Prog 826 13/03/93
Let’s take for example this prog’s tale, Unwelcome Guests. In it, the SJS raid a street judge’s apartment and because she’s a trained killer who’s cleaning her lawgiver at the time, she reacts by shooting them. The story follows Dredd’s attempt to represent her through the disciplinary process. My immediate problem with this is that it’s a revisit to a John Wagner idea; the latest in a line of what feels like either tributes or sequels from Ennis.
In the story, Dredd confronts the head of the SJS and, in a moment of anger, throws him to the floor. He responds, “You won’t get away with this, Dredd! It’s assault and I’ve got witnesses.” But the witnesses are two passing street judges who pretend not to have seen anything. Although he is capable of losing his temper, my understanding of Dredd is that he wouldn’t have accepted this response from the two judges. He would have told them to do their duty and then gone straight to the chief judge to hand in his badge. Ennis seems to want to portray Dredd as the man willing to get his hands dirty to get the job done, fiercely loyal to his colleagues and unable to resist a cruel putdown when the opportunity presents itself no matter who you are. However, he seems to forget that his main loyalty is to The Law and, by extension, Mega City justice.
When Ennis isn’t honouring what’s gone before, he’s satirising TV shows from his youth or the early 1990s. Already we’ve seen Blind Date, The Magic Roundabout and Why Don’t You? It feels to me as if he has only the two types of Dredd story within him, tribute and piss take, with a heavy dose of machismo thrown in for good measure.
Of course, even Wagner and Grant’s Dredd has behaved out of character and it’s possible that my perception of the character and his world is being shaped in part by a selective memory of those first ten years worth of stories. And I’m not suggesting that Ennis’s Dredd isn’t worthwhile or honourable, because it is. I just feel that he’s not providing the imagination and wit that I’ve come to expect from the thrill that those of us who have read his later work, such as Preacher, Punisher Max and The Boys, know him to be capable of.