As someone who only got really into Judge Dredd relatively recently, I get asked pretty often about good places to start. For more recent stuff, it's not hard to figure out a good place, and if nothing else, the folks at 2000 AD are pretty good at providing jumping-on points for new readers. When it comes to finding those classic Dredd stories, though, the ones that sometimes played out over the course of years and explored not just Dredd but the strange world in which he lives, that can be a little more difficult.
But that's about to change. Next week marks the release of John Wagner and Colin MacNeil's Judge Dredd: America, in paperback for the first time on the west-side of the Atlantic --- and when even the publisher is declaring it to be "the best Judge Dredd story ever," that's probably something to take note of.
Mega City One has been through an awful lot over the past few years. Not only is there the usual crime that comes with being a fascist future state, but the city's also had to deal with stuff like the Chaos Plague, space lasers, all sorts of other problems. It's got so bad, in fact, that the city's 40,000 wealthiest citizens have got together to buy a spaceship and just get the heck out of Earth before something else happens.
That's where John Wagner and Greg Staples' Judge Dredd: Dark Justice picks up, with the launch of the Mayflower into deep space. Oh, and also the Dark Judges, the genocidal, immortal, inter-dimensional entities who see life itself as a crime, and punish it with mass murder are also coming back. So, you know, I'll let you guess how well that's gonna work out for 'em.
When I'm looking for something to read, there are certain things that will make me pick up a book immediately. It's probably the same way with you, and while I think we all have the usual soft spots for a favorite villain or a cool plot point, every now and then you run across a story title that's just so weird that you absolutely have to see how it all plays out. This, for the record, is the reason for about 90% of my back issue purchases, and was basically the leading theory on how to design a DC Comics cover for about thirty years.
What I'm getting at here is that when I was looking at the stories included in the new Judge Dredd Complete Casefiles v.10 paperback and I saw that there was one called "The Fists of Stan Lee," I pretty much dropped everything so that I could read it. And yes: It is, in fact, Judge Dredd fighting Stan Lee. Just, you know. Not that Stan Lee.
The question most often asked of the ComicsAlliance staff is a variation of, "Which comic books should I be reading?" or, "I'm new to comics, what's a good place to start?" The Wednesday deluge of new comic books, graphic novels and collected editions can be daunting even for the longtime reader, much less for those totally unfamiliar with creators, characters and publishers, and the dark mysteries of comic book shopping like variants, pre-ordering, and formats.
There are a lot of things that happen regularly in comics that I've never really understood, and chief among them has been the sheer number of superhero crossovers with Aliens and Predator. I mean, I understand wanting to see Aliens and Predators fight each other because they're both these mysterious, lethal alien enemies, where one's a cunning, vicious hunter and the other's an almost mindless biologically driven killing machine, a natural contrast that makes them cool opponents for each other and a deadly combination for anyone who gets trapped between them. The thing I don't get is why you'd want to throw Superman or Batman in there, if only because of the sheer amount of storytelling gymnastics you have to do to make it work. And yet, they happen all the time, and I have long since accepted that it's Just Not My Thing.
And then I read Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens, and now I get it. Mostly because the first story in this collection ends with Dredd taking off his shirt (while leaving his helmet on, of course), and fighting the Predator with a knife.
The way I've always understood anthology series is that you never want every story to end at the same time, because the idea is that by chaining everything together, the reader never has a chance to jump off. That might sound mercenary, but really, it's just simple economics: If everything you're into ends all at once, then you've got a lot less incentive to come back for the next issue. Right? Right.
Well, it seems that last week's issue of 2000 AD went against that little bit of conventional wisdom by capping off every story that they had going so that they could set up this week's offering: Their 1900th issue, which celebrates the milestone by launching three new stories, and provides a perfect jumping-on point. If you haven't been reading 2000 AD and want to see what all the fuss is about, this is the issue to get -- and you should definitely get it, because all three stories are pretty awesome.
One of the things that I've really come to appreciate ever since I jumped into the world of Judge Dredd is just how easy 2000 AD has made it. The publisher's got massive reprints of Dredd from the very beginning; they've got downloadable digital comics that are easy to buy (and that you can actually keep like any other downloaded file); and they're putting out compilations built around themes that can give to the start of a pretty comprehensive overview of Dredd history. Basically, it has never been easier to read 200 pages of comics about people having sex with robots.
That is, more or less, the subject matter of Judge Dredd: The XXX Files, the new collection on sale this week which compiles two dozen stories that take the concept of Thrillpower into a decidedly adult direction. And while I'm not sure if it's a great place for people who are brand new to Dredd's world -- it's more than a little overwhelming at times -- it has a bunch of truly fantastic comics.
In theory, Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos should be everything I hate about big event comics. It goes out of its way to be grim and dark even by Dredd standards, boasting a body count over 300 million, features a protagonist who's often powerless to stop the terrible things that are going on, and the only person who really comes out of it with anything that remotely resembles a victory is a mass murderer. It's almost thoroughly devoid of hope, with a focus on brutality and horror that's telegraphed from the opening. Half of it's built like a zombie story, and in true 21st century event comic fashion, there's even a dude who gets his arm cut off.
Taken all together, that's essentially a checklist of things I never want to see again in superhero comics. In Day of Chaos, however, that all comes together to form a textbook example of how to do event comics right.
Fans who are now accustomed to reading their Judge Dredd in color, thanks to IDW's new series by writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Nelson Daniel, can breathe easy. Starting with a Free Comic Book Day issue May 4, the publisher i
I've been meaning to get more into Judge Dredd for a while now. I picked up a few of the classic stories back in October with the beautifully designed collections of The Dark Judges and The Cursed Earth, and I've read bits and pieces from the issues of 2000 AD that I come across, but to be honest, it can be difficult to figure out a place to really jump in.
But then, a copy of the new printing of John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra's Origins showed up at my house courtesy of 2000 AD, and
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