Judge Dredd: the Complete Brian Bolland, I decided to read a collection of Dredd stories I have, simply titled Dredd. Dredd collects three shorter novels: Dredd vs. Death by Gordon Rennie, Kingdom of the Blind by David Bishop, and The Final Cut by Matthew Smith.
The first story, Dredd vs Death, made me really glad that I read the comic collection before reading this so I knew about the Dark Judges and some of what had happened with them (the two incidents that I knew of were directly referenced in this story!) The Dark Judges were defeated and trapped by Judges Dredd and Anderson again after they had nearly won (the Necropolis incident, which I am unfamiliar with outside of the prologue of this story); this time they were imprisoned beneath a penitentary in what is called "the Tomb." Before their defeat, Judge Death had marked some denizens of Mega-City One to work towards freeing the Dark Judges should something happen. After a decade of waiting, one of those men, Vernon Martins, is ready to strike. Funding the Church of Death and engineering an army of vampires, he launches an attack on the penitentiary, freeing the Dark Judges to once again continue their work of judging the living.
As interesting as the plot was, I found Dredd vs Death to be a difficult read. I thought the beginning chapters were particularly disjointed because you meet a whole bunch of characters in the first few chapters; many of them aren't particularly important for the plot (like Galen DeMarco and Chief Judge Hershey; all of the scenes with DeMarco and most of the scenes with Hershey could have easily been cut). And those were main characters from the Judge Dredd continuity; this story was also rife with little moments where you follow totally random people for a scene then they're never heard from again. It was really annoying and made for a slog of a read. Plus you don't actually get to see Dredd until Chapter 2!
Once the story really gets going (which takes several chapters), it was pretty much nonstop action as Dredd, Anderson, and Judge Giant fought to stop the Dark Judges. I wasn't at all familiar with Giant, but he was probably my favourite character in the book - he was trying to live up to Dredd's faith in him. Plus he just seems like a much more friendly and approachable guy (especially when compared to Dredd's stoicism). Everyone else was just kind of this living legend who I knew was going to succeed no matter how bad things looked because Anderson and Dredd had survived the Dark Judges before. That being said though, I'd say the last 50 pages or so were pretty interesting as our heroes had to track the Dark Judges down and defeat them; I got to see some random parts of Mega-City One that I wasn't expecting like a Smokatorium and Resyk.
All in all though, I found this story disappointing. It kind of read like a comic book that was missing the pictures (and so missing half of the story).
Kingdom of the Blind was a very welcome change of pace. For one thing, it read more like a prose novel than a comic missing pictures. And for another, we actually get to meet Judge Dredd on the first page of the prologue!
In Kingdom of the Blind, Dredd starts off trying to infiltrate Jesus Bludd's inner circle using a recruit whose mind is almost impenetrable to psi-probing. Bludd's influence has been spreading but he has remained untouchable, always removed from any crime. Plus he has the help of Kara, his mysterious enforcer who is a very strong psyker - she has been able to detect any Judge who tries to get close to Bludd.
A few months after Dredd's cadet makes contact with Bludd, Chief Judge Hershey has arranged for delegates of five other mega cities to come to Mega-City One and negotiate a worldwide extradition treaty so that fugitives from the Law will not be able to hide in other parts of the world. Dredd's cadet gets a message to Control that Bludd is planning an attack against the summit. This leads to a long cat-and-mouse game where Bludd is always five steps ahead of Dredd and the Justice Department. Kingdom of the Blind is a fun little romp through Mega-City One and beyond that will lead you guessing as to what will happen next!
Although I will admit, I had kind of figured out what the end was going to look like by part way through the story. Still, I found it interesting to see how we got there.
So that just leaves The Final Cut. This was a strange read. One chapter would follow Dredd, told through third person pov, then the next would follow Pete Trager, an undercover Judge; the Trager chapters were written in first person.
The actual story has Dredd investigating murders; several bodies were recovered in a chemical pit at the base of a building being constructed. The building is part of a prominent politician's Phoenix Project, where he is revitalizing areas of Mega-City One. For his part, Trager is busting a criminal family when he gets wind of something sinister going on within the city that no one is talking about. He makes it his mission to get into the secret society to bust it.
The Final Cut was a difficult read. It deals a lot with torture and is pretty graphic in its descriptions; I considered not finishing it, but since it was the last story in this book I just soldiered on. I'm very glad to be finished it so I can read something else.
So that was my foray into Dredd (and probably the extent of my foray into the Judge Dredd universe right now). Between this book and the Brian Bolland collection, I'd definitely recommend the Brian Bolland collection any day.
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