Extended Preview: ‘Essential Judge Dredd: Necropolis’ – Revisiting Dredd’s Darkest Hour

by Richard Bruton

The latest volume of the Essential Judge Dredd series brings us Necropolis, the classic summer blockbuster of a Dredd saga!

Mega-City One is under siege from the Dark Judges, Dredd’s been exiled to the wastes of the Cursed Earth, and all looks nightmarishly final – that’s the quick version of Necropolis, one of those epic Dredds, the big, huge casualties Dredds, and typically, given that it’s John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, it’s an absolute belter of a Dredd epic.

It all kicks off with the 5-part prequel, ‘Countdown To Necropolis’, opening with Judge Kraken, another of the Fargo bloodline clones – just like Dredd and Rico – facing his execution, only to be saved by a Justice Department all too keen to keep the Dredd name on the streets and thinking that Kraken is just the clone for the job – or so they think.

And then we get the return of the Dark Judges and we’re careering headlong into Necropolis itself with the body count going up and hope running out for the citizens.

Will Dredd be able to get back into the Big Meg, reclaim his badge from the imposter Judge Kraken and retake MC-1 from the grip of Death, Fear, Fire, and Mortis?

Well, obviously the answer is yes to all that, but that’s not the point, not at all. Because rather than just being a damn fine bit of Wagner/Ezquerra produced adventure where Death and the gang wipe out 60 million citizens, Necropolis is actually all about so much more; the descent of Kraken, the months of misrule from the Dark Judges, all leading up to the return of Dredd and the restoration of Justice.

And then, even more is going on here, with everything taking place against the backdrop of everything Wagner had already set up in Dredd to do with the democracy movement and Dredd’s increasing unease with the Justice Department.

Basically, it’s all that and so much more, with Wagner and Ezquerra the ultimate Dredd double act to give us one of the truly great Dredds. Seriously, just absorb this bit of Wagner/Ezquerra brilliance, all that foreboding in Wagner’s voiceover, all that moody, evocative work in Ezquerra’s art… it’s a masterclass…

It’s also a damn big story – although not as big as it was originally. Because Necropolis, to be honest, isn’t the whole storyline by any stretch. Sure, I understand why the thinking is to present Necropolis here as a complete thing, but the brilliance of the whole thing was the manner in which Wagner had laid the seeds for it all across several years.

Like I say, all that democracy storyline, the dissatisfaction of Dredd with the Justice Department, even the idea of the clone bloodlines… all of it had been slowly developing through Wagner’s Dredds for a long while.

The Necropolis storyline works in and of itself as one great epic, a true summer blockbuster of a comics thing, full of action, intrigue, deceit, retribution and redemption. But it’s also a storyline that brought so many threads of Wagner’s Dredd together, things that had been brewing for many years, fundamental to the Dredd we have today.

So although this Essential Dredd works spectacularly for Wagner’s storyline and Ezquerra’s blistering artwork, it’s not the complete tale by any means. Sure, I understand why it’s been presented that way, but to get the whole experience and one of the greatest Dredd arcs, there’s so much more reading to be done, so much more that builds and builds to a truly epic and absolutely essential Dredd.

The Essential Judge Dredd: Necropolis. Written by John Wagner, art by Carlos Ezquerra, letters by Tom Frame

Published by 2000 AD/ Rebellion on 7 June 2022

Originally serialised as ‘By Lethal Injection’, Progs #669-670, ‘Rights of Succession’, Prog #671, ‘Dear Annie’, Progs #672-673, ‘Necropolis’, Progs 674-699

Now, preview time… first of all a little from the very first tale here, ‘Lethal Injection, with Judge Kraken off to the executioner…

 

Only to be brought back to life and pressed into service as Judge Dredd…

And then, as the Dark Judges threaten MC-1, Judge Kraken/Dredd finds himself on the streets of MC-1 for the start of Necropolis…

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