and the first episode was in the first issue of 2000AD and Starlord following the merger of the two titles. There were four strips, Dredd leading supported by Ro-Busters, Flesh Book II  and Strontium Dog.

Dredd is given a parade through the city to mark rescuing Mega City Two. Sat in the car with him is his mentor, Chief Judge Goodman, and the Deputy Chief Judge, Judge Cal. This is the first appearance of Cal and this story introduces the Special Judicial Squad, SJS. These Judges judge the Judges, they investigate and punish crimes committed by Judges. Judge Cal is clearly modeled upon Caligula, the third Emperor of Rome who history depicts as increasingly insane throughout his reign. There are subtle hints in the first part – during the parade Cal questions the cost of the mission Dredd had just been on; during a Triumph, a parade for a victorious General in Rome, someone stood behind the General would whisper that they are only human, to curb the General’s ego.

The SJS uniforms vary throughout the story, mostly due to the amount of artists involved. However it is also reasonable to accept that the uniforms do actually alter. The SJS are Cal’s men, as Deputy Chief Judge it seems he was also the Head of SJS. As such it is only reasonable to accept that as his ideas about himself become grander so his closest supporters would be affected.

There are some spoilers following, as this is a reprint I don’t think I am revealing much more than an active reader of 2000AD who hasn’t read this story before might realistically have come to know. I will try to keep the spoilers light.

Judge Cal frames Dredd and sends him to the prison on Titan and has Chief Judge Goodman killed, seizing power for himself. Overwhelmingly the Judges of Mega City One support Cal, to the surprise of Dredd. Before his death Goodman gives Dredd a clue that the SJS are behind his murder, Dredd survives an assassination attempt only to be sentenced to death by Cal.

Dredd isn’t alone, however, and his one-time Rookie, Judge Giant, comes to his rescue. Together with Giant, Dredd goes on to fight a guerilla war against Cal with a group of Judges mostly comprising Tutors from the Academy of Law.

Giant is the son of John ‘Giant’ Clay, captain of the Harlem Heroes jet-ball team from the strip of the same name. Not essential knowledge for this story but I’ll briefly give some more details, given that 2000AD doesn’t have one shared universe how this fact fits in with continuity. Harlem Heroes was set in a futuristic USA, sometime after 2050. In Prog 8 the home city of Harlem Heroes is referred to as Mega City One, where Artie Grubber is in intensive care (oh I loved Artie!). A sequel to Harlem Heroes, Inferno, was set in 2078, the year before Dredd graduated from the Academy of Law. One of the team members, Rip Venner, was an ex-Judge. So the links are clear and credible, indeed the current Judge Giant met his Grandpappy in ‘Whatever Happened to John ‘Giant’ Clay in the the Megazine, that story was set in 2126.

Back to the story in hand. This story introduces some other giants of Dredd continuity, pun intended, such as: Judge-Tutor Griffin; Fergee; the alien mercenary race of Kleggs and also involves Walter the Wobot, Maria and Max Normal. Again, as in the Cursed Earth Saga an interesting cast of supporting characters.

Fergee, King of the Big Smelly by Brian Colland

Of these Fergee has proven to be hugely popular, a huge fellow with low intelligence many forget he isn’t a mutant or a Trog (a denizen of the Undercity). Fergee was born in Mega City One but by his own admission he did a few (well lots) of bad things. Given what seems to be his inate kindness one would assume that his enjoyment of violence was probably taken advantage of by some perp or other – but there are no explanations in the story. Fergee’s name was misappropriated in the Stallone film and used for the bumbling robotics expert who was a comedy sidekick for Dredd in that film. The 2012 Dredd 3D film makes mention of a riot in Fergee Memorial Park.

The fact that supporting characters like these become so important to the reader is a great reflection on the craftsmanship of the creators. Not only John Wagner but many of the script writers over the years.

Returning to Judge Cal and Caligula. There are so many comparisons it is easy to overlook them. Deputy Chief Judge Fish can be compared to Caligula making his horse a senator. Other comparisons include wild building projects and random death sentences. Bringing in the alien mercenaries, the Kleggs, could be compared to the barbarian mercenaries, Germans, that Caligula used as body guards. Oh and pickle jars, but I stray too near spoiler territory with this one.

This story reinforces the importance of Dredd in Mega City One. Even the experienced Judges that have become Tutors at the Academy of Law look to him for leadership. Of course he is a clone of the first Chief Judge, Fargo, and Judge Goodman had clearly been grooming him as a successor.

As noted earlier the amount of different artists on this story do give a lack of visual continuity. At times we see Dredd wearing  the more modern straight sided helmet and at other times the more rounded Ezquerra original. I don’t find that a distraction and as I said earlier the changes in SJS uniforms can easily be explained. You may note that only the head of the SJS, Judge Slocum, has the Deaths Head helmet insignia.

Interestingly this collection credits only John Wagner as writer but the creator panels show the names John Howard and T B Grover. These are pseudonyms that were used by John Wagner and Alan Grant when working in partnership. I assume as the credit here is for John Wagner alone that Alan Grant was either not involved or was involved only in part, perhaps talking through the plot. Certainly the plot is fluid and consistent.

A true classic, if you haven’t ever read this and still fail to… someone might have to get heavy with you.

Easy! The Ferg!

Judge Minty Screenings – Boston, MA, USA gets first non-UK screening!

Current list of Judge Minty Screenings that have been announced

Boston Sci-Fi Film Fest see details of ‘Program 8’ on Saturday 16th of February at 15:00 (US Premiere!)

Belfast Heroes and Legends 16th & 17th February, 15:00 on both days.

Glasgow Film Festival Tuesday 19th February 18:30

Cardiff International Comic and Animation Expo, Saturday 2nd 16:30

More when I know more.