2021 sees the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of what, for me, was the definitive mega epic of the early days of 200ADs Judge Dredd. Stuff like The Cursed Earth and The Judge Child were great, but whilst those were short stories stitched together, The Apocalypse war and it’s opening act Block Mania stand tall as a complete ongoing narrative with zero filler.
Although the story was released in colour via Eagle Comics in the mid eighties, they were U.S comic size and on the standard non shiny paper of the day, and best remembered for Bian Bolland’s amazing original covers. This release matches (or near enough) the original publication size and comes on high grade glossy paper, allowing Charlie Kirchoff’s colour work to shine.
In Mega City One there’s a problem. For some reason the citizens, never the quietest under normal circumstances, have gone fight crazy. It’s a city full of “That drunk asshole at the end of the bar”, and the different housing blocks break out the weaponary and start fighting. Given that each block as a city defence unit with plenty of lethal weaponary, and as it all spirals out of control the Judges are under some pressure. As the cause of the “block mania” is uncovered, the city is plunged into a war with their Russki rivals, the Sovs (subtle as a brick, eh?).
The Apocalypse War is a glorious thing, written by Dredd legends Alan Grant & John Wagner, with ALL the main story art being provided by Carlos Ezquerra, his first work on the character since 1977. This art is practically flawless and the tale benefits from a single artist, as multiple artists tended to jar on epics like the Judge Cal saga (where no two of them drew the main villain the same). Block Mania is equally well served, with the incredible roster of Mikc McMahon, Steve Dillon, Ron Smith and Brian Bolland (his last Dredd strip work) providing amazing art .
If you’re a fan, it’s more than likely you’ll already have this, and indeed I was on the fence about having yet another copy. This coloured version was originally released by American company IDW in 2014, but not having seen that version I can’t copmment on the comparitive print quality. It IS my favourite Dredd story, though, and although I’d have preferred a hardcover it was an opportunity I’m glad I took advantage of. The colours work extremely well and the story is always a pleasure to read. For newcomers to Dredd, this is an ideal time to read one of the defining stories whose repercussions have been felt ever since. In a word: Zarjaz!