You can’t really argue against this fifth collection of Judge Dredd stories – it’s an undisputed stonker. There are four unique, high quality story threads, plus a small handful of fillers that sit in the gaps between them.
It starts with The Crime Files, a series of episodes based around various futuristic organised crimes, from body sharking to hitmen agencies. They make for a great introduction to Dredd’s violently satirical world.
This rolls straight into Judge Death Lives. Last seen in The Complete Case Files 03, Death is rescued by three more undead Dark Judges, who’ve teleported from their own twisted dimension to rescue their comrade from Judge Anderson’s brain.
There’s a brief respite, then we’re lead straight into the awesome 9-part Block Mania, in which the citizens go crazy. They start wars amongst themselves, dragging Mega City One into chaos. The story’s conclusion blends perfectly into The Apocalypse War, a 25-part classic Dredd epic that sees Mega City One invaded by Soviet judges.
All the stories are classics. Brian Bolland’s Death is a thing of decaying beauty, and it’s this story that helps establish Death and his cronies as all-time favourite Dredd villains. As a bonus, Judge Anderson is freed from her Boing prison and can rejoin Dredd’s regular retinue – she shows up again in The Apocalypse War, along with other long-term favourite Judge Hershey.
Where previous epics like The Cursed Earth and The Judge Child consisted of self-contained stories that new readers could jump in on, The Apocalypse War is a vastly superior story. It relies on cliff-hangers and plot twists, maintaining a chaotic momentum from the start. That it’s illustrated in its entirety by Carlos Ezquerra is a master-stroke, creating an unparalleled consistency that hadn’t been seen in a Dredd strip until this point.
If you want to sample some classic Judge Dredd this is a good place to start, skipping past the wobbly first volume. The Crime Files are as good an introduction to the character as any other story, and with Judge Death and The Apocalypse War in a single book, you couldn’t hope for much more.