Death Lives – Review

Death Lives is the latest 2000AD book created specifically for the US Market and as the title suggests serves up around 170 pages of Judge Dredd’s interdimensional nemesis, Judge Death.

For anyone not familiar with the character, Judge Death is from an alternate dimension where the Judges realised all crime was commited by the living, so made life itself a crime. Since wiping out his entire planet he has made numerous jumps over to Dredd’s universe in order to carry on his work and has always been stopped, but not before he’s wiped out a good percentage of the population.

There has been lots of debate about the direction the character took as he was originally created as pure horror and later became more comedic… kind of like the comic book equivalent of Freddy Krueger. This book shows you both ends of that.

There are six main stories reprinted here so I thought I would look at each individually.

Judge Death & Judge Death Lives
These are the original classics. John Wagner and Alan Grant writing and Brian Bolland (yeah, Killing Joke Brian Bolland) on art duties. The Judge Death story introduces Death himself and is also the debut of Psi Judge Anderson. The Death Lives follow up introduces Death’s three cohorts, Judges Fire, Mortis and Fear.

While us Brits have read and re-read these stories countless times they do still stand up and for any Americans who haven’t come across these before I cant recommend them highly enough. Absolutely classic Dredd reproduced in the original black and white with one colour spread which obviously fell across the comics center pages when originally printed. Beautiful stuff and it also contains what is arguably the most famous single panel in Dredd’s history.

What if Judges did Ads?
A jokey one pager with art by Kevin O’Neill which Im only mentioning because its KEVIN O’NEILL!! Completists will buy this book for this one page alone. Were I more cynical I would say this was included purely so they could splash his name on the cover and hope League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fans would buy this book withouth checking his page count first. Not that I AM saying that of course!  -cough-

Theatre of Death
The weak point of the collection for me. Ron Smith’s art is usually gorgeous but the colouring here really spoiled it for me and while I’m not 100% up on ALL the Death stories I cant see why this one was chosen for this book. There must have been better options out there.

Judge Death : The True Story
This is where Death starts to get a little comedic. As I said, some took offence at that, I’m happy enough when its done well, and here its done well. A quick little story where Death recounts one of his “adventures”.

The Three Amigos
Dredd rides out into the Cursed Earth to take out a mutant gang leader with Judge Death and Mean Machine Angel as his sidekicks. For the uninitiated, if you think of Dredd as Clint Eastwood, Mega-City-One is where they give you the Dirty Harry stories, the Cursed Earth is where they go Man with No Name. Silly, over the top, loads of Western fun.

Dead Reckoning
I absolutley LOVE this story. Its comedic but darkly so and the artwork by Greg Staples is stunning. Judge Death spends most of the strip in drag but they still manage to make him creepy and him and the other Dark Judges do come across as a threat, not a punchline. Plus of all the collection, this seemed to show Dredd at his badass best and I’d imagine would be the most accessable to American audiences more familiar with Marvel and DC.

The collection is rounded out by relavent cover reprints and also a few pages of Brian Bollands original character design sketches for the Dark Judges, including a look inside Judge Fear’s helmet before they decided to leave this unseen.

So all in all a bit of a mixed bag of stories. Im not sure how someone totally unfamiliar with the character would react to reading these all together like this as its a bit like taking someone who’s never heard of Batman and showing them Dark Knight, then the Adam West movie, then Batman Forever back to back. You’d be a little confused as to how seriously you were supposed to take him. As an introduction to the world of Dredd though it definately does a good job and while the mood change is a little jarring you are still getting some quality stuff here.

Stars out of 5  –  4

Dry Slaps – 1 for the Theatre of Death Story and a half for the cheeky “KEVIN O’NEILL” on the cover.

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  1. claude /

    fantastic review, thank you

  2. I want to be like Jennifer Lawrence NOW!!!

    • Yeah I know rig hushes so awesome I love t whinge games I’m jelles

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