Monday, July 07, 2014

The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection Part 2, Vendetta In Gotham

Batman and Judge Dredd would cross paths again two years later, in 1993's Vendetta In Gotham, an all-around smaller story that brought with it a smaller sense of occasion. The artist this time around was Cam Kennedy, who had at that point done plenty of work for 2000 AD and had rather recently drawn Batman in 1992's Batman#447-448, written by John Wagner, and featuring a pair of the neatest Batman covers I can remember (by Tom Taggart).

Kennedy is, of course, one hell of an artist, and his contrast between the two lead characters is striking, visually emphasizing their differences and conflict. Kennedy's Dredd is lean, and what little there is of him seems to be all chin and muscle, his armor standing out so as to almost seem ill-fitting. Batman, on the other hand, is huge, made to look bigger, longer and wider by the billowing cape with it's rectanglular shoulders and his pointy ears and other jagged edges.

Kennedy, like Bisley, also excelled at mixing straight and silly character designs into the same space, and making them all seem as if they belonged.

As good an artist ass Kennedy is however, he's here working in pencil and ink, rather than paint, so even at a glance, this looks and looked more like a "regular" comic book than something more prestigious (Not even the Mike Mignola cover is painted).

The book is set entirely in Gotham City, with no trips or check-ins with Mega-City One (as in the original crossover), and there's only a single, minor villain from Batman's rogues gallery, with no corresponding villain from Dredd's world (or any supporting characters from Dredd's world, like Judge Anderson in the original).

That villain, incidentally is The Ventriloquist, which I suppose at this point I have to refer to as the original Ventriloquist, as writers Paul Dini and Gail Simone went on to invent their own versions of the character. The Ventriloquist might seem an extremely unlikely choice for an inter-company crossover story like this, but given that he was the creation of writers John Wagner and Alan Grant (along with artist Norm Breyfogle), it becomes less surprising to see him appearing in this Wagner/Grant-scripted story.

Batman's main antagonist, after all, is Dredd himself this time around.

The story this time? Batman just finishes foiling the getaway of some thieves, when Dredd appears on his Lawmaster motorcycle directly in front of a sign welcoming him to Gotham. He checks his watch, and goes after Batman, blowing a wheel off the Batmobile and starting a fight. Dredd takes off all his weapons, locks them in his bike and tells Batman he's here to administer his punishment—accumulated during their previous encounter—via a single man-to-man beating. Batman wants no part of it, and tries to resist fighting for a while, but a seesaw to the groin has a way of triggering a flight-or-fight response.
After a 45-minute fight that moves from a playground, to the top of an elevated train, to the river below—and some of which is depicted in a pretty neat 12-panel page of the two combatants punching each other in front of the full moon in semi-silhouette—Dredd calls it off and explains what he was up to by handing Batman tomorrow's front page, in which the headline story is Batman's death while trying to thwart a bombing (Mega-City One isn't just in another dimension from Gotham City, it's also in the future).
See, while all this fighting was going on Scarface and The Ventriloquist were hatching a plot to kill the son of a senator who is in a children's play. The plan involved swiping the doll carried by the girl playing Goldilocks, replacing it with a disguised Scarface packed with explosives and then detonating him at the right time. If Batman was too busy fighting Dredd across town, he wouldn't be able to get himself killed in the explosion, even if it did mean some children would die.
Obviously Batman doesn't subscribe to the same ends-justify-the-means philosophy as Dredd's Justice Department, so he races to try and stop the bomb from going off in the time that remains. Dredd goes in pursuit, and, thanks to an unexpected malfunction and the intervention of not one but two heroes, The Ventriloquist and Scarface are unable to complete their plan, meaning no one dies (the newspaper headline in Batman's hand being instantly rewritten from "BATMAN DEAD" to "BATMAN SAVES THE SHOW").

As to why Dredd went to so much trouble in order just to save his life, given the fact that the two aren't exactly besties, Dredd explains: "One of our Psis had a premonition. It seems Mega-City One is going to be needing you...there's going to be one almighty disaster...and you and I are going to be in the thick of it!"
From the next issue box in the last panel, in which Kennedy's inky Batman hunches on a gargoyle, his cape falling like a waterfall of ink, it looks like the plan was for that almighty disaster to come in 1994, as it reads "Judgement 3: Die Laughing! will be out next year!"

Plans obviously changed, as the next Batman/Judge Dredd team-up was actually The Ultimate Riddle, and that came out not in 1994 but 1995. As for Die Laughting, it would be released until 1998, five years later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tom Taggart! I loved his Doom Patrol covers. (Which you may remember as being principally Bisley's domain, back when Morrison was making DP into a 90s name...)