This is a powerful tale about youths lost in gang culture. It seems more like a cautionary tale for our own society than one more at home in the mega-city.
Is it another disposable story tainted by orientalism? Not nearly as bad as the Stan Lee or Warlord episodes thankfully. And there is a humorous message at the end. Maybe some enlightenment is being reached.
Another returning storyline (the Wreckers) is moulded into a brief tale of one man and his truck.
From this point on we see Grant and Wagner starting to be credited on separate stories rather than writing as a duo.
Simping returns (from Prog 527) as we were told it would. It’s nice to see characters and storylines return as it makes the world seem more coherent and less as disposable entertainment.
This is a hitman story. It has a neat little twist and keeps you entertained till the end. It also sees Dredd having some doubts about his actions in the previous story Oz.
Appears: 2000AD Progs 545-570
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Cliff Robinson, Jim Baikie, Gary Leach, Brendan McCarthy, Will Simpson, Steve Dillon, Barry Kitson, John Higgins
Dated: 24 October 1987 to 16 April 1988
There is no doubt that Wagner and Grant do their best work in the longer format and this is a real beauty. It has been a while since we have seen an epic length tale. Not since we last saw Chopper in the Midnight Surfer in fact.
Marlon Shakespeare makes a superb protagonist because he is the closest thing to normal the mega-city has. He isn’t a criminal but is criminalised by the system he lives within. He makes a superb point of view character for the reader and it is so easy to empathise with his struggle. There is no time-travel, alien, supernatural gimmick in his stories and as such we can easily transpose his struggles to our own.
Just like the Midnight Surfer we have a slow build up with plenty of room to let the story breathe and grow. The narration is superbly poetic and there are plenty of human touchstones along the way from his childhood friend to fans on the street.
It is not all rosy however. There are number of racial stereotypes ranging from the lazy to the offensive. At one point there is even a note from the editor to explain that these views do not represent 2000AD. The injection of the second storyline, the Judda, seems unplanned and uncoordinated, possibly as a filler for some delayed script or art, even though it is quite a significant addition to the Dredd canon.
The ending itself is just breath-taking. The actual race is sustained over six nail-biting issues with a spot-on commentary that reads like the greatest Derby ever seen. Best of all Chopper doesn’t have the trite hero’s victory you would expect from a kid’s comic. And the last few pages where he faces death are absolutely electric.
This is probably the most sophisticated and greatest Dredd story to date.
Is it just the Aggro Dome story from Prog 183? Not quite. This doesn’t have the existential questions of that story. It’s just an excuse for gunfire.
In a single issue we have a dig at a scandalised MP of the time, a debate on corporal punishment, the timeless theme of juveniles not respecting their parents, and the horror of power in the hands of a child. And the wonderful paradox of Dredd saying ‘violence breeds violence’ except in the case of the Judges. A most Orwellian ‘some are more equal’ concept.
Oh no, more racism. It is quite a reasonable story, despite poor dialogue, and does have a spot on ending. But the racial slurs make it toxic. In what is becoming a trend they hint at a future follow-up story so it looks like we won’t get to put this unpleasantness behind us.
What would happen if Escape From New York and Deliverance had a baby? Maybe this would be the result.
It turns out not all Cursed Earth stories are great. Just those set in the radioactive wasteland part and not the stereotypical Redneck swamp part.