Essential Judge Dredd doesn’t get much more essential than The Apocalypse War, the essential Judge Dredd story which essentially started it all. Big, world-changing stories had come before in the shape of The Cursed Earth and The Day the Law Died, but The Apocalypse War forever raised the stakes for Dredd and Mega City One. Its impact can still be felt today, as can the ramifications of Dredd’s actions in bringing the war to an end.
The second book in the Essential Judge Dredd collection compiles the complete storyline, starting with the unassuming Block War with which it begins. Events spiral from citizens fighting in the street to all-out-war between Mega City One and the Soviet Judges of Russia. With the Judges distracted by rioting citizens, the East Meg launches a surprise attack, nuking Mega City One. Widely regarded as the greatest storyline in the character’s history, The Apocalypse War has it all – biting satire, thrilling action, grisly violence, and Dredd at his moral grey-est. Apocalyptic warfare is promised and that’s exactly what John Wagner, Alan Grant, and Carlos Ezquerra deliver. The comic strip is transformed into a gritty war epic, demolishing entire districts of the Big Meg and cruelly obliterating over 150 million citizens. All this, in full colour, allowing the iconic artwork to take centre stage. Charlie Kirchoff’s colours are no mere paint-by-numbers, breathing a whole new life into the story, making Apocalypse War look better than ever. And it wasn’t to be sniffed at before either – featuring the terrific artwork of Ezquerra, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith, Mike McMahon, and Steve Dillon, this has always been one of 2000AD’s most impressively illustrated books.
40 years later, and The Apocalypse War is still the mega-epic by which all other mega-epics are judged. The story has lost none of its thrill-power with time, and hits just as hard now as it ever did. Simply put, it’s the Judge Dredd mega-epic.