With volume 1 of The Complete Case Files, Rebellion begins its grand reprinting of (almost) every Judge Dredd story right from the very beginning. This sets the stage for many of the reprints to come - roughly an inch thick, and for about the same price as an average trade paperback. This covers the early days, when instalments were generally limited to four pages, and the dialogue could be astonishingly stilted. Dredd ends each story with a short speech about how awesome the law is and how evil criminals are; each story has to start by reminding the audience of the premise, and since few stories last longer than one instalment, this quickly starts to wear thin. Early strips display elements which would be quietly dropped as the series found its voice, such as non-Judge cops and the idea that the people of Mega-City One would refuse to work more than three hours a week. Pat Mills forced the writers to portray Dredd as an unambiguous hero, in contrast to the fascist that John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra originally imagined. Some of the extended stories are of note. We meet Rico for the first time, which also shows what happens when Judges go bad. An extended story concerns Call-Me-Kenneth's first robot war, which unfortunately is a very straightforward and stilted "evil robots wrongfully turn against their mighty humans masters" story. This one also introduces Walter, who to fans' annoyance would go on to become an important character. Wagner returns about 1/3 of the way through and toes Mills' line for a while, but soon manages to rework Dredd into something more resembling his original vision. The dialogue also improves. At the end, Dredd goes off on a temporary assignment on the Moon, where Wagner gives us a fun space western with occasionally serious (albeit ham-fisted) morals. Following this, he returns to the Big Meg for a humorous story about just how Lawful Neutral he really is. The tome is padded out by a series of one-page Walter the Wobot strips, which are actually pretty funny. There is also Wagner and Ezquerra's previously-unpublished pilot strip, in which Dredd is much more of the homourless bastard we all know and loved. In conclusion, this is of interest to dedicated fans, but it's a bad place to start for people looking to get started.
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