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4.5 out of 5 stars43
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on 5 July 2007
A much shorter book of early Dredd adventures than volumes 1 and 2, but no less essential for that.

Having established a lot of the history and set-up of Dredd's world in book 2, building a more solid world around him than the often naive and slapdash environment seen in Book 1, the strip really starts to take off here. It's as though, having realised just what possibilities Dredd's world offered during the course of writing the Cursed Earth and Judge Cal epics, writer John Wagner decides to really start pushing some boundaries and having fun.

After his 'baptism of fire' during book 2's twin epics, Dredd himself emerges here as a character really worth reading - beginning the move away from the frankly childish figure of the strip's first year to the fascinatingly flawed and layered lawman we know and love today. And his city, Mega-City One, starts to take on a shape of its own. We find out where citizens live, what they do for fun, where they work, what they drive - gameshows, fashion trends, food brands, it's all explored here - and all with typically madcap future twists. In short, the book is in effect an exercise in worldbuilding. It may be short, but there are far more of the staples of Dredd's oddball enviroment created here than in both the previous volumes.
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The collected volumes in this series certainly demonstrate how the most influential UK comic book character developed over time. I deliberately didn't buy the first volume because I remember the early Dredd stories as being not as interesting or well-written as the later ones - this feeling was confirmed when reading the Cursed Earth storyline in volume 2 for the very first time.

With volume 4, however, the series becomes a lot more interesting. The first half of this collection consists of The Judge Child Quest, while the second half is assorted shorter storylines involving Dredd cracking heads on the streets.

Frankly, I had forgotten how good the Judge Child Quest was. I had forgotten how charismatic the Angel Gang were & how very, very alien the aliens are. Forget Star Trek & its people with prosthetic lumps on their heads acting like humans - here we have a surreal Monty Python-esque world where illegal 'aliens' stay in a building shaped like a giant foot & the human Dredd seeks is literally disappearing one piece at a time. Then there's the planet where the rich have their minds stored in biochips & hire other peoples' bodies & a world where every day a new war is fought & televised, purely for entertainment. The choice of artists is well thought-out, too - his imagination & attention to background detail make Bolland perfect for The Jigsaw Man whereas McMahon's moodier style suits the gothic horror of the oracle spice plot arc.

While The Judge Child Quest focuses on Dredd the action hero, 'Alone In The Crowd' is a critique of Mega-City One's totalitarian society. A citizen keeps his head down while muggers attack another passer-by. When Dredd later collars the muggers, another citizen keeps his head down & displays an equal amount of fear. A further hint of similar themes to come is 'Un-American Graffiti', featuring the first appearance of Chopper, the thrill-seeking, freedom-obsessed hero of the people who later became a very significant character in Dredd's world. Also included is the revenge of Fink Angel, one of my favourite villains as a child.

Reading this volume in hindsight means that a seemingly insignificant story in which the Sovs attack Mega-City One is clearly a precursor to the Apocalypse War storyline collected in volume 5. The Apocalypse War is the point where Dredd's world really turned around & became a lot more interesting, innovative & mature than the average 2000AD action strip. I have only given this collection 4 stars because 5 are reserved for that volume.
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on 5 July 2007
If you've been following the series thus far, you'll know that a lot of Dredd's early stories - even as late as Book 3 - simply weren't very good. Having not read any of these the first time around I'm free of rose-tinted glasses, and can readily admit it. Book 1 was riddled with them; Book 2 had one or two sneak into the back; and while Book 3 on the whole managed to avoid them, it's Book 4 that is entirely free of the blighters.

Seriously - I dare you to find a single outright clunker in this volume - and considering the pagecount, that's no mean feat. This book represents a creative team hitting their peak. Finally at ease with both the character of Dredd and the world he inhabits (boy, this strip sure did take a long time to find its feet) John Wagner, joined here by writing partner Alan Grant, really goes to town. So comfortable have they become with Mega-City One that they start off instead by shining a light into a previously unexplored area of his universe - quite literally, as they send Dredd off on a galaxy-spanning space odysessy. Classic villians aplenty are thrown into the mix to test their wits against him - murderous Texan hillbillies the Angel gang in particular emerge as brilliant creations - and, in the same way that we were introduced to Anderson for the first time last volume, Dredd's supporting cast gets several more noteworthy additions. At times it's difficult to believe that only two men wrote this book, so bursting with ideas is it. Horror, out-and-out sci-fi, comedy, adventure - the stories cover everything.

