Block Judge (pkgd. w/ JD Meg #396) – John Wagner

5 out of 5

Block Judge was the Dredd strip running when in started being able to collect 2000 AD consistently, and it pretty much convinced me, after a couple progs worth of entries, that this strip had rightfully lasted its decades, not because of Marvel / DC nostalgia, but because the Dredd-verse had been hand crafted into the most durable of worlds, from the ground up, by a core group of people who established the roots so firmly that they can be trusted whichever which way by any given creator, but still held fast to some defining tenets.

And when the key members of that core group – John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra – return to the title, which is happily rather often, it’s impressive how frequently they can draft up something worth our time, or, in the case of Block Judge, something that epitomizes Dredd while still existing on the freshest edge of his ongoing narrative.

Block Judge is simple: Gramercy Heights, the worst of the worst, has just had its block judge killed, and Dredd has been nominated to step in and clean it up, with a slim two-person-plus-one-auxiliary crew that the current Meg staffing allows.  For 40+ pages, Wagner and Ezquerra take us on a tour through gang wars, crime overlords, and petty juve crimes, Ezquerra jamming so goddamned much, so fluidly, onto each page, while Wags gives us all we need to know – with some great characterization for his supporting judges to boot – about the setting and the players for the stakes to remain consistently compelling.

And it all wraps up with a hilariously Dredd-y sneer.

Perfection, man, forty years on.  And props to the floppies: I own these progs individually, but reading the story collected is a treat.