Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Judge Dredd: America (2008)

Author: John Wagner  |  Illustrator: Colin MacNeil  |  Page Count: 144

'Somewhere along the way childhood ended. Ami and I were drifting apart. I watched it happening, hating it. Powerless to prevent it.'

America is regarded by many Dredd fans as one of the best Big Meg stories ever written, and with good reason. It’s a mature telling of a small but significant event in the Megacity’s history. If you join the dots over a longer period of time it can even be seen as a precursor to an eventual re-evaluation of the system itself.

From the first page it’s clear that what we’re getting is a deeply personal confession suffused with tragedy and a sharp, painful remorse that even time hasn't dulled. It puts us on the alert and reminds us that notions of hope and change are a dangerous combination when paired.

It débuted with the launch of Rebellion’s monthly Judge Dredd Megazine (1990), a title that offered their regular writers the freedom needed to explore more hard-hitting, adult themes than the long-running weekly 2000 AD magazine was able to do. In an unexpected reversal of reader expectations the first issue had Dredd be an antagonist, not the hero of his own title.

At its most basic level it’s about two childhood friends who take different paths in life. Bennett Beeny lives peacefully under the controlling gaze of a judicial system that he hates and fears, whereas the strong-willed America Jara, the woman that Beeny loves, chooses the opposite, America takes a stand, putting herself between a merciless green boot and a seemingly hopeless belief.

Placed strategically are brief scenes that on the surface may seem to affect just one or two of the secondary characters, but each instance has a cumulative, emotional impact on the reader. When stacked, they further characterise the world. The glimpse inside of Resyk, for example, chillingly highlights how the human need for warmth has been replaced by a heartless practicality.

The sequels, Fading of the Light (1996) and Cadet (2006), are included in the collection but they aren't in the same league as the main feature. I would even say that while they’re decent stories, overall they have a diluting effect. The writing isn't as good and the digital colouring is abominable. The original story gets full marks, easily, but the others bring the average down a little.

4 kinds of victim out of 5

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