Preview: ‘Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files’ Volume 39

by Richard Bruton

The Law – In Order. That’s it – that’s what the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files do, reprinting the entire history of Judge Dredd from the very beginning. And it’s just great…

Cover by Dylan Teague, colours by Len O’Grady

We’re up to 2004 by now, well into the early days of Rebellion and editor Matt Smith. The start of the modern age of Dredd, far enough away from some of the… how shall we say? excesses of the 90s.

And it shows. Just like the last volume, there’s a glorious mix here of the long and the short, and a perfect example of what’s made Dredd fresh and exciting, year in and year out. From the very start, it wasn’t all about the man behind the badge, but about the world he inhabited and just how vivid and wonderful that world was. Well, wonderful if you were reading it, I don’t think many of you would want to live there.

In this latest set of Case Files, the highlight for many will be the longest John Wagner-written tale in here, part of Wagner’s ongoing and frequently re-visited Democracy/Total War themed tales.

In the eight parts of ‘Terror gives you a long, thought-provoking and just brilliant thriller, beautifully illustrated, as always, by Colin MacNeil. In it, the anti-Justice Department group Total War mount a campaign against the Judges and the City.

But one rash moment of humanity for one of the Total War recruits changes everything and we’re sent off into a Wagnerian epic where we get to question what we know of Dredd’s world and the entire foundation it’s based on…

And as epic as that Wagner/MacNeil tale is – and it really is – the thing this Case Files shows us, like all the rest, is that the secret of Judge Dredd isn’t that it’s all about the epic tales, the important tales, the world-changing tales.

No, it’s actually all about the building of a world for the past 45 years, one where every single Dredd storyline is as important as the rest, whether it be an epic multi-parter or a daft done-in-one bit of silliness.

The world of Dredd is huge, for sure, but the brilliance of it is that it’s not one that’s bogged down in complex continuity. That’s the reason why 2000 AD and especially Dredd is so accessible. As an old Marvel kid, one who loves the world of Marvel, it’s something I particularly appreciate. Sadly, Marvel has overly-complicated itself and it’s a world I no longer feel part of. But with Dredd, I can always feel at home, no matter how much I know of the history of the comic. And that’s the brilliance that you get from these Case Files. It doesn’t matter how much you know of the world, all you really need to understand is that it’s a future world where the fascists are in charge, judge, jury, executioner… and it’s all embodied in the figure of Judge Dredd.

And so it is that we get the best of Judge Dredd perhaps not through the likes of ‘Terror’, but in the stories of the world of Mega-City One that we find in the smaller stories. These are the ones that build the idea of what it’s like to live in Dredd’s world, these are the ones where we realise how strange, how ridiculous, how dangerous it would be to be a simple citizen living in MC-1.

So, as good as the thril of ‘Terror’ is, I found myself loving the other stories in here, some of those great little Dredds, the ones that often get overlooked in the grand and long history of the character.

This particular Case Files is full of all those perfect little short Dredds, the stories that make these Complete Case Files so damn satisfying. I’m going to just pick a few of them to illustrate, quite perfectly, what I’m talking about…

This volume opens with a perfect example, the brilliantly ridiculous ‘Love Hurts’ by Alan Grant and David Roach. All set to the tune of ‘Frankie And Johnny,’ it’s the musical mismatch of the century, when a Klegg a blind pop-star get married – all for the publicity of course. But then what happens when the strangest of couples actually falls in love? Will it be all hearts and flowers or will this particular Klegg revert to type?

Gloriously silly stuff, just as Dredd can do so well!

Likewise, ‘Tempus Fugitive’ gives us the funny and the weird as the frequent creative team of Ian Edginton and D’Israeli partner up for one of their rare Dredds.

When a bloke turns up claiming to be a time traveller from the 19th Century, Dredd’s typically unimpressed. But what do you know… he may just be telling the truth as we get Edginton and D’Israeli spinning a tale with a nod to HG Wells’ The Time Machine.

And then there’s one of the fun and funny pastiches with ‘At Home With The Snozzburns’, another Alan Grant written Dredd with art from the great Ian Gibson, perfect for this take-off of the Osbourne family, Ozzy, Sharon, the kids.


Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Volume 39 is released on 28th April by 2000 AD.

Contains material from 2000 AD Progs 1388-1407 and Judge Dredd Megazine 214-223 (originally printed in 2004)

Written by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Gordon Rennie, Ian Edginton, Alan Barnes, Si Spurrier, Pat Mills.

Art by David Roach, John McCrea, D’Israeli, Ian Gibson, Colin MacNeil, Cam Kennedy, Ben Willsher, Shaun Thomas, Duke Mighten, Simon Coleby, John Ridgway, Chris Weston, Dave Taylor, Henry Flint, Simon Davis.

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