Graphic Novel Reviews

Judge Dredd: Total War

(2005) John Wagner, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint, and Jason Brashill, 11.99, trdpbk, pp unnumbered, ISBN 1-904-26578-2


The Judges came to power following the chaos of the great nuclear war that ravaged the Earth. They restored law and order at the price of democracy and trial by jury. But not everyone welcomed the change. The megacities have high unemployment and there is plenty of time and opportunity for both high and low tech' crime, not to mention the opportunity to brood and ferment discontent. These themes have been explored before in Dredd tales and the issue of citizens' bid for democracy was explored particularly well in The Complete America. Now, with Total War, the democracy extremists are back but this time really extreme using terrorism and the threat of destruction to further their cause.

The Judges receive an ultimatum. 'Remove yourselves from power or face the consequences.' The terrorist group 'Total War' have hidden 200 nuclear bombs throughout Mega-City One and until their demands are met say they will detonate them one by one. (One has to feel a little sorry for the Big Meg's citizens who have been through block mania, nuclear annihilation from the Sov Blok, near extermination from Judge Death, the robot wars, and of course the citizens were descended from the survivors of a nuclear World War III.)

Collected from 2004/5 strips in 2000AD, Total War is a solid addition to the Dredd saga and is as good a place as any (actually there are some others not so good) for newcomers to gain an introduction to the Dredd universe: indeed the story is written by Dredd co-creator John Wagner. For long-time regulars the graphic novel is in the new, slightly smaller Rebellion format than the old Titan graphic novels, which can mess up the storage of one's collection (shelf size). The Rebellion graphic novels also edit out the strip headers and writer/artist credits from the weekly strips - an increasingly common practice for graphic novels collected from weekly comic strips and one of which I am not sure I approve. One reason for not welcoming such editing becomes evident when considering the end-story indicators (there are in fact three related stories) that have on two occasions been edited out and which does lead to some confusion as the last story ends so precipitously that I thought there was a page or something missi..! (Also there are no page numbers.) Nor does Total War have story-related 2000AD covers appended at the back. (I hope that Rebellion are aware of such reader concerns and address them!) However the price is favourable and the graphic novel is in colour throughout. Furthermore the artwork from MacNeil, Flint and Brasshill is varied in style but sound (occasionally 2000AD artists can disappoint), and the lettering (not credited on the title page) is by 2000AD stalwart Tom Frame. Total War gets a thumbs up.

Jonathan Cowie

Other Dredd graphics previously reviewed include: Goodnight Kiss; Judge Dredd: Judgement Day; Judge Dredd Featuring Judge Death; Judge Dredd: Necropolis; and Dredd vs. Aliens..

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