Review: 'Judge Dredd: The XXX Files': This Sexy Farce Neither Amuses Nor Tittilates

A comic review article by: John Yohe

After delving into some fairly serious and high-artsy graphic novels lately, I was actually looking forward to some more light reading, some pure entertainment, and I’m sucker for post-apocalyptic science fiction, when done well. I’m going to assume that Comics Bulletin readers at least know who the character Judge Dredd is, and that ‘judges’ are the police force of the 22nd Century, in Mega City, a crime-infested gruddhole in what used to be England, though I’ve unfortunately been imprinted with the Sylvester Stallone movie version.

This 2014 collection, Judge Dredd: The XXX Files is not one continuous narrative, but a series of mostly independent short stories, featuring various writers and artists, with the theme, as the title suggests, of sex. Or sleaze. Or, sleazy sex, which seems to be the only kind of sex anyone in Mega City has anymore. Though a hopeful note: thigh high stockings are still in fashion in the 22nd Century.

The result is a hodgepodge—many of the stories are farces, made up of caricatures, which at the most are clever, and at the worst are just kinda dumb teenage boy humor, but never really funny. Or, not my kind of humor.

Most, but not all, of the stories appeared in the British comic magazine 2000 AD, some as far back as 1985, and it’s these that are the weakest, based (again, as I’ve said with another 2000 AD collection) on the short 6-page format—there’s just not enough space to develop any kind of character or, say, plot, though I recognize that that’s not the point. What the point is I’m not sure, except for some sometimes cool-looking post-apocalyptic cityscapes, gun fights, and tits and ass.

The better stories, which appeared in Judge Dredd Magazine (I think, the credits aren’t exactly clear) are longer, and more serious, ones in which Judge Dredd gets to actually be confronted with life’s complexities, like corruption among the Justice Department, under which all the judges work, causing Dredd to actually question authority, and that is interesting because the whole given of Judge Dredd is that he, and his fellow judges, are the authority, are the law. This best story, “Sleaze,” explicitly uses former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover’s abuse of power in the 50s and 60s for its model (one of Dredd’s supervisors is named Edgar) and ends with Dredd actually kind of a (gasp) changed man.

But then you get the story “The Great Arsoli.” If you didn’t know, Brits don’t say ‘ass,’ they say ‘arse,’ so you can kind of see the ‘plot’ coming. Or not: the whole thing features a large Italian man getting things pulled out of his arse. Hard to believe that the two stories I’m discussing here had the same writer, John Wagner. Which I guess is a testament to his range as a writer?

But, drokk it, there I go thinking too much. Hardcore Dredd fans, I think, are more concerned with the artwork. Though again, it’s a hodgepodge: some of it is pure caricature, some of it is pure gritty straight-up superhero comic book style. I guess that’s the appeal? That the Judge Dredd world is constantly being re-imagined and re-visioned, sometimes humorously, sometimes seriously, sometimes a mix? It’s certainly a variety, visually.

Still, I just don’t like farce. I’m partial to serious and gritty. And to character development. And to longer story lines. I’m more curious to see whether the stoic Judge Dredd might actually be human under that futuristic samurai armour. Like samurai, he has a code of living, but what happens when that code bumps up against the corrupt real world? Especially since that world, with it’s basic break down of good people and bad people (the bad people being really bad, and really numerous)(and everybody, strangely, is white) seems to be arguing for a shoot first, ask questions later world.

But then, that is my larger question about superhero comics in general, the vigilante question/fantasy: who decides when using violence is right? Why, us of course—us readers. We all know who the good guys are, right? We agree, right?

But holy drokk, I’m reading way too much into this. This was supposed to be about pure entertainment. Let’s delve back into a future world where you can buy sexy female sex robots who wear skimpy tight body suits, and you can program them to like you and have sleazy sex with you, even if you look like a comic-book-reading geek. That’s what I’m talking about.

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