This nice book, much of it in colour, collects Judge Dredd stories from various 2000AD Summer Specials and Annuals between 1977 and 1984. Being culled from Specials and Annuals it features no long, continuing stories, only short one-offs. There are three scriptwriters: John Wagner, Alan Grant and Steve Moore, though a few individual stories are credited to unknown. It's mostly Wagner, which is no bad thing. There are ten artists listed on the cover, the usual competent 2000AD members and one John Byrne, of X-Men fame who drew a story called 'Block Out at the Crater Bowl'. All the art is pretty good, though in a few of the early stories the Dredd one seems a bit small bodied and big headed so he looks like Billy the Cat, of Beano fame.
Given thirty-four stories to choose from the best thing to do is pick out the highlights. The opening third of the book is pretty unremarkable but not unpleasant. The first story I really enjoyed was ‘The Fear That Made Milwaukee Famous’ written by John Wagner. Dredd goes out into the Cursed Earth with a warrant for the arrest of Rhode Island Red, a chicken-headed mutant. Milwaukee was nuked by ‘friendly fire’ in the Apocalypse war that created Dredd’s future and the grumpy citizens are rumoured to haunt it every night. The idea of Americans accidentally nuking one of their own cities is not far fetched for they said in World War II: ‘When the Germans shoot, the British duck; when the British shoot, the Germans duck; when the Americans shoot, everybody ducks.’ As true today as it was then. This enjoyable tale was greatly enhanced by lively art from Mike McMahon. ‘The Sweet Taste of Justice’ next in the book, has even better art, albeit in black and white, by Colin Wilson.
There is a recurring strain of black humour in the life of Dredd. In ‘Compulsory Purchase’ the city buys the heart of Norman Williams because its needed for a top defence expert. Norman objects even though he will get an artificial heart as a replacement. In ‘Anatomy of a Crime’ Bub “Jellybelly” Jones wants to win the coveted title of Mega City Fats but can’t afford the Flabbon supplements necessary as he is unemployed, like 87% of the population. He turns to crime. ‘The Beast in 24b’ has parents thinking the fang-beest that ate their son is their son, changed by some experiment with his chemistry set. This sort of thing is good fun.
Judge Dredd: The Restricted Files 01 is not as good as the later volumes of Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files because by its very nature it doesn’t feature the epic continuing stories that have moved the big-jawed one into the top rank of comic characters. Even so, it contains some good yarns, some excellent art and is probably worth the 1200 pennies you can now buy it for online.
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/