Fan post – Necropolis review

14/09/2015 | Fan Post

I’ve always thought Necropolis was a good story, one of my favourite Dredd epics. After reading this volume (which is entirely taken up by the story) though I think I’ll have to change my opinion. I think it might actually be my outright favourite. Tight storytelling, characters artwork and foreshadowing mean it’s a really satisfying payoff. It really is a great point in case for John Wagner’s strength of playing the long game and pulling past threads together. The amount of elements that come together is really impressive – Dredd’s dissatisfaction and growing doubts and Judge Kraken of the Judda are the obvious ones but there are lots of little ones that add lots of nice touches. A few of my favourites have to be the use of the recently introduced Giant Jr. as well as the revisiting to Judge Morphy, the “ragged man” from a previous volume showing feral Judges in the Cursed Earth and foreshadowing the return of McGrudder and the tie in volume The Dead Man (I would have loved to have read this in the weekly Progs – I image the reveal / twist would have been of a similar level as the big reveal in 2012′s Trifecta). My only real gripe is the Psi Judge Kitt Agee (a minor character who plays a major role) is introduced during the story rather than being introduced in a prior tale. All of these coming together means it feels like a really fleshed out story and connected world – a fact that may lead this story better to being read as a big run of books rather than as a standalone (I feel reading the story on its own my lessen some of the impact).

I think the thing that put Necropolis ahead of The Apocalypse War is the characters. The Apocalypse War is full of hard set jaws and action hero grit whereas Necropolis sees characters going through a range of emotions – terror, anguish, confusion, hysteria and utter hopelessness are all portrayed via either effectively through writing and art. The most impressive use of emotion is on Dredd who goes through a range. Doubt, sorrow, madness and mourning are all expressed in the build-up. It’s a bit of a punch but not really a surprise seeing these as they have been hinted at in the build-up and stories previous have put across the idea of maybe the Judges need to be more human. It’s these glimmers of negative emotions that make Dredd’s turnaround and the victory all the more satisfying.

The Dark Judges are really well used here. While they may be the main perpetrators and responsible for the demise of 60 million citizens, they appear only fleetingly and are used sparsely. The body count is never depicted graphically but is more often than not, implied: very effective and scarier than just continually showing slaughter upon slaughter. The best use of The Dark Judges has to be Judge Mortis stalking cadet Judges in the undercity. Each sequence in this is genuinely un-nerving and at moments genuinely terrifying. “Seriously? The guy with the horse skull head? Terrifying?!” Believe me, it’s as big a surprise to me as anyone!!!

The writing is great; I’m really enthused by it. The artwork? Masterful. I make no secret that Carlos Ezquerra is my top Dredd artist but he really is on fire here. All instalments of Necropolis (and the prelude – Countdown to Necropolis) are all rendered by Ezquerra in full colour and while his black and white art is astounding, the added colour here takes it to a whole other level. Details that would have been redeemed in black inks are occasionally done in watercolours and felt tip pens which add to the supernatural, unearthly feeling of the story. Cityscapes coloured in washes of sickly purples and greens mean you can almost smell the stench of death coming from the dying and the diseased. The changing of colour schemes on a panel to panel basis within the same scene keep the reader unbalanced and disorientated, much like the citizens caught up in the ensuing carnage. Such use of colour to depict subtle storytelling shows there’s more to effective art than drawing well.

 

Fan post by Bruce Gray