3 out of 5
The nature of this compilation feels a bit disingenuous. Ezquerra has plenty of of Judge Dredd under his belt, including a lot of classic runs, and so you can find massive chunks of that either in the Case Files collections, or in other one-off trades that 2000 AD has put together. For those that don’t need the completionism of the former, though, that leaves some odds and ends stories leftover, and so it’s probably easier to market those by bagging them under the artist’s name, as “leftover Dredd material” probably isn’t all that appealing.
The Judge Dredd stories collected here, if you can’t guess from that, aren’t necessarily the greatest. Garth Ennis’ ‘The Taking of Sector House 123’ is very average fare, and Helter Skelter – though featuring a fun return of classic characters, brought to MC-1 thanks to dimensional warp – never quite takes off as the epic it wants to be. Both are entertaining enough, but don’t stick out as all-star stories befitting a highlighted ‘collection’ of Ezquerra; even when he’s doing mayhem, Ennis tends to write in a style that works with flatter artistic layouts – like Steve Dillon’s – and though Carlos can be said to have a consistency that might go with that, he’s also plenty more cinematic when the writing allows for it. Which it just doesn’t seem to, here. Plus – Helter Skelter has a chapter illustrated by Arthur Wyatt, which kinda throws the nature of this compilation off.
The less said about the two John Wagner chapters the better. Wags is obviously classic as well, but these thrills – one about sex bots; one about farts – are pretty puerile. Fine for a distraction, I suppose, but again, questionable as things to throw a spotlight on.
Thankfully, the back half of the book switches to Cursed Earth Koburn, as scripted from Gordon Rennie. Koburn – a judge who’s chosen to police in the Cursed Earth, going by his own rules – was modeled after Major Eazy from Battle Pictures Weekly, and Rennie has an incredible amount of fun building up a layer of badassness to him that runs exactly counter to Dredd’s. Rennie also gives Ezquerra the proper room to do his thing, making this various stories the example of his abilities this book should’ve been. Because (I believe) this is the only place to get collected Koburn stuff, I’d say the book – at a reasonable price – is worth the purchase, as it definitely balances out the middling entries in the former half.
The collection has no table of contents. It’s not a “Judge Dredd” collection, seeing as how it’s half Koburn, and it’s certainly not the best, overall, Carlos material, end-to-end, but the Rennie / Ezquerra material is top shelf goofy, exciting, and violent entertainment.