Previously on Drokk!: The Wagner/Grant era is over, and now things are in a very strange holding pattern as the strip tries to work out just what it’s going to be, and what things are going to be like, moving forward. We’ve already seen some hints — and, this episode, we get the biggest hint yet, and it’s not even in the Judge Dredd strip.
0:00:00-0:03:23: After a brief pre-credits public service for those in the U.S. with Amazon Prime — really, Future Shock is a fun film — we get things started by introducing the two books we’re covering in this episode: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 13 and The Dead Man, a non-Dredd strip that’s actually about Judge Dredd after all. You’ll see.
0:03:24-0:21:06: There’s no getting around it, and we don’t even try; Case Files Vol. 13 isn’t great. Jeff has some feelings about why that is, and they revolve around the idea that, now no longer a writing duo, John Wagner and Alan Grant are both suffering from the split. We talk about the difference between their styles, and also pick apart a couple of stories in particular where Grant — by far our least favorite of the two — feels like he’s dropping the ball on what we’re expecting from the strip at this point.
0:21:07-0:43:45: Wagner, meanwhile, has his share of misfires — we’ll get there very soon — but the strongest stories in this collection come from him, and we talk about a couple of them for a bit: “Banana City” and “In The Bath,” the latter of which might be the favorite story of both of us in this book. (For once, we didn’t actually talk about that during the episode.) We discuss Wagner’s strengths as comparative to Grant’s, before touching on some of the failures he offers up in this collection, including something to utterly devoid of a point that Jeff even came up with head canon as to why it exists. (We’re looking at you, “An Elm Street Nightmare.”)
0:43:46-1:05:15: Have you ever thought there were parallels between this era of Judge Dredd and the Star Wars prequels? I hadn’t, until Jeff makes a pretty convincing case on two different occasions, relating to two different stories in this collection — which were published a decade before Episode I reached theaters. Also under discussion: My love for the Cadet Kraken storyline, whether or not John Wagner is writing about the “nature versus nurture” argument and, if so, what side of the argument he’s on, and how “Young Giant” is really all about Judge Dredd and Judge Kraken, really. Oh, and “Letter to Judge Dredd,” a one-off that makes it clear that John Wagner is out to break the strip entirely.
1:05:16-1:15:02: For all that we didn’t love the book, we’re still willing to accept that there’s good stuff to be found, especially in its second half — even if Jeff and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the return of Italian stereotype Maria in the three-part “Cardboard City,” which Jeff compares unfavorably to the work of Robert Kanigher. Really, that’s just mean.
1:15:03-1:15:38: As we say goodbye to the volume, we ask whether it’s Drokk or Dross, and the answer isn’t particularly good, sadly. (It’s also not surprising, considering that we’d just talked shit about the book for an hour.)
1:15:39-1:26:20: Things improve considerably as we turn to The Dead Man, which both of us adored. It’s a Dredd strip in secret, and we talk about the ways in which it succeeds even beyond the last-minute-reveal: How much we love Wagner’s writing (under a pseudonym) and John Ridgeway’s atmospheric artwork, and the ways in which it isn’t a Dredd strip, even though it really is.
1:26:21-1:41:59: The strange thing about The Dead Man is that Wagner is telling the end of a character arc at exactly the same time as he’s telling the start of it, and we talk about what that means, as well as the ways in which this is the kind of formal trickery that can only be done in a comic like 2000 AD, for numerous reasons. Also discussed: Whether Dredd, once reborn, is an arrogant asshole and whether Yassa ends up paying the price for Dredd’s sins in a way that intentionally underscores Dredd’s responsibility.
1:42:00-1:53:47: I revisit the experience of reading The Dead Man in 2000 AD as a kid, and how the surprise felt at the time — unlike Jeff, I really did go into it cold — while also sharing a spoiler for Zenith: Phase III that I… maybe should have given a spoiler warning out for, even though it came out 30 years ago…?
1:53:48-1:57:15: Drokk or Dross, once again, and it’s a lot more favorable than Case Files Vol. 13, thankfully.
1:57:16-2:09:12: For once, Jeff actually read ahead of what we’re talking about, and we talk about just why that is, and then talk about what does lie ahead, and how it connects up the various threads that Wagner has been stringing along for a couple of Case Files volumes by this point, and also pretty much destroys Mega-City One even though we as readers today know that the strip continues for another three decades after that point. Cognitive dissonance, ahoy…!
2:09:13-end: And so we return to the end of things, as we talk about the Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter of things, not to mention the Patreon; we also touch for the briefest of seconds on how strange things are in the world right now, because — well, have you seen the news? Still, things really could be worse, which is kind of what next month’s episode is going to be all about…