Review – Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection Book 1: America

Untitled - CopyPublisher: 2000AD/Hachette
Script: John Wagner, Garth Ennis
Art: Colin MacNeil
Release Date: January 21st, 2014

Partworks are usually a mixed bag. Expensive to collect, with no guarantee you’re going it like the next book that you just *have* to buy to not have a gap on that glorious piece of art running along the spines.

This time though, the quality is guaranteed. The Judge Dredd Mega-Collection will be showcasing only the very best Dredd stories, drawing on nearly 40 years of material from the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, all reprinted in a gorgeous hardcover format.

As usual, the first issue is almost being given away, it’s £1.99 price tag making this the bargain of the year. Need more convincing? Well the story selected for the launch is America.

The classic tale that launched the Judge Dredd Megazine back in 1990, America has rightly been regarded as one of, if not *the* greatest Dredd stories ever, so it’s inclusion here is a no-brainer, even if the titular lawman isn’t in it much.

Instead, John Wagner took the opportunity offered by the Megazine’s more mature target audience to tell a hard-hitting yet subtle and nuanced tale, one that focused on everyday citizens of Mega City One.

In it, the Judges are seen through the eyes of America Jara and Bennet Beeny, childhood friends who’s lives are spent in a state of fear, not from the rampant crime and danger in Mega City One, but from their so-called protectors.

Right from the off, the Judges in this story are shown as oppressive tyrants, viewed from below and glaring down at both the reader and the juvenile Beeny and Jara. Colin MacNeil’s opening pages set the time for this magnificently, with Dredd looming over a corpse wrapped in the American flag.

Make no mistake, the Judges of these stories do not come out well at all and it’s a credit to Wagner’s skill as a writer that he can show hid characters in such a negative light and still make us care about them.

As they grow up, Beeny keeps his head down and becomes a successful singer, while Jara disappears, only to pop back up in her old friend’s life a wanted fugitive, a freedom fighter for the Democracy movement, but a terrorist in the eyes of the law.

Ostensibly a love story, America’s story is at it’s heart a tragedy too. From the misguided hope and optimism of America’s immigrant parents moving to, as they believed, the Land Of The Free, to its final bloody conclusion, this is a story laden with gut-punches, it’s themes of freedom, justice and social control every bit as relevant now as they were back in 1990, if not more.

Wagner has always excelled on those little stories that shine a light on life in the Big Meg, but in America, the reality of living under the iron fist of the Judges has never been so brutally laid bare.

Also included are the sequels, The Fading Of The Light and Cadet, both of which are excellent, if not quite hitting the heights of their parent story, as well as some unrelated one offs, all drawn in gorgeous style by the uber-talented MacNeil droid.

The extra content is slight, with only 6 pages of sketches and a short editorial, but it’s enough and Rebellion have promised that future editions will have more.

So should you buy this? Yes. Simple as that.

If you’ve never read Judge Dredd before this is as perfect an introduction as you could ask for and even if you’ve been along for the ride since Prog 1, this is a beautifully put together collection at a price that might as well be free for all the damage it’ll do your wallet.

Looking ahead at what’s coming, I might have everything at least twice over, but these books are something simply stunning, so I’m in it for the long haul.

Rating: 5/5.

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection is a fortnightly series available from newsagents in the UK and Ireland, which collects classic Dredd stories thematically and builds into an 80-issue collection. This is the definitive collection of Judge Dredd and his world, packaged in beautifully produced hardback editions whose spines, once assembled, form a special brand new image by artist Patrick Goddard. Fans can subscribe online now to receive subscriber-only exclusive free gifts by CLICKING HERE.

JULESAV The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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