The fourth volume of 2000 AD's Judge Dredd The Complete Case Files has some of the greatest Judge Dredd stories of all time. Specifically the Judge Child Quest, which lead directly into the story of Fink Angel, and then the introduction of the legendary perp Chopper. Every single page in this volume is classic Judge Dredd goodness.
But it is in black-and-white. This is disappointing. I know that all the volumes in The Complete Case Files are in black-and-white, and the stories still look good. When you have an artist of Brian Bolland's caliber doing the drawings, it doesn't really matter if you just color the whole thing purple because the neatness and preciseness of his lines still comes through beautifully. b don't know how the stories originally appeared; maybe in 2000 AD magazine they were in black-and-white; But I read all of these comics originally in color, and I think that they look best in color. I still remember the shock of the discovery of Captain Flint's body and its sickly green color. It just doesn't have the same power in black-and-white
This is probably a cost thing. The Complete Case Files are a tremendously good value. You get over 160 pages of Judge Dredd for around 20 bucks. Still, I would have happily paid 10 dollars or so more to get them all in color. That is the only thing that has kept me from collecting the entire series.
About half of Volume Four is taken up by The Judge Child Quest. This was a truly epic story for Judge Dredd, taking Drdd off-planet and away from the familiar confines of Mega City One. A dying Judge Feyy prophesizes that a forthcoming disaster can only be prevented by locating a genius precog boy born with the mark of the Eagle of Justice on his forehead. Intending to raise the boy as a Judge and eventually promote him to Chief Judge, Dredd is assigned with bringing the boy in. Unfortunately, his abilities make him as valuable to the criminal element, and Dredd finds himself heading off planet in search of the boy and his kidnappers.
Aside from being a great story, the Judge Child Quest also introduced Judge Hershey, who would become a part of the Judge Dredd mythos. And of course, it is here we meet the Angel Family from mutiland, including the Mean-Machine Angel, and Fink Angel and whose story of vengeance is one of the most brilliant Judge Dredd stories of the era.
Of course, along with the epics there is the usual collection of Mega City One hijinks. A scientist develops a devolutionary serum that reduces Charles Darwin Block to a bunch of monkies. Judge Dredd gets stuck with an alien sidekick on a ride-along. And of course the legendary Chopper makes it his mission to tag all of the buildings of Mega City One.
I always loved these kind of Judge Dredd stories, that focused on the general weirdness of Mega City One — the fashion crazes and block wars, the boredom of a massive amount of unemployed people looking to fill the hours of pointless lives, with all that tide of chaos only held in check by the harsh and unyielding system of Judges. They have gotten away from this style in the modern Judge Dredd comics where the Judges are more humanized and character development and plot trumps random acts of weirdness. But to me the comics in The Complete Case Files will always be the true Judge Dredd, and some of the best of these stories are here in Volume Four.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.