Fiction Reviews

Judge Dredd: Blaze of Glory

(2022) Al Ewing et al, Rebellion, £14.99 / Can$26.99 / US$16.99, trdpbk, 144pp, ISBN 978-1-786-18483-2


Even if you are a weekly 2000AD comic or monthly Judge Dredd Megazine reader, and so have read all the Dredd adventures, the Rebellion 2000AD, full-colour graphic novels are still very worthwhile as they bring together many issues' worth of strips into a single volume making for a great read. And if you are not a 2000AD or monthly Judge Dredd Megazine reader then they are also a very good way of keeping up-to-date with goings on in the Big Meg and the 22nd century.

Broadly speaking, the graphic novels fall into two camps. First there is the single story or graphic novel that is part of a longer, single plot arc or even a compilation of adventures of a single character: here example include Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction and The Complete P. J. Maybe.  And then there are the thematically unconnected collections of individual Dredd stories whose only connection is that they are all drawn by the same artist or penned by the same writer.

Judge Dredd: Blaze of Glory falls into this latter camp with all the stories here written by Al Ewing. The advantage of such disparate story collections is that you get a number of glimpses into different aspects of Dredd's universe, and a rich universe it is.

Blaze of Glory begins with 'Mutopia' which sees some purported mutants take diners at a hottie eatery hostage to promote their cause for mutants in Mega-City One.

'The Performer' is the story of a seΧ Olympics trials as with age his virility goes. Sadly, impotence is a career-ending condition.

In 'A Home for Aldous Mayou', just before President Booth's nuclear war, a genius has been press-ganged by the judges and so survives the conflict. However, the passing years have taken their toll.

With 'Harry Sheemer, Mon Amour' the titular Harry falls head-over-heels for the girlfriend of a tough enforcer. But things are not what they seem…

'What Hitler Saw' follows the trials of humans being living statues of historical figures in a museum. With Mega-City One unemployment at 99%, humans are cheaper than robots or statues, all you need to do is use lookalikes, clothe them and just pay them a pittance. Bert plays Hitler and is fond of Jane who plays Marylyn Munroe, but his advances are rebuffed. Bert assumes that the rejection is because Jane cannot see past his Hitler facade. So he asks his boss if he could play another character. Alas he stumbles into his boss' office to see him commit a murder. Running for his life, the judges assume he is a criminal…

'Koan' sees a change of pace with the opening pages reflecting on the thoughts of a Tibetan Buddhist monk who is then murdered along with the rest of the monastery by a looter after their cultural artefacts. However, on arriving at Mega-City One, the Judges are on to him. Events then pan out much like the Buddhist monk's parable of thoughts.

'Invitation to a Hanging' takes us into the Curse Earth where Dredd and Rico are seeking to rescue a Texas City diplomat. He finds the diplomat and his lackey in an isolated small town and they are about to be lynched..

'Idle Hands' concerns a new religion that is sweeping Mega-City One. The Supreme Pontiff Indolent XVII of the Holy Church of Doing Spug All, comes to the Big Meg. Spugalism is based on the notion that as everyone is born innocent that it is only through doing things that sin takes place. Their answer to this is therefore to spend a life lying around doing nothing at all. But not everyone agrees, including the Derrick Evans Block Overachievement Club.

We get a light-hearted tale with 'The Immigrant' in which a reluctant Dredd is taken off the streets to process a would-be dimensional immigrant. Cue another 2000AD comic strip character, Zombo.

'What's Another Year' has Dredd patrolling the Cursed Earth on New Years Eve. In the settlement of Toleyville some residents look back on what the year did for their loved ones. One, in particular – a mutant – is resentful of the Judges throwing him out of the Big Meg and seeks revenge…

'Blaze of Glory' follows the actors who in turn played the tuxedo-dressed, misogynist superspy John Blaze, double-oh-nine, a character from the novels of Ian Flegm. The John Blaze actors have been invited to a Christmas reunion by the Channel that has each year a Christmas marathon of old Blaze films. But all is not as it seems… A very funny story.

Finally, in 'Let's Kill Santa' the Judges entertain replacing Santa Clause wit the Judge Pal brand. Only, some Santas don't like the idea of being made redundant…

Perhaps the thing that characterises these stories is that they are a mix of serious comment on aspects of Dredd's world mixed with a dash of satirical humour.

Dredd fans will love re-visiting these stories in graphic collection format. Conversely, newcomers to the Dredd-verse will find this an entertaining introduction as, indeed, will anyone wanting to dip a toe into Judge Dredd to see what all the fuss is about.

Jonathan Cowie


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