JUDGE DREDD: MEGA-CITY ZERO
SCRIPT: ULISES FARINAS & ERICK FREITAS
ART: DAN MCDAID
As far as comics are concerned, my first, and greatest love, has always been Judge Dredd and 2000AD. When IDW released their first shot at the character a few years back, I read the first arc or two, but they got the book so wrong that I dropped it.
Now they are trying again with a rather different approach. Instead of doing a ‘greatest hits’ (without any greatness) like they did the first time round, this relaunched book is a completely original story (or at least a whole new spin on the story ‘City of the Damned’).
Issue 1 finds Dredd awakening to find himself a stranger in a strange land. Or has he? There is, both to Dredd and the reader, something familiar here and Part 1 concludes with a reveal of where we are, but not when or how.
First off, Dan McDaid on art. This is the first I’ve seen his work and I like it. Departing from the overly cartoony work on the last IDW Dredd series, he’s rougher and grittier, which suits the book and character. He does a nice Dredd – one who is large and imposing – but not overly so. The world looks good, from the flashbacks of the city, to the world reclaimed by nature. He also does the action well, especially when Dredd battles the Robot Judges, which looks great. In fact, all his characters look good and stand out as unique, such as the youngsters that Dredd first meets. I have a few issues, especially in the middle of the book, as it becomes a little hard to follow, but I suspect the blame here lies with the script more than the art, which gave me a ‘Francesco Francavilla-meets-Frank Miller’ vibe .
The book is written by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas, who, for the most part, do a good job. Their Dredd is mostly well done, though they do have him kill a man for little or no reason which does not feel right. Dredd is a killer, but he follows the law and there seemed no reason to shoot, let alone kill the man. As is often the case when a character is being introduced to potential new readers for the first time, Dredd is given some sidekicks – in this case, three young kids – to antagonise him and give the writers something more to do than ‘Dredd fights crime’.
The story starts simply: Dredd investigates a crime, then wakes up in a world that is not his own. He meets and arrests the three kids, and while searching for something familiar, he comes across a civilisation and a group of people. It’s here that things get a little messy for a few pages. It’s unclear what is happening and why, as well as what motivates the crowd. The juves, as well as Dredd, want access to the tower before them and while the kids need Dredd to get them in, a few pages later it appears they find another way in easily enough without needing Dredd. It’s maybe just a case of squeezing in too much, as the last few pages came together as Dredd and the kids enter the tower and Dredd realizes where he is. (It’s also worth noting that some of the characters’ ‘future-talk’ can be a little unclear and annoying). The writers throw in lots of nice little easter eggs and explanations of background details, especially handy for new readers, without it feeling like exposition dumps. For instance, we get an explanation of Dredd’s lawgiver, Psi-Division, Robot Judges and MAC computers.
Issue 2 finds us exploring the world in which Dredd has found himself, in a bit more detail. We are in an apocalyptic future, with the Judges and the Mega-City One we know replaced by a lawless, anarchistic society. We learn more about this world here before Dredd sets off to protect the kids whom he realises are in more trouble now than they were before he met them.
Issue 2 was, like the first, mostly fun, but with a few clunky sections here and there. Thankfully due to the interesting direction Farina and Freitas are taking the character, as well as McDaid’s art, I’m more than willing to overlook these flaws and stick with the book that, in these two issues, promises to be a far better Dredd book than the previous IDW run.