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Judge Dredd: The Day The Law Died by John Wagner, Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon and Dave Gibbons

01/08/2012. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Judge Dredd: The Day The Law Died in the USA - or Buy Judge Dredd: The Day The Law Died in the UK

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pub: 2000AD/Rebellion. 160 page digest-size paperback graphic novel. Price: 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78108-009-2.

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There's a plot here and a plotter. Deputy Chief Judge Cal has Judge Dredd framed for murder then has the Chief Judge stabbed to death by several evil dudes in a Caesar-style assassination. Cal himself, who looks quite a lot like the Roman emperor Caligula, a subtle classical reference, takes over as Chief Judge. He is bonkers. He has one Judge doing duty in his underwear as punishment for having a loose button; he passes laws making happiness illegal and appoints a fish as Deputy Chief Judge. Writer John Wagner has a lot of fun. It ought to be a fantastical notion that a sophisticated civilisation could be taken over by a complete lunatic but sadly it has happened rather a lot in real life.

Dredd, found guilty of murder, is shipped off to the prison moon Titan but makes a daring escape from the ship conveying him thither. He launches a resistance movement, aided by loyal Judge Giant and an assortment of old tutors from the Academy, former Judges wounded in action and more used to inactive service.

The story is episodic, made up week by week rather than to an overall plan, I suspect, but that can work out okay. Dickens often wrote thus and Alan Moore's 'V For Vendetta' apparently started out without any grand design, evolving along the way. Wagner keeps the plot wheels turning nicely with evil reptilian alien mercenaries called Kleggs serving Chief Judge Cal and a strong, stupid brute called Fergee, from the smelly river, helping Dredd. The art by Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Brian Bolland, et al is all of good quality.

There is a cover gallery at the back which reveals that back in 1978-1979 when these stories first appeared the '2000AD' comic - such a futuristic title then! - cost just 10p in Earth money. As the British Empire did not conquer the entire globe even in its heyday this was only British money really. Even so, the current issue of '2000AD' will set you back 23 times as much. It won't be 23 times as good, I'll warrant, though it might be 23 times as gory. Times have changed.

This digest-sized volume is easy on the wallet at 6.99 but the small print can be a bit hard on the eyes for older readers. Still, it's meant for younger readers mostly. For that small amount of Earth money you get 135 pages of good quality story and art. A bargain.

Eamonn Murphy

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