Dredd would be proud

Recently, 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine have been doing a lot of work with female characters in fact, since #300 of the Megazine, aside from Judge Dredd’s own strip, a two part Armitage, and a horror one-off, every strip has been centred around a female lead, and #300’s Dredd focused on his protégé Ami Beeny and Armitage was saved by his female partner.
This isn’t lasting, but neither does it seem to have been a deliberate attempt at a women-heavy run: it’s just how the strips came out.
One of the strips that deserves a mention is Hondo City Justice by Robbie Morrison and Neil Googe, the latest in Morrison’s stories centred around Hondo (the Japanese mega-city in Dredd’s world). The lead is an old character, Inspector-Judge Inaba, one of the few female Judges in Hondo. She’s mainly been shown as partner and ally to recurring character Shimura (a Judge turned ronin); or there was a focus on her being an outsider in the Judge force due to her gender; or she headlined comedy stories that usually revolved around, you guessed it, T&A gags. And that was pretty much it for her.
Hondo City Justice has been a game-changer for her though. While the strip isn’t the best thing Morrison’s ever done the villains are a blatant riff on the X-Men and don’t really come off as impressive there’s something it brings to the table that we’ve seen with Inaba before. She’s now got a cadet. It’s a super-powerful teenage girl psionic cadet, part of an intended next generation of super-Judges, but at the core of Cadet Junko Asahara is that she’s a naïve, young cadet.
And this is the interesting bit, because another writer might have taken the obvious approach and had Inaba become a maternal figure with Junko, or give them a sisterly relationship. After all, one’s a woman and the other’s a girl! What else will you do?
Well, Morrison decided he’d have Inaba as a Judge and Junko as a Cadet, like you’d expect from a male-centred Dredd spinoff. Inaba is now the senior figure here, presented from the start as a highly competent and courageous officer; Junko is presented from the start as fresh out of the academy, overly disciplined & eager to impress her mentor. Only one time do we get a big sis/little sis scene, and that’s a deliberate ruse to trick a potential enemy.
Inaba takes the sort of hardline school-of-hard-knocks approach you’d expect from any equivalent character, and possibly more so: when Junko freezes in battle and is about to killed, Inaba calmly neutralises the threat and immediately demands to know why her cadet froze. The cadet explains she recognised the enemy and isn’t sure what happened; she’s asked to do a mind-probe to find out what’s going on, and does so even though she admits it’s not her speciality.
Inaba doesn’t (openly) show fear for Junko or asks her if she’s alright, Junko isn’t breaking down, both women are getting on with the situation at hand and not letting themselves get distracted. And when it comes to the grand finale, with Junko being mentally controlled by the Professor X stand-in, Inaba snaps her out of it not by making an emotional appeal but by playing on her cadet’s judicial training and getting her to focus on arresting the enemy.
It’s almost like… like Morrison’s writing them as Judges first.
And of course that’s just what he’s doing. Which, in the year 2010, shouldn’t be something remarkable in comics, but it is.
We could do with some more dynamics like Inaba’s and Junko’s.