Prog 24 – The Wreath Murders

Dredd BadgeStory: The Wreath Murders
Appears: 2000AD Prog 24
Issues: 1
Writers: Malcolm Shaw
Art: Mike McMahon
Dated: 06 August 1977

Plot: Two criminals impersonate ambulance crew in order to rob and murder undetected.

Verdict: It is a nice little idea but with only five pages you don’t get any time for suspense and mystery before the reveal. The criminals come to a typical Dredd sticky end as one accidentally kills his partner and the remaining one tries to shoot Dredd with his own gun. Which reveals the fact that Lawgivers are coded to their owner and self-destruct when used by others.

We meet M.A.C. the Judges’ central computer who functions like the computer in the Bat-cave filling in any plot holes and speeding up the story.

The art is fine with some good poses and great attempts to bring depth to the page but isn’t as crisp as we have seen before. The last page is covered in some kind of grey wash and looks terrible. Which is because that this page was originally in colour (the last page seems an odd choice) and hasn’t translated to black and white well at all. We also see the outside of Justice HQ which looks like a precarious profiterole stack.

Nice ideas but could have done with more space.

Prog 7 The Statue of Judgement

Prog 07Story: The Statue of Judgement
Appears: 2000AD Prog 7
Issues: 1
Writers: Malcolm Shaw
Art: Mike McMahon
Dated: 9 April 1977

Plot: A gang is robbing tourists at the unveiling of the Statue of Judgement. Dredd shoots them.

Verdict: We now know who invented the cheesy one-liner. It wasn’t Arnie it was Dredd. After a criminal falls to his death on the Statue of Liberty Dredd says “No one can take liberties with the law.”

In four pages you aren’t going to have sophisticated plots, narrative devices or even character development. These mini-stories are like trailers for the main event to come. Each week there is a sneak peek at a fabulously detailed future world beyond that leaves us wanting more.

We do see the Statue of Judgement for the first time which now dwarfs the still standing Statue of Liberty – a metaphor maybe? And also learn judges have rifles as well as handguns.

Prog 6 Frankenstein 2

Prog 06Story: Frankenstein 2
Appears: 2000AD Prog 6
Issues: 1
Writers: Malcolm Shaw
Art: Mike McMahon
Dated: 2 April 1977

Plot: Organ transplants are illegal so a gang hijacks ambulances to steal living organs.

Verdict: What sort of criminal calls himself Frankenstein 2? Frankenstein maybe, you are stealing bodies after all, but the 2? Really? And what parent calls their offspring “child” rather than use its name. Decidedly clunky wording.

This is a very simple four page idea. A great twist at the end sees Dredd arrest the fat cats benefitting from the illegal transplants for receiving stolen goods. Social commentary anyone?

McMahon’s dynamic panel layout brings energy and crams a lot of action into a short time.

Prog 5 Krong

Prog 05Story: Krong
Appears: 2000AD Prog 5
Issues: 1
Writers: Malcolm Shaw
Art: Carlos Ezquerra
Dated: 26 March 1977

Plot: A man upset by the decline of monster movies uses creatures from a special effects museum to get revenge.

Not one of the brightest ones. The villain, besides having daft motivation, stops to explain his entire plan to Dredd before trying to kill him with a huge robot gorilla – the Krong of the title. Dredd speaks like he is a Scooby Doo character and he is narrating his actions out loud again.

There is still an emphasis that Mega-city one is in America and the Judges are part of the police. We get to meet Maria, Judge Dredd’s cleaning lady, who talka like dis, being created at a time when funny sounding foreigners were the height of British humour.

The criminal is once again hoisted by his own petard when his gorilla falls on him and kills him.

This is the first appearance of the art of Carlos Ezquerra, who was one of Dredd’s co-creators. His Dredd is very similar to Mike McMahon’s slender framed lawman.

Prog 4 The Brotherhood of Darkness

Prog 04Story: The Brotherhood of Darkness
Appears: 2000AD Prog 4
Issues: 1
Writers: Malcolm Shaw
Art: Mike McMahon
Dated: 19 March 1977

Plot: Dredd rescues the mayor’s son from a band of mutants.

Verdict: Another tantalising glimpse into this future world. We journey into “a wilderness from the atomic wars” outside Mega-city one. It’s the Cursed Earth but without its catchy name. Blind mutants, 40ft insects and 20th century vehicles.

Dredd still talks like Superman but his internal monologue, which needlessly narrates his actions, is no longer spoken aloud. He dons a disguise and defeats his enemy in a non-lethal way. Brains over brawn. Although when his gun runs out of bullets he uses a crossbow, first as a crossbow then as a club.

Round panels, art and text that bleeds across borders and no two panels the same size means this has a really dynamic feel and you believe you experience a lot of action in only four pages, the first of which is full page art.

And the closing line from Dredd is very philosophical. “Tomorrow I’ll be shot at with laser cannons instead of ancient crossbows. That’s civilisation for you.”

Deep, man, deep…