Whereas the continuity of the first Dredd Case Files collection was very slap-dash, here we start to get a lot of much-needed history and backstory for Dredd's world, establishing why the Judges came about, how their world became like it is, what surrounds the city, etc. In short, Dredd's world finally feels three-dimensional and fully-realised, and is much the better for it.
The bulk of the book is taken up by Dredd's first two epics, and this creates a far more stable line-up of creators (only two writers, for instance) that again give the adventures a more coherent voice and feel. The first tale, Pat Mills' The Cursed Earth, is absolutely manic - mutants, tyrannosuars, vampires, aliens, punk bikers, vengeful robot armies and gambling-obsessed mafia judges all throw themselves at Dredd in a roaring blood and guts epic that never lets up once. By the time you get to the base-under-seige ending, you'll actually be breathless, I guarantee it. John Wagner's The Day the Law Died slows things down (but only a little) and lets a raving maniac take complete power of Mega-city One. The results are too brilliantly mad-cap to go into here, but the wonderful satire and black humour in this tale mean the more unstable line-up of artists doesn't really matter. It's worth it anyway just to see a goldfish become Deputy Chief Judge.
As for the art - Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland are of course the stars, dominating the book as they do, McMahon's sometimes scratchy-looking art still conveying a madcap energy and glee at working on such stories, and Bolland producing some of the most intricate, detailed, well-handled art in comics. An essential purchase, containing classic Dredd tales only possibly bettered by what's to come in Books 4 and 5...
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