Mega City One is under nuclear siege in “Judge Dredd Classics #5,” a collection of parts nine through twelve of the 1982 storyline, The Apocalypse War. Presented in color, the issue is a fun throwback to a classic character, although its age is apparent at times. A story ingrained in Cold War mentality, Dredd squares off against the city’s Eastern counterpart, the Sovs. The conflict is clear cut, the Sovs one dimensional villains hellbent on conquering Dredd’s city.
The issue effectively captures the scope of Mega City One’s invasion. Events escalate in a simplistic “then this happened” way, with pieces being introduced to the playing field suddenly and unapologetically. This approach works well though, allowing for multiple exciting confrontations between Dredd’s forces and the Sovs. These moments are greatly presented through a contrast of zoomed out shots that convey the enormous size of the crumbling city, and tight shots of Dredd’s trademark law enforcement. The story is undeniably cheesy, but manages to deliver a tense, action packed tale. Certain action scenes can be a bit difficult to follow, but overall the issue flows nicely.
The writing is utilitarian, serving mostly to advance the simplistic plot. Dredd’s attempts to inspire the people are merely serviceable, in that they recall every inspirational speech ingrained in popular culture’s memory. Meanwhile, panicked citizens clutter panels with dialogue expounding events occurring around them. Several moments could have benefited from a quieter tone, allowing the art to speak. A subplot involving Dredd’s robot servant and landlady attempts to inject humor into the story but falls flat. The pair bicker incessantly, halting the momentum of the invasion’s increasing stakes whenever they appear.
The art definitely represents the look of the ’80s, bringing the dystopian world to life. The addition of color enhances this, with yellows and greens being simultaneously bright and grimy, highlighting the heroic judges. They especially pop against the drab appearance of the destroyed city and its citizens, as well as the muted colors of the Sovs’ forces. Dredd is often the dominant figure in panels, bulky, and with many close ups enforcing his imposing presence.
Although the issue does have its flaws, it is nevertheless an entertaining read. As the middle of The Apocalypse War storyline, it does find itself in a narrative lull, with Dredd fighting viciously to regroup his forces. Yet the violent, gritty tone of the series is intact, worth picking up at least to get a feel for the iconic character.
Roman Jaramillo is a contributing writer for Capeless Crusader. His personal brand desperately needs help. Help him think of a groin-grabbingly transcendent Twitter handle.