Graphic NovelReviews

Judge Dredd: Trifecta

(2012-2013) Al Ewing et al, 2000AD, £19.99, hrdbk, ??pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08145-7


Assuming you already know of Judge Dredd's background, I'll jump straight into Trifecta. This was serialised in the weekly 2000AD in 2012 and early 2013 in three separate strips: Judge Dredd, Low Life and The Simping Detective. Then later in 2013 it was released as this hardback collection.

Mega City 1 is only beginning to recover from the Chaos bug (see Judge Dredd: The Fourth Faction and Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos – End Game) and is in disarray. It begins with Dredd visiting the now imprisoned clone of war Marshall Kazan to interrogate him about the Sovs undertaking the Chaos Day operation against the city. Instead the Kazan clone hints of other threats and infiltrations. Leaving the secure prison wing, Dredd receives a private radio message on a security frequency from an old judge suggesting a meeting…

The story then splits into three parallel threads respectively covered by Dredd, Jack Point the Simping Detective and Low Life's Dirty Frank comic strips.  Dredd you may already know.  Jack Point is a wally squad operative: an undercover judge posing as a simp (a comic character fad sect of Mega City One) who is also a Raymond Chandler, Philip Marlowe style private eye investigator but in a clown (simping) suit. Jack Point has had his own strips as The Simping detective in the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine and these are drawn in a distinctive black and white, with just occasionally one other colour, style.  Dirty Frank is also a wally squad operative posing as an unkempt tramp with a booze addled brain and a penchant for muttering and referring to himself in the third person. Dirty frank provides an even more comic relief than Jack Point (whose humour is dark Marlow), which in turn contrasts with the no-nonsense Judge Dredd.

Jack gets a message from his Judge handler to meet a contact, but the meeting goes wrong and jack inadvertently ends up killing another undercover judge but picks up an artefact. He has to get away and find out what he has got and what this artefact means to whom???  Meanwhile Dirty Frank wakens on the Moon and mysteriously has become a very wealthy, ultra wealthy businessman who is about to join the board of an equally mysterious company called Overdrive run by a person with a gene grafted shark's head and who can 'smell blood in the business waters'.  Meanwhile Dredd has just been told that the new wally squad head, Judge Folger, has died and that her remains have been found dumped in a chem pit…

What we are seeing are machinations within machinations and it is all very Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (of the John le Carré spy novels). Indeed this is a complex web which as a result shows many aspects of the Dredd Universe. Hershey is back as Chief Judge but she is busy pulling the city back together following Chaos Day. We also get to see Galen DeMarco (who was central to the Judge Dredd The Pit Judge Dredd graphic collection) among other old favourites including Murd and even a nod to Judge Cal (from The Day the Law Died). In short there is something for everyone provided you can get your head around what is going on: for much of the time it is all rather very confusing but, if you are aware of the history of the Dredd universe, very entertaining . So this is a real treat for Dredd aficionados and, while those new to the Dredd universe are best advised to dip their toe elsewhere, Dredd regulars will delight in this collection.

One word about the story arc. Yes, it is very Tinker, Taylor…. Yes, it does fit neatly in the overall Dredd narrative and, as said, follows on from the events of Chaos Day. Having said that, it is all rather implausible: that the Overdrive corporation could be built up from the Mega City 1 economy is simply impossible, as is the feat which Overdrive's main product undertakes, but let us say no more than that. Nonetheless Dredd fans, suspend your Mega City 1 fan disbelief and sit back for a great ride.

Oh, and the name 'trifecta'? Well, if you did not know, it is a term used more commonly in gambling circles and also more in the US than Britain, meaning three specific wins in a row. Here the trifecta winners are Dredd, Jack Point and Dirty Frank.

As for this 2013 edition volume's production. The cover includes one of those plastic 3-D pieces of artwork in which, depending on the angle you look at it, either Jack Point's or Dirty Frank's image appears as a reflection in Dredd's visor. Lovely.

Jonathan Cowie

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