Tuesday, December 15, 2020

2000ad in 2020: Finding something new in Dredd

There is usually a small dose of John Wagner's Judge Dredd in 2000ad every year, even if it's only a couple of parts, but Dredd's co-creator and absolute architect was absent in 2020, with just a few pages late in the Megazine. 

But he's laid the groundwork for a host of other writers to work in, and the Dredd strip has almost half a dozen regular rotating scripters who provide regular thrills to an impressively high level, and kept it at the forefront of 2000ad, every damn week..

Still, one of the biggest events in Dredd's universe wasn't even in the Dredd strip, with Hershey given another lease of life, and even if it felt like a cheat, it was still a thrilling ride. Williams also went big with this year's mega-epic as Dredd and a few of his remaining comrades took on the literal Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in gut-busting action. It had it all - an extraordinary death toll, some genuine surprises, the reappearance of characters not seen in decades and a zombie Shako.

The rest of the year is the usual mix of short, witty slices of life in Mega-City One, with a rotating band of artists. They're all strong writers, and there is rarely a duff story among them, but the best are the ones by Kenneth Niemand, which capture the absurdity of the Big Meg like little else in modern 2000ad.

Niemand's Dredds have that wicked and extremely dark sense of humpour that all the best Dredd stories have, but also manage to get in some emotional beats among the wry one-liners. His Noam Chimsky stories veer worryingly close to superhero territory, but the chimp's adventures and his abilities to run rings around Justice Department are genuinely charming.

Wagner Dredd is always the best Dredd, but the real legacy of the writer might be laying that groundwork that lets later generations of people like Niemand find their own voice, while adding to the beautiful cacophony of Dredd's world.

No comments: