No, not those cape and cowl crimes. Batman remains firmly in his corner of the DC Universe for this collection of Judge Dredd stories, some dating back to a time when a meeting between the two must have seemed like an impossible fancy, at best. Here we see the lawman of the future encounter various Mega City vigilantes, many of whom bear a striking resemblance to characters well outside of 2000AD’s remit.
Superman, Batman and Wolverine are just three of the figures who come in for a typically Dredd kicking, starting with Prog 529-530’s Fairly Hyperman. Cape and Cowl Crimes is the strip at its most comedic and fanciful, pitting the typically unimpressed Dredd against the Superman facsimile Fairly Hyperman. Of the lot, only the gangster thriller Marauder really takes itself seriously (as seriously as a Dredd story can take anything) and is the ‘worst’ in the book for it.
But, being an anthology collection, there’s a wonderful variation in writers and artists here, and not a dud amongst them. The Simon Bisley illustrated Chicken Run is the strip at its most chaotic and silly, concluding with a pop culture punchline which is now antiquated but still quite brilliant. In a fun coincidence/bit of synergy, Bisley also illustrated the first Batman/Dredd crossover Judgement in Gotham, giving him a Batsuit to fill out with just a few more muscles than are on display here. Taking a similar style and tack is The Juve Mutated Kung Fu Kleggs, which is exactly what you might expect it to be given the title (and a welcome return for the Kleggs, rarely given much to do since The Day the Law Died).
Cape and Cowl Crimes, while a lot of fun, is essentially a collection of puff pieces and filler stories and, as a result, lacks some of the bite and intelligence of the best Dredd tales. Coming with a dictionary of Dredd lingo at the front of the book, there’s a feeling that this is a book more aimed at newcomers than hardcore fans. Marauder aside, it’s a whole book of very specific spoofs, and that joke inevitably wears thin towards the end (but not before a fairly hilarious take-off of Wolverine which hinges on a ‘Master of One’s Own Domain’ joke).
Rendered somewhat redundant by the existence of the ‘real’ thing, crossover fans will be better off picking up The Batman/Judge Dredd Files, or any one Case Files book for a better cross-section of Dredd action. But for beginners or even the Dredd stalwart looking for a palate cleanser between Mega-Epics, it’s an absolute winner.
JUDGE DREDD: CAPE AND COWL CRIMES / WRITERS: JOHN WAGNER, ALAN GRANT, SIMON SPURRIER / ILLUSTRATORS: SIMON BISLEY, ERIC POWELL / PUBLISHER: 2000AD / RELEASE DATE: 12TH APRIL