Judge Dredd – Year Three: Michael Carroll, Matt Smith & Laurel Sills
Reviewed By Tarn Richardson
Having recently read and enjoyed the Judge Dredd short story compilation, ‘Judge Fear’s Day Out’, it was with high hopes and expectations that I started ‘Judge Dredd Year Three’.
As the title suggests, ‘Year Three’ is based on the third year of Judge Dredd as a Judge and consists of three novella-length stories from three different authors.
The first story, by long time Judge Dredd author Michael Carroll, focuses on the SJS, the Judges who judge the Judges, and the internal wrangling and conspiracies of this most secretive of divisions.
The second story, by 2000AD editor Matt Smith, looks at the rise of the robots, with a lovely nod towards the Robot Wars and ‘Call-Me-Kenneth’ (which hit the comic book strip in the third year of its, and Dredd’s, publication).
The third and final story, by author Laurel Sills, takes the reader out into the Cursed Earth and introduces them to the world of mutants and new ways of growing and processing food for a radiation-ravaged world.
All three stories are well written and possess enough blood, guts and mindless comic book violence to sate the appetite of fans of the comics. If you like your prose grandiose and thought-provoking, glistening with eloquence and inspiring descriptions, you might want to look away. ‘Judge Dredd Three Year’ is head-down, run-along writing that tells a tale and doesn’t try to be anything else but what it is. And why should it? This is good fun literature, for people who like their novels packed with action and solid plots.
Where I think all three stories do struggle is with character – and I don’t for a minute blame any of the writers for this. The problem which you have with any long word form of Dredd story is that Dredd is an absolutely dreadful character to feature as the lead in a story. Because he has no character. He is a machine. His personality has been plucked out of him in the cloning process of his birth and any remaining residue ground out of him by his training. As a result, you have a central character who lacks any presence or interest to the reader, other than with his guns, boot knife and muscles.
This was not a problem with the ‘Judge Fear’ short story collection, because the rapidity of those stories, and the different scenarios within which they were set, kept every story fresh and new. Likewise, with the comic books, almost every strip is run through with a thick vein of dark humour, as well as the wonderful visuals, which allow you, as a reader, to forgive Dredd’s character (or lack of).
Equally, in his advancing years, Dredd began to develop a conscious and thus a personality – for example, around ten years into Dredd’s tenure, with the Judda, the Dead Man and Necropolis stories, where Dredd began to wonder about the merits of democracy, or fifteen years in, with the Origins story, after which Dredd began to question whether it was right to keep mutants from out of the Mega City One.
In other words, over the years Dredd has become a more interesting character. But back in the third year of his time as a Judge, he was bloke who would always end up in the kitchen at parties. And, as a result, Dredd in this book and year is terminally dull and, as a consequence, so are the stories beyond the action. There is no character development which means you end up with a rather one-dimensional story – something the comic books never are.
So, in conclusion, if you want to park your brain for a few hours and deep dive into the world of Judge Dredd and Mega City One, come on in, the munce is lovely. If, however, you want something more challenging, reach for one of the comic book strips by Carroll, Rob Williams or new, and hugely impressive writer, Ken Niemand. The difference is stark.
Judge Dredd – Year Three
The third omnibus collecting three great brand-new novellas about the early years of iconic comics character Judge Dredd’s career.
Mega-City One, 2082. In two short years, Judge Joseph Dredd has tackled hardened killers and would-be revolutionaries, he’s taken beat-downs and bounced back, he’s even arrested his own brother.
Ain’t no such thing as a “normal year” in the Big Meg. In his third year on the sked, he’ll become embroiled in the growing anti-robot movement; he’ll head back out to the Cursed Earth; and he’ll fall afoul of the secretive SJS – and not for the last time…
Tarn Richardson was brought up a fan of fantasy and horror, in a remote house, rumoured to be haunted, near Taunton, Somerset. He is the author of THE DARKEST HAND series, published by Duckworth Overlook in 2015-2017 and republished by RedDoor in 2019. Comprising of THE DAMNED, THE FALLEN, THE RISEN, and free eBook prequel THE HUNTED, the books tell the epic story of Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, battling the forces of evil to the backdrop of World War One. He has also written the novels, RIPPED, and THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS, to be published in 2020 and 2021. He lives near Salisbury with this wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson, and their two sons.
Official Website www.tarnrichardson.co.uk