Review by Frank Plowright
Wars between the Mega-City housing blocks, each home to thousands, had served as background to numerous Judge Dredd stories, but never on this scale. It wasn’t just a two blocks having at each other, but every block for themselves unless they could form an alliance. Starting with a situation he believed could be controlled, Dredd only realises something more serious is at stake when remote communication with a sector house sees the judges there allying themselves with blocks.
Unusually for Dredd during this period, laughs are kept to a minimum throughout Block Mania, mostly a smile at the block names, although post-millennium it’s interesting to see that reference to a Paul Gadd block remains. Maybe writers John Wagner and Alan Grant figured the casualty count they were inflicting was better played straight. It’s a grim story, and not entirely successful. Readers complained about the offhand death of Judge Giant, although it could be argued his rapid passing reflected the dangers endured by judges, and four artists over nine chapters diminishes consistency.
There’s a great sadness in Block Mania containing the final Dredd strips by two artists whose contrasting styles shaped the character. Mike McMahon just couldn’t cope with illustrating the thousands required to give some perspective on the sheer amount of citizens involved. Having turned in the opening two chapters he quit when informed the third was more of the same. Ron Smith, then Steve Dillon took over. McMahon’s style developed further on Slaine. Brian Bolland increasingly resented the profits being made as his strips were reprinted worldwide, with none trickling down to him. Coupled with the length of time it took to draw a strip, he found American comic publishers had a greater respect for his ability, but would continue to produce the occasional Dredd cover for 2000AD.
When originally published it came as a great surprise to readers that Block Mania was merely the prelude to a far larger event, the Apocalypse War between East-Meg 1 and Mega-City One. Once reprinted as a separate story, it’s now collected with Apocalypse War.