Thursday, 23 January 2014

‘Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 20’ – Various (Rebellion)

In the mid to late nineties, reading 2000AD generally involved people saying to me, “Look, it’s not like I haven’t told you before. Either buy the comic or you’re going to have to leave.” Not my finest hour(s) but I was a student and had made a conscious decision to buy cigarettes and junk food instead. The upshot then was that there were some massive gaps in my 2000AD reading; there still are but I’m slowly catching up with myself by reading ‘The Complete Case Files’.
What I really like about these collections is that you can get huge stories all wrapped up in one volume. You know the ones I mean, stories like ‘The Apocalypse War’ that (way back in the day) would take months to unfold. I was a little bit disappointed then to see that ‘The Complete Case Files 20’ doesn’t have one of these tales, or even a tale slightly shorter, instead going for a series of one off stories and three or four parters. I really wanted to get stuck into something ‘epic’ that opens up Dredd’s world and promises stuff for the future. There’s none of that here but, in the midst of a collection where the quality ranges from ‘mediocre’ to ‘not bad’, there are a few real gems to be found. These are the ones I’m going to talk about first.

‘Bury my knee at Wounded Heart’ is a touching and poignant tale of one old man’s fight to give his wife a little dignity in death; dignity that the demands of Mega City One life cannot make room for. Focussing on this man’s fight really highlights the crushing oppression of future life and even forces Dredd to question what is right (although I had to appreciate the way that the law remains the law, nice little end to the story). I loved this story and thought that Mega City One could do with a few more tales like it. It was funny then that ‘Freefall’ followed not long after; same kind of approach with exactly the same results. Both very powerful tales indeed.
‘The Enemy Below’ was awesome, in the most part due to Clint Langley’s striking artwork but also because the reader is forced to look at things from the monster’s perspective for a short while. A straightforward monster tale then (with gorgeously claustrophobic artwork depicting the flooded Halls of Justice) becomes an ever so slightly tragic tale of misunderstanding. While there’s no way that everyone would have been good friends, ‘The Enemy Below’ does leave you wondering what might have been… ‘Giant’ is another strong tale that will strike a chord with long term fans (I knew just enough to get behind, and root for, this cadet taking his final exam). Ian Gibson’s gives ‘Giant’ a real old school feel which I couldn’t help but think was meant to bridge the gap between the cadet and his illustrious father.

There are some excellent tales to be found in ‘The Complete Case Files 20’ then, it’s just a shame that you have to plough through a whole load of ultimately forgettable tales to get to them. Seriously, they all just merged into one long tale of Dredd arresting stuff that didn’t really explore the character or advance any kind of plot arc. These are stories that I can see working very well in a single issue of 2000AD (as a one off ‘quick hit’) but they don’t do themselves any favours all bunched together. It’s a real shame as I’m sure I remember some of these very differently from years ago (look at me being all nostalgic…) Oh well, on to the next collection…

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