Script: John Wagner, Alan Grant
Art: Carlos Ezquerra, Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Steve Dillon, Brian Bolland
Release Date: 18th February, 2015
Two words. Barely a sentence. But with those two words, Judge Dredd was finally, unequivocally the most unique comic book hero of all time.
Why? Because that was the moment the lawman committed genocide.
By 1982, the writing team of John Wagner and Alan Grant were feeling that their sprawling future city of Mega City One was just too big and unwieldy, so decided on a drastic method of population control, The Apocalypse War.
After building up the tension between MC1 and their post-Russian rivals in East Meg One for a few years, the writers finally let the Sovs make their move with Block Mania, a ten-part introduction that felt like an epic in and of itself.
The prequel tells of a bio-weapon introduced by a Sov agent to weaken the Meg’s defences via the means of setting every citizen and even Judge against each other in a city-wide block war.
There’s a real feeling of urgency to Block Mania that is expertly built up in each chapter by Wagner and Grant. It starts with the innocuous dropping of a five-cred Freezy Whip and ends in total carnage with the entire city in flames.
Drawn by a hodgepodge of the comics great Dredd artists, it’s an uneven but brilliant read. Also, if you must keep changing artists, switching between Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Steve Dillon and Brian Bolland is the way to do it.
It would have been a classic story on its own, but the final panel reveals this was all just a prequel and the real epic was still to come.
The first major storyline to be drawn by the one artist, The Apocalypse War is Carlos Ezquerra’s masterpiece, bringing to visceral life Wagner and Grant’s widescreen mayhem in 26 awesome chapters.
After an initial battery of nuclear missiles (and a 2km-high tidal wave) pummel the Block Mania- ravaged city into submission, a Sov ground invasion forces Dredd into a desperate campaign of guerrilla warfare.
Considering 2000ad was still very much a children’s comic at the time, The Apocalypse War is pretty brutal stuff. Even taking aside the previously genocide, this story has scenes of collaborators being executed, torture, Russian roulette and more.
You can almost hear Wagner and Grant giggling to themselves as they cranked up the horror week after week, culminating in them nuking an entire parallel Earth, one that has known peace for 1000 years no less.
What’s also really great about The Apocalypse War is that it had real consequences for the strip. Stories about the aftermath dominated Dredd for years to come, while Dredd’s terrible act at the story’s conclusion would reverberate for decades, not least with the recent Day Of Chaos epic that decimated the city’s population more than ever before.
If you’ve never read Dredd before, this is where you start, simple as that. Everything you need to know is here, contained in another beautifully put together volume.
If you’ve read Dredd before however, you still need this. Simple as that.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy