Previously on Drokk!: As co-creator John Wagner once again takes sole control of Mega-City One, writing the series for both 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Magazine, a new calm settles on the future lawman’s world. A calm called, “these comics are just… good, aren’t they…?”
0:00:00-0:04:40: After a cold open that accidentally foreshadows the episode to follow, we introduce the book we’re discussing this episode — Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 28, which contains material from 2000 AD Progs 1084-1099, and 1101-1110, and Magazine Vol. 3 #2 39 through 45, all from 1998 — and I manage to get John Wagner’s name wrong after 31 episodes. “Alan Wagner,” indeed. What was I thinking? Also discussed: that we’re in a “comfort food” era of Dredd, where the high quality comes with a familiarity that’s hard to ignore. (Or, for that matter, define.)
0:04:41-0:14:15: We dive into the longest story in the book, “Beyond the Call of Duty,” which is a quasi-sequel to “The Pit,” the mega-epic from a few volumes back that Jeff and I loved a lot. That’s less true here, and we talk about the reasons why: how the story underwhelms in terms of emotional arc, and hurts one of the two main characters in the process, Jeff’s comparison to the work of Joe Esterhaus (and who saw that coming?), and the unexpected debt Ed Piskor’s Red Room owes this storyline, whether he knows it or not. Galen Demarco deserves better, dammit.
0:14:16-0:25:04: This is a really good looking book, and we talk about the art a little bit, singling out Alex Ronald, Trevor Hairsine and John Burns as standout artists — Siku, too, is a standout, but not for good reasons; we go into depth with the ways in which his work isn’t hitting the mark. In addition to my love for Ronald’s “Handbangers” story, Jeff also points out one of the reasons why this volume feels particularly strong in terms of visuals: the artists are, for the most part, getting stories that work with their strengths.
0:25:05-0:49:44: Following on from the previous episode, we talk about the return of “Judge Dad,” AKA the idea that, under Wagner, Dredd will occasionally be the voice of moral authority in a way that arguably steps outside the confines of the strip as it’s previously existed. This means touching on both “A Death in the Family” and “Sex, Lies, and Vidslugs,” two Magazine stories that see Wagner’s anger feed into his satire, with Jeff putting forward the idea that the serious stories are jokes, and the joke stories are serious, this time around; we also talk about two comedy shorts, “Vidspex” and “No More Jimmy Deans,” that feel as if Wagner is reaching for something larger than the story unfolding on the page. Also under discussion: Is Dredd soap opera, or something else? And is Wagner trying to address that very question in the stories collected in this book?
0:49:45-1:07:58: Jeff suggests that Dredd is “flatter” in this book, and we talk about that idea — and the idea that it’s actually difficult to talk about this book because, while the majority of it is very good stuff, it’s also good in such a way that we’ve seen before, and that makes it difficult to have new insight about. It really is a comfort food collection, and we go back and forth about what that really means, and if we should be concerned that there’s no particular innovation in this volume. (Short answer: Not really, because Wagner’s shown himself to recover from this kind of lull before, and also, these lulls are so damn enjoyable.)
1:07:59-1:19:13: What are our favorite stories in this volume? For me, “Headbangers,” for Jeff, “Sleaze”; our least favorite story, as it turns out, is the same: “The Bouncy Brats Heist,” although Jeff leaves space for “Vidspex,” a story so utterly undermined by its artist at a time when the artist/story pairing has been unusually strong. Also, is this Drokk or Dross? The answer… won’t surprise you at all, honestly.
1:19:14-end: We look ahead to the next couple of volumes, before closing out the episode as we always do — mentioning our Instagram, Twitter and Patreon accounts. Next time: more Wagner, but with an unexpected return of Alan Grant, of all people. Be here in a month, dear Whatnauts, and until then, thanks as ever for reading and listening.
Previously on Drokk!: 20 years after his creation, Judge Dredd continues to patrol the streets of Mega-City One in a way that readers are comfortable with — the ultra violence, the dark humor, and the social satire wrapped up in sci-fi trappings. But as the strip heads into its third decade, series co-creator John Wagner dares to ask: what if things go slightly awry…?
0:00:00-0:04:29: After a month off for a surprise Baxter Building revival, we’re back and talking about Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 27, a book that both Jeff and I found surprisingly solid and enjoyable. (It covers material from 1997 and 1998, with strips from 2000 AD Prog’s 1053-1083, and Judge Dredd Magazine Vol. 3 #s 34 through 38.) Of course, this being us, we immediately go off topic and Jeff talks briefly about both Adam Driver musical Annette and Fleabag. We are who we are, I guess.
0:04:30-0:23:49: We didn’t get too off-topic, however, and soon find ourselves talking about the possibility that this volume is too steeped in Dredd mythology to be new reader friendly — which might be ironic, considering both that it includes a crossover with Predator, but also that it begins with a retread of a story we’ve seen at least twice before, but done in such a way that it loses the charm and humor that it’s previously displayed. Does “Holiday Special” introduce what Jeff calls “Wagner as scold,” and if so, what does that mean moving forward?
0:23:50-0:51:37: For a volume that we both enjoyed so much, we spend a long time talking about the material that didn’t work for us, especially when it comes to our discussion of “In The Year 2120,” which was almost doomed to failure from the start by nature of being an epilogue to “The Judge Child Quest” and “City of the Damned,” two mega-epics that neither of us remember particularly fondly. Unfortunately, that bad start is compounded by execution that fails to make the most of the story’s central conceit, whether it’s John Wagner failing to sell the idea or artist Jason Brashill being, honestly, too experimental with his layouts and designs for what the story really needs. As proof, we compare it to a far more successful spin on roughly the same idea in the same volume, “Spooks” — although, as Jeff suggests, even that story has some problems of its own, leading to a discussion about whether or not Wagner is failing to nail the right tone people expect from a Judge Dredd comic. (Yes, John Wagner, the guy who created the strip and defined our expectations of it.)
