Rating: 5/5 – A Definitive Look at the Dark Judges!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.
It took two years for artist and painter Greg Staples to complete the story that revolves around Judge Dredd’s most iconic villain, Judge Death and the Dark Judges. Two years of hand painted art with a story by Judge Death creator John Wagner deserves attention, and from the cover until the very last page, Dark Justice looks stunning. Originally running over the course of eleven parts in “2000 AD”, Dark Justice collects Wagner’s return to the Dark Judges characters, as well as a herculean effort by Staples in the form of sixty-six pages of beautiful yet scary painted art that only gets better with each and every page. Dark Justice is an oversized hardcover, so the art is showcased in a worthy form and is something I plan on revisiting again and again.
Right off the bat, you can tell that Greg Staples has a love and passion for the characters. In the foreword, we see Staples’ correspondence with writer John Wagner, asking him to come back and write another Dark Judges story. The problem was that Wagner felt he had said all he needed to say with the characters, that is until Staples sent him a recently finished commission of Judge Death. Wagner was so impressed with Staples vision of Death, that he decided to tell another story and it’s a good one! It’s a story that puts the focus on the Judge Death and the Judges who Staples has been fascinated with since he was young. Staples rendition of each of the Judges will be tough to beat for years to come as he provides an almost definitive take on each of the characters. Judge Mortis’ skull and empty eyes. Judge Fire who’s painstakingly painted covered in flames each time we see him. Judge Death’s eerie grin…these images will stay with you and will be what future takes on the characters are compared to.
In terms of the story, the wealthy elite of Mega-City One are determined to create a better life for themselves by branching out into the stars to find a more suitable home than the overcrowded earth. They’ve constructed a colossal ship that houses all sorts of amenities and luxuries including a full sized baseball stadium and beach. Their space faring utopia though becomes something much worse when the Dark Judges come aboard. Since the Dark Judges see life as the ultimate crime, the ship becomes a slaughterhouse. Dredd and Judge Anderson play big roles within, but the focus is set squarely on Judge Death and the rest. It makes sense that so much emphasis was put on the Judges themselves, but I would have loved to have seen more time dedicated to life on the ship. There were brief glimpses of the crew and passenger’s lives, but you get the sense that there was a lot of story that still could have been told aboard this city in space.
Dark Justice is a defining visual look for the Dark Judges, and especially for Judge Death. It’s a book that even if you know little about Dredd and his world will be a visual feast for the eyes. The story will do enough to get new readers to look for the Dark Judges’ early appearances, and will also have you seeking out more of Greg Staples work. This is a book that took the artist two years to create, but it is being enjoyed and discussed now and for years to come. This carries the highest of recommendations!
Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture