If, like me, you were only four years old when 2000 AD began publishing the almighty Megazine back in 1990, there’s a good chance that you haven’t read much of the Megazine only stories revolving around Judge Dredd and the citizens of Mega-City One. And if you were that young when the Megazine started, then it’s unlikely you’re particularly well versed in Dredd’s regular 2000 AD tales. This year has seen the launch of The Mega Collection: hardback graphics of collected Dredd tales, hand-picked by those who know Dredd best: the editor of 2000 AD.
I recently sat down with a copy of the first volume, which opens with three stories from the Megazine, which look at the life and legacy of one particular character, America, as written by John Wagner and with art by Colin MacNeil. It’s an interesting story to open this collection with, what with its constant questioning of justice and democracy in the world of Mega-City One. The added advantage is that helps to uncover Dredd’s attitudes towards these concepts while portraying a complex story around political belief, identity and love. Though it was frustrating how during the different parts of the story of America, the art of Colin MacNeil changes from the initial run’s breathtaking soft, colourful scenes to something far cruder and less heartfelt.
What was noticeable in choosing this story to begin the collection with, is that we experience Dredd as the bad guy. It’s a complete contrast to how he’s represented most of the time in 2000 AD and is obviously different to how he was perceived in more recent popular media elsewhere, as in the Dredd 3D movie. But then, the whole point of the Megazine, which the Mega Collection is drawing on the most, is that it was meant to show a different side to Dredd.
And while an interesting enough story in of itself, reading it would probably be a not so great thing to do if I wasn’t already at least a bit familiar with the character of Judge Dredd and the strangeness and brutality that is Mega-City One. It’s very apparent from reading through this first volume that it was not put together with people unfamiliar with the universe in mind.
The one shots picked to go after the America storyline seem out of place in this first volume. Blood and Duty seems to have been put in to try and show that Dredd isn’t a complete dick and then the inclusion of Garth Ennis’s Firepower and Snowstorm just seem really, really out of place. Though it did seem a bit much having Blood and Duty in the collection when it refers back to a very specific element of Dredd’s background: in this case Rico and Rico’s daughter.
I would say that this first volume is most definitely one for the hardcore fans, especially with its lovingly crafted hard-cover look , because they’re more likely to know what the deal is with Dredd and Mega-City One and be after something to collect. If you’re someone whose main experience of Judge Dredd over the past few years has been the Karl Urban film, then you will probably not be able to appreciate much of what is happening in the pages of this first part of the collection. However, there are some interesting nuggets of background in the volume’s introduction, in terms of providing an historical look at the 80s and 90s UK comics scene, which is a nice though. Overall, I’m not sure if I would buy this if given the choice.
The first volume of Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection is out now. Our reviewer was sent a copy by PR.