Volume 4 opens with the "Judge Child" epic, a 26-part story from 1980 whose resolution would have repurcussions across the next two volumes and influence stories up to 2007. This time round, John Wagner takes on writing duties for a trek across the Cursed Earth, reminiscent of Pat Mills' "The Cursed Earth." However, where Mills' epic took a group of travellers through a series of vignettes with a road trip as the backdrop, Wagner's just has Dredd, and rather than a set of two-part stories, the first six parts of Wagner's tale form a continuous narrative as Dredd searches through the Cursed Earth for Owen Krysler, the titular Judge Child. During this time, we are introduced to the Angel gang, a popular family of villains one of whom, Mean Machine, would go on to become one of the comic's most iconic villains. After six issues of searching the desert, Dredd gets on a spaceship with two other Judges and jets off across the galaxy in search of Krysler. At this point, the narrative becomes a little unravelled, taking on a more episodic structure similar to that of "The Cursed Earth". While these stories are decent, they seem to lack the scale and tightness of the first six parts, and at times seem to resort to Wacky Wayside Tribes to bump the prog count up to 26. That said, the final showdown against the Angel Gang is a definite return to form for Wagner. Following that, there is a series of short procedurals and various explorations of criminal and civilian life in Mega-City One, as well as the appearance of Fink Angel, estranged member of the Angel gang, who provides the gang's backstory. Other stories build up to the Apocalypse War in the next volume, and revisit Otto Sump, the hard luck case turned billionaire from volume 3. Of particular note is that this volume introduces Judges Hershey and McGruder, who would be major supporting characters in the future, as well as Chopper, the most unambiguously heroic of the recurring antagonists. Indeed, this volume for the first time portrays the Judges as outright villains, though there are still plenty of stories where Dredd is the hero. All in all, a decent collection, and a good starting point for new readers.
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