4 out of 5
Taken as these thrills are from the various 2000 AD Annuals & Specials from ’77 to ’85, Restricted Files is lacking in the kind of sequential story-telling one gets from The Case Files collections. Standalone stories are nothing new to 2000 AD or Dredd, of course, but it seems to have taken the magazine’s editors longer to figure out how they wanted to treat the yearly books alongside the weekly, as the stories here are a bit rough – and faceless – initially, picking up a bit in ’78 with references to the main series’ side characters, then truly hitting a stride in the early 80s, as more pages were (seemingly) allotted, allowing for more satisfying – and less inconsequential feeling – thrills.
But once you do hit that stride (with Tom Frame thank god lettering instead of the whatever typeface was being used in the first few thrills), the stories read like the classics they are, majorly scripted by Wagner with art from McMahon and Ezquerra (side note: so interesting to see Ezquerra’s blobby inking style was already happening here…) and weaving around the major storylines like Apocalypse War. And what amazes me when I read the current progs amazes me all the more to see it on display here, 20+ years ago: pages and pages of insane smart and silly ideas that are conjured for but a few pages; jaw-dropping art delivered in a weekly format on what, oddly, might still be considered a “cult” title.
So while this collection is probably more of interest to those already involved in the Dredd world, assuming you qualify, it’s absolutely worth hunting down. There might not be any “required” tales in here for knowing your major Dredd storylines, but especially once the style of the strip had found its niche in the early 80s, everything in this world from these creative teams – so, yes, including what you read here – became comic gold.