COMIC BOOK REVIEW: JUDGE DREDD: THE MEGA COLLECTION VOL 06 – MANDROID / AUTHOR: JOHN WAGNER / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: REBELLION/HACHETTE / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 1ST
Those of a linguistic nature might object to the very title of this volume – surely the ‘andro’ in ‘android’ derives from the Greek for ‘man’, so adding ‘man’ onto it is entirely irrelevant? And yet, this entirely necessary and not-at-all picky complaint aside, the two Mandroid stories, collected in the latest volume of the Judge Dredd partwork, make a surprisingly intriguing pair.
Hardened Space Corps sergeant Nate Slaughterhouse fights on the front lines for humanity. But when he’s grievously injured in battle, he’s deemed no longer fit for service and sent home to Mega-City One – albeit with a rather nifty new set of mechanical limbs. Life in the Big Meg ain’t easy, and when his wife Kitty goes missing and he pees off a local crime lord, Slaughterhouse turns vigilante. In the second part of his story, Instrument of War, he’s given a chance at getting Kitty back, but in return must help an old war general launch a military coup.
Mandroid relies heavily on well-worn tropes – the vigilante spurred into action by the loss of a loved one – yet tells this story with more conviction and depth than you might expect. Wagner’s script is full of anger at the crime-ridden city and the inability of the judges to deal with elusive crime lords, and yet Slaughterhouse is a complex figure who seems to take joy in killing, using the fact that his victims are ‘scum’ as tenuous justification. Dredd himself plays an interesting role, at first sympathetic to Slaughterhouse’s situation, but increasingly suspicious, leading to an effectively bombastic climax.
Instrument of War avoids the typical sequel traps by telling a boldly different story with the same character while feeling like a logical continuation of his journey – though it isn’t as gritty or hard-hitting as its predecessor, focusing too much on the procedural elements of General Vincent’s plot and Dredd’s investigation, and it ruins its own emotional tension by revealing a particular twist too early.
As usual, this volume bulks out the page count with a couple of unrelated stories. Escape From Atlantis is a fun, if formulaic, action adventure that uses its undersea setting well – Dredd commandeers a submarine to chase down some dapper British androids. And Bad Mother is an entertainingly silly high-concept parody of reality TV that predates The Hunger Games by almost a decade, though isn’t quite as funny as it needs to be. There’s also a fascinating essay on vigilantism throughout Dredd’s history.
All in all, this is another strong entry from the Mega Collection. Though occasionally lacking in subtlety, the Mandroid strips tell the morally complex story of a man who loses it all and turns to some rather suspect methods of anger management, and do so in a bleak, thoughtful, thrilling manner.
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