You know, I’ve never really read Judge Dredd. I mean, I know of him, I’ve seen both film adaptations, but the one time I even attempted to read the comics, I started with the first of those complete volumes from a few years ago and found it very hard to even get started on. I suppose what I need is that magic issue, something that’s quintessentially a summation of the Dredd universe and yet still leaves enough bread crumbs that I want to know more, instead of being turned off by my own ignorance. I’m not sure if the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special is that book, though it’s not through any fault of the issue itself.
The Special is an anthology of eight stories, coming in at a total of 54 pages, all told. That means the average story is about six to seven pages long, so you’re not going to get a lot of depth in each one. By and large, each succeeds in telling a story that is at least complete, something I have seen much longer comic books fail to do. That said, because each story is so short, I had a hard time getting invested in any of them; I’m unfamiliar with this world, or these characters, beyond a surface level.
There are great things to be found here, certainly. Leading with art by Babs Tarr is a smart choice. She’s proven her pedigree in action books with things like Batgirl and Motor Crush, so letting her play in the Dredd sandbox makes sense, and truth told, if they announced her for an ongoing, I’d be inclined to give the property a chance on that alone. Her art here is kinetic and fun, and it’s paired with a story by Emma Beeby where the grim super-cop faces off against a hippie cell intent on getting everyone, Judges included, to share their feelings. It’s absurd and over the top, and I really enjoyed it.
The next story stars Tyranny Rex, the last of her species, who research tells me is another perennial in the 2000 AD mag. Her story, by Katy Rex (no relation that we know of), featuring art by Liana Kangas, involves a meet-cute with a neighbor nerd. He and Tyranny get to fight a 3-D printed monster car?! Could happen to anyone, really.
Following that is a story about the Rogue Trooper, who is a character I’ve heard of, sort of. He’s vaguely familiar. Creative duties here are handled by Alex DeCampi, Sam Beck, Eva De La Cruz, and Annie Parkhouse, and here’s where you might be beginning to notice that I’ve buried the lede here: every single story in this book is entirely created by women. This is a first in the book’s 41-year history, and it’s one of those things that I have mixed feelings about.
It’s not that I don’t want these women to work; it’s that I don’t want them to be given piecemeal work. It’s very good that this anthology exists, but how many of these women have ongoing work with 2000 AD going forward? Why not use this book to springboard some ongoings? Why not put these teams front and center and stand behind them, support them in creating great comics that you can stake your company’s name on? 2000 AD is so close to the realization. They acknowledge openly that this is a first for them, but they don’t take a single step beyond this single issue to correct the disparity now revealed.
There’s so much great talent here, and it’s great to see them assembled, but for it to be a flash in the pan is an incredible let down. Pulling the credits for a recent issue of their regular mag shows two women with lettering credits amid an entire team of men. You’ll remember my stating at the beginning of this review that I don’t read any of this stuff regularly, but every single one of the teams in this special would be enough to get me to purchase a book featuring their characters if those teams were allowed to make them. As always, the refrain is more.