3 out of 5
Near the end of the progs collected in the 10th Case Files edition, 2000 AD celebrates ten years of weekly thrills. We can look back from (as of now) 2021 and remarked upon forty plus years of publication and chortle at the mag’s youth, but ten years is / was still a big deal for any book. Going back and reading this now, though, you can see where writing-at-all writers John Wagner and Alan Grant may’ve been feeling the need to stretch their wings a bit. We’re now more consistently seeing their own names credited to the strips instead of pseudonyms; which doesn’t have to mean anything in itself, but, as mentioned when that first appeared (outside of the newspaper strip, at least), it still feels significant, showing a sense of ownership. But “ownership” for a legacy character, even one you’ve been writing for a decade, can be difficult to define, leading to a fairly weightless run of strips here. There are only a couple of longer entries, but besides that, it feels like we’re leaning more and more into parody, even getting a full-on comedic “what if…” strip at the end. The constantly cycling artists add to the fleeting feeling, though that shouldn’t distract by how solid the roster is. At the same time, note that that roster starts including quite the experimentations, with Brendan McCarthy and Brett Ewins both pushing their stylizations, and Kevin O’Neill going full gnarled Nemesis on us.
A few enduring ideas are introduced here, but they’re very offhand; more enduring just because someone brought them back, and not because they feel like Wags / Grant trying to world build.
The flip-side of the constant changeup in visuals and Wagner and Grant writing a more distinctly black or white Dredd – more punch-liney, or more directly brutal – is that the whole collection is a pretty breezy read. Ephemeral, yes – not a necessary addition to Dredd history, really – but entertaining from start to finish.