COMIC BOOK REVIEW: JUDGE DREDD: THE MEGA COLLECTION VOL 02 - MECHANISMO / AUTHOR: JOHN WAGNER, GORDON RENNIE / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: REBELLION/HACHETTE / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 4TH
The new Judge Dredd partwork collection, re-releasing a different story every fortnight, got off to a very strong start with America, and now its second instalment pits Dredd against a steely-faced opponent built in his own image.
Mechanismo, originally printed in the Judge Dredd Megazine in 1992, sees Chief Judge McGruder sanction a force of robot Judges, much to Dredd’s horror. Though at first remarkably efficient, they inevitably malfunction, murdering undeserving citizens in the name of the law. The two follow-up stories, Mechanismo Returns and Body Count, see a particularly overzealous Robo-Judge slaughtering people for crimes as menial as littering. The mentally deteriorating Chief Judge decides the obvious solution is to send more robots to stop it.
Building on the recurring Dredd theme of law enforcement gone too far, the Robo-Judges make great villains – hulking, indestructible behemoths with clear antecedents in RoboCop and The Terminator (which is directly referenced at one point). Importantly, they’re based on Dredd himself, with prominent metal chins and programming that follows Dredd’s handbook on Judge behaviour.
But comparing Dredd to his robot counterparts shows he isn’t so robotic after all – they follow the law that bit too literally, lacking the instinct and empathy to read a situation and work out when a less direct approach is needed. The Mechanismo stories are fascinating when they explore this difference, though at times – particularly towards the chaotic end of the first story, when several robots malfunction at once – the action overwhelms the story and limits how deep this exploration can go.
Like the previous volume, the book is bulked up with a couple of additional one-part stories, this time both featuring dangerous robots. S.A.M. is a very funny tale that will resonate with anyone who’s dealt with overly bureaucratic government departments, while Safe Hands shows what happens when robotic doctors misinterpret their programming and will leave you thankful for the NHS.
One potential problem with this format is that new readers may be confused by Mechanismo’s references to previous continuity, such as McGruder’s mental state being affected by the events of Necropolis. To get the entire story in chronological order, the Case Files collections may be a better option – but then again, Wikipedia can also solve that problem. The Mega Collection releases are ordered thematically, and there’s no doubt that there’ll be something in every fortnight’s edition to entertain collectors and new fans alike.
Mechanismo may not be one of the all-time classic Dredd arcs, but it’s definitely a good one, pitting Old Stony Face against a terrifying villain not too different from himself while straining his relationship with the weakening Chief Judge. At £6.99, it’s not quite the bargain volume one was, but a welcome addition to any bookshelf.
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