Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Judge Dredd Tour of Duty: The Backlash Review

This weighty collection follows on the heels of Dredd's brief re-acquaintance with his clone-father, Fargo, at the conclusion of the “mega-epic” Origins. Now doubting the role of the Judges for the first time, the legendary lawman turns to politics to force through a liberalisation of Mega City One's tough anti-mutant laws. The only problem is pretty much everyone in the City disagrees with him and that leads to some fairly dire consequences.

Despite the title, this graphic novel features precisely zero pages of Tour of Duty as seen in “The Galaxy's Greatest Comic” but instead includes all the 2000AD strips that depict the events leading up to the story actually called Tour of Duty. This makes for a fascinatingly eclectic collection, with the odd weaker story to be sure but also some bona fide classics such as ...Regrets and Emphatically Evil.

John Wagner has been working on the character since the 70s and he's still doing an amazing job here, complemented by an array of talented artists led by evergreens Colin MacNeil and Kev Walker. With all due respect to other Dredd scribes, Wagner is pretty much the only writer who's ever captured the man's contradictory core of fascist decency, and here he pushes the instability of such an outlook to breaking point as the man is driven by his more noble feelings to imperil not only his own position but that of his allies such as Chief Judge Hershey. Adding the entertainingly bloodthirsty serial killer turned Mayor P J Maybe to the mix makes for an impressive cast.

The real star of The Backlash however is the city itself, which has been created over a span of decades and is now an extraordinarily complex and well drawn backdrop that ties all the stories in this volume tightly together. It's a classic Dystopia, riddled with misery and hate. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the attitude of virtually all the “normal” citizens to their mutant cousins which is one of unbridled murderous rage. This makes Dredd's downfall inevitable, and yet it's done so well you can't help but look forward eagerly to the next volume.

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