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Home ¦ Reviews ¦ Judge Dredd - Final Cut

2000AD Review Extra 25th March 05

Judge Dredd - Final Cut
Judge Dredd- Final Cut
Matthew Smith

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What to Expect: A bloody look at the seedier side of life in the Big Meg, from the pen of Tharg himself.

Review by Richmond Clements

It is true what they say. It’s the quiet ones that you’ve got to watch. Matt Smith is one of the most polite, considered and quiet people I’ve ever encountered. But by Grud, he’s created a monster here!

I said in the review for the Durham Red novel The Unquiet Grave, that that particular novel was pushing the boundaries of what could be done with a novel based on a comic character. Well for my money, Smith is pushing it even further in this one. The book opens with a scene of graphic violence, and continues throughout in the same vein. Indeed, if anything, Smith manages to escalate the level of gore and violence from this bloody opening, and at the same time, balancing it with some welcome black humour.

But before anyone dismisses this as some kind of empty splatter novel, rest assured the violence is there for a reason. In fact, it’s pretty central to the whole plot. One thing not central to it, oddly enough, is Judge Dredd. Dredd appears relatively rarely in this book, and when he does, he’s really only advancing the ‘B’ thread of the plot, or performing actions that could easily be those of A.N. Other Judge. I shall return to this point later.

Our main protagonist here is a man called Trager, who we get to know through a well written series of first person passages. Trager is an interesting character. He’s a man who is not what he appears to be when we first meet him, and Smith takes us on his journey down through levels of violence and degradation that are beyond what you’d expect to read outside the darker corners of Clive Barker’s mind.

So Trager’s life gets darker, and things spiral out of his control, double-cross follows cross, things get even more complicated. All the while, in the background, Dredd is circling closer to the centre of the tale.

Personally, I think this would have benefited further from a bolder direction, and this brings me back to the amount of Dredd we get in the book What I would liked to have seen was Smith taking Dredd out of the book entirely, and making this a story about Mega City and the impact on a few of its citizens of one of its grimmer cultural outlets. Not to say that when Dredd does make one of his appearances he’s not well written, I can’t point out any scene where Dredd acts in an ‘unDreddlike’ way. But it should not really come as a surprise that the man who edits 2000AD has an understanding of how his main character works. To me, Dredd seems to be shoehorned into the narrative because his name’s on the front of the book.

Smith doesn’t disappoint in this book, despite my criticisms, it’s worth your hard earned creds, and always entertaining, even when it’s being eye wateringly violent. All in all, another worthy entry in the series.

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).