Written by John Wagner
Illustrated by Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Ron Smith
Published by Rebellion
In this collected edition of the classic strip from 2000AD, Judge Dredd returns from his adventures in the Cursed Earth to face the rise of the insane Judge Cal, who brings tyranny and civil war to Mega City One.
First published in 1978-79, this sequence is typical of 2000ADs approach at that time. The story develops in broad brush strokes with an almost Saturday morning cinema feel to the cliffhangers and death defying reveals in the following issue. The art is bold, and the Lawmasters and other vehicles are rendered more lovingly than most of the featured cast.
The introduction of the extraterrestrial Klegg mercenaries part way through the tale feels fairly redundant, as they do little to progress the story and depart at the end with indecent haste. More compelling are Judge Cal’s increasing bizarre edicts, such as banning happiness, thought the impact of these on regular citizens is barely followed through.
Of course, in 1978, the focus of the strip was its eponymous hero, and here Dredd is challenged on all sides, as once loyal colleagues turn against him and support comes from some most unexpected quarters. In one instalment, Dredd even spends the strip out of his helmet, with just a ring of bandages to preserve the oft-presumed and never revealed horror of his face.
Overall, this collection stands the test of time with a pacy story, fan pleasing appearances by Pinstripe and Walter the Robot, and a sardonic reflection on Imperial Rome. As contemporary Dredd comes to terms with the Chaos, it is perhaps as good a time as ever to revel in one of the earliest?cataclysms to befall Mega City One.