Graphic Novel Reviews

(Judge Dredd) The Taxidermist

(2011) John Wagner, Alan Grant et al, 2000AD, £14.99, trdpbk, ??pp, ISBN 978-1-907-51984-0


This is not strictly a Judge Dredd compilation, but it is set in Dredd's Mega City One and a couple of the stories are from the actual Judge Dredd strip. These stories were first published in the late 1980s and early 1990s but this is the first time that they have been brought together into a single collection.

22nd century Mega City One (that covers the entire eastern former USA seaboard) has many fads. One of these, for those wealthy who are inclined, is the stuffing (taxidermy) of deceased dearly loved ones as well as the stuffing of deceased people to create art forms. This collection follows the elderly human taxidermist Jake Sardini who we understand over the years has become a reasonably successful, if not traditional, human taxidermist.

The first adventure sees Sardini approached by a mobster whose relative has just been shot in the course of a rival gang hit. The mobster wants Sardini to stuff his relative for his grieving mother. Sardini cannot refuse, not just because the request comes from a feared mobster, but because the mobster helped Sardini get his business going many years ago by introducing him to wealthy clients.

Law-abiding Sardini is in a quandary but he dare not refuse… Will he do the task? Will the law find out he has been working for a mobster and illegally stuffed the victim of a crime? With artwork by Mark Farmer and the legendary Cam Kennedy, as well as lettering by 2000AD stalwart Tom Frame, we get a solid hint as to the delights to come.

The second story, a longer one, sees Sardini's business beginning to suffer as, being a traditionalist, he will not use modern methods or adopt the latest fads in human taxidermy such as using animatronics. The he is approached by the grieving wife of a rival expert taxidermist who wants top taxidermist Sardini to stuff her late husband. It would have been what he wanted. As it happens that year is also year of the Mega Olympics to be held in Katmandu. One thing leads to another and Sardini is persuaded to enter the Olympics with the aid of the wife of his late rival. However Katmandu is not Mega City One and during the games he is asked to do a job that he simply cannot refuse… This story has everything we expect from a John Wagner tale: part thriller, part dry black comedy. Especially humorous is the sports coverage of some of the ridiculous sports the 22nd century have, including endurance staring and (in perhaps a nod to Nigel Kneale's The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968)?) sex events.

The final story in the sequence sees Sardini retire and hand over his business to his young protege. However a gang of young thugs cuts short his retirement and so Sardini's protege comes up with a plan for fitting revenge…

Tagged on to all of this (to make up the page count) there is a one-off short Dredd strip on a risque fad sweeping Mega City One.

All in all this is very worthy adjunct to the cannon of pure Judge Dredd tales. I have to say that I do like the stories that explore other areas of life in Mega City One. Not since Gerry Anderson's (TV and comic strip) vision of the 21st century has Britain's 'sci fi' (though arguably 2000AD is more than that) had such a coherent (albeit delightfully wacky) vision of an SFnal future.

Jonathan Cowie

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