2000AD Digest: Judge Dredd: Ghost Town – John Wagner, Alan Grant, Ian Edginton, Rob Williams, Dave Taylor, Michael Dowling, R M Guéra & Simon Coleby (Rebellion)
I feel I should probably start this review with something of a confession. It’s been a long time since I read a comic. Unfortunately, real life got in the way of my comic reading and it fell by the wayside. Therefore, when I was given the opportunity to review Ghost Town featuring a long-time favourite of mine from my teens and early twenties, Judge Dredd, I jumped at the chance.
This 2000AD Digest brings us five stories from Mega-City One taking place just after the catastrophic events of Chaos Day. Vast swathes of the Mega-City lie in ruins, the population is traumatised and trying to pick up the pieces and the Judges are facing an even more difficult job than normal in trying to restore and maintain order.
The set opens with Wastelands by John Wagner, a tale of criminal opportunism in the wake of the recent events. Who would want to buy even a luxury Block in the wastelands that were once the heart of the Mega-City, especially one that is prey to a powerboard gang claiming it as their territory? There will always be someone, and Dredd’s keen senses are as sharp as ever as he smells a rat. Dave Taylor brings Wagner’s story to graphic life in a story that in both writing and art reminded me why I had fallen in love with Judge Dredd all those years ago.
Alan Grant writes Dead End next and pushes Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson to her very limits and beyond. As the already weakened Justice Department struggles with its insurmountable task, someone is targeting the Psi-Judges, making them commit heinous crimes themselves and preying on their susceptibilities. Culminating in a psychic showdown between Anderson and a shadowy figure from her distant past this bleak and gritty tale requires some spectacular artistic gymnastics from Michael Dowling, which he pulls off with bold style.
Dave Taylor returns for art duties in Ian Edington’s Ghost Town. Recognising that they are reaching or exceeding the limits of their abilities the Justice Department has decided to trial Ranger teams. Squads comprising of former Judges, who could no longer serve for one reason or another, ex Citi-Def members and other such hopefuls. Its down to Dredd to take the first such team out to assess their viability in the field. As they encounter Muties, rogue robots and questionable situations it becomes clear that the Mega-City post Chaos Day is, rightly or wrongly, one that must be governed with an even firmer hand than before. But are they capable of being that hand?
The Man Comes Around by Rob Williams and 300 Seconds by Ian Edington, in his second story in the set, are both shorter affairs than the opening three stories, but while they may be shorter, they are certainly no less impactful. Williams story gives us a grizzled and battered Dredd once again being pushed to his limits. This is beautifully enhanced by Guéra’s art, opting for a more ‘warts and all’ depiction of Dredd, at times making him look more like the undead than we are normally used to seeing. 300 Seconds brings the Digest to a close with a brief snapshot of what it is exactly that Judge Joe Dredd means to Mega-City One, to its past, its present and to the future, with or without him. Just his very presence can make all the difference, and with Simon Coleby presenting him as a shadowed and granite like figure it presses the point of the piece home beautifully.
Character development is not something one would normally associate with Judge Dredd, nor would it be something his audience would specifically crave. But if it’s going to happen then look no further than these collected stories. This is a Dredd pushed to his limits in a Mega-City One that has suffered terribly, and it is fantastic. As I said at the start of this review it’s been a long time since I had the pleasure of reading a comic and getting to review this may well have reignited an old flame. This is a must have for any respectable collection, a good starting point or, as in my case, jumping back on point.
Now how do I break the news to my wife without it ending in me getting hauled off in a Meat Wagon to Resyk? Jeff Goddard