The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection Review – John Wagner

Holy Drokk, Batman! A crossover between the bat vigilante and the fascistic future policeman? Unfortunately it’s not as good as…

Noel Thorne

Contributor

batman dredd cover

Holy Drokk, Batman! A crossover between the bat vigilante and the fascistic future policeman? Unfortunately it’s not as good as it sounds and somehow John Wagner managed to get four books out of this unlikely team-up. “The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection” features all 4 crossover stories and, bizarrely, 1 crossover story featuring Dredd and Lobo.

But how do these two disparate characters cross paths? Well, in the first story, “Judgment on Gotham”, Judge Death gets his claws on a transdimensional belt, allowing him to jump dimensions from Mega City One to judge the living in Gotham. Batman stops him (of course) and afterwards touches the belt thus transporting him to Dredd’s stomping ground. The two tango before Dredd finally gets that Batman is a good guy and then they set off to stop Death and Mean Machine.

It’s not an amazing story but it’s more or less serviceable set-up as a vehicle for the two characters to show off their own strengths while kind of working as a team. Simon Bisley’s art might put you off – his figures can look ridiculously cartoony and exaggerated. Also he draws Anderson as a muscle chick which makes her look kinda gross when you see her in her skivvies.

“Vendetta in Gotham” sees Dredd visiting Gotham ostensibly it seems to have a re-match with Batman and the two have an elaborate fight sequence similar to Family Guy’s Peter and the Chicken fights. The story does a decent bait and switch in the final third though and Cam Kennedy’s art is easier on the eye than Bisley’s – light!

“Ultimate Riddle” is my favourite of the collection maybe because it’s the most out there. Batman and Dredd get transported to an alternate dimension via more hi-tech gadgetry, this time in the hands of the Riddler, and are forced to compete in a battle royale to the death with numerous other toughs from alternate dimensions. It’s fantastical and silly as we see Batman and Dredd take on bizarre characters in some kind of castle. As a Batman fan, it’s interesting to see how he fared against ridiculously over-equipped hunters, especially as he still follows his no killing, no guns rule in a setting filled with contestants with no such hang-ups.

I was looking forward to “Die Laughing” the most as who doesn’t enjoy a good Joker story? Unfortunately this is easily the worst of the anthology and also the longest. Joker wants to live forever so jumps dimensions with that belt, talks Judge Death into making him the fifth judge, and the five of them wreak havoc in a biodome devoted to hedonism – with Dredd and Batman on their tail.

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Glenn Fabry’s art definitely looks the most colourful and polished out of all the stories but it’s also just ridiculous. The way he draws Batman is especially stupid – in one scene we see Batman’s arms holding a bike’s handlebars and they are disproportionately long and thin, as if Fabry misjudged the drawing and didn’t bother to correct it. Then he draws Batman’s gauntlets getting bigger and bigger each time we see them so that in one panel they are almost as long as his arms and totally impractical! Also his Joker doesn’t look menacing – Joker’s wearing what looks like pyjamas with lips on, and the trousers and jacket are just waaaay too baggy for him. He looks like a more colourful Bowie in “Dancing in the Street”. The art just makes this story that much more difficult to get through.

And it doesn’t help that the story is so dull. It’s basically the first story but with Joker who, by the halfway point, has totally lost interest in why he was there in the first place. Which is fair because it’s a pretty half-baked plot and Joker doesn’t really fit anyway. “Die Laughing” is definitely the most disappointing of the 4 Batman/Dredd crossovers.

The worst part of the book though is the pointless Dredd/Lobo crossover. Lobo is an alien bounty hunter created by Simon Bisley. There’s no point trying to provide a plot summary to this story as it’s basically like the cover of the book – Dredd and Lobo firing guns at assorted evil-looking aliens. This is the kind of story that would be as effective – maybe more so – without text because reading it with the text is basically the same thing, making the inclusion redundant. It’s a forgettable waste of time and I’m really not sure why anyone thought it was worth including in a Batman/Dredd collection.

As a big fan of both characters it was interesting to see John Wagner try to make them gel cohesively which worked well most of the time. Having the two battle over their conflicting ideologies was interesting but basically played itself out by the end of the first story. The other books are more or less pointless as Wagner fails to do anything more interesting with the characters. “Ultimate Riddle” is the best because Wagner basically just decided to have over the top fun with the characters and really the collection should’ve stopped there. “Die Laughing” only underlined how little ideas there were left in this crossover series and was a pointless, dull retreading of an earlier storyline.

“The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection” is a 90s curio and a very average anthology with only a couple of stories worth reading. Most Batman/Dredd fans will pick this up out of interest, just don’t expect to be enthralled by the writing or art, both of which is more or less just mediocre at the best of times.

The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection by John Wagner et al. is out now in hardback.