Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Hondo-City Law review

I’ve never read anything by Robbie Morrison but I’m glad I’ve read this. I’ve been a Judge Dredd fan for a short while now, ever since I picked up The Complete Judge Dredd Case Files volume 1 which is a huge black and white collection of the earliest Judge Dredd stories. It’s a fascinating read, I really enjoyed it. The dollar per page ratio is excellent and made even better by the talent of the artists involved and the fact that it’s a slab of comic history. It was also with that collection that I discovered the writing of John Wagner, co-creator of Judge Dredd. Anyway, as a whole this also served as my introduction to 2000 AD (I was going to say to British comics but I honestly don’t think I’ve read any titles outside of 2000 AD). Since then I’ve read Nemesis, D.R. and Quinch, the Judge Death collection and a few others I can’t think of because they’re packed away in boxes and I can’t see them.

I’ve picked up smaller Dredd collections and in one of the stories by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar there were Judge from other Mega Cities around the world! What?! Cool! Then I saw this collection at my local comic shop featuring Judges from Hondo-City with an excellent cover by Frank Quitely and inside art by Quitely, Andy Clarke and Neil Googe. For a reason unknown I didn’t pick it up but it’s been in the back of my head ever since and finally I ordered it. As always, it sat on my shelf for a little while and I’ve finally read it. It was good and the art was very good.  

The first story is written by John Wagner and painted (I think) by Colin MacNeil and they introduces Hondo-City and their city Judges. The story is mostly forgettable except for the fact that it’s narrated in broken English which seems like a poor decision on Wagner’s part.

The rest of the stories are written by Morrison. The second and third are drawn by Frank Quitely and the art is excellent. Again, the story is more interesting than the one by Wagner. Morrison and Quitely introduce Judge Shimura and Inaba, a Judge in training. By the end of this first story Shimura becomes a ronin and Inaba becomes the newest Hondo-City Judge. The third story is about models who are also criminal and Judge Inaba takes them down. The most noteworthy elements of these stories is the art by Frank Quitely. Don’t get me wrong, Morrison’s stories are good and well scripted but the art is just that excellent.

The next two stories are drawn by Andy Clarke who has a very clean and very detailed art style. His style my even be too detailed since some of the characters looked stiff in certain panels. It’s not simply scratchy lines to give the illusion of details though, its actual detail. I know this is a poor appreciation of his art but I’m not quite sure how else to describe it. It’s very good, though, so focus on that.

Neil Googe draws the last story. It’s probably Morrison’s weakest story in the collection. It has robots, stuff blowing up, and good times. Googe draws it very well though. I’m not a big fan of his style. I’ve only read one other book drawn by him, Welcome to Tranquility written by Gail Simone, but if I remember correctly his art was not nearly as cartoony and manga inspired as it is here. Not’s not a bad thing though, he art styles fits for a story set in Hondo-City especially because he doesn’t go over the top with it. It’s clean and coloured quite brightly which gives the whole thing a bouncy feeling.

Hondo-City Law does present a very nice variety of art styles and panel presentation though, which was quite nice to see. Since most of the stories are written by Morrison, you get to see just how much impact an artist has. The differences found in the art of Quitely, Clarke and Googe is fascinating. I have my favourites but they are all worthy of praise.

I have to talk about Quitely’s art for a moment. He’s one of the best comic artist and there are two reasons that are demonstrated in two stories he illustrates. He’s so incredibly dynamic. His characters look fluid and fleshy in a heightened reality sort of way. Some people do not like this fleshy look but I do. His characters look like they are in movement and it’s nice to see such freedom of movement in sequential storytelling because we see too much stiff poses and pin up type are in genre comics. It’s an action comic and Quitely’s art reflects that. He’s also one of the best artists when it comes to integrating sound effects on the page. It’s not just slapped on; it’s part of the art. It’s integrated directly into the action. There are some strong visual examples of that here in his early work. Unfortunately, it’s not something I’ve seen much of in his mid to late nineties work in American comics. The only other book I can remember him doing this is in is the opening arc of Batman and/& Robin (confirm!) which is a shame because I can’t think of any other artist that does it half as well.

The execution of each story is very good, especially those drawn by Quitely and Clarke. The most interesting part of this collection is the discovery and the development of Hondo-City and its characters, specifically Inaba and Shimura. It’s not a Judge Dredd collection, past the first story the focus is not on him though he is present in nearly every story. Inaba is a really interesting character and I’d like to read more stories about her in the future. Shimura is also interesting and they have a very interesting dynamic. Morrison had a good idea to develop the mythos of Hondo-City and its Judges  and to stay away from Judge Dredd who’s already been in hundreds (probably more like thousands) of stories by now.  

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