Friday, 22 February 2019

ReadItDaddy's YA Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 22nd February 2019: "Judges: Volume 1" by Michael Carroll, Charles J. Eskew and George Mann (Rebellion Publishing)

As a lifelong Dredd fan, I've never actually read any 'pure text' versions of stories from that amazing universe (aside from a novelisation of the Stallone movie - which really doesn't count, does it?)

Also, as a lapsed Squaxx Dek Thargo (friend of Tharg, the mighty alien Editor of 2000AD) recently rediscovering just how fantastic 2000AD's publications still are, I was firmly out of the loop about these fantastic novelisations until recently.

With this week's YA Chapter Book of the Week, it's been truly fantastic to catch up with Dredd's world in a hitherto different form than the fab comic strips.

"Judges: Volume 1" by Michael Carroll, Charles J. Eskew and George Mann expands on the origin story of the whole system that spawned The Judges, that brutal fascist combination of Judge, Jury and Executioner that ruled the streets of near-future America with a nightstick of iron (well, probably high-impact carbon fibre but you get where I'm going with this).

I've seen tiny snippets of the story of Judge Eustace Fargo (the very first Chief Judge) and how Dredd's world descended into chaos before the US President was removed from office and the Judges took over.

Here though is a fantastic triple-header of a novel that feeds tons more detail into that origin story, beginning with a story of dissent, a grisly murder and the initial few years of establishment of the Justice System, through to stories that touch on everything in Dredd's world long before ol' chinface stalked the streets himself.

Set in 2033 and thereafter, this is a fine-grained and beautifully detailed piece of work that - for me as a JD fan - feels like a real breath of fresh air covering a ton of ground that had remained largely untrodden in the comic strips, graphic novels and even the Judge Dredd Megazine. Even if you're entirely new to Judge Dredd (where HAVE you been?) or the worlds created by Pat Mills, John Grant and Carlos Ezquerra, this is a durned good jumping in point that builds an incredible picture of what life is like in the Mega Cities in JD's world.

The stories are surprisingly human, extremely atmospheric and grittily written by three authors who feel like they've really immersed themselves in the Judge Dredd universe, to the point where you feel like you're reading something that draws parallel to the Karl Urban Dredd movie more than the far-flung often fantastical stuff that appears in the comic strips.

It's dark, brutal, pulls no punches - pretty much like a Judge then. Though our usual fare is firmly Middle Grade I'd probably put this somewhere in the YA / Adult category due to the subject matter the stories open up with, but even so it's absolutely essential stuff for fans of Dredd who want a bit more background.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A fantastic novel building background to a set of stories that have been a massive part of my life, filled with a lot of very human tales of why the whole Justice System came about in the way it did.

"Judges: Volume 1" by Michael Carroll, Charles J. Eskew and George Mann is out now, published by Rebellion (kindly supplied for review as a digital ARC)