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Judge Dredd: Control (Rebellion Publishing) Comic Review

    Ian Jane

  • Judge Dredd: Control (Rebellion Publishing) Comic Review

    Judge Dredd: Control (Rebellion Publishing) Comic Review
    Released by: 2000 A.D.
    Released on: July 9th, 2020 (digital)/December 10th, 2020 (print)
    Written by: Rob Williams
    Illustrated by: Chris Weston
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    Originally published in 2000 AD Progs 2035-2036, Judge Dredd: Control opens with a dramatic scene when a Judge in a small flying craft, an H-Wagon it's called, tracks down and deals with the 'We're All Heart' private heart transplant organization, who have clearly been operating outside the law. But the Heart crew fights back and hits the H-Wagon with a small projectile, sending it crashing into the Syd Mead block.

    Judge Dredd and Cadet Higbee arrive on the scene, Dredd insisting they leave things to the medics and fire team that have already been dispatched. Higbee disagrees, he wants to save lives and he gets Dredd and McVay, who is technically in charge of Higbee, to put their respirators on and help him pull bodies out of the wreckage.

    SJS Pin shows up on the scene and tells Higbee to stay put. McVay is put into cuffs by Pin, turns out he had an eight-year-old daughter who was recently discovered and that's enough to get him in hot water. Higbee protests, knowing McVay is a good man, but it does no good. McVay broke the law and Higbee is to be reassigned.

    Two months later and Higbee is no longer a cadet. He's on the streets doing his best to help the people that he's supposed to work for - but is killed on the job by Pin, who tells him after slitting his throat that Higbee wasn't worthy of the badge.

    Eight months after that the Judges are under siege by the Justice Department's own war droids, a hacker having turned the droids against the Judges, even sending them on into the Hall Of Justice to take out some of the big wigs. Just as Pin is about to be taken down, Dredd shows up in time to save her. As Pin watches Dredd in action, she wonders to herself if Dredd is still worthy or a relic, an insane man - she comes to the conclusion that he is very worth indeed. The hacker is caught, the crisis under control, but Pin is still out there, judging the the Judges, exploring the empty parts of the city where no one goes and 'growing' the things she wants to grow.

    Elsewhere, Judge Gerhart questions his own humanity after having multiple body parts replaced by robotic bits and bobs. SJS Pin, along with SJS Jackson and Berkley, call him in for questioning.

    As the story goes on, a bunch of weird stuff happens - a fat man takes to the streets of Mega-City One to kill 'skinnies' after being turned down for a date by Helga, only to be taken down by Dredd who is in turn taken off the streets by SJS Judge Gerhart, now backing Pin and the others, to stand as evidence in Gerhart's own trial regarding his fitness for duty. The trial proceeds and Dredd testifies in Gerhart's favor. Gerhart is, regardless, found 'not worthy of the skull' and sent off into The Cursed Earth. Dredd sees Pin smile and recognizes cruelty in her look.

    Dredd, calling up old memories, decides to check in on Higbee, unaware that Pin killed him and that she is currently running and underground operation in an attempt to achieve 'perfection' by 'growing' Judges. She knows that there's one man out there who scares her, one man capable of taking her down, and that this man is Dredd.

    Dredd helps Gerhart with a Cursed Earth case involving smugglers and is warned by the former SJS Judge that he's shaken the tree and to watch out for himself. Dredd goes to the correctional facility to visit with McVay and find out what he knows about Pin. He starts looking into Higbee's murder, noticing that his helmet was missing from the crime scene. The closer Dredd gets, the weirder things get, SJS Pin managing to turn off Dredd's cybernetic eyes and blind him, just as droid comes looking for him. We flashback and learn Pin's story, then flash forward to the present to learn of her 'growing' operation. Dredd, buried up to his neck, manages to contact Maitland who comes looking for him, but that doesn't end well either. Dredd is left alone to fend for himself.

    It's great stuff, intelligently written, offering some great twists and turns as it moves to its conclusion. Control is quite a tense story, tying Dredd's past into his present without overburdening new readers with too much heavy continuity. The Cursed Earth element is a neat angel that is used well here, but it's the main thread with SJS Pin that really works here, it's positively eerie and at times, legitimately scary, particularly in 2020 where there's an obvious problem with certain elements of law enforcement taking things too far. Pin does that, takes things way too far, but obviously with a sci-fi/horror angle to it which makes it easier to take and be entertained by than it might be otherwise. Full points for William's script here, it's excellent.

    And just as good is Weston's art, it's gorgeous. Super detailed and entirely 'right' for the Dredd universe, he draws the characters with plenty of animated style, making the movements in the book feel like actual movements, there's not a panel in here that feels stale or static, it's all very slick and just wonderful to look at. The panel layouts are interesting and at times a bit quirky, all of the humans and mutants in the story look spot on, and it all just works. He's one of the best artists to work on Dredd in some time and even if the story here sucked it would still be worth picking up for his work. Thankfully, the story is excellent too.

    This softcover collection also contains a second story, The Heart Is a Lonely Klegg Hunter, also by Williams and Weston, a two-parter from 2000 AD Progs 1888-1889. It follows an escaped Klegg wandering Mega-City One who only wants to return some libary books. Judges come up to him but he's got the proper paperwork and let go. We witness his day to day existence and learn of his loneliness, how he tries to find work, tries to date, but always feeling like he doesn't belong. When he causes a scene, Dredd shows up deals with issue, he knows the Klegg from their last interaction. Let go, the Klegg tries to kill himself... only to find a message noting that he's been chose to become the latest victim ofthe Mega-City One Hunter's Club - a much more interesting way to die, the one that might not sit well with some of the others.

    Boxing Day, from Prog 2011, again from the same creative team, begins on Christmas Eve. Judges Santiago and Atkins have an oddly nice night but elsewhere Dredd meets with the Chief Judges to discuss how much crime actually costs the city. They discuss the option of paying citizens to abide by the law on Christmas Day and how that might actually save money. It goes from there, we won't spoil it.

    In Elevator Pitch, from Progs 2088-2089, Dredd and a few others fly an H-Wagon to a 'Poshtube' where a fashion show of sorts is going on. People are offered ultra-fancy lifestyles here, it's quite exclusive, and to get in they have to join a club called Mar-O-Larger Than Yours (hey, that's clever). Down below, the impoverished citizens of MC1 boo and hiss, and soon violence breaks out. The Judges' role in all of this isn't obvious at first, but as the plot thickens they realize that they have to deal with what's happening in Poshtube when a group of apes in space gear show up, heavily armed.

    The Death Of Dan-E Cannon, from Prog 1800, is a quick single story that strats in space where satellites keep Mega-City One safe from enemy missile attacks. When that very same Dan-E system that protects MC-1 starts blasting lasers from space on the city itself, Dredd has to figure out what's happened, why, and how to stop it. Weston writes and draws this one.

    Cadet Dredd Vs Grudzilla, from Prog 2130, also written and drawn by Weston, takes us back to Dredd's younger days when he was still in the academy. He and his fellow cadets are given a lesson in 'public relations' and shown how to wear a friendly face when confronting a giant monster named Grudzilla. It's amusing and subversive in its own way, particularly when it involves Kong.

    Rounding out the content in this collection is an eight-page gallery collecting some of the cover art that Weston did for 2000 AD.

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