Douglas Wolk’s series aimed at reviewing every Dredd-related graphic novel at Dredd Reckoning continues, and he’s reached Case Files 8:
Two years after the end of “The Apocalypse War,” its spectre was still looming over Judge Dredd, but Alan Grant and John Wagner had pretty much run out of “post-war” plot kernels. (The anniversary parade at the beginning of “Question of Judgement” is a good gag, with a mushroom cloud and a pile of bodies staged as floats, but that’s about it this time.) It’s clear that the mega-epics were very popular, but that they were also exhausting to pull off.
And it must have been a mighty task to come up with a new angle for an epic: since the premise of the series is the relationship between the protagonist and the city, there are only so many ways to get a long story out of upending that relationship. Pat Mills had already done the “Dredd goes out of the city into a very un-city-like environment” plot (and Wagner and Grant revisited the Cursed Earth for “Helltrekkers,” a 29-part serial that ran from Prog 387 to Prog 415, and has been reprinted a couple of times but never as a book, but let me tell you, you’re not missing anything). Wagner had done the “Dredd moves to a different city” plot and the “Dredd leads the rebellion against the new leadership of the city” plot. They’d done the “Dredd leaves the city and the planet and goes on an outer-space quest” plot. Then they’d done the “city becomes a war-zone, thereby changing all the rules” plot.
So for the first third of this volume, you can see Grant and Wagner casting about for ways to make the feature stay fresh. “Dredd Angel” is the best thing in the volume—it’s very funny most of the time (the gag about “the lost treasures of Liberace” is an excellent conceit, if one likely to be lost on British 14-year-olds in 1984), and Ron Smith plays a couple of scenes for comedy that other artists would have treated as straighter violent chaos.
“Thirteenth Assessment” is a cute take on the “Dredd and the rookie” formula, and Judge Brisco actually turned up again in 2000 AD just a few weeks ago. (I guess his mom got out of jail sometime around the end of “The Satanist.”) “Sunday Night Fever” (which features Arthur Koestler Block leapers again!) finds Cam Kennedy trying to work some of his Mike McMahon-isms out of his system, but it’s a nice-looking piece as it is. In the prog after this volume ends, Kennedy would draw the first episode of the next great Dredd story. But that will have to wait until the 18th: next week, we take another detour into color, as we arrive at the second volume of The Restricted Files.