Judge Dredd Classics #4
Writers- Alan Grant and John Wagner (credited as Grover)
Art- Brett Ewins and Cliff Robinson
colours- Charlie Kirchoff
Letters- Tom Frame
Editor- Denton j Tipton
Anderson Psi Division-The Dark Judges
Since I heard IDW were going to be reprinting the most popular Judge Dredd stories I really hoped the Dark Judges would be involved. This particular arc may confuse newcomers as the titular, gruff law keeper is not the focus of the story. Instead this is a Judge Cassandra Anderson arc written by the wonderful long term team of Alan Grant and John Wagner. Anderson is a psychic Judge who works in Mega City One’s Psi Division, a collection of mind reading Judges and regularly partners Dredd on his mission due to his respect for her. Despite that respect, the two could be no more different from one another as Anderson laughs, jokes and befriends most of the judges whilst Dredd….well, Dredd does not. The Dark Judges is a very popular story in the in the long running 2000AD staple and it’s easy to see why as the incredibly talented writing team create a fast moving, always entertaining horror adventure where the fate of the whole city is in danger. This is helped by the eye popping and inventive art of the late Brett Ewings, who always manages have panels with insane amounts of detail where you find new things each time you look at it.
The dark judges are thought to be dead after Anderson seemingly killed them in the earlier story “Judge Death” which is where Anderson made her debut along with the whole psi division. Despite this, Anderson is being haunted by dreams and visions of Judge Death calling to her as if he wants her to find them. During a routine investigation, Anderson sees these visions again and it eventually leads her steal the dimensional jump that will allow her access to Deadworld, where the Dark Judges’ souls are found to be very much alive. They have been calling her as they need to manipulate her into finding bodies for their souls to inhabit. After her mind is controlled, the Dark Judges are successful and this leaves Anderson seemingly dead and the evil doers now have bodies…..and access to the dimensional jump.
That brings us to this issue where it is revealed that Anderson was using all of her effort and powers to convince Judge Death that she was dead. This worked and Anderson returns home to find out that the Dark Judges have been jumping in and out of Mega City One and causing hundreds and thousands of deaths. Anderson is suspended and has to watch from afar as the whole city is terrorised and Judge Death, Judge Mortis, Judge Fire and Judge Fear, wreak havoc and it’s all her fault. Will Anderson stay away from the destruction her curiosity has caused? Or will she get involved?. That is what this issue deals with as she has an internal struggle with what is happening at her hands and the pace is relentless. It really makes for fun reading and has that “one more page” kind of feeling. Grant and Wagner are a duo that I greatly admire, their solo stuff too. Both are just great story tellers, quirky and imaginative, breathing light into played out genres and creating memorable and impressive characters. Grant would go on to write most of the Anderson series and it’s nearly all gold.
That said, it is a very simple recommendation from me, although this is half way into the story so you’d be much better starting from the start. Taking the pages of 2000ad progs (issues) 420-423 and having colours added by Charlie Kirchoff is a nice touch as he gives the classic story a new touch without making a jarring transition to the modern day. It’s not in any way distracting and is really respectfully done. Great stuff all round, with tight writing, exemplary art and fresh new colours. The new cover art by Darrick Robertson and Diego Rodriguez is lovely but the subscribers variant by Sam Shearon featuring Judge Mortis is stunning. The dark judges is a great, classic adventure that is now easily accessible for anyone who is looking to start reading the fan favourite Dredd stories. Just get the earlier issues too, great stuff.