Total War is the name of a terrorist group that was first mentioned in the Judge Dredd comic strip in the story “America” (1990). Under review here is a much later 12-part story from 2004 entitled “Total War.” The terrorist group seeks a return to democractic government for Mega-City One. The city is, as fans will know, a fascist police state. The Judges came to power following the chaos that followed a worldwide nuclear war. They were an essentially a force of order at that time. But should their reign be brought to an end? This has been a question that has come up before, but never in such an extreme manner. To overthrow the current system, the terrorists have planted two hundred nuclear bombs at locations throughout the city, demanding that the Judges step down and hand power back to the people, or the bombs will be detonated one by one. And indeed, by the end of this tale, the citizens of Mega-City One do not come out unscathed.
The theme of democracy is explored more fully in the earlier saga “America,” which I look forward to reading at some point. I imagine it tackles the theme with more depth, where the lines between good and evil are blurred. This introduces a maturity to the strip that is lacking in its earliest years. Back then, when 2000 AD was really aimed at children, there was no question of the Justice Department’s role as the epitome of goodness. But the truth is not so clear, as later stories would attest. As for “Total War” in particular, there is no such subtle undertone. The fight for democracy has been taken to an insane extreme and must be crushed.
Not the most exhilarating Dredd I’ve read, but an enjoyable tale of carnage nonetheless.