The art team hits a peak here, too. The bulk of the art chores are handled by Bolland, McMahon and realtive Dreddworld newcomer Ron Smith - between them, these three giants of Dredd's early years show that no-one can draw Dredd quite like they can. You simply can't fault it. There were even better things on the imminent horizon, but this could quite rightly be considered the start of Dredd's golden years.
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on 11 September 2012
After a low key volume 3 Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files kicks back into high gear with volume four.
Starting the book off is the classic mega epic "The Judge Child". This runs for 26 chapters and is a major keystone story in the Judge Dredd mythos.
The artwork and writing in this volume is top notch from start to finish and is, for me, part of the 'golden era' of Judge Dredd.
Absolutely unmissable for any Judge Dredd fan.
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on 2 June 2013
After the series of epics that dominated the strip for the first couple of years, Dredd takes more of a back seat and we get an extended look at the city itself in a collection with most stories told in one or two parts, and no story longer than four.

The collection is the least consistent volume so far. The weakest story by a long chalk is, fortunately, got out of the way immediately. The opening story concerns Dredd's hitherto unmentioned niece. This is utterly misjudged (hah!) on just about every level, with Dredd's character showing a sentimental side that had rarely been seen previously and would be all but expunged soon after.

Following that the stories feature a procession of memorable and not so memorable characters, with some stories featuring Dredd in little more than extended cameos. I still have a fondness for poor, unfortunate Otto Sump, who would continue to pop up from time to time.

The versatile tone of the strip really gets shown off in this collection, with SF, comedy, thrillers and horror all rubbing shoulders, occasionally in the same strip. The horror in particular is still effective thirty years on-- my skin was crawling by the end of The Black Plague, a strip which also gives the first indication of Dredd's capacity for ruthless pragmatism that would come into full force in the denouement to the Apocalypse War.

I was unsure whether this collection deserved three stars or four. But on looking back I realised there is a single story that confidently secures that extra star: Judge Death. Without doubt the best story in the run thus far, it is grotesque, comical and chilling. And in pitting Dredd against an enemy that seemingly cannot be destroyed, the strip creates a resolution that doesn't cheat and actually seems all the more clever for seeing it in the publication chronology. The pistol was clearly placed on the mantelpiece several weeks previously. And with the introduction of Judge Anderson and Psi Division, vital parts of the world were opened up. Bolland was the perfect choice for such a key strip. I think if there was ever a definitive early Dredd story, this is it.

The art is generally very good, although some artists are still establishing their style. I'm not used to seeing Dave Gibbons so tentative, and Brendan McCarthy is still some distance from his psychedelic weirdness. But aside from Bolland, Ron Smith is already turning in high quality, consistent art and Carlos Ezquerra is well on the way to his mature style.

So an uneven volume, but one where the good by far outweighs the bad. With some great stories and the seminal Judge Death, it's certainly not difficult to recommend this volume as one of the best introductions to Dredd and his world.
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on 6 April 2013
After the two epic story lines dominated the previous volume, this collections gets really into the world of Dredd. There are lots of different writers and illustrators having fun with the world of Mega City One and exploring the lives of some of the 800 million inhabitants, and of course, the perps that roam the streets. I'm a bit of a fan of the stories beyond the boundary wall, so enjoyed "The Black Plague" in particular, which sees Dredd having to fight back a horde of mutated spiders from the Cursed Earth and also the mystery and intrigue of "The Invisible Man", which is quite the detective story.

I guess some may thing the Walter the Wobot narrated stories are a bit silly, but I like them and I like Walter as a character, providing a little light relief. Regular Dredd readers will know he's a hero, so cut him some slack!

One criticism is the slimness of the volume - it's probably half the size of Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files v. 4,Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files v. 5 and some of the other Case Files Collections.

However, plenty to like in this volume, and something for everyone, I think.
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on 11 October 2013
it was a good read and i thoroughly joyed it although it was shorter than the volumes 1 and 2,
if i had to change it in anyway i would make it slightly bigger and put more pictures in the
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on 1 July 2013
Brilliant,what more can I say. Some of the stories are a bit corny but the majority are stonkers. Any book with a Judge Death story has got to be worth having. A real blast from the past. Scrotnig!!!!
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on 31 July 2013
I was to young to have read this is it is great to be able to start from the beginning, the third volume is just as good as the first two, I like how it doesn't take itself serious.
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on 31 July 2014
I didn't expect to like this one, as I remember the Judge Child from the weekly comics and for some reason it left me cold. At the time it seemed like a pointless excuse for Dredd to wander around doing pointless things. But on second reading some of the dry humour had me laughing out loud. Maybe it's nostalgia plus an acquired taste? I'm not a heavy Judge Dredd fan, though these volumes may be converting me. Dredd case files always offer good solid stories at a good price, well worth anyone's time.

Warning: Judge Lopez has facial hair. :)
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