Since his debut in 1977’s 2000 AD #2 over forty years ago, the grim, fit, and unapologetic Judge Dredd has become both one of comics’ most emblematic figures, but also one of its most enigmatic. A “Street Judge”—officer, judge, jury, and executioner in the monolithically dystopic Mega-City One—Dredd is, by all outward appearances, a one-dimensional satire of fascism in his original conception by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra. Indeed, many purists and diehard fans will tell you that Dredd functions best when he is unflinching and morally reprehensible. A reflection of our own struggles with law and justice, living and dying.
But that idea essentially lacks nuance, dismissing the flexibility of Dredd as a figure and the function of his stories. As time progresses in both Mega-City One (literally—the series started in 2079 and as of now takes place in 2143) and the real world, so, too, does Dredd. A legacy character from a vast array of the most recognizable creators in comics, (including Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, John Wagner, Dan Abnett, and Pat Mills), Dredd is a vessel for stories with overwhelmingly sardonic takes on law, justice, and the often wholesale inability of politics to synthesize the two. Once lauded, over time these stories were also found to be all too prescient, overlapping with our own grim reality in both telling and narratively trying ways.
So, out of gross necessity, Dredd changed. Law and justice incarnate, saint and sinner, he’s better for it. A complex, enigmatic figure, in any given series Dredd can be seen as an uncompromising villain, but also, when needed, a legitimate hero. Violent, unhinged, resolute, kind, caring, contradictory and complex all in one, Dredd is a genuine icon, and one that has been central to some of the best comics stories of all time included below. [Read more…] about This List is the Law: The Best Judge Dredd Comics