Lenny Zero and the Perps of Mega-City One

Posted by on March 2nd, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Andy Diggle and Jock, John Wagner and Steve Dillon, et al; Rebellion/2000 AD; 160 pp.; $17.99; B&W and Color; Softcover (ISBN: 9781907519765)

 

 

With Rebellion/2000 AD making a strong push into the United States collected trade market through publisher Simon & Schuster, American audiences have, for the first time, ready access to comparatively priced graphic novels anthologizing material from the British weeklies 2000 AD and its sister, monthly title Judge Dredd Megazine.  While the material has been available in the individual weekly progs and magazine issues, finding them in local shops and even through online distributors is often difficult.  Furthermore, although Americans immediately recognize names such as Diggle and Jock, Wagner and Dillon, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Neil Gaiman, to name but a few, for their work with either DC or Marvel Comics, access to this classic material is also troublesome as 2000AD had only digitized a fraction of its immense catalog.

As such, the publication of Lenny Zero, along with Judge Dredd MegaCity Masters, Judge Dredd the Complete Case Files, Bad Company, Nikolai Dante, Judge Death(a personal favorite), and a host of other science-fiction, futurist, crime-noir, post-apocalyptic fiction is a welcome diversity on the local and chain-bookstore shelves.

This latest collection includes not only the three original Lenny Zero stories from Judge Dredd Megazine published from 2000-2002 and created by Diggle and Jock, but also a series of other criminal tales from the Dredd universe, including Slick Dickens, Carlito (Bato Loco), and a final story about life in Mega City One.  Diggle and Jock are natural collaborators and the only thing better than reading Diggle’s prose and viewing Jock’s stark and crisp black and white line art is comparing the first “Lenny Zero” to the script posted on Diggle’s site.  As if Jock’s art required any additional appreciation. But after enjoying the first read-through and then seeing how the artist not only interpreted the script, but also shaped Diggle’s revisions to suit the art (see picture four in the book versus the script), makes the entire experience much stronger.

For the uninitiated, Mega City One is quite an easy world to jump directly into.  Mentioning Dredd among American readers usually elicits a sighed groan or look of horror as one might recall the 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone.  Unlike the often perplexing and convoluted nature of American superhero comic universes, Mega City One is simplistic — but in no way does that detract from the stories being told here and in other collections.  If anything, it makes for an even stronger playground for writers and artists alike to hone their creations.

A common theme in many of the Lenny Zero tales, and for that matter, in other Dredd-related stories (Jack Pointe, the Simping Detective comes to mind), is the undercover Judge working among the filth and degradation of Mega City One’s most vile criminals.  This atmosphere is shaped and molded by the sometimes heavy, jagged lines Jock produces that hold the readers’ eyes whether it is an up-close profile image of a weathered and shadowy-faced villain, or the weighted feeling of being pulled directly into the barrel of the gun Judge Dredd is aiming at you.  “Sci-Fi Noir” or Future Noir is the best description of Mega City One whether it’s Jack Pointe or Lenny Zero and the artists of 2000AD take the chiaroscuro world of American detective fiction and make it something decidedly original and innovative.  The “Lenny Zero” sequences are rough and brutal at times, but with a finesse and tact not often found in comics or graphic novels.  Diggle does not take short cuts and as a result does not fall prey to the crutch of gratuitous violence to shape narrative development or mode or tone.

 

After the black-and-white world of Lenny Zero, the appearance of full color Steve Dillon art in Slick Dickens is a shock, but a temporary one.  John Wagner can rarely do wrong; yet here, the literary device behind the Slick Dickens stories may cause some audiences to wonder how often 2000 AD can play out this experiment.  Personally, the humorous nature of the Dickens stories, the bizarre adventures and triumphs over Mega City’s finest, and the art, particularly Greg Staples’ pages, make it an enjoyable diversion from the often stoic, authoritative Dredd tales.

The last three installments round out the Lenny Zero collection with shorter, vignette-style explorations of Mega-City One.  Gordon Rennie is another favorite from the 2000 AD fold and may be best known here in the states for Necronauts, Caballistics or Storming Heaven.  Similarly, Robbie Morrison’s co-created Nikolai Dante is also one of the most popular 2000 AD series.  In terms of a character-driven story, however, Rennie’s Carlito entries and Morrison’s are not as strong as Diggle’s Lenny Zero.  Like Wagner’s contributions, the two are avenues more for encounters with Judge Dredd rather than a platform where Dredd occasionally interacts and appears.

For fans of Diggle and Jock’s collaborations on Green Arrow or The Losers, the publication of Lenny Zero should find an already well-established audience and, potentially, the collected softcover could increase interest here in the U.S. for the world of Mega-City One.

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One Response to “Lenny Zero and the Perps of Mega-City One

  1. […] is a link to my review of Andy Diggle and Jock, et. al., Lenny Zero and the Perps of Mega-City One rom […]