4 out of 5
As a Dredd fan, I’m pooping and peeing my pants in uncontrollable joy – those actions apparently being how I express joy – while reading Megatropolis. This was true while I was digesting it in the Megs, and is doubly true here, as the fairly complex story benefits from the collection, which also has a handsome hardcover package and a lot of nice extras from artist Dave Taylor on how the art was constructed. While I haven’t read every storyline that writer Kenneth Niemand references, I’ve read enough of them to either wholly get the reference, or to have the context to know that it is a reference, and in either case, I can only smile, and be in awe: this noir-refiguring of the Dreddverse, visualized in a brilliant Metropolis / Blade Runner sensibility by Taylor is not a simple “now the Judges are cyberpunk cops!” coat of paint, rather, truly a ground-up telling of the growth of the Judge system in this particular world. It benefits from the decades of history of 2000 AD, of course, but then Niemand took it upon himself to completely rewrite the relationships so that they made sense: with Dredd now a dirty-cop and criminal-hunting masked vigilante and Rico the seemingly sole good cop left on the force, recently partnered with the infamous Amy Jara, killer of the “Maybry” serial killer. We have chief judges / president booth recast as the Mayor and D.A. and etc.; various pro- and antagonists cameoing as similarly morally aligned cops or freedom fighters. And Rico and Jara in the middle: tasked, as with the rest of the cops, with hunting down Dredd, but also recognizing that this vigilante is helping to root out the corruption of types like twisted cop “Calhoun.”
It’s mind-boggling stuff – I can just imagine how much fun, and also challenging, it was for Niemand, starting out with maybe some basics for his premise and then surprising himself with how other puzzle pieces could fall into place. And Dave Taylor’s widescreen style is just the most absolutely perfect way to bring this across.
So as a Dredd fan: I love it. So much. Too much. It’s definitely crowded with characters over essentially a simple story of corruption, but I get it – you’re not guaranteed a second arc right away, so get your kicks in while you can, and I think Niemand and Taylor found the best possible balance of original story and references in that regard, with our now confirmed second arc perhaps able to take some more time to further explore the world and its characters.
…But: I kept wondering how this would read as a non-Dredd fan, and that’s where it takes a knock. It’s not not new reader friendly, as you really don’t need to know any of the background to enjoy the premise, since it’s presented freshly, however, it does toss a ton of characters and world-building at you for, as mentioned, fairly little actual story. Rico and Jara hunt Dredd, and by book’s end, we only get so far on that hunt. Yes, some major things have occurred, but you can tell the eye is on What’s Next, and without the Dreddverse context, one’s probably less likely to get as hyped about that. I want this to be the book I give to my family to get them hooked on Dredd – like a more accessibly grounded version of the world – but it’s not quite there yet. In a future where Niemand / Taylor have racked up several volumes of this, though, I think it can be that, and my pooping / peeing Dredd-fan self can’t wait for that day.