Graphic Novel Reviews


Judge Dredd: The Art of Kenny Who?
The Cam Kennedy Collection

(2006) Wagner, Grant, Rennie and Kennedy, Rebellion, 16.99, trdpbk, pp unnumbered, ISBN 1-904-26589-8.

 

This is another graphic novel of the 2000AD (and also in this case the Judge Dredd Megazine) character Judge Dredd. He is a cop in futuristic 22nd century, overcrowded, underemployed, hi-tech, street crime ridden, socialist (98% on welfare support) cum fascist (no meaningful democracy), Mega City 1. The city itself is a Washington-Boston urban conglomeration bordering the Black Atlantic and with the Cursed Earth wastelands on its other side. The Judges are in fact policemen, judge and jury rolled into one and they control the city. The character has been running since the late 1970s and so these days readers enjoy stories that are built upon a substantial heritage of earlier Dredd work. This means that stories can (not all do) draw upon a huge body of references that give life in Mega City 1 an almost believable level of detail even if such a life is too fantastic as far as the real world is concerned. And now we have 'the Cam Kennedy collection'...

This compilation is aptly called the The Art of Kenny Who? as not only are all the stories therein drawn by Cam Kennedy but the title protagonist is a self-portrait of Cam, being a Scottish comics artist and writer who goes to the Big Meg to make it, well, big.. So by rights you may well be asking not 'Kenny Who?' but Cam who? The real artist Cam Kennedy is, of course, Scottish and decades ago did travel down to London in search of professional fame and fortune. It is said that a US comics publisher did once ask 'Cam Kennedy who?', which is how the title came about. Cam Kennedy's artwork style is decidedly above average for 2000AD but also his page layout does lend itself to the telling of the story-writers' tales. That the writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Gordon Rennie are all Dredd veterans further adds value. Not to mention that the lettering is done by the legendary Tom Frame (sadly not credited on the cover which is a shame given his longstanding service to 2000AD). As for Cam Kennedy who?, if you are a 2000AD you may remember that Cam Kennedy drew other Wagner and Grant Dredd stories such as the 'Midnight Surfer' (Chopper) and some of the Mega City fats stories from the 1980s. Indeed he had three Dredd graphic collections published back then (Judge Dredd 13, Judge Dredd 15 and Judge Dredd 17 (all 1987from Titan)). Most of the stories (title story excepted) in this new collection are subsequent to these earlier Titan volumes.

The stories are a collection across the years from 1985 (and not 1999 as suggested by the copyright dates on the volume's masthead page) through to 2005. They are excellent vignettes of various aspects of life in the Big Meg with the title story, and its sequels, providing a possible visitor's perspective: many have a Scottish dimension though we don't see the fetching Cal Hab judge uniforms of the 'CalHab Justice' ilk circa 1994. Along the way in this new collection we meet the Mega City fats (a 2001 story), sky surfers, organ (body) leggers, and the 'Moron Sect' (sic), not to mention Brit-Cit Royalty. It is all wrapped up into a delightful package of (largely full colour) drama, fun and social comment. Though the volume has no numbered pages its price reflects that it is larger than most of the current Dredd volumes. That the series owes no particular allegiance to any longer Dredd story arc makes it excellent for those less familiar with the Dredd universe and so ideal for those who want to dip into Dredd without subscribing to weekly 2000AD or the monthly Megazine. Recommended.

Gripe. I really do wish that in addition to citing prog (issue) numbers from when the stories were published that they would also add year dates. Page numbers too would not come amiss. The explanatory introductory editorial is most welcome but I wish that all the new Rebellion volumes had such information. Ditto inclusion of original 2000AD and Megazine front covers. Please, someone at Rebellion, please take note: these seemingly minor touches really add value for the die-hard fan especially now that Dredd has been going for over a quarter of a century for there really is an inter-generational issue.

Jonathan Cowie

 

Editorial note: Since this volume was published but prior to the posting of this review, there has been the sad news that the aforementioned letterer, Tom Frame, has died.


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