Graphic Novel Review Judge Dredd in Oz

A sky-surfer escapes from an American prison and flies to Australia on his board with Dredd in hot pursuit.


Spoiler Alerts.

One of the longest story arcs ever presented in Judge Dredd spread over twenty-six issues of the comic, and involving Dredd having to travel to Australia.

An Australian sky-surfing competition is coming up and the public demand participation from a former champion, Marlow Shakespeare (a great name drawing on the names of the two great Elizabethan poets). Shakespeare is from Megacity One, but there is a problem  – the champion is serving a long-term prison sentence.

Fearing a public attack on the prison, the judges try to move the prisoner to a more secure location, but he escapes, having acquired a flying surfboard – with obvious allusions to Marvel’s superhero, The Silver Surfer.

As Shakespeare flies over America, hero worship of him intensifies. Many want him to reach Australia and take part in the competition. His long surf takes him over Mexico where he is attacked by giant flying condor-men (mutated by radiation poisoning). He later hits Open Ocean and briefly tangles with a crazed robotic ship’s cook, based on Long John Silver.

Dredd has another problem, in a sub-plot involving the Judders, former judges who use teleportation devises to spring attacks on the Megacity One judges and incinerate them. Dredd works outthat they have established their base in Australia, and heads there on the pretext of tracking down Shakespeare when he really aims to wipe out the Judder-cult. He traces them to Ayers Rock and nukes it.

As Shakespeare flies in successfully, Dredd finds the Australian judges rather laid back in their attitude to justice, while they find Dredd too much of a stickler for procedure and zero tolerance. Dredd allows Shakespeare to race on instructions to report for arrest afterwards, but while both he and Shakespeare plan initially to honour the agreement, circumstances go against hem.

There are lots of casual digs at Anglo-Australian relationships here, with the Australian judges casually drunk on cheap lager while on the job, and lots of kangaroo gags, but the race event itself is presented with genuine excitement. The Judder plot seems a distraction at times and suggests the authors were worried about a need to have the more violent side of Dredd’s activity on display. The main story works well enough without it.

Dredd seems secretely sympathetic to the surfer too, and as eager as anyone else to  see the outcome of the race. It seems out of character for him to put such interests before his all consuming passion for the law itself.

Arthur Chappell

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