A bumper collection featuring twelve stories about the pretty young Psi Judge from 2000AD. The stories vary in length and come in the episodic style of British comics. This is a good thing as having to fill twenty pages, say, can lead to padding. Here each story is only as long as it needs to be.
The British origins also mean a blessed lack of soap opera themes. Instead there is black humour as in ‘Four Dark Judges’ when Judge Death is slaughtering the residents of the Ronald Reagan Block for the aged and infirm. ‘Dodder for it!’ cries an alarmed oldster. Alan Grant scripted most of these stories but John Wagner co-wrote the first three. Whoever’s responsible it’s a great line. The Dark Judges are from an alternate dimension and decided long ago that since only living people committed crime eradicating all life was the best policy. Logically they should have committed suicide once that was done. Instead they came to our dimension. They were defeated and this is their return. The second tale ‘The Possessed’ features demonic possession, which I find odd in a science-fiction setting but it was well done.
There are thirteen stories and to go through them all one by one would involve a tedious repetition of superlatives. Suffice to say they are all good and several are excellent. A short tale about Judge Corey and a whale entitled ‘Leviathan’s Farewell’ is probably the best in the book and also the best story of any kind I’ve read for a while. It should have won awards. ‘Engram’ is a longer story which gives us and Anderson revelations about her childhood. Very moving stuff for a ‘comic’.
Alan Grant does have fun too. ‘Triad’ features a murderous skeleton and the Block Ness monster so Anderson has to consult the Department of Fortean Events. ‘The Random Man’ has a chap who throws dice to decide what he will do next. Unfortunately the dice keep telling him to kill people. Anderson catches up with him in Luke Reinhart alley, for where Grant riffs and spoofs on other writers work he does acknowledge it.
‘Prepare to die, fleshy one!’ shouts killer ‘robot’ Bill as he attacks the Judge. This is unkind and untrue for she is slim and lovely. Bill, a.k.a. ‘The Prophet’ believes he is the chosen one, preparing the way for those who will come after by killing all the fleshy ones. Bill is bonkers but the story is fun.
The art is at least 80% of the graphic novel form, I think, and a great story won’t get transmitted without pleasing pictures. Happily Wagner and Grant are well served by the numerous talents gathered here. Brett Ewins deserves honourable mention for the first two tales and David Roach does a bang up job on several others. The honourable exception to my enjoyment was Carlos Ezquerra, though he only drew ’The Random Man’ so there wasn’t much of him. He’s honoured because he co-created Judge Dredd and the whole look of Mega-City one but I personally don’t much like his style.
2000AD has made a huge contribution to the genre over the last few decades and these bumper collections offer an excellent chance to grab the best of it at bargain rates. They are an Essential Showcase (geddit?) for the best of British and this one in particular is a really good read.
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/