Before Cassandra Anderson rose to the rank of Judge she had to train as a PSI-Cadet. Cadet Anderson: Teenage KYX collects four stories from Cassandra’s earliest, supervised days to her first year on active duty. This is anything but a slow build. Not believing in moderating assignments, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” removes any imagined training wheels by involving a serial killer on page one. Growing up fast is a job requirement and the way Cassandra, age ten, stomachs what’s thrown at her puts her ahead of the game professionally but is stressful makings for a childhood.
All four stories are scripted by Alan Grant but three distinct artists offer visual range when it comes to drawing Cassandra. Comparisons feel weighted by the material requiring different things from each artist but there’s a toughness to Carlos and Hector Ezquerra’s rendition—thicker ink around her eyes and a pronounced mouth—which I preferred to the more porcelain Cassandra of Steve Yeowell’s art. Patrick Goddard sometimes hides her face in shadows and uses squinted eyes too often.
Still, it should be noted that the Ezquerras’ have the advantage of the volume’s best and title story, “Teenage KYX.” “Algol,” the story Yeowell provides art for, is more what you would expect from Judge Dredd, military and streamlined and with a particularly ruthless punishment sentence. “Teenage KYX” has Cassandra going undercover, with a makeover and personality treatment, reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, that allows her to blend in with juves at a punk club. As she gets closer to her target, whose affinity for chewing gum creates a memorable physical attribute, the freedom of keeping her cover lets Cassandra have something unfamiliar: fun. The personal nature of the story for Cassandra sets it over the top, when we’re reminded of another time Cassandra’s memories were altered, but without her knowledge or consent.
Last in the volume is “One In Ten,” where Anderson carries her team through a horrific case involving infants. The completist in me was excited to finish this arc after reading issue one in The 2000 AD Script Book but it’s not an easy one to get through. The enjoyment of getting to watch the coordinated front of PSI gifted Cadets is hindered by the toll of the operation, making the lasting message of Cadet Anderson: Teenage KYX much the same as where it started with “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Judge life never stops asking the impossible of its recruits. No one will finish Cadet Anderson: Teenage KYX envying Cassandra’s career but, for a short while, in “Teenage KYX,” you get to see Cassandra dance and it’s nearly perfect.