I have tended to stay away from the collections of 2000ad stories. There is the odd exception (“Horned God”, I’m looking at you), but I try to avoid buying the same story twice unless I have the unavoidable urge to have a readily available collection of a fave story to hand.
What appeals is that the Mega Collection isn’t meant to be a complete collection of Dredd – that’s “The Case Files” . This is meant to present the most significant stories in JD’s history and a flavour of his world. Up until now, the volumes have seemingly been published randomly. But the longer game plan is becoming clear, a pattern is emerging in the stories that are being collected. In numbering (if not in publication) this collection follows on from “America” (volume 1) and the upcoming “Total War” (volume 3).
Democracy has been a long running sub plot, starting back in 1986, it has seen Dredd gradually take a less authoritarian and more sympathetic approach to the Dems’, whilst still opposing them vehemently.
The lead story, “Letter To A Democrat”, sets the tone for the volume, (re) introducing a different perspective of the Justice Department in the strip. Portraying the Judges as fascist oppressors, using dirty and underhand tactics to undermine a growing movement within the population of the Big Meg’ to overthrow their dictatorship. The sequel, “Revolution” again drawn by John Higgins is excellent, Wagner & Grant confirm what everyone knows deep down, that the Judges are complete bastards.
The volume leaps forward a few years to the post “ Necropolis” tale of “Better The Devil You Know”, painted by Jeff Anderson, Wagner writing solo. Dredd’s push for a referendum is not popular with his colleagues and a series of ham fisted attempts on his life fail. The conspirators are rounded up in the Ennis & Burns 3 parter “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” and, in what I felt was a bit of a cop out at the time, the citizens (at least those who were paying attention) vote for the Judges.
Two one-offs by Alan Grant show the effect that the Justice Department’s oppression and censorship have on the population. Featuring early Colin MacNeil art, in “John Cassavaettes Is Dead”, banned 20th Century publications are found during a routine crime blitz. Poignant and thoughtful , it acts as a useful reminder of the doubts that Dredd had been harbouring for many years and the oppressive nature of the Justice Department. The second, “Politics”, drawn by Jeff Anderson, though light in tone shows just how far the Judges will go to silence dissent.
Paradoxically , for such a long running plot line, with such huge ramifications there are few stories that deal with democracy head on; from memory, I think there are few outside of the tales collected here. In fact, they must have been scrabbling for democracy focussed strips as half way through the collection we are presented with “Raider” an Ennis / Burns collaboration. Yet another ex Judge turns vigilante, giving us respite from the politics, but few thrills. Some of Ennis’ Dredds haven’t aged too well.
The remaining strips shift focus from the democratic movement to MC1’s surveillance society and PSU’s role in the Justice Department. Two, “Sabs” and “Direct Action” written by Wagner and Gordon Rennie respectively and masterfully drawn by Cam Kennedy, have sky surf equipped protestors sabotaging the Justice Department’s surveillance systems and big business. Of the two, Wagner’s works better, but Rennie makes a good fist of a theme he returns to in the latest JD Megazines.
The volume is rounded off with “Mega City Confidential”, written again by Wagner and drawn by a now veteran MacNeil. It reinforces the fact that despite seemingly annual extinction level events, the Judges will continue to use every trick in the book to ensure that there is no insurrection in the Big Meg, including the intrusive surveillance of every citizen’s hab in the city and disappearances for those who would reveal their secrets.
As a volume, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, and loses direction about half way through. But as a series, the Mega Collection does not disappoint.