John WagnerGarth EnnisJudge Dredd2000 AD
Judge Dredd: Democracy Now!
Medium: comic
Year: 1992
Writer: John Wagner, Garth Ennis
Artist: Jeff Anderson, John Burns
Country: UK
Keywords: Judge Dredd, 2000 AD
Format: 2000 AD 750-756, 44 pages
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 1 December 2021
This is the 1992 Mandarin graphic collection of two Judge Dredd stories:
(a) "The Devil You Know" (John Wagner, Jeff Anderson, progs 750-753)
(b) "Twilight's Last Gleaming" (Garth Ennis, John Burns, progs 754-756)
It's the culmination of five years of Dredd history. Democracy. He'd been crushing it since "Letter From a Democrat" and the martyrdom of Hester Hyman (published in March 1986). Some of the movement's supporters would keep going, most famously in Wagner/MacNeil's America, but this is where Dredd killed any chance that democracy might win. giving it a fair chance to do so. There's going to be a referendum. Judges or democracy?
"The Devil You Know" highlights the judges who hate this. Dredd's the one who's been pushing for this referendum, so maybe they'll be able to cancel it if he's out of the way. Very Dumb Conclusion: they need to kill him. Many, many people have tried this. This story made me laugh. It's making serious points (e.g. apathy and stupidity in the electorate are problems in a democracy), but it's also got those comedy judges who wisely don't want to get in Dredd's way when he's beating up a dirty judge who was trying to wreck the referendum. "Spot of redecoration." "Nice."
I was also amused by "Judge Dredd is on his way" (wouldn't want to be you, mate) and by "my death would be rather inconvenient at the moment".
After that, "Twilight's Last Gleaming" is fantastic.
I love Garth Ennis, but his Judge Dredd run wasn't very good. (Ennis himself also thinks so, incidentally. "I'm too close to Dredd. I like him too much. I can't tamper with the formula; nor can I take the piss the way I do with superheroes".)
This three-parter, though, hit all my buttons. It does everything for me that "Tale of the Dead Man" didn't. This story matters. The vote is real. The people can choose. (And, these days, we know that absolutely any result is possible in a referendum and that the status quo can be destroyed.)
There's a big double spread of Dredd's inner thoughts after talking to one of the "The Devil You Know" conspirators. "Is this all I get out of it?" she asks, which is a question that had never occurred to our anti-hero. This internal monologue is superb. It's intelligently, rationally explaining why Dredd thinks and acts the way he does. We see his feelings. He does have some, despite everything you'd think. Then, on the other side of the fence, we see similar debate from Blondel Dupre, the democrats' leader.
Ennis's reverence for Dredd could be argued to come on a little thick. Dupre's admiration of him isn't far off hero-worship, but in fairness he really did do the deeds she's describing and her last-minute doubts aren't unrealistic.
I also love the ending. Dredd has enough firepower to massacre an army, but he doesn't use it. He goes out alone, unarmed, and convinces Dupre that people really did vote the way he says. Because they did. Because the gap between liberal ideals and what people vote for can shatter your dreams. Just ask Dupre.
Oh, and it's drawn by God Almighty, aka. John Burns.
This isn't the best Judge Dredd democracy story, or even the second-best. Damn, that was a strong story arc.