Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War
by John Wagner, Alan
Grant, Carlos Ezquerra
(Titan, 2003)

Collecting the 25-part storyline from UK's popular sci-fi comic 2000 A.D., Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War follows the title character -- a one-stop judge, jury and executioner for Mega-City One, a futuristic sprawling metropolis -- as a regional turf war escalates into a global war.

Originally published in 1982 in small, serialized increments, this method of storytelling probably worked in that particular format. However, reading the numerous chapters in one sitting becomes an arduous task. The continual onslaught of cliffhangers provides an over-inflated dramatic atmosphere, but given the overall threat level involved, the tension somewhat makes sense.

The predominant threat/theme of global annihilation is very relevant, both to the story as well as to its place in the history of visual storytelling. Published in 1982, this story not only portrays the worst fears of that decade realized, it also introduced a harsh perspective on a previously heroic figure. How far would Judge Dredd go to exact justice? Well, the answer may surprise you -- even if you've previously read this story.

There are some great action sequences showcasing early-career artwork from fan favorites of the comics industry (Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon and Carlos Ezquerra). Unfortunately, the styles strongly contrast each other. This reinforces the original serialized and separate format in which The Apocalypse War was told, preventing cohesion of the 25 parts into an overall story.

Almost any fan of comics, graphic novels, visual storytelling -- whatever the descriptive buzz phrase is now -- has heard of and will admit to the importance of Judge Dredd and 2000 A.D. The character and the creators that have worked on him are deserving of recognition for the art form. Now, in light of that, I must admit that it was difficult to enjoy this story, for the aforementioned reasons: disjunctive storytelling and visual inconsistencies. I guess it's similar to some of the classics of literature -- you appreciate a work even if you don't enjoy it. The social themes, the stylistic elements, the harshness of such a brutal future -- it's strong stuff that's had a snowball effect. But I'd argue that the after-effects/influence of Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War is more interesting than the actual story.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 5 February 2005

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