Wagner, John

About the Author:

 

John Wagner is perhaps most famous for co-creating (with Carlos Ezquerra) the implacable lawman Judge Dredd.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

4.4 out of 5

(5 books)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - Day Of Chaos: Endgame

(Art by Henry Flint, Colin MacNeil, Ben Willsher, Edmund Bagwell and Dave Taylor)

Thirty years on from 'The Apocalypse War' (reviewed here), the surviving agents of East-Meg One finally get their revenge as they unleash the Chaos Bug on Mega-City One.  As the deadly virus tears through the population, civil war errupts on the streets and the Dark Judges Fear, Fire and Mortis are also unleashed.

I've read numerous comics mega-events, a number of them featuring Dredd, but I can't think of many that have such a profound and widespread effect on their respective series' as this one does.  Here we follow the Judges' desperate attempts to maintain order and counter the Chaos Bug as their world is systematically torn apart around them.  We get to see how this all affects two Judges in particular; America Beeny and Joe Dredd himself.  Judge Beeny is the reader's more accessible character and we get a true sense of her despair and exhaustion as the book wears on.  Dredd is, of course, less easy to empathise with but we nevertheless see him begin to feel the fatigue of watching his beloved city tear itself apart; and all because of a decision he himself made during the Apocalypse War. 

Plague, terrorism, civil war and the Dark Judges; this book really does throw everything at the wall and, a credit to Wagner as a writer, it all sticks.  We also get to see some of the aftermath too and I was particularly interested to see Dredd seeking out his niece amid the destruction, revealing a little of the implacable lawman's humanity in the process.

If you only read one epic Dredd storyline, then make it this one.

5 out of 5

 

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - Doomsday For Dredd

(Art by Carlos Ezquerra, Cam Kennedy, Simon Davis, Neil Googe, Charlie Adlard, Andy Clarke, Mick McMahon and Colin Wilson)

This book begins by showing us the history between the titular character and Judge DeMarco, the latter of whom is in unrequited love with old Joe Dredd.  We then jump forward a little and Dredd, along with Psi-Judge Anderson, finds himself taken captive by the assassin Orlok.  Orlok takes Dredd overseas to participate in a show trial at the hands of the survivors of East-Meg One, a city which Dredd wiped out in a nuclear strike.  Whilst he's away, Mega-City One goes to hell when the cyborg crimelord Nero Narcos uses a robot army to overthrow the Judges and take control.

This book can basically be said to have three acts.  The first focuses primarily on DeMarco and shows us how a Judge's life has no room for love, with Dredd being the literal embodiment of that.  It's a testament to Wagner's writing that I genuinely felt sorry for DeMarco, as her life is thrown in the gutter by feelings she can't control.

The second act of the book is very much a matching of wits between Dredd and Orlok, who is something of a shadowy reflection of him and certainly his match in fighting ability.  I liked Cassandra Anderson's involvment in this part of the story; her former love for Orlok and her friendship with Dredd making her a bridge between the two irreconcilable characters.  In Dredd's trial we also get an examination of the lines between justice and revenge, as well as between duty and murder.

The final act is by far the best.  Dredd and Anderson gather a small group of Judges who were in Brit-Cit at the time of Narcos' coup, as well as enlisting the Brit Judges, and launch a suicide mission to retake Mega-City One.  Seeing Dredd implacable in the face of overwhelming odds is exactly what fans of the series love and they won't be disappointed here.

4 out of 5

 

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - Origins

(Art by Kev Walker, Carlos Ezquerra and Colin MacNeil)

When a ransom note for the body of Judge Fargo, founder of the Justice Department, is delivered Dredd must undertake a journey into the Cursed Earth, where the full story of the origins of the Judges will be revealed.

Although Judge Joseph Dredd had been around for decades, it wasn't until 2007 that Wagner and artist Ezquerra, his original creators, finally revealed the complete story of not only Dredd's origins but those of the world he lives in.  As a Dredd fan, I can't recommend this book enough.  Whilst we've long accepted the premise of the Mega-Cities and the Judges, here we finally get to read about how corruption led to the failure of democracy, which in turn led to nuclear war, which was followed by the rise of a fascist regime.

