From The Shelf: Blood Of Emeralds

I have decided to come up with a feature on old books that I have re-read and kind of do a review on them. Kind of an excuse to revisit stuff created by Irish creators and to review stuff that I never got around to reviewing. First up is the Michael Carroll written “Blood Of Emeralds”. I’ll give seem details on where you can pick this up yourself at the end. All quotes are from interviews I’ve had with Michael throughout the years. The piece focuses on the writing as I think I can speak more on that.

Writing Dredd means that every so often co-creator John Wagner will come in and sometimes shake the place up a bit. Dredd writers must sit behind their keyboards wondering whether he is going to drop a bomb or not. I kid and I just wanted to paraphrase an Alphaville line. The other writers are all in the loop. John Wagner dropped a bomb a few years ago with his epic “Day Of Chaos”. “John contacted the other Dredd writers and told us what Dredd’s city – Mega-City One – was going to be like by the end… most of the city would be destroyed, and its population reduced from four hundred million to only fifty.”  This changed Michael Carroll’s original plans but out of this came another idea. “I figured that with lots of Judges dead, the Justice Department of Mega-City One would begin recruiting Judges from other cities, and retraining them as MC1 Judges.” With this came the creation of Fintan Joyce (“New Tricks” in Prog 1850), son of the original Judge Joyce from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s “Emerald Isle’ (Prog 727 to 732).

The 1991 Judge Joyce story is minor classic that creates the Ireland of 2113 but it is tongue in cheek and full of stereotypes. The kind of over the top tale that could only come from the mind of Garth Ennis. With “Blood Of Emeralds” (Prog 1934 – 1939) Mike returns Judge Dredd, and the new Judge Joyce, to Murphyville. Michael Carroll’s Murphville is a much more toned down version, written to fit the current tone of the Dredd books but he does not abandon the comedy altogether. “I didn’t want to completely strip the story of all humour, plus it was important to me that there was a certain Irishness to its flavour. Hence the appearance of Judge Joyce’s mother, who is – let’s be honest here – also something of a stereotype, albeit a more gentle one.” Dredd time is pretty much in line with our own and in this case (from 2113 to 2137 or thereabouts), the change in town can easily be attributed to passage of time. As Mike has said, “I’d decided that after two decades, the country would have moved on socially and politically”. This time lapse also necessitated the change from Charlie Joyce to his son Fintan as Mike wanted “a younger, much less experienced Judge”. It is this rehabilitation of Murphyville and its residents that makes this one of my favourite Dredd stories.

Another thing that Michael deals with in “Blood Of Emeralds” is Murphville’s relationship with Brit Cit. Indeed events that bring us to Murphville in 2137 revolve around it (and lead to bigger things in the “Every Empire Falls” storyline). It is a complex relationship that mirror’s the one we have in the real world and I think that gives a believability to the story (even more so when the political situation expands and escalates in the aforementioned epic). The story is interesting political thriller that has a satisfying conclusion of its own, as we find out what happened to Charlie Joyce and the history of Murphyville is fleshed out quite a bit. It also gives added depth to the character of Fintan. Michael Carroll’s “stealth epic” (as Mike called it) has all the hallmarks of a great Judge Dredd story and is pretty big contribution to the mythos and it mostly starts with this story. Michael combines Dredd history, recent continuity and political intrigue to create a compelling story. All this and it is drawn by legendary Colin MacNeil, who has greatly altered his style from the days of Judge Dredd’s “America” but still produces excellent work. I love the way he portrays the Murphyville Judge uniform. Understated but they look great. I think he is one of those under-appreciated artists.

“Blood Of Emeralds” was originally published in 2000AD Progs 1934 – 1939). It has been reprinted both in the Judge Dredd Mega Collection volume “Blood Of Emeralds” and as part of the complete epic “Every Empire Falls”. Ask your LCS about a copy.