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Judge Dredd: America by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil #BookReview

IN MEGA-CITY ONE, THE JUDGES ARE THE LAW – acting as judge, jury, and executioner. But how do the citizens really feel about a system where they are powerless? America Jara and Bennett Beeny grow up as best friends, living a fairly trouble-free life in a dangerous city… bar the odd encounter with a Judge. Time draws them apart, and when they are brought back together, Beeny is a successful singer and America has become involved with a terrorist organisation – with the Judges in its sights!

Judge Dredd America book cover

Title: Judge Dredd: America | Author: John Wagner, Colin MacNeil | Publisher: 2000 AD Books | Pub. Date: 15th March 2008 | Pages: 144 | ISBN: 9781905437580 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: Rape | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Source: Library

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Judge Dredd: America Review

I was a massive fan of ‘2000 AD’, the comic that Judge Dredd first appeared in, as a kid. Every Friday I’d pick up my reserved copy from the newsagents and devour the often violent, always inventive tales within it. Unlike US comics, which tend to focus on one character or team, British titles like ‘2000 AD’ feature a number of different stories, told episodically each week. Of all the characters that appear in ‘2000 AD’, Dredd is the only constant, turning up each week to dispense ruthless justice in the grim future city he polices.

Even if you’ve never read Dredd, you may know him from the two Hollywood movies based on the comic. One starring Sylvester Stallone (and very bad), one starring Karl Urban (and much better). If you’ve seen neither of those, then think ‘RoboCop’. Dredd has always had a similar feel to Paul Verhoeven’s classic movie (and predates it by a decade). It’s violent, satirical and treads the thin line between condoning state brutality and applauding it.

The three stories in ‘Judge Dredd: America’, come not from ‘2000 AD’, but from spin-off ‘Judge Dredd: The Megazine’ which launched in 1990 with the intention of publishing more mature stories about Dredd. The stories are all written by John Wagner, one of Dredd’s creators back in the 1970s. The first of the three premiered in the first issue of ‘The Megazine’. What we have here, then, is a trio of stories that are mature in both senses of the word. They explore themes of sexuality and political rebellion that may not have made it into the pages of ‘2000 AD’, and they are reflective on the cultural phenomenon of Dredd, warts and all.

The first of the stories tells the tale of a young woman, the America of its title, fighting against the tyrannical rule of the Judges. It’s wonderfully even-handed, covering both her motivations and those of Dredd. It’s a story that has no hero but also no villain, and it follows America through to an inevitably tragic conclusion. The second story ‘Fading of the Light’ is if anything even more moving than the first, a nicely introspective sci fi tale that isn’t quite as successful as ‘America’ but is in some ways more memorable. The third, ‘Cadet’ is a clever detective story in the classic Dredd mould, that wraps things up beautifully.

Taken together, the stories are an impressive collection, and one that could perhaps only have come from John Wagner and only after he’d had sufficient time to ruminate on his creation and its cultural impact. Dredd is a more complex character than his stern, monosyllabic demeanour suggests, and these stories brilliantly explore that depth. Dredd himself comes out of them unchanged, but my view of the world he inhabits was undoubtedly changed by America and the characters whose lives she touched.  

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads (Buying direct from retailers is a good way to support indie authors); however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Published inGraphic Novels
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