Cover to ‘Cadet Anderson: Teenage Kyx’ collected edition. Art by Glenn Fabry/2000 AD

By Brad Sun. Say what you will about fascists, they sure know how to dress the part. From the black and leather evil of an SS uniform, to the iconic color blocking of Star Trek‘s benevolent authoritarianism, militaristic conformity has always had the sharpest style and most sophisticated fashion sense. And then there are the Judges of Mega-City One. Clad in metal, chains, and tinted executioner helmets, this state-sanctioned street soldier biker gang is the personification of dystopian sci-fi oppression, equal parts outrageous satire and genuine badassery.

Cadet Anderson: Teenage Kyx looks at these authoritarian agents from a different angle. Focusing on Judge Cassandra Anderson’s formative years as an up-and-coming psychic, this collection portrays a young recruit still learning what it takes to survive in the urban wasteland she has dedicated herself to protect. Her mind-reading abilities and psionic intuition naturally lead to a more empathic and nuanced tone than the adventures of a stolid blunt instrument like Judge Dredd. Her adversaries may be sick bloodthirsty freaks of nature, but they’re often also wounded victims lashing out at the horrific hellscape that birthed them.

While this approach makes Anderson a more emotionally complex character, it regrettably does not make her a more interesting one. The cartoonish grim and grit of Judge Dredd is just about as two-dimensional as a protagonist can be. But the world around him, one that demands such an extreme arbiter of justice, is where the thematic richness occurs. We can cheer on his over-the-top brutality while still cringing at the idea of such force being necessary. This subtext is brought to the forefront in Cadet Anderson, but by highlighting these conflicting feelings rather than letting the reader discover it for themselves, her stories become paradoxically more limited and, most importantly, less fun.

Even still, Cadet Anderson is a laudable effort to tell stories of a different kind than those found in your typical Judge Dredd yarn. But by hewing to familiar crime procedural tropes, it doesn’t go far enough in exploring the creatively fertile potential of its premise. While Anderson’s psychic abilities allow a glimpse into a point-of-view we aren’t normally privy to, her status as law enforcement means each vignette will inevitably end with the same familiar brand of ultraviolent justice. A truer exploration of perspectivism in Mega-City One might call for the perps themselves, not the Judges, to be the story’s protagonist. As it stands, Cadet Anderson is a fair collection, but one recommended for Judge Dredd completionists only.

2000 AD Graphic Novels/$18.99

Written by Alan Grant.

Art by Carlos Ezquerra, Patrick Goddard, and Steve Yeowell.

Colors by Chris Blythe.

Lettering by Ellie De Ville.

Cover by Glenn Fabry.

5 out of 10

You can purchase ‘Cadet Anderson: Teenage Kyx’ from the 2000 AD Shop.