Judge Dredd: The Judge Child graphic novel published by 2000AD
John Wagner, Alan Grant
Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon, Ron Smith
Previously published in Progs 156 to 181 of 2000AD in 15 March – 11 October, 1980
I’m reviewing the latest version of this story, reprinted in black and white and re-sized to what is often referred to as ‘manga size’. There are three other books in this series which are available on Kindle, Judge Child currently is only available in this version in print.
Some of the double page spreads are not well served in this edition. I haven’t compared the story to the originals this time to see if anything was moved to improve the way the double page spreads look in this size.
The plot is excellent and this epic gives us some great moments and some brilliant art from three of the artists that many 2000AD readers think of when remembering Dredd from the 8os.
The story is credited to John Howard, a pseudonym shared by John Wagner and Alan Grant. I mentioned this in my review of The Day The Law Died. This is the start of that partnership on Dredd.
There are spoilers below, a reprint of a very famous story I think these are reasonably light but if you know little of the story they are perhaps medium.
Owen Krysler, a mutant born within Mega City One, his parents chose to leave the city and raise him in a township in the Cursed Earth. The story is set in 2102 and we learn that the Krysler family left Mega City One four years earlier. This means that 2098 Krysler was a legal citizen of the city when he left. Mutants were expelled from the city in 2099.
This is who was predicted to ‘rule Mega City One in its gravest hour’ by the precog Psi Judge Feyy on his death-bed. Feyy was the oldest Precog in the Department and had an amazingly high 88.8% accuracy. A great disaster would strike the city in 2120 and Feyy predicted only Owen Krysler, The Judge Child, could save them.
Chief Judge Griffin gave Dredd the duty of recovering the boy and bringing him back to the city. The Judges may not have known he was a mutant, it certainly wasn’t mentioned in Dredd’s briefing.
The first episode starts in Mutie Haven (population 27) with Dredd encountering a group of slavers. In flashback we learn of Feyy’s prediction and that on reaching the township the Kryslers lived in we learn that Krysler had been taken by slavers. Dredd had tracked the slavers westwards.
The Slavers had sold Krysler to a slave market in Neutron Flats. Dredd put himself in to the slave market and arranged to be sold to the buyers of the boy, The Brotherhood of Trash.
The world of Dredd is full of crazy religions. This one was based on the madness of Philmore Faro, The Garbage King, who had made a fortune selling garbage and believed himself to be a re-incarnation of the ancient pharos of Egypt. Faro’s capital was in Memphis, Tennessee. It soon became apparent that the majority of the Brotherhood of Trash were hired muscle, not monks.
It had been hinted at in Part one by a slaver and in Part 2 seemingly confirmed by the slave market trader that Owen Krysler was a precog. In Memphis we saw the first proof of this. Krysler was to be a human sacrifice in the funeral of Faro. The boy had told the Garbage King that death was coming for him, death in black. He wanted Krysler as his spirit guide.
Krysler was taken to Texas City by Brother Bunsen who had switched him for another boy. Bunsen had been using the boy to predict people’s deaths claiming he was doing the predictions, he used the name Brother Death.
This epic introduced more than just the Judge Child in to Dredd. Major villains the Angel Gang made their first appearance in Part 5 of the story. They had heard of a someone that could tell the future and they figured he was worth money. They’d worked out the scam and wanted the boy – they got the boy.
The Angel Gang have proven to be hugely popular. Pa and his three sons, Link, Mean and Junior. Later the family would be seen in prequels, other members of the family would be introduced and Mean would get his own solo story.
The next big thing this story brought us was a look at places outside the solar system. We’d seen Luna City on the moon when Dredd had been based there (Progs 42 to 58). Now we went on a tour of the galaxy with Dredd chasing the Angel Gang.
This brings us to yet another new character that would have a lot to play in the future, Judge Hershey. Hershey is part of the crew of Justice 1, the space vehicle that is used to pursue the Angel Gang. She is introduced to Dredd as a ‘Stringer’. I’ve never really understood what the word meant in this context. I know it is a term for a freelance journalist that is usually uncredited. I also know it is used to refer to a sportsperson, as in 1st String and 2nd String. Hershey is constantly accompanying Dredd on his investigations on alien planets, so I take this term to mean she is a skilled team member, in other words a Street Judge.
There are some wonderful tales from the alien worlds Dredd passes through. Some are stories that could be read alone, outside the context of the saga.
- In Part 8 we see a primitive planet we see a love story as told from the point of view of a primitive storyteller. It is a really great episode and I’ll say nothing to spoil it.
- Parts 9 and 10 include my favourite setting at the time I first read this story, Lesser Lingo. The native species are winged bipeds, I always thought they were vaguely bat like but also bird or lizard. They are referred to only as ‘Aliens’ even by themselves.
- Part 10 has a spaceship eating planet.
- Parts 12 to 14 take place on a world where war is a form of entertainment, a televised sport with multiple rules that come in to play at different stages of the ‘game’. Dredd and Hershey find themselves right in the middle of the ruckus.
- Parts 19 and 20 give a story that reminded me of the Dr Who story ‘Carnival of Monsters’.
The plot intrudes again from Part 15 when Dredd visits the alien Murd the Necromancer in search of a drug that gives precog powers to try to speed up locating Krysler, Oracle Spice. This leads them to Prosser, the pilot of the craft the Angel Gang had hijacked to escape Dredd. Prossers death from a wasting disease had been foretold by the Judge Child so the Angel Gang had put him off on the planet Ab. When Dredd locates Prosser he finds that the prediction is accurate but Prosser contracted the disease on Ab. He realises Krysler may not be what he is looking for.
The story ends on Xanadu, a planet that has ‘free planet’ status, making it the home of many fugitives from justice. Dredd pursues the Angel gang across the planet He kills them all, but death doesn’t stop them coming back in sequels.