3 out of 5
Obvious statement: since Alan Grant essentially took Cass over for most of the PSI Files, your enjoyment of this stuff will be largely dependent on how much you like Grant’s writing, especially when it’s of a more psychological bent.
For me, that’s… not too much, unfortunately. Grant’s comedic stuff can be quite hilarious, very over the top, and I love how that combos with Wagner’s often acerbic sense of humor. And also when they work together, Alan’s tendency towards religious musings and literary explorations gets tempered by John’s better (by my opinion) character and world building. So on the latter, when left to his own devices, Grant’s stuff feels way too surface level to me, taking some of the more obvious questions one might have when questioning their faith or politics, and printing them right on the page, with Mega City-One and the judges – Anderson – taking a complete back seat to those thoughts; the Dreddverse of Grant’s PSI Files simply isn’t really the Dreddverse, it’s just the regular world with some characters wearing shoulder pads and running into Christ imagery.
So within volume 3, we run into Satan, and god-children, and Cass continues to flirt with an interest in Catholicism. I do think there are some very interesting premises here: post the navel-gazing of volume 2, Grant has tightened things up quite a bit, giving Cass some more drive – she wants to be a Judge, and execute the law, which helps to ultimately give the stories some linearity – but ultimately almost every major story has to fall flat when Grant unleashes whatever thinly-veiled parable he’s working on. And there’s also an odd Marvel / DC “unchanging” tone to things – like big events can only happen in the main Dredd strip, so when the world nearly ends in some of these PSI strips, it all has to go back to status quo by the end.
The art is quite other-worldly, though. Arthur Ranson is perfectly applied in Satan’s apocalyptic imagery, and in the grotesquerie of its main foe, and Steve Sampson does some delightfully bizarre, half-photo-reference work that somewhat calls to mind Simon Davis at points; Sampson being on approximately half of these strips, we can see his style evolving throughout, and his pages are a lot of fun to look at. And as part of the bonus strips, we get some classic art from Ian Gibson and Mick Austin, both of whom are quite welcome. (The “bonuses” – stuff from annuals – also include two text stories, which is a nice change of pace, although both tales are fairly average.)
If you are a fan of Grant’s Anderson writing, I do think this is his strongest outing up to this point, as it most effectively combines his interests with the general pacing of 2000 AD tales. But if you’re like me, and not quite sold on his ideas, while these are mostly enjoyable, they still don’t exactly feel like they take place in the world of Dredd, and often skip out on potentially more compelling stories for philosophical musings.