The Dredd movie (the 2012 one, not the 1995 Sylvester Stallone one) set up its own version of the Judge Dredd universe. It was similar to the original comics that inspired it, but edged towards a darker, grittier tone, largely ditching the humour that the strip’s original creators wrote into their extreme vision of life in the future. The movie version has continued in the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine, the 2000AD spin-off, with previous stories reprinted in Dredd: Urban Warfare.
The first story in this collection is a classic tale of revenge, wrapped around a mutated telekinetic boy who saw his parents unjustly murdered by an angry mob for a perceived slight they didn’t commit. Years later, the embittered man he grows into is slowly eliminating the mob, literally covering his tracks with his telekinetic ability to whip up a Cursed Earth sandstorm. Dredd is on hand to cut through the moral ambiguity of the story as only he knows how – by coming down hard on anyone who breaks the law – which makes for a thrilling journey into the irradiated wasteland outside his city walls.
Arthur Wyatt does well to channel the Dredd of the movie into a new location here, ditching the gritty drug-dealing for a less grounded foe. Wyatt draws more inspiration from the comic, with the Cursed Earth outside the city walls making a very different backdrop than the movie’s claustrophobic tower block. It makes for an interesting middle-ground between movie and comic that suits the story well. Ben Willsher’s art is dynamic and dramatic, capturing the grime of the film and successfully stretching it beyond the city.
The other two stories feature Judge Anderson, the psychic Judge who, following the events in the film, is still relatively new to the streets. In the first story she is recognising her latent powers and coming to terms with using them to help her fight crime. In the second she goes through an interrogation designed to see if she’s up for joining Psi-Division, the psychic branch of the Justice Department, which in this version is a covert organisation and not as public-facing as it is in the comics.
Alec Worley’s Anderson stories are necessary scene-setters, giving movie fans more insight into the character, but don’t bring anything new to existing Anderson fans. Here she’s written much straighter, losing the wise-cracking, flippant personality that made her the perfect foil to stony-faced Dredd in her original incarnation, though she’s still more conscientious and empathetic than Dredd. Paul Davidson’s art isn’t as gritty as Willsher’s, which perhaps isn’t what we’re looking for here. It’s still perfectly violent in places, but feels closer in style to the original 2000AD artists that have developed the characters over the years.
This is one for fans of the movie, then, forging a bridge between the film and the comics that inspired it. It’s a one-way street, though, with nothing particularly special for fans of the comics looking for more classic Dredd.