Graphic Novel Reviews

Judge Dredd: The Citadel

(2022) John Wagner, Dan Cornell, Colin MacNeil & John Hughes
2000AD - Rebellion, £16.99 / Can$33 / US$24,
trdpbk, 128pp, ISBN 978-1-786-18568-6


Before diving into this, there is a lot of ground to cover and so I will assume you know the Dredd basics: if not, see my review of Judge Dredd: Origins.

This full colour graphic novel (only the early Dredds published in the late 1970 and 1980s had black and white pages) contains two stories. The first is the titular tale narrated in the present (the 22nd century) but relating to events early in Dredd's career.

Izak Winterton is a prisoner in Iso-Block 1 which houses the high security prisoners. He is about to be euthanised but is first given a compassion visit from Father O'Dow for solace before his execution (sorry, being 'euthanised'). Witherton is wearing a gag covering his mouth and so cannot speak. But when criminals stage an attack on Iso-Block 1 the guards leave to defend the building and the Iso-Block goes into lockdown. The prisoner is obviously in distress with arms and legs shackled to a gurney but the good Father decides to remove Winterton's gag.

Now free to speak, Winterton reveals that he has been in solitary confinement for 35 years. He tells Father O'Dow that his crime is the knowledge he has about Judge Dredd and that the Judges would not allow this knowledge to become public.

Apparently Winterton himself was a trainee Judge, and just a cadet when the Apocalypse War took place.

Time for a quick background aside.  The Apocalypse War took place early in Dredd's career. The Sovs sent their spy, Orlok (who went on to become an occasional recurring character in the Dredd canon), into Mega City 1 to spread Block Mania that caused the citizens of the mega blocks to attack the citizens of other blocks. The judges soon became overstretched and that was when the Sovs destroyed half of mega City 1 with missiles before invading with troops and armoured vehicles. Dredd was active in the resistance and then, with Mega City 1 secure, went to a Sov nuclear base outsider East Meg 1 to release its missiles to completely destroy East Meg-1 and its half a billion people.

This episode is a key part of the Dredd saga and demonstrates his single mindedness in defending his city and its citizens… Now back to 'The Citadel'.

Dredd is absolutely ruthless in defending Mega City 1 from the Sovs and comes across the small band of cadets that includes Winterton. They, and a rag tag handful of Citi-Def (civilian home guard), under Dredd's no compromise command, decide to tackle the Sovs' detention and interrogation centre they have set up in a conference centre called The Citadel. Along the way they make a fateful discovery…

The second story in this volume is 'Now That's What I Call Justice'. This story is interspersed throughout with short snippets from a TV show being broadcast. The programme is and All Time Top Fifty of kills made by Judges. The main story itself has two threads. The first concerns a pair of brothers whose mother was a democracy campaigner killed by the Judges: one is after revenge and the other is a Catholic priest. The second strand follows the Judges as they try to track serial killers who are assassinating Judges who have illegally killed citizens. Dredd gets involved and begins to realise that while there are killers out for revenge against Judges who have murdered citizens, some of the pattern does not fit: there is a copycat in the mix…

The two Dredd stories in this volume each reflect a different, conflicting aspect of the Dredd character. On one hand Dredd kills those who threaten and invade his city: he is doing his best to protect the citizens of his history. As the story eventually reveals, Dredd (who you recall is a clone of the Mega-City 1 founding Judge Fargo) is not governed by his genetic make-up but by the environment of his up-bringing: his genes do not inherently make him good and he could equally have been a right-wing thug, a bully serving the state. (This is the subject of Michael Molcher's recent book I Am The Law: How Judge Dredd predicted our future.) The second story reveals that some Judges do kill illegally (which Dredd abhors) but that that is no excuse for taking the law into your own hands: Judge Dredd is the law!  And both stories do reference Dredd wiping out half a billion Sov citizens of East Meg 1. Both these reasons make it worth bringing them together in a single volume.

These stories are reasonably standalone and so if you are not familiar with the Dreddverse, then this is as good a place as some others to start.

Jonathan Cowie


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