Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection is a series of hardback collections from Hachette Partworks. They're different from Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files because they collect together related stories, instead of reprinting everything in chronological order. This volume does Mechanismo, i.e. robot judges. This volume does Mechanismo, i.e. robot judges that were based on Dredd in attitude, trigger-happiness, etc. Dredd dislikes them from the start and tells Chief Judge McGruder to destroy them, but she's not interested.
(The name is a portmanteau word, combining "mecha" and "machismo". My brain fails to recognise the latter in there, but it's an effective name.)
1. MECHANISMO (1992, Judge Dredd Megazine 2:12-2:17, Wagner and MacNeil)
Colin MacNeil's painted art is beautiful and the best thing in the book. It's more of what he was doing in America, except that here he's using a bright, fun colour palette on a story of unstable killer robots. This is an interesting choice and works really well.
As for the storyline, though, it's a bit slow for Dredd (since the Megazine has a high page count) and doesn't really have any surprises. I liked the robot saying, "Stick your order," though. It's a solid starting point for a long-running storyline rather than something that's memorable in itself.
2. MECHANISMO RETURNS (1993, Judge Dredd Megazine 2:22-2:26, Wagner and Doherty)
The Mechanismo program was shut down... but one of them wakes up anyway. This is more interesting than their first story, because it's less predictable. The robots don't have judicial authority any more, but they think they do and no one's changed their programming. Number 5 also gets more and more scary the more it gets beaten up. "Order invalid. Reject."
3. BODY COUNT (2001, Judge Dredd Megazine 2:37-2:42, Wagner and Benet)
The art's a bit odd and gaudy, but for the first time a Mechanismo story ends well. It's the conclusion of the trilogy, although there would be other Mechanismo outings in later Dredd stories. Number 5 has gone off the deep end. He thinks his survival is top priority, since he's upholding the law, but his judgements are getting extreme since he can't call on Justice Department backup. He'll also eliminate witnesses. "Terminated to preserve the operational status of this unit."
4. S.A.M. (2003, 2000 AD 1374, Wagner, Semeiks and Robinson)
This isn't a Mechanismo story, but just a random Judge Dredd one-parter that happens to have a dangerous robot in it. This one's a John Wagner comedy, with charming (if slightly cartoonish) art. "It ain't fair! I'm a bomb! I got a right to go off!"
5. SAFE HANDS (2001, 2000 AD 1273, Rennie and Jock)
I love the art. Jock is great. As for the story, it involves killer robo-docs. "They're programmed to care about their patients' well-being and happiness. It may be that that's exactly what they think they're doing. After all, most citizens lead entirely miserable and pointless lives. If the droids somehow followed their programming to the ultimate extreme..."
I like the idea, but I don't think the story quite works. I think it needed more pages, or a closer look at the robots themselves. It would have been better if we'd seen that motivation at work, instead of merely having it presented to us in dialogue as a hypothesis.
Overall, this is a decent collection. Not first-rate, but okay. I'm not convinced that Mechanismo was the strongest Judge Dredd story arc, but it's perfectly reasonable and a bit different from most of them. Dredd can't just shoot or arrest his way out of this one... and it's not always obvious that he's even correct in the first place. McGruder's arguments are stronger than his.
Besides, it's not that easy to build a story arc in Judge Dredd in the first place. Baddies tend to die. What we have here is a sometimes interesting one with some fantastic art.