Graphic Novel Reviews

Judge Dredd: Necropolis vols 1 + 2

(2003) John Wagner & Carlos Ezequerra et al, Titan Books, 16.99 / US$19.95,
large format pbk, pp unnumbered, ISBN 1-840-23601-9 and 1-840-23635-3

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 14

(2013 second printing) John Wagner & Carlos Ezequerra et al, 19.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-906-73529-6


This is a classic Judge Dredd epic that follows up on the original. The Dark Judges stories that introduced Judge Death.

This is the epic reprinted from the weekly 2000AD comic from 1990. The dark sisters (Phobia and Nausea) use a psi Judge to form a bridge to our dimension. They then use 'Dredd' to use a judge's tech facility, researching dimensional exploration, to bring across Judge Death and chums, Fear, Mortis and Fire, who then proceed to control Mega City's Judges and begin to exterminate life (which the Dark Judges consider to be the root of all crime and hence a sin). Meanwhile Dredd (note not 'Dredd' in the City who is really Kraken) is on the long walk in the Cursed Earth when he senses something is wrong back at Mega City 1 and so sets off home...

This is literally one of the Dredd classics and features a landmark in the development of Dredd's character. The reason Dredd resigned to take the long walk was because he had become disillusioned due to the 'big lie': that the Judges knew what was best for the people (hence took over from democracy). The last thing he did on leaving the City was to fail Kraken's assessment: Kraken being a reformed Judda -- the rest of the Judda had been wiped out as a band of extremist Judge clones of Fargo, hence Dredd twins. Of course the City could not do without Dredd and so the blood line replacement 'Dredd' (Kraken) was put on the streets.

Necropolis was originally re-printed as a single volume in 1998 by Hamlyn. The two 2003 volumes, co-published with Titan, actually incorporate many extra pages including 'Countdown to Necropolis' and an episode of 'The Tale of the Dead Man'. This means that readers get a substantial chunk of the back-story. Other bits to the immediate back-story are scattered throughout Dredd strips mostly originally published between 1987 and 1990 that broadly relate to the rise and fall of Mega City 1's democracy movement and some of these have been reprinted elsewhere, not to mention subsequently developed. And then there is the Judge Death back-story which has also been collected and reprinted a number of times. However the move here to expand on the original story by including a Dead Man tale and the immediate run-up is extremely welcome!  Conversely the 1998 Hamlyn edition misses out on the Kraken and Dredd 'long walk' The Dead Man sequences.

As I said back in 2004 (before this review's 2017 update), I do though wish that they had brought together all the Dead Man tales (and not just those connected with the immediate run-up to Necropolis as this was only a short run and would not sit easily within any other Dredd collection that I can think. As it happened The Dead Man collection was compiled in 2009.

Back in 2004 I also said that I would seriously urge Titan and Rebellion to consider this in a few years time when another re-print is mooted. And mooted it is bound to be because the Judge Death tales have so far proved popular (at least three reprints of the original Judge Death tale) since the first collection of Death reprints appeared in 1983.  This then happened in 2009 with a second printing in 2014.

Both the 2003 volumes are in full colour. I can't remember (and it would mean digging out the originals I've box archived to check) but I suspect that this means that colour has been added to some pages from when the tale came out in the original 2000AD strips. Vol 2. contains some artwork by Jeff Anderson, Will and Wendy Simpson. Importantly, for his long-term service to 2000 since the beginning, the lettering is done by the legendary Tom Frame: a man who is oft overlooked - well we at Concat know who is truly zarjaz: Tom sadly died in 2006.

This brings us on to the Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 14, which is actually the same story (with all the early Dead Man and 'Countdown to Necropolis' run up included. Its second printing in 2013 demonstrates just how popular is this story. If you have only just come to the joys of Judge Dredd and Judge Death, then this is currently the edition to get.

2000AD (or 2000AD + Starlord) has had its ups and downs over the years. If you've never been into Judge Dredd (whose film was thin) and can't be bothered to become a subscriber to the weekly 2000AD (which has had, and continues to have, other excellent strips) then these graphic novel collections are an excellent way to dip into the 2000 stable and no where better or worse than to start with Necropolis. If the bug gets you there are old reprints currently (2004) out of the black and white early stories and these are a good place to help you catch up. (No point trying to collect back issues of 2000AD as anything over half a dozen years costs too much and are too hard to track down. Other collections of different strips worth looking at include: Strontium Dog (future bounty hunter), Skizz (an alien's encounter with contemporary Earth), DR & Quinch (future delinquent humour), and Halo Jones: The Ballad of (girl leaves future Earth to find an uncompromising universe, and this even spawned an excellent rock single whose album even made the charts). All the afore are hard and new wave SF, while 2000AD fantasy fans appear to enthuse over Slaine. 2000AD now has a new generation of followers so it is never too late.

Jonathan Cowie

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