Judge Anderson Hits Where it Hurts in The Psychic Crime Files

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Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson fights haunted houses, biophiles, chancers and more.  Just another day in service of the Law in Mega-City One, a sprawling metropolis covering the entire east coast of North America.

Set in the nuked future-world of Judge Dredd and the Mega-Cities, Judge Anderson is part of the Justice Department’s Psi Division comprised solely of judges with psychic powers. Orginally conceived by John Wagner and Brian Bolland during the infamous first Judge Death storyline, Judge Anderson proved to be a big hit with the audience because of her headstrong attitude, combining a stern optimism with satirical humour, which played off nicely against ol’ stone-face Dredd. The fact that she is quite the looker with long, wavy blonde hair-- and is part of one of the few Judge divisions that is not required to wear the uniform helmet-- didn’t hurt either, I’d suspect.

Written by 2000 AD mainstay Alan Grant and mainly drawn by Boo Cook and another 2000 AD old timer, the legendary Carlos Ezquerra, Judge Anderson : The Psychic Crime Files is published by Simon & Shuster for the US market. It contains the stories Chancer, Lawless, Wiierd, Biophyle, The House of Vyle and two tales of Cassandra Anderson in training at the Academy of Justice. There’s some early Trevor Hairsine on Lawless and Patrick Goddard on the Academy tales.

All preview images by Carlos Ezquerra

Unfortunately it is not the best outing for our beautiful Psi-Judge with a heart. While Alan Grant is certainly a superb sci-fi action writer, the stories presented are not Grant at top form. The ideas and execution are solid but it is all too much by the numbers and Grant forgets to infuse some heart in the tales of Cassandra. She gets shoehorned in the role of the standard female-hardcore-action-hero-with-a-heart stereotype and in this volume, she never rises above it. Judge Anderson works best when played off to the stern judicial system that leaves no room for morals or interpretation, a system where Cassandra is not always comfortable with her position as a Judge. This system is best personified by the best Judge of all, Judge Dredd, but really it can be any type of authoritative character. Therefore it is not the best of choices to pare her off with an infatuated rookie in one extended story and a mellowed out old timer Judge in another. Cassandra never really gets to shine with the parts of her character that makes her stand out from the crowd.

While both Boo Cook and Carlos Ezquerra turn in some great art, there’s also a big descrepancy between both their styles that is hard to overlook. Ezquerra’s art is rough and bold, ragged around the edges, showcasing Mega-City One’s criminal underbelly in a very straight-to-the-gut feel. Boo Cook’s art is cartoony and soft, coloured straight from the pencils, often with pastel tints and focuses on the sci-fi aspect of the surroundings, such as the technological monstrosities that make up the buildings and alleyways of the city. The styles do not mesh well and, combined with Grant’s lackluster stories, it all comes across a a bit of a throwaway.

Behind a beautiful and evocative cover illustration by Brendan McCarthy and Boo Cook lies some mediocre stories about everybody’s favourite psychic Judge Cassandra Anderson. She deserves-- and has had-- better stories about her published, also written by Alan Grant. Time to dig out copies of Shamballa or Death’s Dark Dimension.

Judge Anderson: The Psychic Crime Files by Alan Grant, Boo Cook and Carlos Ezquerra is published by Simon & Shuster (read a preview). It is a trade paperback counting 192 pages and retails for €20,99.

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