One of the BIG Judge Dredd stories for 2022 gets its collection as Dredd heads back to the Apocalypse War to take on the Citadel.
Out on 20 July, this collects together The Citadel, the big Dredd tale of the year, plus another couple of John Wagner-written Dredds.
The 2000 AD PR at the time read thus:
“As the Apocalypse War rages, Judge Dredd leads a squad of Cadet Judges into battle – launching an assault upon The Citadel, where the invading Sov forces have set up base.
But now, 40 years later and on the day of his execution, former Cadet Judge Winterton will tell the truth about what happened during the war, why the mission was subsequently covered up, and reveal the secret that Judge Dredd himself has been hiding for the past 40 years.
Within the intimidating walls of Iso-Block 1, a prisoner is scheduled to die after decades in isolation. But he has a tale to tell – one that may blow Judge Dredd’s world apart!”
That’s really all you need to know about the plot of The Citadel, it’s all there in the PR. So no more about that needed.
Now, before it came out, The Citadel was heavily trailed in 2000 AD with this…
Okay, now before we go any further, let’s get the important thing out of the way… it doesn’t do either thing promised in that art and the PR – it doesn’t change everything and it doesn’t blow Dredd’s world apart. And it’s that fact that led to a fair few people feeling that The Citadel was something less than it should have been.
After all, Wagner’s previous Dredds that really have changed everything, I’m thinking Apocalypse War, Judge Cal, Day of Chaos – it’s a long, long list that for sure – went all out and made a huge difference to everything in Dredd, chief of all the population numbers. So when it gets trailed as ‘This changes everything,’ I can see why The Citadel felt a bit flat to some.
However, (and you knew there was a however coming, didn’t you?) reading The Citadel in this collection well after getting the ooooh moment in the Progs and the subsequent ‘oh, so it’s not changing anything really then’ moment of the last episode, I can tell you that it’s nothing more and nothing less than a case of another Wagner Dredd.
And that, really, should be all you need to know. John Wagner is THE greatest writer of Dredd and the three stories in here manage to showcase just why he’s so damn good.
All through, you’ll find the usual brilliant Wagner touches, the tense and taut writing, sparse dialogue, the tone of it all just perfect, with Dredd as the hard-as-hell badass who takes no prisoners and doesn’t play nice with his team, not one bit. For example…
This is not a nice Dredd. There’s nothing of the hero cop here. This is the warrior Dredd whose actions get nastier and nastier, as he’s willing to sacrifice anyone to get through the War and win – but we know that from what we know of The Apocalypse War anyway. After all, this is the Dredd who nuked East-Meg One, so we know he’s willing to do anything to win. He’s tolerating no-one, doesn’t matter that they’re Cadets or City-Def grunts. It’s all about Dredd getting the job done.
And of course, he does get the job done. There’s the twist about two-thirds of the way through – and it’s a good one – but although that’s the lead headline of The Citadel, in the end it’s not the thing that makes this so damn good.
Yes, The Citadel may be one of those that didn’t live up to the hype – then again, how could it possibly live up to it? – but it does serve as a great little Dredd procedural with a big twist going on.
And of course, along with Wagner, we have Dan Cornwell doing the art here. He’s so damn good at Dredd by now that it’s easy to forget he’s only a relatively new Dredd artist. Hell, he’s a relatively new artist full stop. But despite the lack of strips under his belt, Wagner obviously saw something in him that meant he first anointed him with Rok of the Reds (and the sequel, Rok the God) and now he’s become one of Wagner’s primary artists on Dredd – and, as we’ve already established, Wagner does KNOW Dredd and knows just what works.
Anyway, Cornwell’s art on The Citadel is just all about him coming into his own, up here in a collection with Colin MacNeil and John Higgins and not just holding his own but showing that he’s definitely one of THE great modern Dredd artists.
His Dredd here in The Citadel is so impressive, physically and thematically, with Cornwell’s composition and layouts just perfectly choreographed all the way through, whether it’s the thrilling action sequences, complete with Cornwell playing with perspective so well, or the frequent character beats of the storyline, it’s simply excellent and can’t be faulted.
As for the couple of extra Wagner tales, they don’t add anything to The Citadel, they’re just recent Wagner-written Dredds that have found their way into here. But having said that, they are two more examples of just why Wagner Dredds are so damn great, even if we don’t get as many as we used to.
First, there’s The Removal Man, 24 pages of wonderfully Wagnerian comedy Dredd. Well, the sort of very dark comedy about MC-1 and Dredd that only Wagner can write this well. The Removal Man, the perfect assassin, unremarkable in every way, gets convinced to do one last-minute job… which turns out to be a big mistake.
The comedy comes from the way everything spirals out of control as he deals with the unacceptable loose end from the latest hit… and then the loose ends from dealing with the loose end… you get the idea. All with Dredd sniffing around in the background, your classic Wagner Dredd dealing with the ridiculousness of life in the Big Meg.
It’s much the same with Now That’s What I Call Justice, that same sort of off-kilter storytelling, this time with Wagner contrasting a bizarre countdown of the top 50 Justice Department cases on the ‘View From The Chair’ vid-show with a new Judge killer on the scene. Perfect Wagner procedural stuff.
And of course, those two extra tales are made even greater by the presence of two great Dredd artists, Colin MacNeil and John Higgins, both of whom bring their A game to their stories here.
But as I say, it’s indicative of just how far Dan Cornwell‘s come in such a short time that he’s the artistic star here, his work on The Citadel is his best yet – and I’m happy to say that there’s plenty still to come.
Judge Dredd: The Citadel. Written by John Wagner, art by Dan Cornwell (The Crucible), Colin MacNeil (The Removal Man), John Higgins (Now That’s What I call Justice), cover by Dylan Teague.
Originally serialised as The Citadel (2000 AD Progs 2270-2279), The Removal Man (2000 AD Progs 2236-2239), Now That’s What I Call Justice (2000 AD Progs 2240-2245)
Published by Rebellion/2000 AD on 20th July.
Okay then… preview time for all three tales…