4 out of 5
While lacking any major storylines – though comprised of some 7-parters, and lots of 2-parters – the 7th Case Files collection feels major in that Wagner and Grant “find” the right humor balance for Dredd. Humor’s always run through the strip, of course, and many series up to this point have had some laugh out loud ideas and moments, but there’s a tough line to walk on that the duo mostly stay on top of here: adding oddball elements to the Dreddverse that feel fitting for a wholly distracted and oppressed society, and that are a mix of silly and satire, while also providing a proper “threat” off which to ping Joe. The success ratio of how often such elements are delivered, and how entertaining they are, is a testament to Wags’ and Grant’s understanding of the Dredd world – of settling into it while also crafting it. We also get some stellar art helping them out, though, with a good dose of Ian Gibson, Brett Ewins, and Steve Dillon showing off how dynamic his work was before being trained to use 100% straightaway shots by the dialogue-heavy Ennis. Kim Raymond also appears; Kim seems to be poorly received by most, and I can understand it – the work is jagged, and does not capture action very clearly. However, I think the roughness of it works well for the downbeats; I don’t mind it.
Prior to finding their rhythm, though, we get some eye-rolling puns that are used as final panel zingers, like a gag strip. That’s sort of funny in itself – that you’d end a seemingly important storyline in which Dredd almost perishes with a dumb pun – but it automatically doesn’t feel like a Dredd strip when you just back your way out of a conclusion with something akin to a knock-knock joke; having that longer-lasting, damned-if-you-resist and damned-if-you-obey dark bite to the humor is a much more defining affect. This is rather short-lived, thankfully, before we transition to the solid stuff, which not only offers up the ridiculous – a man who gets obsessed with having the biggest nose in all of the Meg; a non-uplift Orang Utan who’s elected mayor – but, along with further inventive additions to future crimes, continues adding bits and pieces to Joe’s quirks and personality.