Sense Of Dredd
♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer Tim Hayes takes a look at the latest classic Judge Dredd collection, The Complete Case Files 28 by John Wagner and various…
Judge Dredd The Complete Case Files 28
Writer: John Wagner
The Complete Case Files 28 catches a chunk of Judge Dredd’s 1998 output in its net, and the hand of writer John Wagner is emphatically visible on the tiller. Individual parables about life, death and identity in Mega-City One are as sardonic as ever, but the author’s grand design pulls the needle firmly over towards social activism too, with the longest and most potent storyline arriving right on cue at the high point of the arc.
Even by the standards of 2000AD, there’s mortality everywhere in these pages. A taxidermist opposed to the fashion of refitting dead loved ones into robots ends up on show in a museum, next to a prize-winning display of grotesquely injured victims caught in a terrorist atrocity. The TV schedules are blatantly 1998’s after a brainstorm – and so an easy target – all cruelty and barbarity and a show called You’ve Been Fingered, the host of which meets a sticky end. Dredd also wades into MC1’s enthusiastic euthanasia legislation and shows detectable compassion for once, in a story drawn by Sean Phillips.
Mega-City politics is familiar too. Tony Blair came to power in 1997 (and B.L.A.I.R 1 was in some of these very progs), so now in 2120 here are the Liar Party and its blithely grinning front man, admitting that every pledge is baseless and every statement a sham. Keeping its promise to keep none of its promises, the party marches towards power, while a modern reader glances up from the page and looks outside the window. And there’s more modernity when Dredd crosses swords with the creepy Public Surveillance Unit, in a Megazine story drawn by John Burns that exploits Wagner’s gift for exploring whole swathes of Mega-City society while seeming to explore only one lawman in particular. Discovering that Judges are storing incriminating information for later use in blackmail, Dredd takes steps to interfere, being careful to note that it’s the inefficient time-wasting he objects to more than the moral quagmire.
One judge’s moral quagmire is entirely the subject of Beyond The Call Of Duty, Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s ten-part story in which Judge Galen DeMarco returns to Dredd’s stage. Having taken steps to make DeMarco a layered character with an unusual niche in the Dredd-verse when he first moved her into position, Wagner now uses her to tell a story about law and character, authority and compassion, as well as a woman’s position in the workplace. For all the blood and thunder of Wagner’s style, he’s always had an eye for soap opera dynamics as a means to keep his characters in motion, and DeMarco’s emotional life in the hot seat of Sector House 303 is the best kind of melodrama – the kind in which you care what happens.