Judge Dredd: Cold Wars – 3 Writers, 5 Stories, 1 Powerful Idea

by Richard Bruton

Cold Wars is a new Judge Dredd collection featuring material written over more than a year by three different writers. And, the thing it does more than anything, is to show us, the reader, just how incredibly tight and prescient the whole Dredd universe is. It shows us that the writers of the moment, Michael Carroll, Rob Williams, and, of course, John Wagner, have a wonderful awareness of just what Dredd is. And, despite what we sometimes see, Judge Dredd is no hero. He’s a brutal weapon, a fist to dole out justice, without mercy, without grey areas. Cold Wars is perfect Dredd, and an example of how good Dredd has been over the last decade.

The individual stories, when they appeared, were good, but having them put together in this collection is proof positive of the old adage of the while being so much better than the sum of its parts. Cold Wars is classic Dredd, but more than that, it’s Dredd for now, powerful, reflective, true. It plays into some incredibly powerful ideas, covering notions of survivor guilt, the tension between opposing powers, and the elements of fascism that so often get forgotten as we celebrate Dredd the hero.

(From Get Sin, by Rob Williams , art by Trevor Hairsine & Dylan Teague)

Everything here evokes memories of the Apocalypse War, and I don’t just mean in Wagner’s excellent evocation of survivor’s guilt in War Buds, where the spectre of the atrocity of the Apocalypse War looms so large. The Apocalypse War, where Dredd infiltrated East Meg One and, with the press of a button, raised it to the ground in a nuclear attack, retaliation against War Marshall Kazan’s attack on MC-1. It’s a classic Dredd tale, perhaps, for me, THE classic Dredd tale. But, over the years, it’s something that was left to one side, the fallout from that brutal action ignored in favour of other things. Not, it seems, any more. Indeed, anyone following the weekly 2000AD previews/reviews here at Comicon will have seen just how important the Apocalypse War was in the recent, simply brilliant, The Small House by Rob Williams and Henry Flint. But, as shown by Cold Wars, the Apocalypse War is something that Carroll, Wagner, and Williams have all been heavily involved with over the past years.

(From Get Sin, by Rob Williams, art by Trevor Hairsine & Barry Kitson)

In the first story, Get Sin, Rob Williams, alongside some beautiful artwork from Trevor Hairsine, Barry Kitson, and Dylan Teague, shows us the side of Dredd that was given a name in The Small House. It’s facism, pure and simple. But, in Get Sin, it’s facism and brutality, a superpower flexing its muscles, with Dredd and his small team infiltrating Sov territory to extract revenge, pure and simple, for the Sov involvement with the deaths of 500 ex-Judges on Encaledus. It’s the retaliation and the brutality of such that hits so hard in Get Sin. This is an element of Dredd we all too often forget.

(From Get Sin, by Rob Williams, art by Trevor Hairsine & Dylan Teague)

Following this, John Wagner, alongside talented newcomer artist Dan Cornwell, brings us back to MC-1 in War Buds, but the Apocalypse War still looms large. Following the trials and tribulations of a group of Apocalypse War veterans, we get a sobering look at the spectre of mass murder that happened back then.

(From War Buds, by John Wagner, art by Dan Cornwell)

With Black Snow/Echoes/The Shroud, Michael Carroll, alongside the artistic delights of PJ Holden, Colin MacNeil, and Paul Davidson, takes a look at the fallout of the Apocalypse War and just how it impacted on the Sov Block. It’s done on several levels, whether that’s the small scale, highlighting the crippling bureaucracy of the Sovs following a major disaster, or the stunning moment we get to see the crater that was the glory of East Meg One. There’s obviously a very real world analog here, with MC-1 sending out something akin to a humanitarian mission when the Sov system seems paralysed, but there’s also that element of Carroll’s work on Dredd that deals so well with all things Sov. His Sov stories are fascinating things, with the idea that he definitely has a lot more in store for us.

(From Black Snow, by Michael Carroll, art by PJ Holden)

But, in the end, Cold Wars delivers something rather incredible, taking the ideas of three very different writers, three very different sets of stories, and collects them in such a way to create something thoughtful, powerful, harking back to events of three decades ago, yet giving them a relevance for today. That it’s also an incredibly entertaining set of stories is simply more evidence that the writers and artists on today’s Judge Dredd are some of the best we’ve ever seen.

(From Echoes, by Michael Carroll, art by Colin MacNeil)

Judge Dredd: Cold Wars is published by 2000AD/Rebellion on 7th March.
It features the following stories;
Get Sin, written by Rob Williams, art by Trevor Hairsine, Barry Kitson, and Dylan Teague
Warbuds, written by John Wagner, art by Dan Cornwell
Black Snow, Echoes, and The Shroud, all written by Michael Carroll, with art by PJ Holden, Colin MacNeil, and Paul Davidson.
Colours are from Dylan Teague, Abigail Bulmer, Quinton Winter, Chris Blythe, and letters by Annie Parkhouse and Simon Bowland.

Cover by Jim Murray.

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