Review written by Eamonn Clarke
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The Chief Judge’s Man by John Wagner, Will Simpson, Colin MacNeil and John Burns. Originally published in three instalments in 2001 and 2003. A deadly assassin is picking off pro-democracy figures and appears to be getting his instructions from Chief Judge Hershey herself, but as ever with a Wagner script there is more to this than meets the eye. There is some nice police procedural stuff that means that Dredd almost gets his man only to take yet another beating from a super soldier who appears to be better at hand to hand combat than he is.
This is Hershey in her first stint as Chief Judge and it’s interesting how her character has grown and changed since Wagner first introduced her in the Judge Child saga all the way back in 1980. It seems that just about all of Mega-City One’s Chief Judges have been flawed in some way and the two who have probably been best at the job have both been women, although McGruder went completely bonkers in the end. Meanwhile as all the disasters have come and gone Barbara Hershey has managed to maintain her integrity and keep plugging away as an honest Judge. In recent years we have seen how she wrestles with the dilemmas of managing a huge city state, and in particular how she accepts that that the buck stops with her. It’s fascinating that Hershey was once subservient to Dredd but is now his boss, and that she has the guts to tell the city’s number one lawman the harsh truth about himself, particularly how he has always dodged the Chief Judge role for himself.
However all that is still to come and here we have Chief Judge Hershey going about her day to day business while Dredd hunts the killer and tries to set up a rematch, as he has done several times in the past with a variety of martial artists who have put him in the sick bay. And it’s not giving too much away to note that there is another corrupt Judge high up in the Justice department who is responsible for sending the killer to knock off prominent critics of the Judges. It ticks away nicely as it builds to the inevitable climax.
Three top 2000AD artists deliver the different chapters and are all great but, as ever, MacNeil rules the roost with his stylish and noir inflected depiction of the seamy side of the Mega-City. It’s still a little too colourful for me as the garish painted 1990s look starts to move into the darker and more suitable artwork of the 2000s.