Batman In Print: Judgement on Gotham (1991)

Judgement on Gotham (1991)  Written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, Illustrated by Simon Bisley

By Jonathan Kemmerer-Scovner

Judge Death

Whereas this is what is known as a crossover, Judge Dredd meets Batman, this is also a genre mash-up as well: horror meets superhero.  After all, what could be more horror-show than the young couple engaged is some heavy love-making, peeling away layers of clothing, only to be interrupted by a grinning skull who proceeds to shove his hands through their hearts?

“Helllllllo, young lovvvvverssssss!  I havvvvve comme to jjjjjjudgge yooooou!”

This is Judge Death, lately of Mega City One, now in Gotham, where he meets the Scarecrow (featured here as being considerably more bloodthirsty than usual.  When we first meet him, he’s drilling holes in the skulls of fresh cadavers.  “Each a valuable chemical repository waiting to be tapped!  Nature’s own raw material!”  He’s more ghoul than man).  The two team up for a – as they call it – “feast of fear.”  Which also results in some of the most widespread gore-infused mass-murdering I’ve ever seen in a Batman comic book.

Speaking of Batman, he has now found himself transported to Mega-City One, using the same dimensional belt which brought Judge Death to our plane of existence.  Before he can get his bearings, he has a run-in with Mean Machine, and is brought before Judge Dredd.

“This is Mega-City One, creep!  I am the court of law!  Judge and jury!  If I say you pull time, you pull time.  This mask, this costume, these weapons…  You know what I smell?  I smell vigilante.  And I don’t like vigilantes!”

Alan Grant does a good job with the story which is pretty true to both set of characters.  It’s helped that he’s worked on them both.  The real star of the show is Simon Bisley.  He paints a beautiful Batman and kick-ass Batmobile, while imbibing all of the whole proceeding with deranged pulpiness.   He has a real knack for blood and gore, one can’t help but note.  I wondered how much of it was in Grant’s script, and how much was Bisley getting carried away with the red paint (he likes the splatter effect).  He also loves the female form, it is hard to overlook.  Any chance he can get, he’ll show a lovely young thing in the act of undress, using just enough shadow to obscure any unmentionables.

The climax of the book takes place at The Living Death heavy Metal concert being held in Gotham City.  Decked out in leather pants and a biker helmet, the gaunt Judge Death begins jutting his hands through people’s chests, ripping throats, biting off heads, choking down eyeballs, all the meanwhile blood splattering across his teeth and full lips.  All the meanwhile, Scarecrow films the melee with a handheld camera, hooting and cheering on the carnage.

 

“Nowwww, ssstraw man, it isss your turn!  Come!  Come toooo jjjjudgggement!”

“The double-cross!” Scarecrow exclaims, whipping out his canister of fear-toxin.  “I expected no less from a creature of such exquisite evil!  Discover for yourself why they call me Master of Fear!”

Having been sprayed, Judge Death reaches out his hands blindly, begins to shout in agony, “In the name of all that issss dead…!  No!  NOO!!!”

Scarecrow leans in.  “What is your greatest fear, eh, my fiendish friend?  What unholy abominations does it take to frighten death himself?”

There are nine and sixty ways of constructing a Batman story, and every single one of them is right.

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