Wednesday, January 15, 2014


JUDGE DREDD: THE COMPLETE CASE FILES VOL. 5 (2000 AD, First US Printing, 2012; Softcover)

Collects the Judge Dredd stories from 2000 A.D. Nos. 208-270 (cover dates April18, 1981- June 26, 1982)

Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant

Artists: Brian Bolland, Carlos Ezquerra, Colin Wilson, Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Ian Gibson, Steve Dillon, Barry Mitchell, and John Cooper

I saw Dredd 3D in September of 2012 and loved it. I knew who Judge Dredd was, being an Anthrax fan in the '80s and all. Heck, I can even brag about seeing the abysmal Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd film in the theatre. The 2012 film really grabbed me, though, so much so that I decided to do some digging to see if there were any collected editions of the character. Boy are there collected editions! There was an entire library of completist-minded phone books entitled The Complete Case Files.

I immediately set out on a mad quest to collect them all. Many of them were out of print, only pouring gasoline on my OCD completism. I must own them!, I thought. They wouldn't have gone out of print if they weren't so good that every single copy sold! The good news is that yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and Santa bought me the entire collection for Christmas 2012. The better news is that these are being reissued here in the United States by Simon & Schuster. 

For those of you who are not familiar with the character, Judge Dredd is a no-nonsense, tough as nails lawman in the future. After a nuclear war, people are grouped into habitable zones called Mega-Cities. Judge Dredd takes place in Mega-City One, which is a population centre which encompasses most of the East Coast of the United States. The Judges deal with the rampant crime of the future by being judge, jury, and executioner all in one. Their gun is called their Lawgiver, and fires six different types of bullets.

The strip is, at times, a black comedy and satire precursor to both Robocop and Futurama. It reads well in that regard and even better as a straight up action strip. The over the top violence has a cheekiness to it which is decidedly British. This is way more violent than American comic books of the day. The layout and largely narrative free nature of these stories served as an inspiration for decompressed comic books some 20 years later. Rather than learn how to use this spaced out storytelling method for maximum impact like the British did, American writers just used it to pad out story arcs to fit a trade paperback. This material was way ahead of its time and holds up extremely well over thirty years later. 

Artwork by Brian Bolland.
Being a weekly strip, there isn't much of the way in recaps in each story aside from a box or two of text. This keeps the story flowing and moving forward, making the most of the six or so pages per issue. There are a few “key” arcs in this book. Judge Death Lives!, with it's absolutely brilliant Brian Bolland artwork, is pure genius. Judge Death returns with three other judges from his dimension, Deadworld, with Judges Fear, Fire, and Mortis in tow. To end the menace once and for all, Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson journey to Deadworld, where all crime was committed by the living. All of the living were sentenced to death. For some reason this makes complete sense and makes me wonder if the machines will come to a similar conclusion once they assume dominance in our society.

The next arc is arguably part of the third arc in this book, but I'll leave that up to the 2000 AD experts of the world to argue about. Block Mania sets the stage, with the citizens of Mega-City One engaging in, well, block wars. You see, each block in the city is a gigantic apartment complex filled with shops and whatnot. Residents often spend their entire lives in these without ever leaving them. The city is overcrowded and mostly poor, so the chemical that contaminates the water merely throws a match on gas soaked rags. There are many gags laced throughout this arc. Some of the blocks have amusing names, all of which are based on celebrities. 

The Apocalypse War is a 25 part epic. (Mild 30 year old spoilers ahead in this paragraph.) With Mega-City One in disarray and the judges spread thin from the Block Wars, now is the time for the Soviets in East-Meg One to strike. Nearly half of the population is killed from their nuclear assault. Bear in mind, this was originally published at the height of the Cold War. I can still recall growing up when the Russians were our enemies. Mutually assured destruction and all that jazz. I'll leave it up to Anthrax to some this one up for you. Taken from their song I Am The Law (1987):
When the Sovs started The Apocalypse War
Mega-City was bombed to the floor
Dredd resisted and the judges fought back
Crushed the Sovs with their counter attack

One of the recurring themes popping up in the strip is the Futsies, who suffer from Future Shock. Future Shock a sort of insanity developed by those unable to cope with the advent of technology and robots doing nearly all jobs. Cripes, we are on the verge of that here in the halfway mark of the second decade of the 21st century, let alone in the early 22nd century that this book takes place in. 

Carlos Ezquerra is a fan favorite. His style is a bit rougher than Bolland's but works.
So it took me just over a year to read the first five of these books. I currently have all of them, which means that I have 16 more and all 4 Restricted Case Files books. 2000 AD has plans to reissue the Daily Star strip reprint books later this year. In any case, given my current productivity reading this in and around my other reviews, you can count on seeing periodic Judge Dredd reviews until at least 2019, and that's before factoring in the forthcoming volume 22 and beyond. I'll be here doing these reviews for as long you'll be here to read them...and even if you're not I'll still be here doing them. Haha!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Please note the review of the materials used is for the version produced for North America by Simon & Schuster.
There is no table of contents or page numbers, so you have no indication which story is from what issue unless you start counting when you read the book or refer to sites like Comic Book Database. This might not annoy some folks but it annoys the piss out of me and hampers my reading enjoyment.
Also annoying is how only the issue covers featuring Judge Dredd are collected in this book, and they are all grouped in the back. They are presented in black and white. Some of the story pages, often the first two, were originally published in color but are presented in black and white here. These 400 plus page phonebooks are like Marvel Essentials or DC Showcase Presents lines, so I will give them a pass for being in black and white. I just figured that I would mention it since the type of people that read The OCD zone find this information to be helpful.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Extras? No. The only covers provided are for the issues where Judge Dredd was on the cover, #210, 215, 219, 221, 224, 236 (two page wraparound cover), and 262.
Linework restoration rating: 4.25 out of 5. Things look murky every now and again but are generally good. The worst thing about this book is the horrific gutter loss. Every story starts out with a two page spread, and if there are word balloons that went across the gutter then there are letters that get sucked into oblivion. Resizing the pages would have helped. These books are wider than normal trade paperbacks but the original issues were still larger than this book. The artwork is already slightly shrunk down in size.
The *Tharg Note footnote box in the final story refers to The Judge Child UK book rather than the issue number. Is it possible that they altered the files with a paste up when they compiled the issues into books for the UK market and then never fixed them? Because we totally need a comprehensive high end hardcover line with covers and certain pages all in color if that is the case...
Paper rating: 4.25 out of 5. This book has a good weight uncoated stock paper.
Binding rating: 4.25 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback with a nice thick band of glue.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 4.5 out of 5. This book has a slightly waxy feeling dull matte finish coating on the cardstock cover. It is sufficiently resistant to scuffing.

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