review published on November 4, 2013. Reviewed by Erin Britton
Nudge Reviewer Rating:
Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files #21 is the latest volume in 2000AD’s graphic novel series collecting together all of Dredd’s adventures in chronological order, complete and uncut, and includes the stories from 2000AD Progs 888 – 915 and from Judge Dredd Megazine 2.57 – 2.68.
The Complete Case Files #21 begins with a selection of fairly light-hearted (well, compared to Dredd’s usual atmosphere anyway) stories. In ‘Accidental Culprit’ Dredd does his best to menace some robbery suspects although their stupidity turns out to be far more dangerous to their health than an encounter with the Judges, while in ‘The Time Machine’ Dredd takes steps to ensure that the laws of physics and other minor considerations don’t get in the way of a justified conviction. Dredd also manages to find time to tackle real-estate scams in ‘Rad Blood’, questions of conformity in ‘Moving Violation’ and theories on geekdom in ‘A Guide to Mega-Speak’. These (and a number of other inclusions) are all very good, very short Judge Dredd stories featuring a nice mix of violence, exasperation and black humour.
Roughly the final two-thirds of The Complete Case Files #21 involves those stories that make up the ‘Wilderlands’ saga. ‘Wilderlands’ is the story-arc that marked John Wagner’s much lauded return to the 2000AD fold and picks up the story of the Mechanismo Programme, Chief Judge McGruder’s controversial project to have robot judges policing the streets of Mega City One. The ‘Wilderlands’ saga proper begins with Dredd’s arrest for his involvement in the destruction of the Mark II judges and his subsequent perjury. Always a stickler for the rules after all, Dredd submits calmly to his arrest while the remaining senior judges are dissuaded from challenging McGruder’s authority without Dredd to lead them.
Chief Judge McGruder sentences Dredd to twenty years hard labour on Titan but decides to take him with her on a diplomatic mission to the savage planet of Hestia before dropping him off at the prison. McGruder is intent on pimping out the new model robot judges to the government of Hestia but when, in ‘The Tenth Planet’, disaster strikes it is the imprisoned Dredd and Judge Castillo rather than the robots who save the day. The rest of ‘Wilderlands’ concerns the trials and tribulations that McGruder and the judges (and the unfortunate bunch of civilians who happened to be travelling on the same spaceship) encounter when they crash land in the wilds of Hestia.
The ‘Wilderlands’ saga is more of a character study than many of the other big Dredd event arches. After the initial scene-setting episode of McGruder’s diplomatic mission to Hestia, the story effectively follows two paths (I believe that the two strands of ‘Wilderlands’ were actually originally split between 2000AD and Judge Dredd magazine) as Dredd tries to keep McGruder and all the other survivors safe on the one hand while Castillo treks off to find help and rediscover her confidence as a Judge on the other. It’s still all good stuff but, probably unsurprisingly, the Dredd story is the better, darker and still more amusing side of ‘Wilderlands’. It’s actually a shame that Dredd and Castillo are split up for much of the story because their rapport is very good and allows for the multiple, contradictory elements of Dredd’s personality to show all at once.
While ‘Wilderlands’ does ultimately lead to some big changes in the Dredd universe – McGruder finally confronting her ineptitude/madness, a massive power shake up in the Hall of Justice, the flaws in the Mechanismo project are fully exposed and Castillo finally redeeming herself after a previous bout of cowardice – somehow not that much seems to actually happen in the story. Also, no doubt due to the story being split between publications and having different creative teams working on it, the plot seems a bit disjointed while at the same time there is a fair bit of repartition. Ultimately, ‘Wilderlands’ is an important linking story in the history of Mega City One and is a pretty good read in its own right but it’s just not vintage Dredd.