Judge Dredd goes art deco in this crime noir set in an alternate universe

Judge Dredd has never just been about Dredd himself. It’s an ever-expanding playing field and there have been numerous series set outside the Judge’s own personal storylines. But alternate dimensions, however, have been largely untouched. Megatropolis changes all that, taking a large number of well-known characters and elements, and depositing them into a brand new Mega-City One, the Megatropolis of the title, full of gleaming towers, art deco buildings, and a steampunk underbelly.

Leading the cast is disgraced Officer Amy Jarra, who’s been transferred to a new precinct to partner up with Detective Joe Rico. In a city where every other cop seems to be on the take, and almost no-one’s prepared to help, Rico and Jarra have to solve the murder of an undercover detective. 

Writer Kenneth Niemand has clearly spent a lot of thought and effort to create a living, breathing alternate world right from the off. It does mean the actual story isn’t perhaps quite up to some of his previous Dredd work, but this is really all about the world-building and it lays some intriguing foundations for future volumes.

And while you don’t need to know that Amy Jarra, for example, is based on the lead character from classic Dredd story America, it does help. Half the fun of this volume is spotting the alternate takes on well-known characters and seeing them interact. Hershey gets an interesting twist as a journalist, while Anderson becomes Madame Cassandra – a superbly arch psychic for hire!

Dave Taylor’s art can only be described as sumptuous. I must admit to having been looking forward to this collection for a while – the original printing of the art in the Judge Dredd Magazine had seemed a little dark and muddy, but here I’m pleased to report that the lights and colours really pop when they need to. The characters and cityscape designs are excellent – Taylor’s influences clearly employ Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to great effect. 

This is perhaps one of the most interesting Dredd-verse stories this year with gorgeous art and clever storytelling. But maybe the most significant element is the reveal of Rico’s face…

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