Review: Dredd - Top of the World, Ma-Ma / Writer: Matt Smith / Art: Henry Flint / Available: HERE
Old Stoney Face's last cinematic outing didn't go too well. With the reboot upon us, the marketing has been working overtime to show potential audiences that Dredd 3D is a completely different beast. A tantalising taste of this new Mega City One has been released online in the form of this tie-in comic book. Promisingly, it's from the same folks who bring us Dredd Prime in 2000AD. In Top of the World, Ma-Ma, Dredd himself isn't the focus – it's the film's villain, Ma-Ma Madrigal. The results are surprisingly readable.
The comic book movie tie-in is very difficult to get right. Like its infamous counterpart, the videogame tie-in, the results are usually awful. For every Dawn of the Dead (released almost thirty years after the film) or Leatherface (which bears little semblance to the film upon which it is based) there's a Spider-man, Punisher, Hulk or Batman Begins. What works in one format tends not to do so well in another. Top of the World, Ma-Ma is one of the few that really works.
It helps that it actually feels like a Judge Dredd story. Written by 2000AD editor Matt Smith, drawn by Henry Flint and with a beautiful cover by Greg Staples, it certainly looks the part. Keeping Dredd out of the frame, so to speak, leaves the reader with plenty of curiosity as to how he'll be depicted on the big screen. By focusing more on the film's villain and the new Mega City, it tells us enough to want to see more of the things that aren't Judge Dredd too. We meet Madeline Madrigal just before the events of Dredd. Ma-Ma isn't quite crimelord enough yet, but she's getting there. It's a little disappointing to learn that her anger stems from the death of a man – and she's a whole lot more sympathetic here than in the film - but she's a promising character, all the same. Her eventual vengeance effectively sets her up as a threat to the Big Meg and Dredd. In the film itself, Lena Heady's impressive acting chops will fill in the blanks to make Ma-Ma feel like a credible menace.
That said, given the similarities to this and a genuine Judge Dredd comic, the differences seem even more jarring. The film's adult rating means that the characters are free to eff and blind as they please. I never thought I'd say this about swearing (one of my favourite things ever) but it's completely unnecessary and a waste of the great lexicon 2000AD has brought us over the years. This comic's replacing a few of the F-bombs with a Drokk or two would have made all the difference. And while it's easily as violent as any other Dredd book out there, there's a noticeable lack of humour. It's an unremittingly grim take on Mega City One, without a laugh or a smile to be had anywhere.
Dredd 3D is perhaps my favourite comic book adaptation of 2012. This prequel comic, while not essential reading, is everything one could hope for from a tie-in adaptation.