{Book Review} Guatemala: John Wagner


John Wagner (Writer) • Colin MacNeil (Artist)

Reviewed By Tarn Richardson

Guatemala is the latest Judge Dredd collection of stories written by Judge Dredd creator John Wagner. Consisting of the main story of the same title, we also have the odd-ball ‘By Private Contract’, the hilarious ‘Get Jerry Sing’, the abrasive ‘The Trouble with Harry’ and the gung-ho ‘The Victims of Bennett Beeny’. We also have the usual spectacular artwork, courtesy of the masterful Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint, and Dan Cornwell, and the old-master Carlos Ezquerra (drawing his very final Dredd strip).

Plenty to get your judicial boot knife into, then!

With the main story Guatemala we start with an epitaph to one of the truly great female characters of MegaCity One, Judge Hershey. (As an aside, the collection ends with the salvation of one of the newest great female characters of MC1, Judge Beeny – a nice bookend.)

Whilst Hershey is slowly being consumed by an alien pathogen, a touching bedside vigil between her and Dredd (both long term allies and adversaries) sees her remind him of ‘an agreement’ they had made between themselves. This agreement, the actual details of which are revealed later, involves Dredd and a small contingent of his most trusted judges, going to Guatemala. It so happens that Guatemala’s crazed robot El Presidente has threatened the world with its arsenal of nuclear weapons and needs removing, so Hershey’s quest is a well-timed diversion.

Those familiar with Dredd will know of his dislike, or perhaps ‘distrust’ is a better description, of robots. So dropping Dredd into a country where robots are the leaders and the human population servants, slaves and worse, is a compulsive scenario.

Luckily for Dredd, he doesn’t go alone, accompanied by his loyal young sidekick, Beeny, and his favourite Mech-Judge, Ronald. Again, it’s a nice set-up with an MC1 robo-judge facing off against the extreme droids of Guatemala.

Full of political intrigue, desperate warmongering and shrewd observations on social control (with a big nod to the more despotic countries within our world today), what could become bogged down under its own rallying and the worthy message is perfectly framed and delivered courtesy of Wagner’s acerbic but wryly humorous dialogue; in particular Colonel Dos and loyal robo-aid Gomez:

Please Colonel! Your output has gone into overload! If I could adjust your ferocilator -“

“Not now, Gomez, you snivelling armadillo! I’m emoting!”

Not long after Dredd’s arrival the Humanitas show up, the only human resistance within the country fighting a war of hit and run against their robot-slavers. As the tension and thrill levels rise, so do the revelations and body count, as reinforcements arrive the pages burn in an all-out firefight. And when Hershey’s quest is revealed, against the backdrop of violence the reader is delivered the knockout blow of real emotion (now I am emoting!).

It’s fantastic stuff, brilliantly supported by MacNeil’s wonderful precise artwork and proof that Wagner is still Dredd’s right-hand man if proof was ever needed.

As mentioned at the start, we also have several other shorter stories, some more successful than others. ‘Get Jerry Sing’ is an absolute laugh out loud hoot with a brilliant pay-off, whilst ‘The Victims of Bennett Beeny’ delivers on the old block war trope with the generous warmth of detonated thermite.

Dredd is an old man now, but Wagner’s writing still feels as fresh and inventive as forty years ago.


From legendary Judge Dredd scribe John Wagner and fan favourite artist Colin MacNeil comes an action-packed Dredd tale of robots and revolution! John Wagner’s action-packed adventure has wide-spread consequences for Dredd’s universe and fan favourite character Judge Hershey.

Viva Los Humanos!

A deathbed request sends Judge Dredd on a diplomatic mission to Guatemala, a dictatorship ruled by the despotic robot El Presidente. Under the military rule of robots, humans are enslaved, trafficked and farmed for parts. El Presidente seeks to expand its repressive regime – and if Mega-City One doesn’t give into its demands, its nuclear arsenal will blow the city off the map!

From legendary Judge Dredd scribe John Wagner and fan favourite artist Colin MacNeil comes an action-packed Dredd tale of robots and revolution! Also featuring bonus Dredd stories with art by Carlos Ezquerra and Henry Flint!

You can buy Guatemala directly from the 2000AD Shop

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Tarn Richardson

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.

Twitter @tarnrichardson/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/tarnrichardson.author/

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Official Website www.tarnrichardson.co.uk

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