COMIC BOOK REVIEW: JUDGE DREDD: THE COMPLETE CASE FILES 24 / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: 2000AD / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 12TH
As The Complete Case Files continue their march towards modernity, the 24th edition finds Judge Joe Dredd, lawman of the future, hard at work as ever. Taking in both Progs and Megazines, there's a healthy cross-section of Dredd's adventures, from serious to goofy, lengthy to throwaway. Say what you will about the man's lack of humour and frequent bastardy, but his work ethic is unimpeachable.
While there are no world-shattering epics or big character revelations here, this is a strong collection which takes in some of Dredd's most interesting shorter tales. It kicks off with The Cal Files (written by John Wagner, with lovely paintwork by John Burns) which gives us conspiracy, murder and a well-pitched cameo from the great Chief Judge Caligula. Where the Big Two would have long since brought back a massively popular villain like Cal, 2000AD's reticence in playing the resurrection card makes these small cameos all the better (missteps like Helter Skelter aside), the stakes higher when Dredd does face off against an enemy like Mean Angel. The Cal Files delves into Dredd's origins – with Dredd and the comic handling the matter in typically stoic fashion.
This relative seriousness carries through to The Pit, which is as close to a police procedural as the strip has ever been. Here we see Dredd put in charge of the infamous Sector House 301, managing a squad of misfit Judges in the city's roughest district. If it's a lot shorter than you remember (it being 30 episodes long), that's because the story cuts out halfway through, whereupon The Megazine takes over, in a different (punkier, adult) self-contained direction. That's a disappointment, but if 2000AD had kept it to one book, we would be left with essentially just the trade paperback version of The Pit, with little room for anything else, so maybe that's for the best.
Especially when 'anything else' consists of such joys as Alan Grant's Ballad of Devil Angel – which culminates with a fistfight between a nude Dredd, The Angel Gang and The Devil, plus poetry – Killing Grounds (a Judge Death story, only not) and the ABC Warriors crossover (only not), Hammerstein. Initially billed as a battle between Judge Dredd and Hammerstein, the story disappointed upon its release in Progs 950-963, but printed here in retrospect, it's a fun read and a great prelude to Hammerstein's ABC Warrior adventures. Besides, Dredd and Hammerstein did meet, back when Dredd was Stallone and Rob Schneider saved the day – and we all know how that turned out. Rob Schneider saved the day.
In spite of its understandable truncating of The Pit, this is yet another great Dredd collection. While Batman and Spider-Man etcetera's stories are also available in order of publication, this really works thanks to Mega City and Dredd's ageing in real-time and the comic's great handling of its own canon. Best of all, we may be 24 books into the life and career of Judge Dredd, but we're not even nearly done yet. At this rate, we'll still be reading about Dredd's work even as our own personal Mega Cities are built around us. Don't tell the politicians we said this, but there's something to be said for that tireless, fascist work ethic.
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