Friday, 28 July 2017

Anderson Psi Files Vol 1

 Another fresh look at a collection of classic 2000AD stories from neophyte Chris McAuley

It's not often I put down a book thoughtfully, gently going through some of the issues raised and realising how brave the writers are to tackle the issues facing a great many people.  It's something I haven't seen the 'big two' do in their mainstream characters.

When I read the Dredd Casefiles I was introduced to Cassandra Anderson, a breath of fresh air in what was a fairly male dominated comic strip, a casual and new way of seeing interactions between Judges, also introducing a new department - the Psi department. It's fair to say that this character brought a lot of important changes and additions to the Dredd mythos and became very popular (possibly due to the uninhibited fashion in which she was drawn, showing her femininity unashamedly)

With the arrival of the Judge Anderson: The Psi Files volume 01 arriving this Bank Holiday weekend, I found myself, mentally, in a completely different place to where I was when reading Dredd.  Obviously with this series the creators realised that the character wouldn't tell the same stories as those in the Dredd universe - these are more 'supernatural' in content but include sci-fi elements as well – including various types of mental phenomena.

So we begin with Anderson getting a full-on Dark Judge story of her own.  The Dark Judges seem a natural foil for Anderson - she can battle them on not just a physical level but on a mental plane as well.  As villains they are a little more difficult to dispose of, for the writers this must be a nightmare, but for readers it’s fantastic - we don't just get the usual - shoot them and they are dead end panel.

David Roach from Helios
In this story, we get Anderson tricked by the superfiend himself into travelling back into the Dark Dimenson and freeing him and his cohorts to wreck havoc around Mega City One. The next episode features possession, showing that these events happen in the scifi world of the Mega Cities and that there are Specific Exorcist Judaical squads that deal with them.  It's a great story with a twist on the 'hero goes into a dangerous situation to save an innocent' cliche.

In the Hour of the Wolf, we see a sleeper East Meg City agent cell activate and attempt to free Orlok the soviet assassin - this sets up a plotline alerting the reader to the fact that this character will be a significant element in Anderson's future and shows us that East Meg is still and a continuous threat to Mega Cities future. This is quite a serious story and dispenses with the character being a figure of satire or comedy - it shows us a slightly colder Anderson than we are used to.

I enjoyed the 'Random Man' storyline where we see a sociopath who chooses to abdicate moral decisions by rolling a dice and acting out whatever action that number on dice dictates. It's a nice crime thriller, a little bit Columbo where we know who the killer is and we are watching the detective piece together the evidence. 

The one stand out story is an epic one, Engram. It tackles an incredibly difficult issue that of child sexual abuse. It takes a lot of courage to include that in a comic storyline and it's done incredibly well. This is a spoiler if you haven't read this story and I apologise for it in advance.

We find out that Anderson has been a victim of parental abuse and that she came to the Judges attention when she made a doll of her father and killed him through vodun techniques. It’s a skillfully written story with the writers obviously sensitive to the fact that some readers may have faced this situation in reality. The Judges have blocked Anderson’s memory of this event and she must go back into her childhood mentally and explain to her younger self that she was not at fault, she is not the cause of the abuse...it's a sincerely important moment and in some ways transcends the other stories in this volume.
Stunning David Roach art from Engram

Included in this volume is another hard hitting story - one that deals with suicide and the loss dealt with those left behind. Corrie who is established as Anderson's best friend is a empath, she feels the pain of the world around her deeply. I wonder if that is a metaphor for depression...it's an incredibly moving story, where she touches the last of the Giant Whales as their species dies out.  With too much pain and loss in her life she makes a conscious decision to end her life.

Mick Austin's illustrates Alan Grant's moving "Leviathan's Farewell"



The theme of the story, Suicide, is not seen as cowardly way out for this character, but rather the logical follow on from a moment of acceptance that she can no longer live in this world.  It's not the usual take on a difficult subject.  Like many others I have been touched personally by this issue having a friend who made a similar decision, for me it’s a fantastically written and deeply moving piece and one of the finest stories in an excellent collection.

Thanks for reading this review folks

Anderson The PSI Files vol 1 can be purchased directly from Rebellion here.

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