♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer TIM HAYES took a look at Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files 30, out now from Rebellion…
Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files 30
Writers: John Wagner and various
Artists: Cam Kennedy and various
2000AD spent a chunk of 1999 telling a connected series of stories spread out across issues of both the weekly prog and the Judge Dredd Megazine, and the latest Case Files volume collects the bulk of the set in one place. Drawn by a sequence of fine artists and written in its entirety by John Wagner, it covers one of Wagner’s periodic upheavals of Mega-City One’s status quo via The Second Robot War, unleashed on the population by crime lord Nero Narcos and costing the city and the Justice Department dearly. But mixed in along the way are multiple other sub-plots, prologues and consequences, with the more humorous aspects of Dredd put aside for the duration so as not to interrupt the flow. It’s just Wagner and the wide world of his co-creations, a place which always seems to be liveliest and boldest when he’s the writer at the controls.
The section of the story told in 2000AD itself is mainly designed to get Dredd out of the city when the mayhem breaks out, as he and Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson are captured by old adversary Orlok and put on trial for the destruction of East-Meg One, itself a thread from some 17 years in the past for both characters and readers at that point. What’s left of the East-Meg government now floats on boats in the Mediterranean, a micro-nation beyond international law – as always with Wagner, political colour supplies some of the most vivid details. Meanwhile back in Mega-City One and the pages of the Megazine, former judge Galen DeMarco discovers that Justice Department equipment has been compromised, and becomes caught up in the war that breaks out when Narcos makes his move. Dredd and Anderson eventually return home, and the story becomes an extended war between good guys and bad, complete with armies of killer robots and nuclear weapons and flying battleships. And even then, the internal power struggles of the Justice Department still simmer in the background.
The prog and the Megazine had done cross-overs before, but this was the first where each publication could be read independently of the other, the monthly Megazine issues interspersed among the weekly progs. A collection can’t really replicate that, and the Case Files prints all the progs sequentially and then all the Megazines – the only realistic solution, but it loses the sense that both plotlines are taking place simultaneously. There are also a couple of missing codas that will have to wait until the next Case Files, where they might seem a bit belated. The art is handled by a varied bunch including Cam Kennedy, Charlie Adlard, and very briefly Mick McMahon, plus Simon Davis whose early pencil art is even more interesting in light of his lush painted work on Slaine these days – although it seems the Case Files reprint may have removed the creator credits from the individual stories, an odd decision at this late date. But the hand of John Wagner is hard to miss anyway, especially in one of the writer’s carefully planned arcs of escalating action and violence, manoeuvring Dredd and his allies into an impossible situation just to see how they survive it.