Well, I’ve had enough of superheroes for awhile so it’s back to things you most definitely haven’t read. This week I returned to the Judge Dredd-verse and read Judge Anderson: Shamballa, written by Alan Grant with art by Arthur Ranson.
This is a recent collection of older Judge Anderson adventures. I’ve long been a fan of Judge Dredd and his universe because it is so different than the typical American comic. Plus, it’s fun to see early material from top creators that has been pilfered by the American comic book industry.
The first story is "Shamballa." The world starts to experience mass hallucinations and other strange phenomena. The ordinary Judges turn to their psychic expert, Judge Anderson. In short, Anderson enlists the aid of a retired Psi Judge, travels to the region that was Tibet and saves the world. But, along the way has several philosophical discussions on the state of man and the origins of the universe. It’s an interesting little story. The second story, "The Jesus Syndrome" is about a tent revivalist who threatens the Judges’ hold on the city by preaching peace and non-violence. The third story, "Satan," involves a very powerful, very evil creature which returns to Earth to destroy it. And finally, there are a couple of short stories too. Notice any thematic trends???? Anyway…
My personal favorite story in the collection was a short called "The Protest." The citizens of MegaCity One start committing public suicide by lighting themselves on fire. It turns out the judges have placed so many laws and so many restrictions on the people, they subconsciously feel they no longer have any freedom at all. They are protesting by setting themselves on fire. An interesting discussion ensues between Anderson and the Head Judge about Freedom and how the Judges are the root cause of the problem. The Judges finally relieve the pressure repealing “the law against keeping goldfish without a license. Though breeding permits will still be required, each house will be allowed one fish.” It was a great discussion on power and control with a whimsical ending.
I really enjoyed this book because it was so far beyond what I thought could be done in the Dredd Universe. In case you missed it, Grant uses Anderson to explore themes of religion, good, evil and freedom within the confines of the Dredd-verse. Grant uses Judge Anderson to explore a side of MegaCity that isn’t really thought about. And it’s amazingly well done! Grant uses Anderson to discuss one side of an discussion, while the villain typically discusses the other. It’s a great way to get the reader to think about something more than beating up the bad guy du jour.
Arthur Ranson is pretty much an unknown name here in the states. I’d never seen his art before this but the respect that his name carried in the 2000 AD community always made me interested. And, his art really shone! There are certainly points when his anatomy is wonky but when he’s on, he’s great. And he’s on more often than not. He’s got a great sense of composition and layout that helps. The art matched the stories perfectly.
Overall, this is a great set of stories and a nice addition to any collection.
- David Lee