Graphic Novel Reviews

Judge Dredd: Tour of Duty – Mega-City Justice

(2011) John Wagner et al, Rebellion, £19.99, trdpbk, unnumbered pp, ISBN 978-1-907-99239-1


This Judge Dredd anthology continues on from Tour of Duty – Backlash (see the afore link for a review of Backlash and the back story). The majority of Judge Dredd graphic novels can be read as stand-alone, but in this case before reading Mega-City Justice it would be best to get Backlash and, if you can, also Judge Dredd Origins,as that is a pivotal anthology for the whole Dredd saga as well as provides partial background to Backlash. This Mega-City Justice graphic novel collects Dredd stories from the second half of the 'Tour of Duty' stories that were originally published in the weekly British comic 2000AD in 2009 and 2010.

Assuming you know of Judge Dredd, then the quick catch-up information is this… Judge Dredd has long had qualms as to the all powerful and all impartial nature of the 22nd century Judges who maintain law and order in Mega-City 1 that occupies the eastern seaboard of the former USA. In Tour of Duty – Backlash his qualms as to whether the law is always right, and whether or not the Judges should be more discretionary in its application, are further fuelled by his concerns for the way mutants are treated by the law.   You see, following the nuclear war that ended 20th and 21st century democracy, and wiped out huge swathes of the Earth's surface, those whose genes were mutated by the radiation were not allowed into the Mega Cities (which were by and large protected by counter missile systems). This meant that the central area of the US in many places was wasted and radioactive fallout contaminated much of the rest as well as many of those survivors living there. This area became 'the Cursed Earth'.   Not only were mutants not allowed access to the Mega-Cities but those within the cities who gave birth to mutants either were exiled to the Cursed Earth or sterilised and had their offspring taken away. Judge Dredd did not think that this was right and lobbied for the law to change.

In Mega-City Justice we see Dredd given the task of keeping law in the new mutant Cursed Earth settlements: a mission that is given to him in no small part as punishment for his lobbying for the failed change in the law. Meanwhile back in Mega-City 1 we see a power struggle among the senior judges. The city's mayor (in cognito alias P. J. Maybe) is also worried about the Judges' leadership changes taking place and his old habits (as a cereal (sic) killer) may help serve preserve his political position.

This is a very fine Dredd story with good, full colour artwork from the likes of Carlos Ezquerra, Carlos' son Hector (whuy hey, the family tradition is continued), Colin MacNeil, Carl Critchlow, P. J. Holden, Mike Collins and John Higgins. The only thing missing is that we are unable to have the lettering by the late 2000AD maestro Tom Frame, but able Annie Parkhouse is beginning to fill his shoes. (Watch out for those 'Y's Annie; Tom's bifurcations were never danglely.)

Negative points? Actually none that are too serious. This is actually quite a significant point as the way the 2000AD graphic novels have in recent years been compiled has on some previous occasions been decidedly dedicated-2000AD-aficionado unfriendly!   In the worst instances the graphic collections have been notably incomplete.   Now while it is true that the duology of Backlash and Mega-City Justice do not contain all the 'Tour of Duty' stories, the story arc is intact.   The missing episodes were in the main stand-alone single 'Tour of Duty' 6 – 8 page mini-adventures some of which appeared in weekly 2000AD's monthly companion the Judge Dredd Megazine, and these add little if not nothing of significance to the overall 'Tour of Duty' story arc (although a number are rather fun).

In short, this 'Tour of Duty' duology (together with Origins) make for a fine epic within the overall Dredd saga. Dedicated 2000AD regulars will no doubt get it irrespective of this review, but for those lapsed 2000AD readers that may be contemplating a brief reacquaintance with Dredd, then I firmly recommend this trio of graphic novels.

Now (2011) all that remains is where will the Dredd graphic novels go next? This question is not a trivial one as it is clear that Rebellion do not always have longstanding 2000AD readers interests at heart, in no small part because as publishers they seem unable to think like Dredd fans: hence, for instance, the omissions from the Chopper collections.   What Rebellion are currently doing is slowly re-printing all the Judge Dredd stories in their original sequence of publication in the 'Complete Case Files' collections. This is a very worthy and laudable exercise and Dredd's readers will occasionally want to dip into historic stories and Dredd collectors will want the sequential archive. However there is room for some more themed graphic collections. Among those that spring to mind might be Dredd abroad, Dredd and the supernatural, Romance in Mega-City 1, Christmas in Mega-City 1, or collections featuring some semi-regular Dredd characters such as Walter or Max Normal. What would be a shame – given that recent Dredd graphic novels have largely been from stories originally published in the past half decade and the Case Files are around a quarter way through the Dredd history (so the second quarter is in sight) – would be if Rebellion gave up on Dredd graphic novels beyond those of the Case Files.   We want these themed and mini-arc Dredd collections to continue and regulars will not mind some duplication of stories: it is accessibility to adventures be, they sequential or as part of a formerly fragmented sub-arc, that count.   Let's hope Tharg and the droids are listening!

Jonathan Cowie

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