A strong story that combines elements of The Fly or The Quatermass Experiment with a previous monster, Satanus, from the Cursed Earth saga. It is good read and Ron Smith is the perfect man for the art.
Corrupt ex-Judge Rico Dredd, brother of Mega City’s top lawman Judge Joe Dredd, escaped Titan Penal Colony and returned to the Big Meg for revenge. After a shootout between the two brothers Rico was killed. The Grand Judge was on the scene and Dredd carried the body to the waiting ambulance himself.
Dredd was heard to say “He ain’t heavy – He’s my brother!”
Story: The Return of Rico
Appears: 2000AD Prog 30
Writer: Pat Mills
Art: Mike McMahon
Dated: 17 September 1977
An awful cheezy line but a good story that expands the world and endows Dredd with genuine emotions.
Story: The Neon Knights
Appears: 2000AD Prog 29
Writer: Pat Mills
Art: Ian Gibson
Dated: 10 September 1977
Unusual art style. Thick blacks and minimal background detail. Good racism analogy and very nice twist at the end.
Plot: A criminal changes his face to try and escape the law but Dredd matches his voiceprint.
Verdict: Good. You have a chase and a shootout; you have advanced technology like the face change machine; and ultimately the criminal is undone by his own arrogance by thinking his new appearance will fool the law.
The dialogue is still a bit pretentious with Dredd spouting lines such as “you shall kill no more,” and shouting the word “jump” to no one in particular as he jumps. His internal monologue is very external.
The art is very dynamic with round, curved and sometimes no panels. This really helps the story flow and gives a fast pace to the action. Mike McMahon does a great job portraying a shiny, grimy future with only black and white. His Dredd is very svelte and athletic. There is no sign of the rugged muscular lawman or the majestic chin yet.
There is no doubt that fitting a good story into five pages is definitely an art. You can see tiny glimpses into a complex and detailed world but need more pages to experience its epicness.
The Lawmaster bike gets name checked for the first time as does Mega-city 1.
Plot: Someone is killing Judges. Dredd sorts him out.
It’s rubbish. In today’s postmodern world with sophisticated readers and cornucopia of narrative techniques it is basic, exposition heavy, and clunky to read. It looks like a five year old did it.
But having said that, to a young reader of the 1970’s, two months before Star Wars came out, this would be out of this world. You can see the kernel of the idea there that would snowball throughout the next three decades. The architecture, Judge’s uniforms and the Lawmaster bike are all fully formed with their iconic look and feel on day one.
It is labelled as New York 2099AD, the Judges are elected, and are presided over by the Grand Judge (whom Dredd calls “your honour”) at Justice HQ. And Devil’s Island (a prison on a motorway island surrounded by computer controlled juggernauts) makes its first appearance. Best of all Dredd is Dredd. Stoic, indefatigable and willing to die for the law.
A crude and humble beginning but a booming first step on the road to greatness.
It would be many years before I was to encounter Dredd however…