Review by Frank Plowright
Relatively early on in Judge Dredd’s continuity John Wagner and Alan Grant introduced the Wally Squad, Judges permitted to act outside the law in order to carry out their duties. A later novelty was the Simps, the term long predating current usage, referring to citizens who saw everything as ridiculous and dressed as such. Enter Jack Point, a judge masquerading as a private eye, going about his business dressed as a clown.
Si Spurrier’s use of other items, creatures and terms from Dredd’s history is liberal, but weaving them into a noir fiction narrative is original, and the strength is crime plots that would work just fine with the trappings stripped away. However, literal gorillas, aliens not that far removed from Venom and an eccentric supporting cast sure do give Frazer Irving rich visual pickings. In some ways it’s a pity the noir form demands black and white, although The Simping Detective cheats a little by some use of spot colour, because Joe Point’s gear cries out for the full spectrum exposure as on the cover. It’s a strip produced early in both Spurrier’s and Irving’s careers, and while it’s formidable from relative newcomers, there are also some rookie mistakes that are ironed out over successive chapters. One is Spurrier too in love with his admittedly smart first person dialogue. There’s too much of it, and over the early strips Irving has to cramp the art to accommodate it all. Spurrier’s able to let loose with the text stories at the end.
Starting with the sleazy district of Angeltown, Spurrier gradually widens Jack’s world and those in it. He’s caught between two big problems. The Section Chief is as corrupt as they come, and looking for a way to rid himself of Jack, while the Boss, the real Boss, didn’t get to be the Boss without being a step ahead of the opposition and being able to engineer his way out of a tricky situation. It leaves Jack able to carry out day to day business, but it makes for hard going when he has to consider the toes he may be treading on. The first problem is best explored when Jack’s given a warning that undercover judges deemed to have gone native are being rooted out for transportation to the prison planet of Titan.
Spurrier’s plots become more complex as the series continues, culminating in the very good final strip over four chapters using recurring motifs and setting up a proper trap requiring a full page of smart explanations at the end. Irving’s learned some extra techniques along the way as well, and having served their apprenticeships both would go on to impress on other projects.