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Retro Review – Judge Dredd: America

Review – Judge Dredd: America

Fascism, violence and the ideals of personal and constitutional freedom – these are the issues which are discussed in Judge Dredd: America. A powerful piece of prose, which ditches the usual comedic tone which satirizes modern society, to take a look at the dangerous and stark reality of the nature of governance and fear in Mega-City One.

The story begins with a dramatic image, Judge Dredd stamping on the blood-soaked American flag.  The text surrounding this iconic image is an internal monologue, it’s Dredd addressing the audience, not explaining his ideology but justifying it.

This story ranks as one of the most mature, touching and darkly tragic Judge Dredd tales ever written. It’s not just a sci-fi story with scenes of ultra-violence, but a narrative dealing primarily with love and loss.  It truly depicts what life is like living in the Big Meg and looks at the philosophical aspects of the concepts of democracy and again asks the time old question of whether Judge Dredd is a heroic character or not.

Although this is a story in the Judge Dredd universe – Dredd doesn’t dominate the narrative, actually, this isn’t even a story about Dredd, it’s the story of Bennett Beeny and the woman he loved and lost, called America.

As a child, Beeny is bullied by other children, when a Judge arrives, instead of helping him, the Judge intimidates him and considers arresting him as a troublemaker.  The only person who stands up for him is his friend America.  The narrative follows them as they get older and their paths diverge, Beeny challenges the Judaical system through satirical songs, America becomes active in protest marches, her political beliefs becoming more extreme and she becomes a Freedom Fighter…or maybe she is a terrorist?

The narrative paints this as a grey area, it becomes a matter for the readers perspective and as Dredd opposes them both, we ask is Dredd the fascist oppressor or the hero that Mega-City One needs? He stands for law and we see in the opening monologue that nothing will ever change that – but does the law and all it stands for create order or does the viciously intense method that the Judges execute the letter of the law promote rebellion causing the citizens to fight harder in the name of political freedom?

This is a story which is squarely aimed at a mature audience and is stunningly sophisticated.  I also categorise this as a tragic love story, with the narrative’s beginnings showing America’s immigrant parents having a sense of misguided hope and optimism, believing that they are moving to the ‘Land of the Free’ to Beeny’s love and Admiration for America, neither of these armours are reciprocated and with each panel we move closer and closer to the inevitable shattering of dreams and a bloody finale.

This is seen as a seminal and serious chapter in the massive library of Judge Dredd narratives, it’s a story which warns us of the seduction of totalitarianism as a legitimate choice for government and reveals that choice to be merely an abdication of responsibility on societies part.


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