He Is Still The Law
♦Tim Hayes takes a look at Rebellion’s latest Judge Dredd complete Files, volume 29, out now…
Judge Dredd Complete Case Files 29
Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant
Drawn by John Burns, Cam Kennedy, Henry Flint
Lucky scheduling lets the latest volume of Rebellion’s Judge Dredd archives kick off with 1998’s Mega-City Way Of Death, a self-contained singe-issue story by John Wagner and Greg Staples that covers a lot of social territory and says plenty about the world that Wagner has built for Judge Dredd to patrol. In a brisk ten pages, young lovers nearly find happiness before fate punishes them for trying, spiteful parents resent their own children despite having given them an irradiated world to live in, and Mega-City One finds new ways to ghoulishly recycle its dead. It’s a black parable, maybe too black to be sustained over a long period, but proves that twenty years into the life of his co-creation, Wagner still took Dredd and his world very seriously.
Several other stories in the volume nudge towards the dark and ironic too, a higher portion than in some previous Case Files books. Wagner – along with Alan Grant who chips in – seems keen that Dredd shouldn’t drift too far into the light-hearted ultra-violence that sometimes occupies the strip’s attention, or lose touch with the dire satire of its city. There are fewer stories with fully painted art this time too, although Simon Bisley is still casting a long shadow over the ones that do appear.
So Volume 29 is mostly sharp satire and lively art – always the best aspects of Dredd, making for a spicy collection. There’s a potent sci-fi short drawn by Alex Ronald that doesn’t really need Dredd at all, in which an unborn baby is flagged for potential criminal tendencies by the Gene Police. The desperate father taunts Dredd that perhaps the baby could one day challenge Mega-City One’s repressive legislators. “You elected them,” notes the less than sympathetic lawman, “Dream on.” Dredd’s world in a nutshell there. Another tale with consequences finds Dredd in conflict with the creepy, paranoid Judge Edgar, head of the equally creepy and paranoid Public Surveillance Unit, and painted by John Burns like a fairytale ogre.
And sat in the midst of these political fables, Alan Grant and Andrew Currie’s two-part Megazine story Grud’s Big Day, taking Mega-City One’s post-nuclear paranoia and adding weird science, some Golden Age DC homage, and a large demonic Teletubby rampaging through a parade. Marooned in the fifth dimension – it’s a long story – Dredd encounters a model-sized crystalline manifestation of his home city, and despite his doubts as a good rationalist policeman takes the opportunity to tower over it like a vengeful God and boom the words Obey The Law. “No sense wasting an opportunity”, he notes, reasonably enough. Case Files 29 finds the strip motoring smoothly in fine, dark, form.