Calhab Justice (packaged with Judge Dredd Meg 352) – Jim Alexander

3 out of 5

I love Calhab Justice.  Wait, sorry, I love the first story in Calhab Justice.  Let’s assume that writer Jim Alexander is the creator of Judge Ed McBrayne, who resides in the (I think) Scottish Calhab.  McBrayne – in the opening tale that gives this floppy its names – takes up the mantle of the wisecracking hero, filling the reality of the Judges with some humor that the Dreddy Brit-Cit stone-faced world is sometimes lacking.  JD certainly has its tongue in cheek, but the gags often stem from the situation and not always directly from the lead as the do with McBrayne, bearded and pony-tailed and tartaned and with a shit-eating grin as expertly depicted by John Ridgway.  The story of Ed getting in the middle of a feud between two brothers – and some ancient stone, and a ghost – plays a little fast with its internal history, but the cheeky approach of its lead makes it a delight to read.  But as we approach the latter half of the book, its realized how much Ridgway has contributed not only as a co-creator of ‘Justice,’ but also in being a professional visual storyteller.  The second two tales, drawn by – jesus christ – ‘Lol’ – have something of a Tank Girl enthusiasm in the bonkers over-stylization, but the framing is too erratic and the panels too jam-packed for the black and white to keep things easily followable.  ‘Dounreay’ is a pretty good bit about a scramble for some nuclear weapons, excepting the art, but final tale ‘Casualty’ is a confusing dive into melodrama, McBrayne’s sudden rage over a Psi not helping to save an injured party fairly out of character for what we see in what’s collected here.  Lol’s art is a bit less busy here, but it’s hard to say if that’s growth or only because there are less characters to draw.

So it’s writing PLUS art.  We know this.  A whole book of Alexander – writing with some jokes in tow – and Ridgway would be a blast.  This floppy does it’s job of being a floppy, though, by mixing odds and ends, and so ‘Calhab Justice’ is balanced out by a couple uneven bits.

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