After a strong run of Case Files in the previous three volumes, the eighth book in the Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files series, which collects every Dredd story printed in 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, takes something of a dip in quality.
The big story in this volume is City of the Damned, which sees Judges Dredd and Anderson travel in a time machine 20 years into the future, where a mutant clone of Owen Krysler (the Judge Child from Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 04) has destroyed Mega City One.
Unlike some of the best longer Dredd stories, art duties on this one are handled by a number of artists, including Steve Dillon and Ron Smith. I adore the work of both these artists on separate stories but running through a single story like this, switching from one episode to the next, creates a juxtaposition of different styles that’s spectacularly jarring. Dillon’s work fits the series nicely, with a dark, gritty edge that suits the post apocalyptic landscape. Smith is, in my opinion, better at illustrating Mega City One as a dazzling future city, particularly when its citizens are engaged in mind-blowingly eccentric behaviour, so is less suited to this particular sub-series.
The story, while clearly canonical Dredd (what with featuring Anderson and the Judge Child), is slow to get rolling and has a disappointing mid-section, though by the end it picks up its pace and has a finalé that won’t disappoint. It doesn’t hold up against true epics like The Apocalypse War, though.
There’s plenty of room for other stories in the book, too. Dredd Angel sees the return of Mean Machine Angel (another veteran of the Judge Child saga), as he leads Dredd into the Cursed Earth to recover some valuable Justice Department clone babies under the false (surgically created) impression that Dredd is his father. It barely makes any sense but try not to look too deeply into it.
There are also a few defining moments of classic Mega City madness. The Hunters Club is like a cross between the Masons and the Mansons – a group of killers who pick someone at random and kill them for fun. Sunday Night Fever starts like a rerun of The Graveyard Shift (reprinted in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 07) but quickly diverts into a meditation on mass unemployment and how jobs in Mega City One could be so attractive that people will kill to try and land the most dangerous and deadly of paid assignments. There’s also a superb short story called Thirteenth Assessment about a trainee judge on an examination exercise with Dredd, that perfectly captures the change a judge goes through to become a Mega City law enforcer.
However, even some of these shorter stories have their artists flipped across various chapters and it’s all a bit much. Other stories just ring hollow, like Dredd Angel, or simply smack of filler-material.
So, it’s a mixed bag that’s probably one of the most disappointing collections to date. Clearly, if you’re invested in the entire series then it’s going to land in you collection anyway, but if you’re dipping in and out of these books, we’d recommend any of the previous three over this one.