‘Lost in the Longbox’ with Brad Gischia, Episode 14

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Batman/Judge Dredd: Vendetta in Gotham
(DC/Fleetway, 1993)

Written by: Alan Grant & John Wagner
Art: Cam Kennedy
Color: Digital Chameleon
Lettered: Ken Bruzenak

Greetings from the Wasteland!

There are few characters in comics who could claim to be more morally driven than Batman.  His vow never to kill ranks him above most heroes, and his spurning of firearms (with a few exceptions) make him a model for heroes everywhere.  But there is one hero, albeit not of the same universe, who holds himself above everyone and everything, excepting one.  No one is above “the Law”, not even Judge Joseph Dredd.  This week we look into the wonderful crossover “Vendetta in Gotham” by Alan Grant and John Wagner.

This is the second of four Batman/Dredd crossovers penned by Grant and Wagner, the first being “Judgement on Gotham”, and then followed by “The Ultimate Riddle”, and “Die Laughing”.  This was 1991, and the comic industry was rising higher than it ever had before.  Now it seems inevitable that these two should meet despite their universe and time differences, but it showed an unusual amount of cooperation between DC and the Dredd publisher, Fleetway.  Where Marvel and DC could not see eye to eye on any crossover, Fleetway and DC found a good match in these characters.

The Story:  Batman begins with a classic attack on crime in Gotham, taking out two thugs and tying them to the safe they just tried to steal.  As he leaves the scene the Batmobile takes heavy fire and crashes, thanks to the cannons on Dredd’s Lawmaster.  Dredd claims to be in Gotham to arrest Batman for the only crime anyone could ever truly call him guilty of, vigilantism.  Batman takes the stance of the reading audience when he says, “I knew Mega-City judges were petty, but that wins the prize.”  (Remember that the two of them have met in the previous book, and from the way they react to each other on their re-acquaintance, it was not a friendly meeting.)  Dredd drops his gun and decides to take Batman out hand-to-hand.  There is a fairly silly scene here of the two beating on each other with playground equipment.  And yes, before it even comes up, Batman takes one to the junk from a seesaw, which seemed completely out of character, though funny.

Next we see some panels of the Ventriloquist and Scarface, Batman staple villains, who are watching the battle from nearby.  They have a plan to murder a Senator’s son, a man who refused their blackmail demands.  A bomb has been strapped to Scarface and he weasels his way onto the stage during the Senator’s sons’ school play.

Meanwhile, Dredd decides that the fight is over, and reveals a newspaper from the future with the headline, “Batman Dead: Hero Perished trying to Save Children”.  Batman rushes to the theater, trying to stop the Ventriloquist anyway, and Dredd follows, the two of them working in concert to arrest the villains and toss the bomb out of the window.  At the end of the book Dredd says, “Something big is coming and you and I are going to be in the thick of it,” a foreshadowing to the books that will follow.

Cam Kennedy’s art makes for an enjoyable read, with a pleasing cross between Batman and Judge Dredd styles, so that we can totally believe that the two exist in the same universe, at least for a time.  And not to be forgotten is the Mike Mignola cover, a fantastic fight scene between two iconic characters.

If you have the chance to pick up any of these crossovers I would highly recommend it.  I’m a sucker for crossovers and meet-ups, but this is one of the better examples that I’ve read.  Grant and Wagner have stayed true to the personalities of their chosen characters, making the book a study between two heroes, one who takes a hard line on the letter of the law, and one who will occasionally bend those laws to get results.  The quote on the back of the book says it all.  “…when the ultimate lawman comes seeking revenge on the city’s dark knight.  –can even the winner survive?”

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Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter:  @comicwasteland

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