Written by: Alec Worley
Published by: Abaddon Books
Synopsis: Haunted by a strange dream of storm and shadow, Anderson learns she’s been infected by a psychic virus – and is Patient Zero of an epidemic that could spread to everyone in the Meg. Tracing the infection to a dangerously gifted mutant out in the Cursed Earth, she sets out to find and kill him, before the virus destroys her mind – and perhaps, if she can’t stop him in time, the city itself…
The final novella in the Judge Anderson: Year One series takes the titular Psi-Judge out of the comfort zone of Mega-City One and into the Cursed Earth. In a nice slice of continuity symmetry, this adventure takes place at the same time as the iconic 1970’s Judge Dredd mega-epic, “The Cursed Earth”, as evidenced by a fleeting reference to a mercy mission to Mega-City Two. The change of locale helps distinguish this story from its predecessors and follows the tradition of Judge Anderson exploring exotic landscapes, which would be seen in Alan Grant’s run with tales such as “Shamballa” and “Postcards from the Edge”.
Alec Worley has touched upon different aspects of the Psi-Judge experience across this trilogy – the first story, “Heartbreaker” focused on the topic of mind-control and psychic serials killers, and then “The Abyss” dealt with the concept of insanity and the loss of identity. With this final adventure, “A Dream of the Nevertime”, Worley explores the dreamscape and alternate dimensions, setting the seed for Anderson’s later conflicts with the Dark Judges. As a result, the story feels tonally reminiscent of Inception, but with a side helping of Mad Max – thanks to the Cursed Earth setting. I’ve really enjoyed the variation across all three stories, and it helps them flow together nicely in the collected omnibus, giving the sense of a learning curve for the rookie Psi-Judge as she experiences a barrage of different threats.
For her journey in the Cursed Earth, Worley pairs Anderson up with an unlikely partner: a John Wayne-inspired cowbot named Marion – a fun reference to Wayne’s original name! The banter between the pair is one of the highlights of this adventure and the duo seem to undergo the typical buddy-cop relationship dynamic. Worley nails the characterisation of Marion, making him immediately likeable in his role as Cursed Earth guide. There’s some really strong sequences between the pair, with Anderson taking advantage of the opportunity to discuss her doubts and fears with a non-Judge assistant. Worley explores many of the character traits and plot threads from preceding stories, resulting in a much more cathartic journey for the character that dovetails nicely with her imminent debut in Prog 150.
The action quotient remains as high as ever as Worley puts Cass through her paces in some thrilling set-pieces. The sequence in the deserted mutant labour camp which soon becomes overrun with some unpleasant Cursed Earth beasties conjured up a fast-paced and unrelenting battle in my mind’s eye, demonstrating how cinematic Worley’s writing can be. I visualised every moment as Cass and Marion struggled to survive against the overwhelming odds, and the final battle sequence against the villain of the piece is suitably apocalyptic and evoked visuals of the most special-effects laden movie finales. The stakes are higher than ever in this story, and we finally see Anderson tackling world-ending threats – something that will become a routine occurrence once she begins working alongside Dredd.
This is the strongest story of the Anderson: Year One trilogy, dealing with the doubt bubbling beneath the surface that is inherent to the character, but in a way that foreshadows her future actions under the pen of Alan Grant. Not content to rely on her mental prowess, Worley showcases just how bad-ass Anderson can be with a day-stick, positioning her into an action heroine role that is seldom explored in the comic. With her strong internal voice and the gift of psychic powers, Anderson is a ideal candidate for the prose novel format, allowing writers to get to grips with the minutiae of the character. Worley has done a fantastic job at communicating both her personality and her powers across these three tales, ensuring each adventure is distinctly different from the one that precedes it. I wholeheartedly recommend this collection for an in-depth examination of the character of Cassandra Anderson, and a different perspective of crime on the Mega-City One streets.
Score – ★★★★
Judge Anderson: Rookie – “A Dream of the Nevertime” is available as an eBook from Amazon Kindle, or collected in paperback format alongside two other adventures as the Judge Anderson: Year One Omnibus, also available on Amazon.