Judge Anderson dominates the latest issue of Judge Dredd Megazine, Issue 445, still available in stores and from Rebellion in print and digitally, and James Bacon enjoyed seeing the character in the spotlight…
WARNING: SOME POTENTIAL SPOILERS
It was good to see Judge Anderson on the cover of Judge Dredd Megazine Issue 445, the strength of imagery backed up by a strong story with great artwork, and a comprehensive catch up.
The approach to the cover story, “Dissolution“, which continues in Issue 446, on sale next week, exceeded my expectations and I was so very impressed by what editor Matt Smith and his team have presented to the reader, that I felt compelled to consider it.
Straight away, we are presented with a wonderful, beautifully colourful and vibrant cover cover, Psi Judge Anderson is well drawn by Rachael Stott. Judge Anderson is armed with gun and Psi powers, striking an impressive pose, the perspective and focus on her strengths, so nicely done. It’s a strong image, but as a comic reader we know that covers can be deceptively misleading.
Inside, with five stories, and three articles, including one on the fabulous Battle Acton Special, there is no shortage of good reading, but my focus was the first part of “Dissolution“, an Anderson Psi Division story from Maura McHugh, Lee Carter and Annie Parkhouse, but as the Meg slid out of its bag, so too did an Anderson supplement, “Dead Run“, utilising Mike Dowling‘s cover for Judge Dredd Megazine 410, featuring Anderson stories throughout.
In the supplement, we get “Death’s Dark Angels“, a neat black and white story by Alan Grant and Jake Lynch, lettered by Simon Bowland, from 2000AD Prog 2100, published in September 2018; and “The Dead Run“, and a five-part story by Maura McHugh, with art by Patrick Goddard, with colour by Pippa Bowland, lettered by Annie Parkhouse, that ran in Judge Dredd Megazine Issues 410 – 419, in 2019; and “Be Psi-ing You“, from 2000AD Prog 2250, by Maura McHugh, art by Lee Carter, lettered by Jim Campbell.
“The Dead Run” is a cracker of a tale, that sees Cadet Psi Judges go out into the Cursed Earth, but what’s was fascinating for me was the insight it gives into Psi Judge operations. For instance, Anderson says that “Psi-Div rarely releases Psi’s into gen pop” and, later, that they “will serve on the streets or behind a desk”, implying that being a Psi Judge is a life sentence, they won’t get washed out, they wont fail the Hotdog run. What happens to failed Psi Judges may not have previously been contemplated, but when one thinks about it, they are incredibly powerful weapons, albeit in human form, and we’ve always seen a level of leniency for Psi Judges, in Dredd stories.
Now this all seems to make sense, as McHugh challenges our understanding and makes one wonder, “Well, what does Mega City do with people with Psi Powers?”. Her take on Anderson seems pitch perfect as we go into the darker world of Psi Judges, mostly a tool to progress the crime procedural for Judges, or introduce the fantastical. A harder look was long overdue, and welcomed.
With “The Dead Run” we see that rules are actively being broken and that there is a murkiness to operations. Psi Judge Corann Ryan has her own secret with Lesley, while Senior Med-Judge Toledo strikes a worrying and unnerving pose. The, when we hear that Psi-Div medical tests are mandatory, it gives the reader the right level of concern. We also learn a little about other Psis, sufficient to peak interest and see conflict in views, so there are many take aways, but “Psi Judges are lifers” leaves quite the mark.
Then we have, “Be Psi-ing You“, a story where we see that Corann Ryan is now on the run. The 2000AD Sci-Fi Special is referenced, with the emergence of the Earth Animus, or an avenging Earth spirit, and we see Shenker gathering senior Psi Judges, but also the politics and challenges within. Corann Ryan is escaping a Mind Scrape and we see her confronted by Anderson, and the discussion is hard, honest and continues to portray the Psi Division as uncaring and unfaithful – but also gets both Ryan and Anderson in trouble. This then leads directly to the current story, “Dissolution”. So far, so bloody good.
I was impressed with the first part of “Dissolution” The strip’s well drawn, indeed, there is something superb about the art. When we flash back to 2109, the Lawmasters look bang on, as we follow Shenker and Anderson, working the street and coming across an attack and hostage taking of some cadets. The action is well captured, there is a fluidity to the story, and the Lawmasters in flight look superb, while, as the speed of the story slows, there is a clarity and cleanness of line that is very pleasing.
It becomes clear that this story is concurrent with what happens in 2000AD Prog 455, as Psi-Chief Omar uses the Psionic amplifier to take on the Psi Shojan and his Seven Samurai, and I am smiling from ear to ear, as this story weaves through a moment in Mega City history, the moment Omar made the sacrifice for the city back in 1986. I wasn’t even reading the comic then, and so came to it later, but I remember the Cam Kennedy drawn scenes of Manta Tanks firing down between blocks.
The story continues to share with us past history, as we see Omar teleport Shenker and Anderson to the Psi-Div vaults, as his remaining powers are weakening, and we learn a lot about Psi Division and what the Psi-Chief must undertake.
It’s all very cleverly done, and there are some lovely touches. Simple lines can really make one think. In the moment when Anderson and Shenker are teleported, we see that they have left cadets to deal with a situation, which is probably a mistake, and shows how, again, the Psi-Div can be insular about their own needs. This may be valid but has its risks. In another moment, Anderson is referred to as a jester, after we learn more about her, although not everything, and the reader is left to wondering.
“Dissolution” all comes together really nicely, and tying back to Prog 451 to 455, “The Warlord” story, is a class act. It’s done in a way that is fresh, and we see more to the Psi-Division. Anderson, as ever, is in trouble, but first, we learn about her, and Shenker, too.
I realise that all this can come together, with whatever is yet to come, in one larger package, but for regular readers, there was something a little brilliant about how Maura McHugh has thoughtfully steered the reader through this story, aided by the choice of supplement strips chosen by Matt Smith, subtlety interlinking them both, while ensuring that nothing is lost, delivering a thoughtful approach to one of our favourite characters… and this is only the first episode!
This article was updated on Monday 19th July to correct the cover credit for the “Dead Run” supplement