The Small House is the culmination of several years of threads that have been running through Judge Dredd stories in 2000AD. Chief antagonist Judge Smiley has been retrofitted into the Dredd universe dating back to Judge Cal (see The Day the Law died in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 02), but actually first appeared as a Dredd baddie much later on. Essentially, he’s a behind the scenes manipulator, clearly a bit bonkers, but with his own special unit of black-ops Judges. He was secretly instated by Chief Judge Griffin to operate in the background to ensure that a tyrant like Cal could never rise again.
As a result, I suspect that you need to be well up on your modern Dredd stories to get the most out of this one, and I have to admit that I’m not. If you are, then perhaps this is the universe-shattering event that publisher Rebellion would like us to think it is. However, from my perspective it’s not up there with the all-time great Dredd stories.
The art is gritty and solid, though. Henry Flint captures Mega City One well, managing to simultaneously give it a worn future look with a relatively muted palette, while still drawing out the bright lights and occasional splashes of brightness that you might expect from a city of the future. His judges are grim and rugged, and his backgrounds are strewn with lived-in imperfections and grime.
As a Dredd fan of old who has lost track of the latest Mega City happenings, this is certainly no jumping-on point. It’s a solid-enough story but one that’s perhaps a bit bogged down in its own history.