One of the seminal Judge Dredd stories, 1982’s The Apocalypse War saw Mega-City One at odds with its Russian counterpart, East Meg One, climaxing in Dredd ordering the nuclear destruction of the enemy city. The consequences of that event have haunted the pages of 2000 AD ever since, including in the recent strips reprinted in this latest graphic novel collection.
In Get Sin, written by Rob Williams, Dredd leads a covert mission to a Sov prison. It’s a brutal and pacey war story with a couple of neat twists, and the art by Trevor Hairsine, Barry Kitson and Dylan Teague gives the location a cinematic look; we suspect Where Eagles Dare inspired the snow-covered castle and a certain action sequence.
War Buds, written by Dredd creator John Wagner, rejoins the squad who assisted Dredd on that fateful mission decades ago, now attempting to rescue one of their number who’s mentally unstable and scheduled for euthanasia. It’s a powerful story that uses its continuity hook to explore PTSD and the treatment of veterans. Dan Cornwall’s art is dramatic and detailed, though his more cartoonish style isn’t entirely fitting with the psychologically dark story.
Black Snow kicks off a trilogy of stories written by Michael Carroll, here with art by PJ Holden, and sees Dredd investigate a Siberian processing plant in distress. The reasoning for sending Dredd across the world on this mission is unclear, and the story isn’t the best in the book, but it does feature a bit where Dredd surfs down a stream of molten metal on a wolf.
Echoes, however, is far and away the highlight of the collection. This time, the fallout of the Apocalypse War is literally confronted, as Dredd finds himself stranded in the radioactive ruins of East Meg One. Colin MacNeil’s illustration and Chris Blythe’s sublime colours give a wintry chill to this wasteland and its twisted creatures, and the theme of what lingers behind after such devastation ties into a creepy twist.
Finally, The Shroud sees Dredd still in Siberia and sent to a secret labour camp. It’s a prison escape drama, and it’s fun to see Dredd’s inevitable plan come together, though certain supporting characters, notably a female inmate constantly used as ‘bait’, feel like they deserve more development. Artist Paul Davidson gives us some creatively nasty monsters.
So, while the first story implies increasing tensions between Mega-City One and the Sovs, this volume never delivers any major new shifts in Dredd’s world. Rather, it takes an event from 35 years ago and pokes from different directions at its lingering consequences. In a couple of cases, this results in stories that are both emotionally and dramatically powerful, and while some other tales don’t hit the same high notes, they all rattle along with 2000 AD’s typical violence and splendour.
JUDGE DREDD – COLD WARS / AUTHOR: MICHAEL CARROLL, ROB WILLIAMS, JOHN WAGNER / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: REBELLION / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 7TH