Going Ape In Mega-City One
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer TIM HAYES takes a look at Judge Dredd: Nobody Apes The Law, the collection out now from Rebellion…
Judge Dredd: Nobody Apes The Law
Writers: John Wagner, Alan Grant
Artists: Mick McMahon and Jake Lynch
Apes—the Mega-City One problem that never quite goes away. In the fine tradition of fictional apes good and bad, plus all themes of human cruelty and violence that enter sci-fi stories alongside them, peeved primates somehow keep popping up to ruin Judge Dredd’s day. Nobody Apes The Law pulls together a few of the highlights, both whimsical and serious, proving that Dredd doesn’t go too long without finding a monkey on his back.
For a while, it was often the same monkey. The collection starts at the beginning with The Ape Gang from 1977, introducing Don Uggie Apelino and his gang of pinstripe-suited gun-toting primates, all talking like Al Capone with attitudes to match. John Wagner and Mick McMahon’s story reveals that humans chose to artificially enhance the intelligence of apes, although their reasons for doing so are never entirely clear, and the apes end up herded into a ghetto anyway. Dredd sorts out an ape gang war and locks Don Uggie up in the Mega-City zoo; but Uggie’s out before long, taking out a contract on Dredd. And a few years after that, he faces Dredd for the final time, now reduced to a feral creature with no vestige of the supposedly civilized intelligence which he never asked for in the first place. Eventually Dredd runs into Don Uggie’s grandson, carrying on the family crime business.
Alan Grant and Jason Brashill dig into the Ape Town ghetto in a story that’s late-1990s-Megazine to the core. Brashill’s exaggerated bulbous caricatures play up the pathos of Grant’s story, with residents of the ghetto spending their days angrily drinking and brawling, despised by the rest of the city, while an undercover judge is genetically regressed into simian form, a parody of the procedure that created Ape Town in the first place. No one emerges from the story happy.
A more recent, and more optimistic, Megazine sequence occupies the second half of this collection, with Arthur Wyatt and Jake Lynch telling the story of ape Harry Heston, who survives a troubled upbringing and self-appoints himself to the most worthy occupation he knows of: a judge. A primate example of nobility arising when the odds are against it, Harry ends up working with his idol Judge Dredd on a mission to Krong Island, a one-time theme park named after another Mega-City ape sensation. Lynch’s version of Dredd’s chin is like no other, but it’s Harry’s path from unwanted orphan to auxiliary Judge that drives the story, proof that Dredd’s world doesn’t grind everybody into the dust. It just seems that way sometimes.