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The Law at War
on 5 July 2007
This volume starts off on a pretty low-key note after the wall-to-wall brilliance of book 4's stories. Dredd investigating the Mega-rackets is inoffensive, entertaining stuff but not really anything special. It's when Judge Death makes his long-awaited comeback that the magic starts to happen. This five-parter, lushly illustrated by Brian Bolland, represent some of the finest pages ever seen in sequential comics - and contains the single most iconic panel in the history of the Dredd strip. You'll know the one when you see it.
And then came Block Mania and the Apocalypse War, an epic to end all epics at 30+ parts. Apocalyptic is the right word. Mega-City One is razed to the ground by atomic fire, half the city's population wiped out by tidal wave, radiation poisoning, bitter civil war and the merciless tanks of the Sov occupation. The use of Soviet-styled enemy judges dates the story a tad, but it's such a tour-de-force that that's a minor criticsm. More than any other, this is the story that really defined Dredd and put it on the map, generating stories for years to come. Because the Dredd strip unfolds in real-time, unlike most american comics, the after-effects of this mammoth event would haunt Dredd far into the future.
The whole thing is, once again, written solely by John Wagner and Alan Grant, and the Apocalypse War is drawn entirely by Carlos Ezquerra - the man who had originally designed Dredd and his uniform, but up to this point had been absent on the strip. After the chunky stylings of McMahon, and the fine detail of Smith and Bolland, Ezquerra's more euro-centric, almost brutal art comes as a bit of a shock, but it's perfect for the scope of the story. The story stands as a towering achievment for all concerned, and marks the moment Dredd really became a force to be reckoned with.