Graphic Novel

Judge Dredd: Every Empire Falls

(2017) Michael Carroll et al, Rebellion, £19.99 / Can$34 / US$25, trdpbk, 240pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08531-8


The Judges were born out of rising crime and corruption in the US cities of the 21st century, yet they were not enough to prevent a corrupt President to launch nuclear Armageddon.  Unlike the police, the Judges have the power to dispense instant justice on the streets without resort to trial by jury. They have kept order in the Mega Cities that survived the nuclear war; cities where now the majority of the population is unemployed and all too ready to cause trouble.

Mega-City One hugs the eastern seaboard of what was the US, with the Black Atlantic on one side, and the largely radioactive Cursed Earth on the other.  It is a city that has faced catastrophe a number of times, but the Judges have managed to see most of the population through the worst.

In the 22nd century Mega-City One, one Judge – cloned from the father of the Judge system – is the most respected.  He is Judge Dredd…  And that's the summary back-story, and now we have Every Empire Falls.

Mega-City One has gotton through the latest crisis – the Day of Chaos – with some parts more or less intact. Yet just 30 years ago Mega-City One had a population of 800 million but now, after the latest disaster, it is down to just 72 million!

Needing support, Mega-City One asked some of the other Cities for help and a number of Judges came to its aid including Judge Joyce from the Emerald Isle (Ireland). But no sooner than he arrived than a highly trained assassin tried to take him out.  This assassin had been well trained and equipped; it was clear that someone very big was behind him.   So Joyce and Dredd go to Murphyville (Dublin) to investigate.  Their investigation prompts another attack and Dredd and Joyce learn that someone has set a crack team of Emerald Isle Judges on to them.  It transpires that there are some political machinations between Brit Cit (the London / S.E. England Mega City) and the Emerald Isles that Judge Joyce's late father stumbled upon and someone had assumed that Joyce knew more than he did (hence the original assassination attempt).  On returning to Mega-City One Dredd is sent to the Cursed Earth as attackers have been pillaging Mega-City One's supply outposts and farms there: incidents that further stretch Mega-City One's currently meagre resources.

Meanwhile, Mega-City One's Chief Judge Hershey accepts help from Texas City in the form of a force of Texas City Judges.  This was a bit of a gamble on Hershey's part not least because Texas City laws are somewhat different to Mega-City One's: Texas City does not accept mutants and Texas City citizen's are freely allowed to carry arms.  Hershey has her concerns, but Texas City's Chief Judge Oswin indicates that this is a chance to unite the two Mega-Cities and perhaps in the future become allied to Mega-City Two (on the former US eastern seaboard), and so together the three Mega-Cities could form a new United States of America to become the world's only superpower…

Every Empire Falls is (in 2017) the most recent – what I will call – 'independent' graphic collection (as opposed to either a themed anthology in the new 'Mega Collection' series of graphic novels that reprints the highlights of 40 years of Dredd strips or the 'Complete Case Files' series of Dredd reprints of strips in order of their original publication).  As such this 'independent' collection represents the latest addition to the broad arc of the Dredd and Mega-City timeline.  Long established 2000AD readers (friends of editor Tharg / 'Squaxx dek Thargo') will want to get this volume as it brings together stories from the weekly 2000AD and the monthly Megazine from 2013, 2015 and 2016 together in a coherent volume that progresses this very long-term, over-arching story arc.  However, such is the complexity and richness of the Judge Dredd universe that newcomers may find that other Dredd graphic novels are a better place to start: Origins or perhaps one of the Dredd writer or artist collections, such as The Henry Flint Collection.

Having said that, Every Empire Falls does revisit a lot of the key markers within the Dredd universe landscape.  We get to go to the Under City, the old New York that still remains sealed off beneath part of Mega-City One's city bottom.  We have an outing into the Cursed Earth.  And, as said, we go to Murphyville and Brit Cit and meet some old friends such as Armitage (a plain clothes detective, Brit Cit Judge).  In short, there's much for 2000AD regulars and Dredd fans on to which to latch.

For me, one of the great attractions of 2000AD and Dredd is that their writers tend to have a finger on the societal pulse.  For instance even way back in 2000AD's early years (actually its second in 1978) there was Dredd's The Cursed Earth saga that along the way took a number of swipes at corporate power and indeed, only now (well December, 2016) has it been reprinted for the first time in complete form, as The Cursed Earth Uncensored, due to the threat of litigation from fast food giants such as McDonalds and Burger King!  (A separate European Court ruling made this possible.)  Well, Every Empire Falls, though written well before we knew that one Donald Trump was to stand for the US Presidential election, has a female but Trump-like character as Texas City's Chief Judge Oswin.  Oswin's goal to recreate the old United States, but a US free of mutants, that clearly resonates with Trump's 'we will build a wall' and 'America first'!  So Judge Dredd continues to be prescient and speak to our times.  Heck, Judge Oswin even has large wavy blonde hair.  What more could you want?

Jonathan Cowie

Other Judge Dredd related graphic compilations reviewed on this site include:-

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