(2021) Rob Williams & Simon Frazer, 2000AD - Rebellion, £12.99 / Can$24.99 / US$17.99 , trdpbk, 122pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08901-9
This graphic novel launches a new 2000AD strip, Hershey, originally published in 2020 and now (2021) collected into a graphic novel.
The titular protagonist is Barbara Hershey, a longstanding 2000AD who had, back in Dredd's early days, accompanied Dredd on a deep space mission. She later reappeared a number of times before finally becoming Chief Judge (twice). Hershey stood down at the end of Judge Dredd: The Small House. That graphic novel saw alien life being used in a new technology by a covert band of Judges led by Smiley. At its end, Hershey stood down as Chief Judge.
Hershey: Diseasefollows Hershey from the end of Judge Dredd: The Small House. Now, no longer a Judge, she sets out to track down where Judge Smiley got funds for his cover cadre of Judges. It seems that some unknown assassin has infected Hershey with a terminal illness: the 'disease' of the graphic novel's title and she only has months to live. She decides to use this time to wrap up all the Smiley loose ends: she blames herself as the Smiley episode happened during her time as Chief Judge. This pursuit first takes her to the corrupt state of Comuna 13 (formerly Columbia) where she teams up with an undercover Mega-City 1 Judge Rijkaard and from there starts to follow the money and drug trail…
So where does this all fit in with the grand scheme of Dredd plot arcs? Well, I have to say that I thought the Dredd 'Titan' story to be a minor plot side-street in the greater scheme of things and so did not bother to review it for SF² Concatenation. Little did I know that the alien life found in the Saturn system of moons would reverberate into Judge Dredd: The Small House and now into Hershey. Hershey itself does not stop with Disease. As I write this review (November, 2022) another Hershey story is running in the weekly 2000AD.
Obviously I have no 'in' on editorial goings on at 2000AD, my connections with the Command Module were back in the late 1970s and sadly we are now losing those 2000AD staffers (such as with the recent passing of Alan Grant and Kevin O'Neill), and so I do not know what plans they have for the longer Judge Dredd plot arcs. However, we have no more the Grant/Wagner Dredd writing tem that gave us most of the big Dredd plot arcs of the 1970s to 2010s. It does look like Rob Williams will be one of the writers providing new, long plot arcs for the Judge Dredd universe.
It should be noted that the artwork in Hershey is in an unusual style being largely in the form of duo-tones: black and one other colour such as blue or yellow ochre. It is unusual, but not unlikeable.
So, all in all, what we have is the start of a new exploration of the Dredd-verse. Hershey will be with us for quite a while…
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