We get more action and intrigue from one of the best "I can't believe it didn't happen sooner" books on the shelf. Al Ewing and John McCrea along with Jay Fotos are back in this issue to dive a little deeper into just how far the Martian infiltration has gone in the Judge Dredd universe as well as continue the tale, bringing all of the Mega-City 1 judges into the mix, most especially the psychic Judge Anderson. There are a lot of great laughs to be had in this issue, both subtle and overt, as we're introduced to more criminal masterminds and even more ways the Martians have gone deeper than just one Mega-City. Ewing has a real knack for writing the ultra-machismo action dialog that's made Dredd famous across the decades while not forgetting the throwback 1950s sci-fi that made Mars Attacks such a delightful send-up when it was first introduced. And, of course, we get more of those delightful trading cards every few pages, which are good enough and accurate enough that they easily could have been included in the Mars Attacks original packs. On the surface, it seems like that would be one of the easier things to do, but if you really go back and look at those old cards, then compare them in terms of context to the ones in this issue, there's a lot of very subtle, nuanced things that the writer and artists get JUST right.
It should be no surprise that Dredd veteran John McCrea knows a thing or two about a thing or two about what makes Judge Dredd entertaining, and the visuals in this book are an absolutely perfect compliment to the writing. The gangsters and corrupt officials across the blighted Earth that the book takes place on are perfectly bizarre for the setting and the martians don't actually clash one single bit against the already bizarre, 70s dystopian sci-fi aesthetic. A great throwback style is a tough thing to pull off well, because it can go from cool, retro ambiance to sloppy and old-looking very, very easily, but McCrea and Fotos' art never gets there. The panels aren't exactly fluid, but more like a photographer's snapshots of the action, each capturing a different moment.
There's a particular character in this issue, perhaps based on a similar Dick Tracy character, who speaks exclusively in mumbling. This makes the character almost impossible to understand or comprehend, even when reading his dialog aloud to oneself. This wouldn't be as big of a deal if he, and his dialog, weren't in about half of the issue, making reading large swaths of it something of a chore. I get the joke, but it's more annoying than funny. There's quite a few text blocks that vividly describe what's going on in each panel, or even certain characters within the panel, and these sometimes go overboard. I'm not sure I really needed to know every thought the giant bug attacking Judge Dredd had before he dealt with it.
None of those complaints stop this bizarre cross-over from being one of the most organic and hilarious out there. Taking two franchises that excel at parody, over-the-top gore and satire and cramming them together in one ultra-violent package was a risky idea, but it's worked out brilliantly. I had high hopes for this book, and it continues to deliver. We're only on issue 2, but I feel like there's so very much more to tell in this series and frankly anything that delivers more deadpan comedy (from equal parts Dredd and the Martians) is great in my book.