Preview: ‘Judge Dredd: Guatemala’ – Another Wagnerian Dredd Epic
by Richard Bruton
When John Wagner writes Judge Dredd, it’s an increasingly important event, especially in these days where there’s just not that many anymore. And so, we bring you this preview of new collection, Guatemala; all Wagner, all Dredd, all magnificent.
I was going to go into this a bit more here in this preview but, as I read it, I realised that this one was shaping up to be far more in-depth, far more than a mere preview… simply because it feels important, because it’s so very good, and because it’s a major chunk of John Wagner’s Dredd work over the last two years.
So, quick preview of the delights inside to be found here, review to come nearer the release date of 22 June.
Six stories inside this collection, with the main one starting it all off in brutal fashion – with the death of ex-Chief Judge Hershey and a mission with a hidden agenda down in Guatemala. And we end with a three-part (originally) moment of brilliance, ‘The Victims of Bennett Beeny’, where Wagner brings the curtain down on his and Colin MacNeil‘s America saga, still one of the greatest of all Dredd tales. In-between, three single Prog tales, including the final couple of Dredds featuring art by the late, always sadly missed, Carlos Ezquerra.
First up though… Guatemala…
That’s where it opens, on the death bed of ex-Chief Judge Hershey, saying a heartrending farewell to Dredd, before giving him a last, secret mission.
He heads down to Guatemala, on the surface there to deal with the despotic (and robotic) El Presidente, a country where the robots rule and humans are enslaved, trafficked and farmed for parts. But then the secret mission kicks in, with (perhaps) implications down the road for future Wagner tales.
It truly is a classic bit of Wagner Dredd, with all the multi-layered nature of his storytelling coming to the fore, with more on his continuing integration of the Mechanismo units and Dredd’s increasingly tolerant response to them, along with all of the political and social undercurrents to be found in his works.
In the end, Guatemala is proof, yet again, if proof were ever needed, that the Wagner and MacNeil team is one of the best for Dredd.
Yes, Wagner might not make it back to MC-1 all that often, but it’s damn well worth it when he does.
In the other material here, it’s something of a pulling together of other Wagner material, a chance to see Carlos Ezquerra’s final Dredd artwork in ‘By Private Contract’ from 2016’s 2000 AD Prog 2000 (with the most recent of the Dredd & Strontium Dog team-ups) and ‘Get Jerry Sing’ from 2017’s 2000 AD Prog 2023.
Then there’s the done for laughs single of ‘The Trouble With Harry’, with Wagner showing us he’s really not that much of a Royalist at all.
And finally, ‘The Victims Of Bennett Beeny’, Wagner’s magnificent coda to the whole Judge Dredd: America saga. It is, as you’d expect, quite superb, the only disappointment is that Colin MacNeil couldn’t stay on for the entire three-issue series.
Unfortunately, illness meant MacNeil couldn’t continue – although with Dan Cornwell stepping into the breach, we have a very good replacement, one I’m sure would not take any insult at all with me saying that having MacNeil finishing the entire America saga would have been preferable.
JUDGE DREDD – GUATEMALA – written by John Wagner, art by Colin MacNeil, Dan Cornwell, Carlos Ezquerra, Henry Flint, colors Chris Blythe, letters Annie Parkhouse. Cover by Will Simpson.
Published by 2000 AD on 22nd June 2021 – Originally serialised in 2000 AD Progs 2000, 2023, 2150-2157, and Judge Dredd Megazine 400, 424-426.
So… now for that extended preview of what is a great Dredd book…
A Private Contract – written by John Wagner, art by Carlos Ezquerra, letters by Annie Parkhouse. (Originally published in 2000 AD Prog 2000)
Get Jerry Sing – written by John Wagner, art by Carlos Ezquerra, letters by Annie Parkhouse. (Originally published in 2000 AD Prog 2023)
The Trouble With Harry – written by John Wagner, art by Henry Flint, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Annie Parkhouse. (Originally published in Judge Dredd Megazine 400)
The Victims of Bennett Beeny – written by John Wagner, art by Colin MacNeil and Dan Cornwell, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Annie Parkhouse. (Originally serialised in Judge Dredd Megazine 424-426)