Hark to the merry glip! glip! glip! of the cranial fluids! Music to the ears of the Master of Fear.
Batman: Bruce Wayne, traumatized by the murder of his parents, turns his entire life towards disabling criminal enterprises. He lives in Gotham City, which draws a statistically improbable number of disturbed criminals with strange motives, stranger motifs, and appearances which take full advantage of the fact that Batman's adventures take place in a comic book.
Judge Dredd: With little personality save slavish devotion to the law and boundless anger towards those who break it, Judge Dredd functions as both flawed hero and satiric parody. He lives in 22nd Century Mega-City One, a dystopic, urban nightmare ruled by a totalitarian government and plagued by deranged, deformed criminals who, however, often merit more sympathy than the Judge.
In 1991, these problematic crimefighters met.
Writers: Alan Grant, John Wagner
Artist: Simon Bisley
Letterer: Todd Klein
Judge Death, one of Dredd's immortal adversaries, wanders from his home universe and finds himself in Gotham, where he engages in the senseless slaughter that one would expect from someone named "Death." The Batman intervenes, and soon finds himself crossing the same rift in reality that brought Death to Gotham. In Mega-City One, he encounters the disturbed criminal known as the Mean Machine. Despite Batman's willingness to cooperate with the law, Judge Dredd arrests him and sentences him to fifteen years for vigilante activity. Batman, meanwhile, needs to find his way back to his version of earth, to stop the rampaging Judge Death.
Enter Judge Anderson, a telepath in the service of Mega-City's law enforcement:
Batman: Do you have some authority? I'm having trouble getting through to this half-wit.
Dredd: Two more for lip, creep.
Anderson: I have some authority. Not as much as the half-wit, though.
Anderson frees Batman and takes him to Gotham, with Dredd in pursuit. The Mean Machine, too, wanders across the universes, seeking revenge on Judge Death.
Death, meanwhile, having lost his most recent body, teams with the Scarecrow, who sees in their liaison an excellent opportunity to test his theories regarding fear. The Gotham criminal resorts to blackmail, at one point spraying Death with a fear-evoking aerosol. He wonders what "unholy abomination" could "frighten death himself." The answer provided should amuse most readers. Judge Death and the Scarecrow eventually take over a rock concert, with Death singing a song inspired by "Sympathy for the Devil," and the pair plotting a fear-filled bloodbath, which the Scarecrow will capture on film.
Judgment on Gotham should appeal to connoisseurs of comic-book art. Bisley's insane, exaggerated paintings present a nightmarish world of distorted details. Everyone stands in shadows. Batman's ears look like they've been borrowed from a psychotic rabbit, while the Batmobile violates every rule of practical design. Dredd's motorcycle, meanwhile, rides on tires so fat it could be used as a steamroller.
This crossover does not take itself seriously, and privileges the satiric sensibility of Judge Dredd's adventures over Batman's more serious stories. It should appeal to most fans of both heroes, and to aficionados of the grotesque in comic books.