♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer Tim Hayes takes a look at the latest Judge Dredd collection, Titan by Rob Williams and Henry Flint
Judge Dredd: Titan
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Henry Flint
No surprise that Mega-City One, obsessed with law and order, does something very nasty to its corrupt judges. Sent to the penal colony on Saturn’s moon Titan, they have their noses surgically removed under only local anaesthetic, and replaced with a filter system allowing them to work outdoors – and then have their short-term memory wiped, so that the alterations come as a surprise. One thousand angry mutilated judges gathered in one place; not for the first time, the Titan colony seems like it might be a bad idea.
Judge Dredd: Titan collects a recent set of connected 2000AD stories by Rob Williams and Henry Flint, in which Dredd is sent to Titan to investigate the latest trouble up there. He runs into some familiar nose-less faces, including former Judge Aimee Nixon, whose part in the story deepens until the whole set becomes her tale more than anyone else’s. The action moves from Titan to the neighbouring icy moon of Enceladus, which creates a whole new set of consequences eventually leading right back to Mega-City One, forced to undergo its own form of climate change.
It’s a tale from the bleak end of the Dredd spectrum. Williams’s story piles on the agony for everyone – especially Nixon – and Dredd himself is made to seem old, tired, and often ineffectual in the face of the torrent of violence being stored up at the other end of the solar system. More than once the key player at a crucial moment turns out to be someone else, somewhere else; and every time the story of the Titan convicts seems to end, another unexpected consequence pops into view, bringing bad news for everyone.
This is Williams’s point – that fate is an equal opportunity offender – and he marshals it well enough to make the book a suitable downer. All the dour toughness gets in the way of the story, especially when Williams adopts third-person narration for Dredd which always feels like the most airless option available, but the art is in sync with the mood thanks to Henry Flint’s firm and serious lines. The most expressive face throughout belongs to Chief Judge Hershey, moving from resolve to rage to a memorable panel of total wide-eyed apoplexy – directed at Dredd, for behaving rather like an angry old man. The story’s eventual full-stop comes in a Yuletide coda, which borrows visuals from Raymond Briggs’s The Snowman for events described by Mega-City One’s Channel Ennui News as “a fleeting attempt to inject spectacle into a life built on inertia and nothingness.” Merry Christmas.