The Mega Collection
“Democracy. Let’s look at it another way.
“We had an election. Only 57 percent of electors even bothered to vote. Over half of them voted for candidates who did not get elected; so we’re down to 28 percent.
“The ruling party came in with a third of what was left. That’s nine percent, give or take. They’re kept in power by an assortment of fringe parties and independents. Throw them a few crumbs and they’ll do what they’re told. So they don’t count.
“So when you come down to it, only one citizen in ten actually wants the government they elected and most of them don’t even know what they voted for.
“Democracy? Power to the people? Don’t kid yourselves.”
Well, now. Here’s a character that has certainly grown up since I last looked.
Like most other comic book readers I found Judge Dredd and his dystopian future very entertaining when he first appeared in Britain’s famous 2000 AD Weekly back in the 80s. But even then he seemed to be a one-trick pony.
The toughest of a group of motorbike cops who acted as judge, jury and executioner in a congested future mega-city where society is barely hanging by a thread, there seemed no way that the character would ever develop. The violence and black comedy was fun for a while, but it paled with me very fast.
My interest was revived with the 2012 release of Peter Travis’s brilliant Dredd, with Karl Urban superb in the title role. Immediately washing away the bad taste left by Sylvester Stallone’s woeful miscalculation, I remain astonished that this wasn’t the start of a film franchise.
Hell, ‘astonished’ turns to ‘stunned’ after finishing this superb collection that makes up the first volume in…yes, a mega collection. It is outstanding. Complex in its themes; dark in its treatment of them; with both words and entire sections so shaded that what initially seems a straightforward statement often means something else.
This is the story of America Jara and the generation that followed her. Never was the sentiment that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter more true than with beautiful America.
Dredd, though, is a man who never has those kind of doubts or makes those kind of distinctions:
“I stand four-square for Justice. I stand for Discipline, good order and the rigid application of the Law – and Grud help any limp-wristed liberals who say different.
“The people, they know where I stand. They need rules to live by – I provide them. They break the rules, I break them. That’s the way it works. The people like it that way. They need to know where they stand.
“Rights? Sure. I’m all for rights. But not at the expense of Order. That’s why I like to see that statue of Judgment standing there, towering over Liberty. Kind of a symbol.
“Justice has a price.
“The price is Freedom.”
Almost all of the 200 or so pages that make up this 2015 collection are written by John Wagner (A History of Violence) and gorgeously illustrated by Colin MacNeil. Like the best of any good science fiction it works on more than one level and will make you think. It even manages to keep some of the humour of the 80s Dredd, without becoming flat out daft.
But be warned: this is an adult comic book. Aside from the violent imagery there is a two-page rape scene that I found really shocking. And yet, with MacNeil’s panels taking the main the point of view from the victim’s angle, I would argue that it is not gratuitous. It is meant to sicken, not titillate. And it does.
If you don’t know the character of Judge Dredd or the other real character here – Megacity One – this is the perfect place to start. All the more so as the man is initially kept in the background whilst his world is introduced.
“Freedom – Power to the People – Democracy… the Great American Dream.
“Don’t kid yourself.
“We tried it before. Believe me. It doesn’t work. You can’t trust the people.
“That’s all it is. A dream.
“America is dead.
“This is the real world.”