Twice a year here in the Detroit area there is a huge comicbook/sci-fi show that is a three day event with dealers from all over the country. I've been attending for many years and at the recent show in main I was absolutely ecstatic when I saw a dealer with an entire box full of old Judge Dredd and other Fleetway comics that he was selling for .25 cents each...25 cents!!! He was only too pleased to take the $20 bucks I offered him for the full box. I was only too pleased to get some 200 comics for such a paltry sum. In the mid-80's and into the 90's Dredd was one of my favorite characters and I regretfully have not kept up with him in recent years.
I was thus very excited to see that Games Workshop's Black Library has been producing Dredd's adventures in novel format for some time. Whiteout is the first book I've read in the series and I will definitely be back for more. Author James Swallow has written a couple of books in the Dredd series as well as other books in the GW family such as Warhamer and Rogue Trooper. The book begins with a shadowy group of scientists and presumably a military commander testing out a deadly new weapon on some mutant gang members. The stealthy weapon performs flawlessly and yet too well with dire consequences.
Fast forward a bit to Mega City 1 where Judge Dredd and several other Judges are in the midst of shaking down the residents of a seedy building to send a message to the local perps. A napalm explosion by some would-be terrorists goes off killing them, and providing the distraction that small-time crook Wes Smyth needs to escape the building and the Judges notice. He doesn't get far as the strong arms for a local crime boss catch up with Wes demanding the money he still owes and delivering a brutal warning to come up with the money in 24 hours.
Later Dredd and several other judges have come under attack by a group of wreckers, highway bandits who literally set the road on fire. Wes finds himself again caught in the middle of this mess as his own vehicle is destroyed sending him out on foot to scavenge when he comes upon a tipped transport van. In it's cargo hold a single item that Wes quickly procures, recognizing something valuable when he sees it. The van proves a mystery to Dredd. There are no records of the license and registration, and the serial number has been removed on every part on the truck, right down to the light bulbs on the headlights. The truck is removed to headquarters where Tek-Judge Tyler orders it to be disassembled, but when Dredd comes to check on the truck, Tyler finds the droid disassembled it and had it destroyed. But who have the order for the van's destruction? Furthermore, why is a Judge Vedder, a member of the shadowy COE the Covert Operations Establishment, skulking about near Dredd's evidence and what was she doing at the sight of the wrecker attack? Wes has now found something that is sure to turn his life around while Dredd must not only find out what was in the van, but also contend with this covert ops unit who is determined to keep him out of it, even if it means killing the legendary law officer.
Swallow maintained all of the thrill-ride action and violence that fans of Dredd have come to love with also showing Dredd's detective side as he works with Judge Tyler who is kind of a high-tech CSI type Judge. Swallow is faithful to the long-time character while giving us a plot that shows Dredd having to rely on his intelligence and instincts as much as his guns and fists. Highly recommended.
Review By Tim Janson