Previewing ‘Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 37’ – Putting The Law In Order Once More

by Richard Bruton

Featuring tales written by John Wagner, Gordon Rennie, and the final Garth Ennis Dredd, alongside art from Carlos Ezquerra, Cam Kennedy, and John Burns, Volume 37 of The Complete Case Files is out on 22nd July.

(Cover by Patrick Goddard)

The Complete Case Files, reprinting Judge Dredd’s appearances in both 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, are now up to 2000 AD Progs #1336-1364 and Megazine #201-206, all from 2003, with plenty of great Dredd tales to get your teeth into.

There’s no real big ‘event’ storyline this time around, with the longest story coming with ‘Revenge of the Chief Judge’s Man at eight episodes, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty to entertain. In fact, there’s a real joy in simply celebrating the skills involved in Dredd’s shorter tales, something that’s always been a huge part of 2000 AD.

‘The Trial of Orlok’ – by John Wagner and Cam Kennedy

The opener, ‘The Trial of Orlok, gets us off to a cracking start, as you’d expect from John Wagner playing with the toybox from the Apocalypse War. Cam Kennedy’s on superb form here as well, all wonderfully angular and striking.

In just two parts, Wagner laid out a compelling courtroom drama, the defence counsel’s only hope of a case resting on showing that Orlok’s actions were merely as deadly as Dredd’s, comparing the Sin City poisonings with the destruction of East-Meg One. It’s a sombre thing, with Wagner brilliantly questioning the fundamentals of justice.

A Night at the Opera’ by Gordon Rennie and Paul Marshall

You also get those lighter moments, such as Gordon Rennie and Paul Marshall’s ‘A Night At The Opera, playing out a farce of Dredd being ordered to represent the Justice Department at the (explosive) premiere of a new opera, Cal: Tragedy of a Tyrant.

It’s this sort of strange daftness that makes the world of Dredd such a wonderfully mixed bag, although you could always argue that Rennie wrote it with that end line in mind – “It ain’t over until the fat guy explodes.”

Then we’re back into darkness, with ‘Hard Day’s Night’ from Robbie Morrison, Patrick Goddard and Dylan Teague. Another familiar sort of Dredd, the procedural, with Dredd hunting down the perps in a kidnapping, saddled with a Cadet Judge with a past.

‘Hard Day’s Night’ by Robbie Morrison, Patrick Goddard and Dylan Teague

And those three opening stories, all completely different, act as perhaps a perfect showcase to what Dredd is all about – there’s no story that can’t be told in Mega-City One, and these Case Files are a great proof of that. There’s a great joy in reading Dredd’s adventures in graphic novel form, but they all tend to focus on the epic Dredd’s, the big multi-parters with huge storylines. Here in the Case Files you actually get the pure Dredd experience, the long and the short tales, the nasty ones, the funny ones, the procedurals, allowing all the elements that make Mega-City One and Judge Dredd such a perennial favourite and a character that seems forever fresh and relevant, no matter what era you start with.

It is rather Wagner’s show though, in these years where his dominance was perhaps loosening, with other writers coming to prominence on Dredd. But Wagner’s tales just have that wonderful quality about them, that X-Factor that makes them just work so well, the voice simply perfect and the tone of the tales, whether deadly serious or wonderfully daft, always just spot on.

For another trio of examples, take ‘Revenge of the Chief Judge’s Man’, ‘The Satanist’, and ‘Phartz’, all of them just great Wagner stories, again all different, again all just having that perfect tone.

‘Revenge of the Chief Judge’s Man’ by John Wagner and John Burns

‘Revenge of the Chief Judge’s Man’ by Wagner and John Burns is the centerpiece of the book in many ways, the longest strip, but also one that speaks to the past of Dredd, with Wagner on cracking form, following the genetically-enhanced Armon Gill, still believing himself ‘The Chief Judge’s Man,’ only this time looking to extract revenge after escaping from his Cursed Earth prison.

In ‘The Satanist, by Wagner and Charlie Adlard, Dredd’s on a strange case in Brit-Cit, Wagner bringing back his niece, Vienna, for a nasty bit of occult possession, and then, with Phartz, Wagner’s playing it for semi-laughs, along with some great Ezquerra artwork, as the Big Meg gets invaded by the silent but deadly (smelling) Phartz from space.

The whole volume ends with Monkey on my Back, that final Garth Ennis three-parter from the Megazine, with art from John Higgins. It’s a flashback to 2099 AD, with Chief Judge Goodman possessed by the Monkey, a mutant from the Cursed Earth. Goodman opens up MC-1 to mutants and exiles and chaos ensues.

It’s a perfect example of Garth Ennis’ Dredd and why it just never quite worked as well as it really should have done – a great idea, Wagnerian in its execution, political intrigue, Dredd on the investigation, dogged, determined to get to the bottom of things. And yet, despite having everything going for it, it just doesn’t quite connect. It’s good for sure, but it’s just not the brilliance of Wagner, and it was probably for the best when Ennis went on to do far better work elsewhere, work which suited his style so much more.

‘Monkey On My Back’ – by Garth Ennis and John Higgins

Judge Dredd – The Complete Case Files 37
Written by John Wagner, Gordon Rennie, Garth Ennis, Robbie Morrison, Ian Edginton. Art by Cam Kennedy, Paul Marshall, Patrick Goddard, Dylan Teague, John Burns, Charlie Adlard, Ian Gibson, Simon Fraser, PJ Holden, Inaki Miranda, Dean Ormston, Steve Pugh, Carlos Ezquerra, Lee Sullivan, Simon Coleby, John Higgins. Cover by Patrick Goddard

Originally serialised in 2000 AD Progs #1336-1364 and Judge Dredd Megazine #201-206

Published by Rebellion / 2000 AD and released on 22nd July.

Now… a preview of just a few of the great Dredd tales to be found in this latest Case Files volume…

The Trial of Orlok – by John Wagner and Cam Kennedy, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Tom Frame

A Night at the Opera by Gordon Rennie and Paul Marshall, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Tom Frame

Hard Day’s Night by Robbie Morrison, Patrick Goddard and Dylan Teague, colours by Chris Blythe, letters by Tom Frame

Revenge of the Chief Judge’s Man by John Wagner and John Burns, letters by Tom Frame

Phartz by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, letters by Tom Frame