Previously on Drokk!: With co-creator John Wagner now seemingly fully installed as the primary — indeed, seemingly the sole, Dredd writer once again, the strip seems to be once again finding its feet even as it appears to be quietly trying to reinvent itself…
0:00:00-0:02:51: After one of my favorite cold opens in Drokk! history, we introduce the volume we’re reading this time around — Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 29, covering material from 1998 and 1999, by Wagner, a small army of artists, and the surprise return of Alan Grant, who writes two stories herein — before getting down to business. Jeff also makes a great choice in naming the block this time around, too.
0:02:52-0:14:54: Jeff feels as if a way in to talking about this volume is to compare the returning Alan Grant to John Wagner, and so we talk about their differing approaches to Dredd, and the world of Judge Dredd the comic strip; according to Mr. Lester, Grant is “shaggy” in a way that Wagner isn’t, whereas I think that he’s just sillier — or, really, that Wagner plays his own silliness more straight. “He knows where he wants to hit his marks,” Jeff points out, but is that it? Is Wagner just a more assured, successful writer?
0:14:55-0:58:57: Because it’s us, we then go into the most frustrating portion of the entire book: “Worst of Frendz,” which is somehow even more disappointing than that title would suggest. Is it the “weird flex,” as I put it, of the threesome scene between two unnamed, unclothed women and the cyborg villain Nero Narcos, who has a checks notes telescopic penis? Is it the sub-Mark Millar dialogue? Is it the genuinely appalling artwork? Sure! All of the above and more. In theory, the story is a lead in to “The Scorpion Dance,” which is arguably the heart of this volume — one that I enjoyed and Jeff did not, and there’s a lot of back and forth about the reasons between the two opinions: I enjoyed the art, Jeff thought it was too crowded; I enjoyed the DeMarco arc, and Jeff thinks it’s a sign that neither Dredd nor John Wagner care about her as an individual; I like Judge Edgar as an antagonist, Jeff thinks she’s a sign that Wagner might be a misognynist, and so on. Jeff’s feeling that the storyline doesn’t go far enough is, arguably, somewhere that I think he’s on firmer ground, even if it’s a feeling I didn’t share because I’ve read further stories, but let’s just be happy that we can agree that “Worst of Frendz” is, by any stretch of the imagination, bad.
0:58:58-1:10:35: Fearful that we’re just spending an episode talking about what we don’t like, I ask Jeff about his favorite stories from the volume, and then share some of mine. We talk all-too-briefly about “Mega-City Way of Death,” which is genuinely great and should have been discussed more, as well as “Dreams of Glory” and a handful of other good stuff, before we somehow end up back on the topic of the slow burn of the Narcos plot and where it’s leading next volume. Look, apparently, we were in a circular frame of mind when we recorded this.
1:10:36-1:20:04: Jeff asks about two particular stories — “Wounded Heart” and “Christmas Angel,” both of which are sequels to earlier (more successful) Dredd stories — and I admit my disappointment in both, particularly the former, which I fully believe exists purely so Wagner can both meet his deadline requirements and use the pun that ends the strip. I also share my disappointment in “Simp City,” another strip that returns to old material trying to find something new to say, only to fail, and Jeff talks about how he initially believed better things were in the offing… only to quickly realize his mistake.
1:20:05-1:30:00: As we both agree that this volume, despite its shortcomings, is Drokk, not Dross, I suggest that the material from the Judge Dredd Magazine is stronger than its contemporary 2000 AD material, which Jeff takes issue with — we talk about that for a little while, before talking about favorite stories from the volume: Mine is “The Contract,” Jeff’s is “Mega-City Way of Death.” (Our least favorites are “Grud’s Big Day,” and “Worst of Frendz,” for the curious.)
1:30:01-end: As we close out the episode, I ask Jeff what he’s expecting from the next volume before teasing what’s actually coming up in the next volume. If that was my attempt at a surprise, though, he’s got me beat, by scheduling future recording sessions without me knowing, as you’ll hear me discover on air — and then we’re talking about Patreon and Twitter before skedaddling altogether. As always, thank you for reading and listening; we’ll be back in a month for a Dredd crossover with a difference.