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CIS: Six great Judge Dredd graphic novels

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Judge Dredd, crime fiction hero•button-150x150“I am the law,” bellows the futuristic law man Judge Dredd, the iconic star of British weekly comic 2000 AD. Perhaps not an obvious choice for discussion on Crime Fiction Lover, he has strictly adhered to the letter of the law for over 35 years and that deserves some recognition from even the most hardboiled of crime fiction fans. As 2000AD reaches the milestone of issue 2000 (better known as prog 2000) we look back at some of his most iconic stories featuring the comic book’s star character, who brings law and order to Mega City One.

Judge Dredd The Cursed EarthThe Cursed Earth
Often referred to as the first Dredd epic, this story stretches out of over 20 plus progs and would help shape the character of Dredd from being a series of one-shot stories into one capable of sustaining large-scale and sweeping storylines. In Dredd’s America, ‘mega citys’ have grown up on the coasts while the central states have become an irradiated wasteland full of scoundrels and scumbags. So when the west coast Mega City Two is gripped by a devastating virus only Mega City One’s Judge Dredd can transport the cure across the country to get it to them safely. Along the way he encounters irradiated dinosaurs and the last president of the United States, not to mention a group of characters who parodied major fast food chains that saw the books banned for a number of years due to copyright infringement. This year has seen them reprinted for the first time and finally one of the greatest Dredd stories is at last complete and bound together in one tome. Read it.
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Judge Dredd The Dark JudgesThe Dark Judges
Every great hero needs an iconic villain, and Dredd’s ultimate nemeses are the Dark Judges – especially their leader Judge Death. Hailing from an alternate dimension where life itself has been deemed a crime, the Dark Judges come to Mega City One and wreak their own destructive reign of terror. Styled after the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the Dark Judges (Death, Fear, Fire and Mortis) were the creation of Dredd co-creator John Wagner and seminal artist Brian Bolland and have become iconic villains for the Mega City lawman with each incarnation getting more destructive and despicable. Despite Dredd defeating them numerous times, the Dark Judges inevitably find a way to return, but perhaps their most emotive story saw Death possessing a young PSI division judge called Anderson who sacrificed herself in order that they couldn’t take over Mega City One. In doing so Wagner and Bolland created one of the most noble and iconic characters in comics.
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Judge Dredd AmericaAmerica
While Dredd himself is all about an unrelenting adherence to the law, his writers are able to explore the complex nature of crime in a huge variety of different ways while running everything through the stark simplicity of Dredd’s moral filter. One story which challenges the law man’s perceptions is John Wagner’s classic tale America. What begins as a love story between main character America and her childhood friend Bennett Beeny, sees the two of them take separate paths, that eventually interconnect when America becomes increasingly jaded by the oppressive regime of the judges in Mega City One. As she turns from protestor to radical and ultimately terrorist, her attempts to bring freedom to Mega City One become more complex and violent, but also bring her back into contact with Beeny. It’s a great example of how Dredd can be both the centre of a story but also not its main protagonist, and makes for one of the most politically charged and emotionally complex stories in the Dredd canon.
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Judge Dredd Judgment on GothamJudgment on Gotham
Dredd has teamed up with a number of other comic characters over the years, from Aliens to Predators, however his most successful pairing was with the Caped Crusader himself. When Judge Death makes a dimensional shift to Gotham City, Dredd follows suit. However, when he encounters the Dark Knight he is more interested in arresting him for vigilanteism than helping him defend the city from Death. Thanks to a dimension-hopping belt, characters from both universes are allowed to interact including Judge Anderson, Mean Machine Angel and the Scarecrow. From Dredd writer John Wagner and Batman writer Alan Grant, and with artwork by superstar artist Simon Bisley, Judgment on Gotham manages to be more than just an excuse for two big franchise characters to have a fight and ends up being a genuinely compelling tale for both characters that has stood the test of time.
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Judge Dredd Day of ChaosDay of Chaos: End Game
What has kept Dredd relevant over 35 years is the ability to evolve and adapt rather than simply retelling the same story again and again. One great example of this is Day of Chaos which ran in 2011-12. A former Soviet agent looking for revenge for the destruction of East Meg One releases the chaos virus into Mega City One. It manages to wipe out 87 percent of the population! With the Dark Judges also returning to wreak they own brand of destruction, the Day of Chaos was spread over 50+ progs and came from the pen of Dredd co-creator John Wagner as a way of refocusing the character for a new generation of writers and fans. It was a destructive epic which irrevocably altered the landscape of Dredd, and is the kind of long lasting and large scale story-telling which you just don’t get in any other comic book series. Unlike most other mainstream comic heroes, Dredd hasn’t returned to a settled state several weeks later, this is now ground zero and future writers must build from here. A challenge indeed, especially for a Judge who has aged in line with comics and must now rebuild his city.
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Judge Dredd TrifectaTrifecta
Another modern classic, this time featuring Dredd and two (seemingly unconnected) side stories from the pages of 2000AD. When these three stories originally ran, fans were unaware that the adventures of Dredd, Wally Squad gumshoe Jack Point from the Simping Detective and crazy judge Dirty Frank from Low Life would combine to create one sweeping epic story. After all they not only had different writers and artists, but were completely different genres and styles too. Mixing a gritty crime noir strip (the Simping Detective) with a goofy cartoon (Low Life), as well as a classic Dredd story, this cleverly constructed crossover blossomed from the ashes of the Day of Chaos and became a cult favourite among fans who were shocked at being caught out by a story that remains fresh and original – even after all these years!
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This article was written by comics expert Alex Thomas of Pipe Dream Comics. Click the link and check it out.

Classics in September 2016 is sponsored by Bloomsbury Reader.

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