As well as seeing the first days on the streets of the young Judges Dredd and Rico, we also get to learn more about the man who they were cloned from; Eustace Fargo.  I enjoyed reading about how Fargo's incorruptible dedication to justice led to the rise of the Judges but how his own fallible humanity led to his own fall.  By far the most poignant moment in this book is the moment that the dying Fargo confides in Dredd his disillusionment with the Justice Department.  These aspects of Fargo actually allow us to reflect on Dredd's character and get you wondering whether he could possibly share he 'father's failings.

Also, amongst all the very serious justice versus democracy exposition, we also get some great moments of Wagner humour.  For me the best of these was where Dredd meets Fargo's relatives in the Cursed Earth who have become mutants, developing ever-larger and squarer chins.

Of all the Judge Dredd stories I've read, none has taught me more about the character and his world than this one.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Boba Fett - Enemy Of The Empire

(Art by Ian Gibson, John Nadeau, Jim Amash and Carlos Ezquerra)

3 BBY.  I'd say it was an act of genius on the part of Dark Horse to hire the man who created Judge Dredd to write a story of the equally implacable and inflexible Boba Fett and here we get the story of Fett's first meeting with Darth Vader.  Vader hires Fett to track down the traitorous Colonel Abal Karda, but Vader's plans also include Fett's death. 

Although quite a tense premise, there's plenty of comic relief, particularly in the very 2000ADish Ancient Order of Pessimists.  The story's construction is quite clever and we are left to piece the clues together that Fett gleans on his travels, until finally, like in a good murder mystery, the full truth is revealed.  That would seem a good place to end, but Wagner ups the ante much further when Vader and Fett got toe to toe in personal combat, each being tested by their opponent's skill and abilities. 

If there's one event worth buying a book specifically to see, surely it's the clash between two of the best and most popular villains of our generation!  The resolution of their conflict is believable too, with neither feeling malice towards the other and a healthy degree of respect having grown that will lead to their future partnerships. 

Also included here is the ultra-rare 'Boba Fett -Salvage' comic.  Here Wagner is paired with his old partner Carlos Ezquerra to tell a short story about Fett biting off more than he can chew when he tries to salvage a large freighter.  Once again Wagner brings a welcome bit of humour to the story in the form of Tsumo who utters such amusing lines as "You hear that? 'Unknown Causes'! Biggest killer there is, 'unknown causes'!"

4 out of 5

 

Young Death: Boyhood Of A Superfiend

(Art by Peter Doherty)

A hack reporter finds himself with the dubious honour of being invited to interview Judge Death, the undead fiend in hiding from Mega-City One's Judges.  Judge Death then candidly lays out the story of his origins as a sadistic child, his development into a murderous Judge and, ultimately, into an undead creature dedicated to ending all crime by eradicating all life.

If ever there was an example of dark humour in graphic novel form, then this is it.  2000AD stories, the Judge Dredd ones in particular, were always known for dark humour but this book takes that and turns it up to eleven.  There is no shortage of genuine horror in the story of how a derranged child grows up to declare war on all life, featuring vivid scenes of torture and murder, but at the same time there's just as much humour on offer, such as Death's suprisingly charming relationship with his near-sighted elderly landlady.  It feels very uncomfortable to read scenes of absolute sadism alongside elements of genuine comedy, but that uncomfortable feeling is clearly deliberate and, in a hard-to-define way, is this book's best element.

Threaded throughout the book we see Hershey, Dredd and Anderson all attempting to catch up to Death and the book ends on a nicely-played unresolved note; something which would normally bother me but which doesn't here.

4 out of 5

Collaborations & Anthologies:

Judge Dredd: Mechanismo (here)

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01 (here)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - America (here)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - Hondo-City Justice (here)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - Mechanismo (here)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - Oz (here)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - The Apocalypse War (here)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - The Cursed Earth (here)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - The Heavy Mob (here)

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - Total War (here)

Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens: Incubus (here)

Judge Dredd's Crime File Volume One (here)

Judge Dredd's Crime File Volume Two (here)

Predator Versus Judge Dredd (here)

Star Wars: Boba Fett - Man With A Mission (here)

Star Wars Omnibus: Wild Space Volume 1 (here)

The Batman/Judge Dredd Files (here)

Read more...

2000AD (here)

Aliens (here)

DC (here)

Predator (here)

Star Wars (here)