Last week, the bold and hot story arc "The American Way of Death" had its wrap up issue... and to say that it was disappointing would have been an understatement. After building and building and building to what should have been an awesome end, Issue #20 kind of just fizzled out with no real POW. It was more of a light pop. I actually was a little bit pissed off about it to tell you the truth. It was a great letdown in a title that has had few letdowns since its reemergence a few years ago. I don't know if the folks at IDW felt the same way or not, but for whatever reason, they decided to release Issue #21 a mere week later. The good news about this issue is that it picks up right where #20 ended, which is a good thing as a bad taste was left in my mouth after reading it the former. The better news is that after a big (but really lackluster) reveal that occurred in #20 was brought out, #21 fills in the backstory of it and does a truly phenomenal job at regaining lots of ground that was lost previously. My faith has been restored and I can find very little wrong with this issue that is written by Duane Swierczynski with the artistic duties given to Shane Pierce for this one.
The whole tone of the issue is dark and surreal as much of the subject matter is dark and surreal. A familiar face and voice from the very recent past has returned in not the way you would have expected, but in a way that is written believably and fits perfectly into all of the issues previously rendered that began with the "13 Badges" story arc. Dredd is visited and the curtain is pulled back on the return of the Dark Judges. Even the new Dark Judges have reasoning given to them in just a wonderfully placed and paced comic. Swierczynski has redeemed himself greatly here.
Adding the true icing on this cake of comic entertainment though is the utilization of Shane Pierce over Nelson Daniel who has been doing the great bulk of the artistic renderings for the series. Pierce's art is far more dreamy and hazed than Daniel's high contrast, gritty color renderings. Normally for a Dredd title, the dreamy haze would not work; but it fits well into the subject matter as we are lost in a void of the mind, somewhere between time and space. Pierce nails it and has once again recaptured the spark that hopefully will return to the full on flame of interest that has been blazing in me for as long as I can remember with this title.
After almost falling off the boat, Issue #21 has righted the ship and potentially good waters may guide it the rest of the way in the tale of The Dark Judges.
Writer: Duane Swierczynski Artist: Shane Pierce Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/16/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital