Waiting for the Trade = Batman * Judge Dredd

 
Batman & Judge
Dredd: Judgment on Gotham

writers Alan Grant
& John Wagner, artist Simon Bisley

This is an original
graphic novel from 1991

 

Why I Bought This: It
was in the $1 bin of a local comic store and I’m always a sucker for an
intercompany crossover. Even though my knowledge of Judge Dredd is limited to
that bad Stallone 90s movie and a Free Comic Book Day issue two years ago at
this price I figured it was worth a shot.

 

The Plot: Batman
& Judge Dredd are forced to team-up when Judge Death comes to Gotham and teams up with Scarecrow.

(spoilers below)

 
Judge Death (undead psycho-cop who seems to have powers of
rot touch, intangibility and razor sharp nails: his philosophy is only the
living commit crimes so life itself is a crime that should be punished by death)
kills some young lovers making out in an alley. The couples’ screams attract
Batman and two Gotham cops. The cops unload
their guns on Death to no effect and he kills one of them. Batman uses martial
arts and accidentally impales Death on a fence. Bats thinks its dead but Death
soon rises up to attack again. This time the cop’s bullets hit a gas tank and
the ensuing explosion burns Death to ash, though its spirit rises up and vows
vengeance.

Batman examines Death’s gear and when he touches its belt
buckle he is transported to Mega
City (Judge Dredd’s
fascist crime-ridden future). Batman encounters another Dredd villain: Mean
Machine—a big bruiser with a low IQ, a cyborg arm, a metal plate covering most
of his head and a dial that controls his aggression on the headpiece.
Apparently he stole the dimension travel belt for Judge Death and wants to know
where Death went and why Batman took his place. Batman outmaneuvers him and
throws M.M. from a building but then uses a cable to save him. Their fight
attracts Judge Dredd. Batman sees Dredd is the law on this world and is willing
to cooperate in order to get home and stop Death; however Dredd insists Batman
be cuffed leading to Dredd sucker punching Bats and arresting him.

Mean Machine arrives in Gotham
via the belt and head-butts the cop from earlier. Meanwhile a telepath in
Dredd’s unit named Anderson
is called in to talk with Batman after he claims Judge Death is alive and on
the loose.

Batman is appalled by what passes for law and justice in
Dredd’s world. Dredd meanwhile wants to jail Batman for 20 years for various unlicensed
weapons on his utility belt. Anderson’s
telepathy verifies Bruce is telling the truth but Dredd is not dissuaded that
Batman belongs in jail. He also feels if Death has gone to another world he is
no longer in their jurisdiction and has no interest in chasing him down. After
hearing that comment, Batman breaks free and pounds on Dredd a bit until the
rest of the Mega City police force subdues him.

Back in Gotham, Scarecrow
breaks into a morgue to get glands he uses to create his fear toxin. Judge
Death’s spirit also arrives at the morgue looking for a new body to inhabit. The
villains quickly hit it off so that Scarecrow helps Death with the reanimation
ritual. Of course when its done Death decides to double cross Scarecrow and
kill him but Scarecrow’s fear gas puts a stop to that (and in a funny page we
see Death’s worst fears are cute cartoon animals).

Anderson frees Batman from
the prison transport and takes him to a dimension door facility and from there
back to Gotham. Dredd hears about the break
out and follows. Back in Gotham, Mean Machine
is head-butting various people looking for Death and gets directed to a heavy
metal concert for a band called Living Death. This just so happens to be where
Scarecrow wants to take Death to see what kind of fear they can instill
together on a large crowd. Anderson’s
psychic powers also track Death to the concert.

At the concert Death kills the band in gory fashion and then
attacks the crowd. Mean Machine sees Death with a new partner and feels
double-crossed so he attacks the stage itself by head-butting the support
pilings. Batman and Anderson arrive. She shoots Scarecrow’s fear canister
exposing him to his own gas which takes him out of the fight. Batman is not
doing as well against Death but then Dredd arrives and shoots Judge Death a
lot. Just then the stage collapses burying Dredd in the rubble. Death is about
to use his rot touch on Dredd when Batman makes the save with an electric
batarang that fries this body. When Death’s spirit goes to escape Anderson pulls him into
her own mind to imprison him.

Dredd makes Mean Machine docile by shooting out his
aggression dial. He’s ready to fight Batman too but Anderson convinces Dredd they need to go
before she loses control of Judge Death. And with that everyone goes home while
Batman takes Scarecrow back to Arkham.

 
Critical Thoughts:
I liked this well enough. It certainly isn’t breaking new ground, but then most
intercompany crossovers don’t break new ground—they just follow the template
Gerry Conway established in the 70s with Super
Man vs. Spider-man
.

It comes off as more of Dredd story than a Batman story as
it has two of villains and one of his supporting characters it, whereas
Scarecrow’s involvement is minimal and non of Bruce’s supporting cast is
present. Yes, I’d have liked to see a little more of Batman in Mega City
or a longer fight between Batman and Dredd (even if we know these fights always
end inconclusively) but the story told here is a consistent narrative
throughout. As someone unfamiliar with Dredd’s world I had no problem follow it
(and I’d even seen Judge Death before in the Free Comic Book Day issue, and
he’s a strong villain for this world.)

The art is painted, which gives the book a unique look.
There are some real nice splash pages in here. Judge Death comes off very
creepy in this format. Overall the art is a definite highlight.

 

Grade: C+. For
what I paid this delivered more than enough entertainment, but even its
original cover price of $6 would be fine for this story. Again we’re not
reinventing the wheel but it is a better than average example of the
intercompany crossover genre.