So here we are, at the third and final instalment of the graphic novels based on the parallel Dredd universe established for the rebooted movie franchise. This definitive sign-off provides a unique opportunity for its writers, something that hasn’t really been an option for anyone before: at the end of this book, Dredd can be gone. Dead. For good. Don’t blame us for giving away spoilers – writer Alex De Campi says as much in the book’s short introduction.
There are two stories in the book and the second is the main draw: a reinvention of Judge Death for the darker movie universe. However, the first is a better, more human story, and in my mind, perhaps the best sequel story of the trilogy. Furies is a multi-faceted tragedy, the tale of an honest citizen who can’t make his own path through Dredd’s world without getting caught between the cogs of law and crime. It’s a stifling, distressing, small-scale human story, and is classic Dredd. Paul Davidson’s illustration is brighter and cleaner than we’ve seen in this series of books before, but again that just gives it more of a classic Dredd feel.
The Judge Death story is called The Dead World and is, in my opinion, a disappointment. Like a greatest hits album, writers Arthur Wyatt and Alex De Campi have pulled some of the best bits about the character out but it doesn’t have the breadth to make it a classic in its own right. Perhaps that’s the point, that the movie Dredd’s swan song should be a cinematic rebirth of his arch villain; a reward to fans, sprinkling the story with echoes of Judge Death’s history that only a fan would understand. However, the character is also reinvented: physically birthing himself from the body of a host corpse; shapeshifting to overcome obstacles; and bringing forth a Deadworld that isn’t the dark, gothic graveyard planet of the comics but a bland blank canvas, a haunted, post-apocalyptic industrial desert. Henry Flint’s art captures the darkness and the horror, but it can’t disguise the fact that this isn’t the Judge Death I wanted to see.
Tireless reinvention of a franchise is always going to sell comics: stick Judge Death on the cover of something and it will inevitably spark my interest. This was no exception. However, that’s because I still remember his first appearance in 2000AD, soon multiplied by the introduction of the Dark Judges, when John Wagner’s creation was fresh and new and unlike anything I’d seen before. This innovative excitement has been recaptured since, by the likes of Kek-W and Dave Kendall in The Fall of Deadworld, which looks at Death’s genesis; and in John Wagner and Nick Percival’s Dark Justice: Dominion, which takes Dredd out of the equation to make Death more deadly than ever. This story, by contrast, is an echo of Death’s true potential, distorted by the movie version of Dredd’s need to be different, but simply not living up to its true potential.
By all means, buy this for Furies, which is a great story. Buy it for a story where Dredd and Death can fight without the baggage of Dredd having to survive the encounter. However, if you really want a modern take on Judge Death, we’d refer you to The Fall of Deadworld and Dark Justice: Dominion instead.