Review by Roy Boyd
This is the third consecutive Complete Case Files volume largely consisting of short or one-part stories, the exceptions being a two-parter and a pair each of three and four-part tales. John Wagner writes fifteen of the 22 stories, with Robbie Morrison, Alan Grant and Gordon Rennie responsible for the others. Again, like Complete Case Files 32, this volume is mostly stories from 2000 AD, with just three from the Judge Dredd Megazine.
‘Star Drekk’ is outstanding, with Wagner taking some delightfully funny pokes at Star Trek, and what would happen if the crew of the Enterprise were to encounter Dredd at his most belligerent. The artwork by Anthony Williams, is wonderful, and superior to Ian Gibson’s take on the story.
‘Relentless’ by Robbie Morrison and Colin Wilson is a cracking three-part story, with Dredd going up against a bunch of muties aboard a massive, mobile scavenging city. Wilson delivers great widescreen action, and it’s interesting to note the ubiquitous influence of Mike Mignola: some panels could have been lifted straight from Hellboy. Morrison’s take on Dredd is a bit more bombastic than Wagner’s, though that works extremely well for the stories he tells. Morrison and Wilson pair up again to deliver another cracker with ‘Hellbent’, an example of a celebrity life taking a wrong turn and ending with a neat twist.
Staz Johnson’s artwork on ‘The Sons of Katie Didd’ is a real treat, reminiscent of Neal Adams or Alan Davis, and ideal for a story that could have featured in Creepy, probably illustrated by Berni Wrightson.
‘Lawcon’ one of the three Megazine stories, and the final story, is particularly enjoyable. Richard Elson draws oddly bucket-like helmets on the Judges, but his otherwise very good art has a retro feel recalling Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy. It’s one of the four-part stories, but the greater page allocation for Dredd’s Megazine appearances means it runs to almost fifty pages, the size of standard European graphic novel. Wagner’s supplied little more than The Thing set aboard a spaceship, but it’s all handled very adroitly.
Many big name 2000 AD artists feature in this collection, from old-school favourites like Cam Kennedy, Steve Parkhouse, Ian Gibson and Cliff Robinson to more recent additions, like Siku, Duncan Fegredo and the brilliant Jock. Their individuality ensures a range of styles bound to include something for everyone.
There’s a danger that Complete Case Files reviews could become monotonous. Having left the muddy painted art of the 1990s behind, most of the artwork is very good, and the writing, with a few misfires, is at least always competent, and often excellent. One would be hard pressed to think of any other series that offers quite so much bang for your buck: each of these volumes showcase some of the best comic artwork and writing around.