Judge Dredd: The Small House- Rob Williams & Henry Flint (2000AD / Rebellion)

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Judge Sam, survivor of Enceladus and former Architect is now patrolling Mega-City One, feeling it is his duty, a debt of honour. But he has been receiving special attention from Judge Dredd, and let’s face it, any attention from Dredd is special in one way or another, and his experiences on Enceladus may hold the key to mysterious and unexplainable deaths currently plaguing the City.

This omnibus opens with Act of Grud which focuses on Judge Sam, his survivors’ guilt and how he becomes involved with Dredd and his small team trying to get to the bottom of these impossible deaths. How are the events on Saturn’s moon related to what is happening in Mega-City One? How can people in protective isolation violently die with no visible cause in front of your very eyes? Why is Dredd forming a team that is operating behind Chief Judge Hershey’s back? Sam soon finds he is vital to finding out the answers to these questions….

The Small House takes up the main body of the collection and completes the story started… well, that’s a very interesting question. Exactly when did this all start? Maybe the clone of War-Marshall Kazan holds the answers. Judge Smiley, the manipulator, the ‘ghost Judge’ is pulling all the strings, and with Dredd breathing down his neck he is doing everything in his power to ensure Dredd and his team are always several steps behind as Dredd, Sam, Giant, Maitland and Dirty Frank do all they can to clean the Mega-City of Smiley’s assassins – acting with official authorisation but ‘without portfolio’.

The action takes us from Sino-Cit to the Cursed Earth and to the unreachable heart of Mega-City One. It asks us is Dredd just the fascist symbol Smiley claims him to be, or is he the order that the world needs in this time of disorder and as it clings to survival? There are hidden personal secrets to be revealed, histories and tragedies to be uncovered and traitors to be unveiled in this complex and brutal tale that spans more than just its own immediate events.

The omnibus closes out with Pets, set several months after the events of The Small House Dredd and Giant are back together and Giant is faced with Dredd’s bottom line. He’s not here to form bonds or make friends. He’s not here to question the moral implications of what he does. He is here to be the LAW. To dispense the word of the Law and ensure justice is served.

This collection may not be the best start for the uninitiated into the world of Judge Dredd as there is a lot of history enmeshed in its DNA, but even for those vaguely familiar with the lawman of Mega-City One it serves as a perfect reminder of exactly who Dredd is, what his motivators are and what makes him keep going, even though he’s already given, done and suffered so much. With a complex but utterly compelling central story from modern Dredd master Rob Williams, these stories are full of the weight of history and the toll it takes. It doesn’t shy away from looking at the profound impact the events our protagonists endure has on them but neither does it belabour the points or dwell on them. It simply shows us our characters logical motivators and gives us a window on their psyche. All of this is bought vividly to life with the distinctive and gritty art of Henry Flint. Contrasting heavy dark shades with bright light he gives Mega-City One and its denizens a realism and oppressiveness that tells as much of the story as words ever could, complimenting Williams words beautifully.

As I said, this may not be the ideal ‘first time’ buy, but if you have any semblance of interest in the life and times of Judge Joseph Dredd and Mega-City One then this must surely have a spot on your bookcase. The Small House has been judged and has been found essential! Jeff Goddard

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