(2019) John Wagner et al, 2000AD / Rebellion, £14.99 / Can$26.99 / US$19.99, pbk, unnumbered pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08694-0"
This review is for past regular readers of the weekly British comic 2000AD who still occasionally follow Dredd in the compilation graphic novels, and for overseas fans following Dredd in these compilations.
This compilation consists of four stories with the latter three linked: one follows straight on from the other. All were originally serialised in 2000AD between 2016-8. All the stories concern Mega-City One's relationship with the Sov Block and it history with the Apocalypse War at the end of which Dredd nuked East-Meg One. This was all serialised in 2000AD back in 1981-2 and is an early, formative part of the overarching Dredd story arcs.
All the stories in this anthology are in full colour.
The first story 'Get Sin' sees Dredd and a band of Judges go on a covert mission deep into Sov territory to a Siberian mountaintop prison to get back a senior judge thought killed off-world by the Sovs. In fact the judge had been taken prisoner and was being interrogated for knowledge of Mega-City One's security. This story effectively brings back from the dead a key character from Tour of Duty – Backlash and Tour of Duty – Mega-City Justice. For those who still occasionally follow Dredd in the compilation graphic novels, and for overseas fans following Dredd in these compilations, this will be of some interest. Mega-City One still has some tensions over mutants and it is not hard to foresee that in the future someone will use this character as a rallying figurehead.
'War Buds' concerns the (now former) judges who, way back when, were with Dredd in the Sov Block as part of the Apocalypse Squad exacting revenge on East-Meg One. One of them is in a psychiatric ward with severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with extreme guilt at his being party to wiping out East-Meg One. His team mates decide to spring him from the hospital and get him medical treatment in Texas City. But in the course of this a doctor gets beaten up and the former judges impersonate serving judges (jimping) so making them criminals. Getting away will not be easy.
'War Buds' is scripted by Dredd co-creator John Wagner. Enough said, it fits right in with the broader Dredd canon.
This story touches on a recurring theme of Judge Dredd, that of the tension between being lawful and doing right, and doing what is needed to be done for the sake of Mega-City One. Dredd is part of right-wing fascist state, but a fascist state that believes it is doing the best it can for its citizens. (And of course, this itself relates to 'the big lie'.)
Next up is a series of three connected stories, each following on form the previous. A remote Siberian Sov outpost comes under attack but East-Meg Two is not responding so Mega -City One send in a team headed up by Dredd…
Though entertaining enough, best not to dissect this story too much as it tends to fall apart at the seams all over the place.
Treachery on the team's start of their return to Mega-City One in 'Echoes' as a hull bomb takes out their craft. Only Dredd and another judge survive. But, as they make their way, they are being watched, and not by anything you could exactly call human…
The flashback telling of this story neither helps in driving the plot forward, nor disguises that at its heart it is something of a variation of the story 'the fear that made Milwaukee famous' in the first Dredd annual way back in 1980. (Irrelevant point: I saw the original artwork for that story when visiting Tharg's command module as part of a PSIFA field trip.)
Finally, we have 'The Shroud', and Dredd has to outwit some slavers to whom he has been sold. Again, entertaining enough but not worth looking at too closely.
Though all the stories are at least a reasonable read, it is the first two that stand out. To return to the start of this review, past regular readers of the weekly British comic 2000AD who still occasionally follow Dredd in the compilation graphic novels, and for overseas fans following Dredd in these compilations will want this collection for the first two stories. Current 2000AD regulars will already be aware of them as they all originally appeared in 2000AD in the past four years. Occasional; Dredd fans who simply dip in now and then can give this collection a pass. Finally, newcomers to Dredd would also be better off skipping this and focussing on some of the recent, longer arc, Dredd graphic collections such as: Origins, Tour of Duty – Backlash and Tour of Duty – Mega-City Justice as well as Day of Chaos – The Fourth Faction, Day of Chaos – End Game and Day of Chaos – Fallout.
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