Previewing ‘Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files’ 40: It’s Total War In The Law, In Order

by Richard Bruton

Featuring Dredd tales from 2004 and 2005 from both 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, The Complete Case Files 40 continues the commitment of reprinting the Law, in order.

When 2000 AD first started these Complete Case Files, reprinting every single Dredd strip right from the beginning, I doubt many thought it would still be going by now, would be this unstoppable juggernaut of Dredd tales. But the key to its success is that this genuinely gives you the whole story.

Sure, there’s Dredd graphic novels showcasing the big stories, the mega-event stories of The Day The Law Died, Apocalypse War, Small House, Trifecta, et al. But they only really tell half the story.

No, the joy of Dredd, week in and week out, is how ALL the stories are important. In between all the big stories, we have the smaller tales, the one-off strips, the two- and three-parters. And it’s these that fill in all the wonderful detail and essential bits to Dredd’s world.

Art by Henry Flint – from Total War

So, here in Complete Case Files 40, we have the usual mix of short and long, all led off with John Wagner and Henry Flint‘s excellent Total War storyline, where Wagner revisits the Democracy Now movement in a 12-parter.

It’s a storyline that affects many of the others in the post-Total War storyline where another 4 million citizens are lost in MC-1 and there’s plenty of citizens coming over to the idea that the Judges just aren’t as beneficial to MC-1 as they’d have you believe.

Art by Carl Critchlow from The Searchers

But everything that follows Total War, through the Prog and the Meg sections, whether they’re the single episodes, the two-parters, the three, the four, and the five parters, really does give you a perfect look into what Dredd has always been about, all the politics, all the day-to-day life, all the strangeness, all the wonderful and the hideous moments of life in the Big Meg.

So, preview time, a little from some of the very best in here…

Art by John Burns from Bite Fight

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 40

Featuring stories written by John Wanger, Alan Grant, Gordon Rennie, and John Smith. Art by Henry Flint, Andrew Currie, Jason Brashill, Anthony Williams, Carl Critchlow, D’Israeli, Ian Gibson, Boo Cook, John Burns, Simon Coleby, Shaun Thomas, Patrick Goddard, and John Higgins.

Originally serialised in 2000 AD Progs 1408-1436, 2005, and Judge Dredd Megazine 224-227, all from 2004 and 2005.

Art by Simon Coleby from Meat Wagon

TOTAL WAR – John Wagner, Henry Flint, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Tom Frame

Chief Judge Hershey gets the message from Total War that they’ve planted 200 nukes across MC-1. Despite her doubts, Total War do have the bombs and do have the intent. And we’re off into another great Wagner-written Dredd with MC-1 facing down a nuclear threat with Total War wanting nothing less than the dismantling of the entire Justice Department regime.

And all the way through, there’s the mystery of another Fargo clone, Nimrod, hideously damaged, unstable, and coming after Dredd’s niece, Vienna. The huge events mixing with the personal… classic Wagner stuff going on.

There’s the familiar thrill early on of knowing you’re off on another Wagner procedural, all about watching the Judges break down things, follow the leads, get the suspects, repeat. It’s something Wagner does incredibly well and always has. And of course, with Henry Flint on art, you know it looks just superb.


AFTER THE BOMBS – John Wagner, Jason Brashill, letters by Tom Frame

Following up Total War, we get Wagner revisiting the events as we follow a woman injured in the chaos. What she’s about to find out is that she’s part of Total War… and from that point on she’s a marked woman.

Again, it’s Wagner being Wagner, completely in control, juggling different timelines, the then and the now, a fractured woman’s fractured memories making up a lot of the storytelling.


VISITING HOUR – Gordon Rennie, Anthony Williams, letters by Tom Frame

Something from the other writers in here now, as Gordon Rennie does his post-Total War story of Vienna recuperating and Rico and Dredd meant to be visiting her.

No action, no violence, just a quiet Dredd where we get a glimpse into the complicated history of the Clone family.


THE SEARCHERS – Gordon Rennie, Carl Critchlow, letters by Tom Frame

Another Rennie Dredd, showing us that he does/did have a really strong grasp of what it took to write Dredd.

In the aftermath of the Total War assault, Dredd is outside the city, into the Cursed Earth, looking for the stragglers who fled the city and haven’t got word that it’s safe to go back (or as safe as MC-1 is anyway.)

The message is simple, the Judges killed the people as much as Total War did and it’s Rennie taking a look from the other side of things as we deal with one family’s personal tragedy.

BITE FIGHT – John Smith, John Burns, letters by Tom Frame

One from the Megazine delights now, written by John Smith, a writer criminally underrated by so many. Here, it’s completely different from the whole Total War thing that dominates the Prog issues. Instead, it’s back to good old-fashioned strange and wonderful MC-1 adventures.

‘Bite Fight’ is all about the illegal Bite Club matches going on in Sector 301, The Pit. And yes, they’re exactly what you think they are, put them in a pit, handcuff their hands behind their backs and then let them fight it out, ripping the lives out of their defeated opponents.

It’s all about undercover Judges and surprise guest stars… clue – ‘biting’, Brit Cit, and one John Smith is rather well known for.


MEAT PATROL – Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Tom Frame

Another great single-issue Dredd from Rennie, along with great art from Simon Coleby, all on the old procedural trope of the ride-along, only this time it’s Dredd doing the ride-along with the meat wagon on the graveyard shift, picking up stiffs and cleaning up the streets.

Yes, you know where it’s going, you know the meat wagon Judge that Dredd failed all those years ago will come good eventually (well, it was that or we’d find out he was corrupt after all) but it’s how Rennie and Coleby get there that matters, all the details of the streets of MC-1 that make it work.

%d bloggers like this: