Review by Karl Verhoven
Judge Dredd and his world was created when the real world US/Soviet Union Cold War was escalating again, and these tensions where imported into the strip via the creation of a Russian equivalent of Mega City One, East-Meg One. Conflict with the Sov-Block judges culminated in The Apocalypse War, in which terrible revenge was taken on East-Meg in retribution for repeated acts of warfare. However, that only temporarily reduced belligerent incursions, and Cold Wars is a selection of resumed hostilities.
The opener follows up on Rob Williams’ Enceladus storyline (see Titan) in which five hundred Mega City One exiles, former judges, were executed by Sov Block troops. They may have been judged criminals, hence their exile to a penal colony in space, but their massacre by Sov troops caused outrage among the judges when revealed. Cold Wars begins with the retribution, Judge Dredd himself leading a covert mission in Siberia. It’s a taut action thriller.
All the remaining stories have direct links back to the Apocalypse War itself, one to the moment Dredd pushed the button resulting in the annihilation of East-Meg One. Michael Carroll follows up on that, the author of three connected stories in which Dredd faces the results of what he did, and some holding him responsible for the consequences. They’re all classic Dredd adventure, providing an interesting background, seemingly impossible problems or seemingly undefeatable enemies, and interesting supporting characters. A grim life where humans are used as bait for creatures who live below the ice is Carroll’s finale, ‘The Shroud’, featuring the intimidating Maul who has a simple and effective credo of “We only have one rule here in the Shroud. You obey or you suffer”.
As Dredd’s chronology runs in approximately real time, John Wagner is able to look back in on those who accompanied Dredd in the final days of the Apocalypse War, now old men, but with a mission to save one of their own. It provides the necessary action, but also some reflective moments as the cast consider what they achieved, reaching varying conclusions.
As with most Dredd anthologies, Cold Wars is a showcase of differing artistic approaches, almost all of them good. There are still some rough edges to Dan Cornwall’s work, and a tendency to be too explicit with the violence, but the basic talent is there, and he’ll improve. The remaining artists already have long careers behind them, with Colin MacNeil (sample art left) most associated with Dredd classics, and still drawing a great Dredd chin. Paul Davidson (sample right), and P.J. Holden’s work is less individual, but both tell the story well, and Davidson’s lamprey-like design for the creatures under the ice is suitably gruesome. Trevor Hairsine, Barry Kitson and Dylan Teague all contribute a chapter to the opening story, but this works despite their different styles because the thrust of the three chapters varies. Hairsine sets the scene impressively with a journey through the icy wastes, Kitson takes on the initial explosion into action and Teague provides the finale.
The title is clever, since as well as most stories featuring Sov Judges, most are set in sub-zero conditions as well, and the content is another thrill-packed Dredd collection. Action and surprises await.