Review by Roy Boyd
The section of Case Files 25 originating from the weekly 2000AD features fourteen stories, with all but the last written by John Wagner. The first five tales continue the story begun in ‘The Pit’, the superb epic that appeared in Case Files 24. That was one of the best Dredd tales for many years, though sadly none of these five live up to the high standard set by the original. The most notable feature of these stories is the vast improvement in Lee Sullivan’s artwork.
The highlight of this collection is ‘Dead Reckoning’, a seven-part story that has Dredd travelling to Judge Death’s planet to recapture his escaped-yet-again nemesis. The back cover blurb mistakenly claims that all four Dark Judges escape, but they clearly haven’t read their own story, which is a real shame, as it’s great. All four Dark Judges – Death, Fire, Fear and Mortis – do appear, as does Dredd’s version of Death, giving us five in total. And Greg Staples’ artwork (featured) is a revelation – one of the best artists ever to work on Dredd, and a real breath of fresh air after some artists used on contemporary material.
Thereafter it’s seven short stories of varying quality. ‘Awayday’, drawn by Staples, manages to offer new variations on the well-worn trope of having a visitor to Mega-City One experience all that the city has to offer. And ‘Death of a Legend’ is a very touching tale that sees the end of a long-time character, with artwork by Peter Doherty that’s a perfect fit for an emotional story. It’s also worth mentioning the great artwork of Trevor Hairsine and Henry Flint, both illustrate one story each, and they’re just a delight to behold.
The longest story, at twelve parts, is ‘Darkside’, written by John Smith and illustrated by Paul Marshall. The plot here is basically ‘zombie Dredd in space’, and though slick, is workmanlike and pedestrian, doing very little to justify its length.
Only four one-part tales originate in Judge Dredd Megazine, and they’re of varying quality.
Thankfully, with Wagner writing most of this collection, the standard is pretty high. The artwork ranges from painfully bad to superb, though there’s a lot less from the lower end of the scale than usual. That this book features far less material from the Megazine, where new artists were often tried out, is a contributory faction. However, Case Files 25 is worth buying just for Greg Staples brilliant work on ‘Dead Reckoning’, and thankfully Wagner delivers a story deserving of both the great artwork and the return of Dredd’s best villain.
‘The Pack’, in which Mega-City is attacked from the Cursed Earth, is reprinted in Hamlyn’s Judge Dredd: The Hunting Party.