A Mind For Investigation
♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer Tim Hayes takes a look at the latest classic Judge Anderson collection, Judge Anderson The Psi Files Volume 5 by Alan Grant, Arthur Ranson, Dave Taylor, Boo Cook, Robin Smith and Darren Douglas
Judge Anderson The Psi Files Volume 5
Writer: Alan Grant
Artists: Arthur Ranson, Dave Taylor, Boo Cook, Robin Smith and Darren Douglas
Cassandra Anderson, always high on the very short list of characters embodying grace under pressure in the Judge Dredd universe, does so all over again in the latest set of Megazine stories taken from late 2005 to early 2013. And again the results are vivid, because she is too: a spiritually inclined female Judge equipped with an uneasy mental talent and a strong right hook, much more attuned to the occult tides and hidden ley lines of Mega-City One than Dredd himself, and more likely to empathise with a perp than shoot him between the eyes – even if that too becomes necessary shortly afterwards. But now that Anderson is explicitly middle-aged, the character’s custodian Alan Grant – author all the strips here – is framing her as an authentic tragic hero, while subjecting her to both his habitual psychoanalysis and taste for pun-heavy names.
This Psi Files collection balances exterior urban action with delves into Anderson’s interior angst, until the needle swings definitively over to the more fatalist end of the dial by the close of the book. But the early stories are a breeze. Arthur Ranson, whose crisply contained style is a classic template for Anderson as a short-haired and coolly stoic character, draws her painful reacquaintance with the world of the Dark Judges, those permanent skeletons in her psi-closet who are still clawing at her subconscious. After that Grant and Dave Taylor go wild, arranging for several Mega-City apartment blocks to come to life and start stomping across the landscape before being tackled by versions of King Kong, a Naked Lunch mugwump, a Ray Harryhausen skeleton and other refugees from the pop culture of 2129. Taylor’s art is flamboyantly unrestrained and a nice counterpoint to Ranson, all bulbous engineering and phallic architecture and drizzle, although Grant’s story eventually peters out.
Boo Cook then draws the rest, a sequence published over a four-year period with noticeably distinct art styles along the way, in which Anderson takes a kicking. After she deals with corruption at a virtual reality community – guest-starring Tharg and drawn by Clark with some fine spiky cartooning – and defeats an eco-terrorist at the Hanging Garden Centre of Babylon, things turn deathly. A haunted house story ends in fire and brimstone, before Anderson’s attempt to halt a terrorist attack leaves her with some new ghosts to accommodate on her conscience and Mega-City One with another day of disaster. The final gruesome horror story shifts Anderson back into occult territory via an ancient relic feeding on beheadings, dismemberments, and buckets of blood, and the art becomes glutinous and sticky to match. Anderson knows this landscape well – her bookshelf is full of Crowley, Lovecraft, and Robert Anton Wilson – but Grant has a classic theme in mind, and wonders if the self-doubt that Anderson sees in the mirror has brought the horror to her like a magnet. The character’s bruises are starting to look permanent, but she’s still in there punching.