0:51:38-1:15:20: Returning to the idea of Wagner as scold, does this volume mark an increasing blurring of the line between Dredd and Wagner, at least in terms of whether or not the character can be an immoral bastard? Two stories raise that possibility in different ways: “Spawney,” which I enjoyed far more than Jeff — despite a final page reveal that arguably undercuts everything that came before — and ‘Ojay,” a story that is little more than the most thinly veiled primal scream from Wagner about the then-contemporary O.J. Simpson verdict. We talk about both, and the ways in which Wagner arguably fails his creation in different ways with the two. (We also talk about Alex Ronald’s art on the latter story, and one particularly strange artistic decision that, to be honest, I’d still like to see some explanation for.)
1:15:21-1:18:24: In an attempt to keep things moving, we very briefly talk about the other stories in the volume that aren’t disappointing. Despite the fact that we rush through this, I promise: There’s lot of very good material in this particular volume. Really!
1:18:25-1:40:11: Why talk about good stuff when you can talk about a car wreck, though? And so, we arrive at Predator vs. Judge Dredd, which is… not very good at all. It’s a story that doesn’t serve either property well, with the most generic take on both Dredd and the Predator showing up in a story that utterly underwhelms and features some odd narrative decisions, whether it’s having a descendent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character from the original movie show up, or giving the Predator an ending that makes Jeff so mad, he cites Broforce as a preferable alternative. It’s such a poor showing all round that we make a brief digression into whether or not all Dredd intracompany crossovers are a bad idea for Rico’s more popular brother. (They’re not; the first Batman/Dredd and the later Dredd/Aliens are both great.)
1:40:12-end: We wrap things up by revealing whether this volume is Drokk or Dross — it’s Drokk, honest — and name our favorite stories. (Me: “Bo Peeper,” or the multi-part “Missing,” Jeff’s is “Mrs. Gunderson’s Little Adventure,” and we very briefly talk about both here.) We also look forward to the deluge of John Wagner awaiting us in the next few volumes, Jeff realizes just how he’d finish his dream Dredd story, and we plug the Twitter, Instragram and Patreon, as we always do when we’re bringing things to a close. As always, thanks for reading and listening; next time, I swear, we’ll try to talk more about the good stuff.
— Douglas Park (@DocMcBruce) August 10, 2021
Previously on Baxter Building: Surprise! You thought that we brought this to an end two and a half years ago, but no! Baxter Building is back — for one episode only!
0:00:00-0:03:11: We introduce this episode, and the context behind it; basically, we’re a surprise installment of Shelfdust’s Secritic Invasion summer crossover, where Marvel’s 2008 event is re-examined from today’s hopefully more enlightened perspective. What that means for us in particular is that we’re reading and talking about Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four, a three-issue tie-in that sees the return of a beloved character from the old Baxter Building days. Well, “beloved” might be a little too strong, perhaps…
0:03:12-0:15:16: Before we get to the miniseries, we talk a little about Baxter Building and how it compares to Drokk! — as well as how Dredd fared post Wagner/Grant split, compared with how the Fantastic Four handled the Lee/Kirby break-up. (The latter has “car crash energy,” according to Jeff.) We also talk about how much we miss the Fantastic Four, and how both of us feel about the current Dan Scott run, kind of. (Well, I do, at least.)
0:15:17-0:23:59: Still playing for time, we talk about Secret Invasion as a wider event, and how poorly it reads today. (Not that it read that well the first time around, arguably.) Of note, we touch on the event’s implicit bigotry, and I refer to Ritesh Babu’s essay on Shelfdust, even if I couldn’t remember his last name at the time; go read the piece, it’s a good one.
0:24:00-0:58:29: We finally get to the heart of the matter, and talk about the actual Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four series — and just how bad it actually is. This means that we talk about the (many) failures in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s writing, and how it compares to the Archie work that arguably made his name, as well as how poorly paced and oddly tension-resistant this series is in particular. Also under discussion: the Negative Zone prison left over from Civil War; how no-one can write convincing children, and why that might not even be possible when it comes to Franklin and Valeria Richards anymore; and the ways in which this series does and doesn’t connect to the core Secret Invasion comic.
0:58:30-1:01:17: Jeff makes a brief case for Bendis’ Secret Invasion inspiring the 2012 Avengers movie, but I’m not buying it.
1:01:18-1:11:11: It’s not just Aguirre-Sacasa who disappoints here; Barry Kitson is the penciller, and we talk about how unexciting his work here is, as well as how many people are inking that work, and the fact that it seems as if no-one involved in this series really seems to want to be making it.
1:11:12-end: As we wrap things up, we ask ourselves the important questions: Did this one three-issue series kill our nostalgia for both Baxter Building and the Fantastic Four? How does nostalgia stand up to a re-read, anyway? And did Pixar’s The Incredibles destroy the Fantastic Four as-was, and create something else in its wake? You know, just a couple of small things. We also discuss Jeff’s health, as well as mention the Patreon, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, as is our wont. We’ll back back next week for a regular Wait, What?, and you’ll be happy to know that Drokk! is back next month as usual, too. Until then: thanks for reading and listening.