Meet Your Creator
♦ Tripwire contributing writer TIM HAYES takes a look at Judge Dredd Case Files 31, out now from Rebellion…
Judge Dredd Case Files 31
Writers: John Wagner, Alan Grant
Artists: Cam Kennedy, Duncan Fegredo, Mick McMahon, Simon Coleby, Jock, Siku, Richard Elson, Henry Flint
The previous Judge Dredd Case Files volume was occupied with one big sci-fi story, collecting John Wagner’s Doomsday Scenario plot that ran in 2000AD and the Megazine for much of 1999, so no surprise that Case Files 31 brings a return to single-issue stories and more overtly satirical business. The end of 1999 also saw Alan Grant back writing several of the stories here, and a wide variety of artists drawing the strip, so the collection proves again how varied Dredd’s style could be during this period. But much of the book is distinctly light-hearted, 2000AD marking the actual year 2000 by having Dredd encounter one of his own makers: citizen John Wagner, relaxing in a warm bath.
The overarching plot of Mega-City One politics moves forward in a couple of Wagner’s more serious episodes, and a plot point from the last volume is dealt with by having the Justice Department blatantly lie to its citizens – a brisk six pages of fake news creation that has hardly become less relevant since. Meanwhile Grant has some fun, homaging DC Thomson’s Numskulls by showing the small figures inside Dredd’s brain pulling all the levers – the one in the chin is just called Attila – and later setting Dredd loose in an art gallery, which allows the judge to put a bullet in Sylvester Stallone for various film-related reasons. The same story lets Simon Davis flex his fine-art muscles, recreating Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus just so that Dredd can snarl “Cover ’em up, toots” on his way past.
Harsher stories are not far away though, and authentic satire can always create echoes down the road, if the problems on its mind never went away. Two of Wagner’s Megazine stories in particular cannot be read in 2018 without some overt relevance to right now. The first eventually involves Dredd brawling on other planets, but really hinges on Mega-City One’s desperation to forge a trade deal with a foreign trading block on favourable terms, and the subterfuge that it’s prepared to go to in order to get them. The other involves a city block whose residents are being forced out by uncaring landlords and councillors, and a tenants’ resistance movement that eventually embraces an enthusiastic mass suicide. Although the story may be an encoded bit of meta-commentary on the comic itself – the block is named “JD Megson” after all – it’s not remotely possible to see a growing pile of dead bodies at the foot of a poorly maintained tower block and not register current real-world outrages, a mark not of any failure by Wagner and Henry Flint but of their total success at the time.
Judge Dredd Case Files 31 is out now