1 out of 5
Collecting the most uninspired Dredd “epic” up that point in the prog – Morrison’s Inferno – and the lead-in tale by Millar, Purgatory, plus two inconsequential Millar Dredd onesies, this TPB is probably of more value based around one’s appreciation of Millar’s in-your-face style, as I think both Grant and Dredd fans are rather in agreement on, at the very best, Inferno being boring. But even with that positive, I can’t imagine the rating getting that much better: while Mark’s Dredd work, in general, has a tossed-off attitude that seems to embrace the mag’s “Summer Offensive” push at the time (bringing in new, young-ish upstarts like Mark to script), Purgatory minimally has that ‘sparkle,’ but lacks the writer’s ability to find fresh ideas to swear at and toss gore upon. What’s frustrating about that (though I’d say Purgatory is also boring, to the point where frustration doesn’t even creep in) is that the strip’s pitch to explore Titan a bit more is worthwhile, but that ‘exploration’ extends as far as figuring that the Judges there have earned their positions by completing a certain amount of jailtime, and that they’re, thus, as bad as the prisoners. Dot dot dot – both our ‘lead’ – prisoner Grice – and our ‘main antagonist,’ warden Kurtz (sigh) are awful people, and so we get 8 parts of them being awful to one another. These are all one-dimensional characters, with Grice encouraging his fellow escapees on the back of having a hate-on for Dredd, and the prison break itself is of the lowest caliber of cleverness and excitement, essentially boiling down to steal guns, shoot guns, and dismember people. Also, make sure to steal the deus ex machina virus for Inferno.
If this was an Authority piss-take on the Dreddverse, that might’ve offered up something, nor is it the most over-the-top thing possible; it’s Mark going as violent and unpleasant as, I’m supposing, he was allowed, which maybe makes gore fans interested, but it’s pretty tame stuff, akin to the limb-slaying Mark would do in his Dredd tales, just without any humor. Map that on top of a totally mundane non-story, and it’s a slog.
I’ve already gone into Inferno, but in short, this is one of the least Morrison-y things he’s ever penned. He simply seems uninterested in Dredd, and takes Millar’s pitch of an MC-1 destroying virus and the vengeance-motivated Grice and follows along dutifully, minusing out any elements that makes it feel like a Dredd story, or even anything that is unique to the Dreddverse itself.
The trade includes two additional JD one-shots by Millar, which, typical of his take on the character, are completely out of character, but again, if we go with the “Summer Offensive” gist, turning Joe into a one-liner cracking serial killer… sure.
If it’s not obvious, I’m not a Millar fan, hence my one star, but again, those who enjoy his work might find this to sit alongside his lower-tier stuff. The trade is, perhaps, better / best appreciated for the Carlos Ezquerra art (and great Ron Smith art on a one-shot), but that’s an odd reason to seek this out, since Ezquerra’s style on Purgatory is comparable to the followup effort in Inferno, which is available in the Case Files as well, and which there has better stories (to a degree) backing it up.