Review by Ian Keogh
A story that Judge Dredd creator John Wagner initially wanted to turn in as a whimsical march of nudists in Mega-City One was knocked back by editors, forcing a re-think. We can all be grateful, as Wagner replaced his nudists with an underground democracy crusade rebelling against the autocratic rule of the Judges. This in turn sparked more stories, escalating very much in the organic manner of a movement. These focussed not just on the spread of the Democracy organisation, but on Dredd for the first time questioning the system for which he was the most high profile and zealous representative.
This slim 1990s collection takes place at a point when the Judges can no longer ignore the growing clamour for reform, and a referendum has been scheduled. Of course, given the established attitude of the Judges when it comes to reform, or indeed any system voting to abolish itself, are they going to permit a referendum to proceed without attempting to sway the outcome? Dredd questioning his own system and the attitudes of some of his colleagues are interesting, and it builds to a very good conclusion. Wagner surprises in a couple of places, throws in a few good jokes, mainly at the start, and delivers the debate well, but this isn’t prime Dredd.
There’s a vast difference when it comes to the two artists illustrating the material. Jeff Anderson is functional without really impressing, and John Burns is a master at work. Even here, when he’s not trying that hard, Burns is a cut above, with far more interesting layouts and better characterisation.
Democracy Now does have a legacy aspect within the ongoing saga of Dredd and Mega-City One, but those interested are better directed to volume 16 of Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files. It’s also found within the Judge Dredd partwork volume of the same title with a lot of related material.