Previewing ‘Essential Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War’ – Has There Ever Been A More Essential Dredd?

by Richard Bruton

The Apocalypse War is the Judge Dredd epic that defines what we think of as a Dredd epic, the storyline that defines what Dredd would become and firmly establishes John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra as the absolute masters of the character.

And now 2000 AD & Rebellion are bringing it out once more, this most essential of all Dredd in the Essential graphic novel collection.

First released in 1981-1982, The Apocalypse War saga consists of two storylines – Block Mania and The Apocalypse War, with the former running straight into the latter to create the absolutely defining Dredd epic and a storyline that not only features four of the best Dredd artists there’s ever been but one that established Carlos Ezquerra as the definitive Dredd artist.

It’s a saga that’s certainly stood the test of time, retaining all of its power, all its excitement, all of the shocks, nearly 40 years on from its first publication. And frankly, if you’ve never read this particular epic Dredd, I’m just that little bit jealous of the thrills you’re going to get here, exactly the sort of thrill that I had when I first read it, many years ago now.

And obviously, although do we really need to say this for something published nearly 40 years ago, spoilers ahead…

For those of you who don’t know, The Apocalypse War rightly consists of two great storylines, with writers John Wagner and Alan Grant spinning this tale out so wonderfully well, beginning with a crisis befalling MC-1 and transforming that initial tale into an epic of sci-fi warfare.

We begin with Block Mania, where the citizens of Mega-City 1 – hardly rational at the best of times – find themselves driven to violence, their underlying hatred of their neighbouring blocks boiling over into the Block Wars. But the reasons for the mania turn out not to be some random accident but part of a wider conspiracy and a carefully coordinated plot masterminded by East-Meg One that will end in the deaths of millions of poor cits on both sides.

Every time I read The Apocalypse War, that transition from what begins as another ‘weird stuff happening in MC-1’ type of tale, through to tight criminal investigation and spy thriller, through to epic all-out war never fails to impress. Likewise, the moments of utter shock in The Apocalypse War still hit hard. Even though we know that there’s a Sov missile attack coming, even though we know of the nuclear devastation that will befall both sides, it still shocks in its scale and the brutal methods of both sides, with Wagner and Grant relishing the ample chances to show just how little those in power think of their people when considering their actions.

So, strap yourself in. If this is your first time, as I’ve said already, you’re in for a stunning read. If this is just you’re latest re-read, you’re STILL in for a stunning read in an updated version.


Essential Judge Dredd – The Apocalypse War. Contains the storylines Block Mania and The Apocalypse War, originally published in 2000 AD Progs #236-244, 245-267, 269-279.

Block Mania – written by John Wagner, Alan Grant, art by Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Brian Bolland, Steve DillonThe Apocalypse War – written by John Wagner, Alan Grant, art by Carlos Ezquerra.

Colours by Charlie Kirchoff, letters by Tom Frame and Steve Potter.

Published by 2000 AD/Rebellion on 19th January 2021.

Now, time for a preview and the first episodes of both Block Mania and The Apocalypse War


%d bloggers like this: