Friday, 10 October 2014

Judge Dredd The Early Years #1 - Eagle Comics

Collecting some of the earliest appearances of artists Ron Turner, Carlos Ezquerra, Mike McMahon and Ian Gibson from the pages of the British weekly science fiction comic “2000 A.D.”, this first issue of “Judge Dredd The Early Years” understandably provides an eclectic feast of artwork styles and quality.
The cover, drawn by the one and only Brian Bolland is a simply superb illustration of a Heavy Metal Kid industrial robot and shows clearly why many regard him as the definitive penciller of the lawman of Mega-City One and why he remains in such constant demand as a cover artist.
Unfortunately not all the interior drawing of “The Robot Wars” is of so high a standard, although none of the contributors deliver anything unpalatable. Even the numerous pages sketched by well-known “Battle Action” artist Ron Turner are strikingly well-defined and workmanlike. However it is clear as to why his style was not as popular as the dynamic and vibrant artwork of Ezquerra or McMahon. Indeed one only has to look at Judge Dredd’s initial confrontation with the killer robot Call-Me-Kenneth, manically feeding a cop into a garbage chute, or the Judges pitched battle with the Heavy Metal Kids, to see why the co-creator of Dredd and the British comic book artist were more preferable.
Interestingly if anyone actually produces some slightly substandard illustration work for this edition it is actually Ian Gibson, who provides the artwork for the final few pages of the issue. Better known for his pencilling on “Robo-Hunter” and “The Ballard of Halo Jones”, many of Gibson’s panels appear overworked with the main characters being swallowed up by all the detailed background surrounding them. However much of this apparent clutter could well be as a result of some garish colour choices by John Burns, whose use of burgundy, orange, yellow, dark green and light blue makes many of Gibson's panels a Technicolor travesty.
On the writing side of things this first in a six-issue ‘mega-series’ has John Wagner and Pat Mills providing a simple yet effectively told tale of robot revolution within America’s Mega-City. Originally spanning several ‘progs’ of “IPC Magazines” weekly comic book, the serialised story is understandably rather episodic in format but this is still arguably the future lawman’s first ‘epic event’. Somewhat simple in plot when compared to some of the later major Judge Dredd storylines, this adventure probably hasn’t stood the test of time all that well. But its main protagonist, Call-Me-Kenneth, continues to hold a prominent place in Mega-City lore and fans' consciousness as the rogue leader of the First Robot War.

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