Review by Ian Keogh
A rule of successful dramatic writing is to ensure readers are hooked right from the start, and Dan Abnett’s an old enough hand to know that. He begins Insurrection with a nine panel page in which a colony Marshal tears a strip off the Mega City Judges, lays out exactly why, and declares the colony’s independence. Marshal Karel Luther has just won a war at great cost without the Judges’ help, not for want of requests. Winning took the desperate action of mobilising the entire population, including droids and mutants, for which they were promised citizenship in return. That’s been declined, prompting Luther’s opening tirade.
John Wagner, creator of Judge Dredd and his world, felt he often had to remind readers the Dredd of old was a bastard representing a repressive system, and Abnett underlines that. The Judges didn’t send help when needed, but the threat of insurrection mobilises dozens of spacecraft and thousands of troops. The result is a story that pushes a lot of nostalgia buttons. It’s very much a throwback to the wars of the future genre so frequently exploited over 2000AD’s early years, with further hints of the past via the use of distinctive droids, and artist Colin MacNeil not working in colour. MacNeil’s well designed Judges, droids and other gritty personalities suffer no detriment for the lack of colour, the pages being in the chunky, familiar MacNeil style, but in a very attractive grey wash. Rather than evoking the old 2000AD, this harkens back to earlier British comics and their rotogravure printing, yet without there being anything dated to the look. The bonus pages feature plenty of his design work.
Insurrection comes in two parts, beginning with the introductory strip covering the initial battle. It’s exciting and unpredictable, if a little distanced in the telling, Abnett’s narrative captions explaining the plans rather than shoving us directly into the action. The ending enables the second part, whereby the further remote colonies in space consider why they should remain beholden to a Justice Department content to benefit from the minerals mined without consideration in return. The first story is a plain war story, while the second is more nuanced, Abnett mining the resources available to the Judges for his plot, and countering the most prominent of them well. There’s a new lead character, and they’re more effective than Luther, who’s proficient, but one-note.
However, Luther’s back for a finale with an overwhelming moral decision to be made, and a situation so tense that it needs a second volume, Liberty, for the continuation and conclusion. This has been good enough to ensure you’ll want to be there. If that’s the case, don’t read the back pages containing Abnett’s pitch for the series. They don’t give everything away, but they reveal enough of what happens in Liberty, information you’d be better reading as the story.