Dredd Origins – John Wagner really can do no wrong in my eyes right now….

Published On July 20, 2012 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Judge Dredd: Origins

By John Wagner, Carlos Ezquera and Kev Walker


(Oh my. I’ve just noticed something when I added that cover to this quick review. They spelt Ezquerra’s name wrong on the cover. Oh my. Oh dear. Not good Rebellion.)

I’ll make this quick, as it’s rather jumped the queue of books I meant to review. In fact there’s a whole pile of books that I’ve been sent that should have been done before this one that I picked up last time I was down at Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham. I only picked it up as it was there on the shelves alongside the Dredd Case Files, and I was picking up Volume 5 of that to revisit the Apocalypse War after thoroughly enjoying Wagner’s quite breathtakingly good Chaos Day serial in 2000AD recently.

But I have to at least write something about this, seeing as I read it cover to cover tonight in an increasingly cold bath. Started hot, ended up freezing. Always a sign of a great read that, the cold bath test maybe?

(Ezquerra’s first Origins page, a summary of what is to come)

I just thought it was all rather wonderful. I’ve come to really appreciate John Wagner’s writing over the course of the last few months, and here I find myself in thrall to the man again. A historical masterpiece by Wagner firmly delivering a history lesson of Dredd’s life, the Justice Department, and the world they exist in. And he does it by having the present day Dredd venture forth into the Cursed Earth after evidence comes to light that Chief Judge Fargo, the very first Chief Judge, founder of the Justice Department, and clone father to Dredd and Rico, may well be alive out there somewhere, held hostage.

It’s done in such a manner that novice Dredd fans such as myself get a very useful history lesson, and those more versed in Dredd-lore will find gaps filled in, history expanded upon, perfectly, thrillingly. Along the way Dredd reveals what he knows of the history of the Judges, the Mega-Cities, the devastating world war that created the Cursed Earth at the hands of the last President of the United States; Robert L Booth.

(Kev Walker’s atmospheric art in the rain drenched prequel)

Wagner, ably assisted by Kev Walker in the initial atmospheric prequel, and Carlos Ezquerra in the Origins tale itself, produces that rarest of things, a smart, entertaining, comic blockbuster, one I found myself unable to put down. Sure, it’s not perfect, there’s occasional flab, some really out of character bits (those bloody stupid robots?), a few plot points that left me wondering (Fargo’s brother? Any reason for that?), a few bits in the Cursed Earth scenes where they were obviously doing stuff just for doing stuffs sake, allowing Wagner to get back to Dredd telling stories round the campfire once more. But so what, they fair flew by, and then it was back to the entertainment.

I may be a late convert to Dredd, I may not have fully grasped how good John Wagner is, but I’m learning fast.

So, over to you. I’m in a Dredd kind of mood, a John Wagner Dredd epic sort of mood. Where to next folks?


You can read a short interview we did with John Wagner about Origins when it was first coming out from 2000 AD back in 2006 here on the blog

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

11 Responses to Dredd Origins – John Wagner really can do no wrong in my eyes right now….

  1. For my money John Wagner is the best comics writer the UK has ever produced. After reading Origins I’d strongly recommend reading the two Tour of Duty books, as they follow on more or less directly from Origins, and are made up of complex interweaving stories about the struggle for power in Mega City One, and the issue of mutant rights. But if you fancy something other than Dredd, I’d also strongly recommend Button Man – probably my favourite Wagner strip. Wagner is the master of making us root for characters we’d probably run away from in a hurry if we actually met them in real life, and Button Man features a main character with no redeeming features whatsoever – a genuine psychopath. Yet you still root for him!

  2. Matt Badham says:

    Judge Dredd: The Pit is a bit of a fave of mine.

    Dredd does Hill Street Blues:


    It’s available in a trade collection (the second one published, in 2008).

  3. Aonghus Ó Lochlainn says:

    Great review! I stopped reading 2000AD in the middle of this saga (regretful, but 16-year-old me couldn’t afford the €3.50 a week) and this has made me eager to go back to it. As for more Dredd epics, Necropolis is a fantastic piece of work, or if you could get your hands on some of the more recent back-issues, the current Day of Chaos storyline is set to be a classic!

  4. E.E. Richardson says:

    The trio of daft robots in Origins are inherited from Booth’s first appearance waaaay back in “The Cursed Earth” when the prog numbers were still in double digits, which is why they may seem out of step with the tone of the rest of the story. (Not that Wagner has ever shied away from including silly robots when he feels like it.)

    The Tour of Duty mega-epic is pretty much a direct follow-up to events in Origins, and is one of John Wagner’s very finest hours on Dredd. (Which is a hell of a stiff competition.) It’s collected in two trades, “Tour of Duty: the Backlash” and “Tour of Duty: Mega-City Justice” and it’s definitely worth grabbing both at the same time, because it’s really all one long slow-burn story made up of shorter tales like in Day of Chaos.

  5. Emperor says:

    Where next?



    I also second the recommendation of The Pit, an epic storyline rooted in classic police procedural.

  6. Matt Badham says:

    Not Wagner, but essential: Cursed Earth by Pat Mills.

    (Hmm, I’m going to have to do a list for you.)

  7. Matt Badham says:

    To be honest, you could do worse than working through the Case Files. Cheap ‘n’ chunky, although the repro’ sometimes leaves something to be desired:


  8. Joe says:

    I’d agree with the Emperor, America is a good one to go for, Dredd as the anti-hero, quite a few years old now and yet, sadly, just as pertinent to today’s post 9-11 society of laws and searches ‘to protect us’ as it was when first written. There’s a Complete America, with the sequel, which is fine, but lacks the power of the original tale, which also boasts some superb artwork. Also has ongoing link to modern Dredd with Judge Beeny, daughter of Bennet & America from those stories, who is now a major character alongside Dredd in the recent Chaos Day story

  9. Leon says:

    If you’re heading down the case files route (as Mr. Badham suggests) dive into volume five which features Judge Death Lives, Block Mania and the Apocalypse War. You get some definitive art from Bolland, McMahon and Ezquerra, and it lays the seeds to the recent Chaos Day story.

  10. Lee Grice says:

    As has been said the next books storywise would be the two TOUR OF DUTY books. I would also highly recommend AMERICA (new printing out soon) and TOTAL WAR.