The crime is life! The judgement is death! We go back to the early days of Dredd now in the Essential Judge Dredd collection and the first appearances of Judge Death – as Dredd discovers you cannot kill what does not live!
After the previous volumes of the Essential Judge Dredd, America, Origins, Apocalypse War, it’s only right that we get the entirety of the first three essential Judge Death storylines, packed full of unbelievably memorable moments, including the first appearances of Judge Death and the rest of the Dark Judges as well as perennial favourite character Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson, as well as this… perhaps the most iconic Dredd moment there is?
Inside, there’s three essential tales – ‘Judge Death’ and ‘Death Lives’ by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, plus ‘Four Dark Judges’ by Wagner/Grant and Brett Ewins, Cliff Robinson, and Robin Smith.
But somewhat strangely, we then jump forward plenty to get a couple of strange choices in the Death saga – Death Becomes Him (from Progs 1114-1115) and ‘A Night With Judge Death’ (Prog 1168). Strange because it does miss a chunk of Death appearances and because this one could have been done perfectly with just those essential tales. Obviously, this isn’t to say that these aren’t cool Death stories in themselves and it’s particularly fascinating to see just how great Alex Ronald‘s art is here, but are they really as essential as those first three?
And sure, the addition of the Dredd choose your own adventure is a cool addition from the much-loved Dice Man comic, where Mills, Wagner, Grant, and Bryan Talbot have plenty of fun mixing things up with Death and finding wonderful ways to die, but the meat of this one is definitely in those undeniably essential trio of tales opening this volume.
One thing you forget with these Death storylines is just how dense and concise they were. Take the very first introduction to the threat of Judge Death – it’s all over in just 15 pages, where we see the threat of Death come to MC-1, get the first appearance of Judge Anderson, and then race to the ending with Anderson’s heroic sacrifice to trap both herself and Death inside the Boing coffin.
And all three of those first Death tales have that same sense of fast-paced action, yet Wagner and Wagner/Grant have the storytelling chops to make it incredibly satisfying, never rushed, and always perfectly paced – they really are stunning examples of early Dredd, the stories that created the legend.
And then there’s the artwork in the three opening tales, first with Bolland and then Ewins, who absolutely define the look and feel of these stories within such a small number of pages. So many incredible moments, so many individual scenes that have become iconic moments in Dredd history.
The trio of Death stories that open this volume of Essential Judge Dredd are absolutely that – essential. Wagner and Grant are on their top form, and there’s never been a more terrifying sight that the Dark Judges wreaking havoc through MC-1.
The Essential Judge Dredd Volume 4 – Dredd Vs Death
Released by 2000 AD/Rebellion on 18th January
Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant. Art by Brian Bolland, Brett Ewins, Cliff Robinson, Robin Smith, Alex Ronald, Andy Clarke, Bryan Talbot. Letters by Tom Frame. Colours by Charlie Kirchoff and Gary Caldwell.
Originally serialised in 2000 AD Progs 149-151, 224-228, 416-427, 1114-1115, 1168, and Dice Man 1
So… now it’s preview time…