“Judge Dredd #1”

Judge Dredd #1
(w) Duane Swierczynski (a) Nelson Daniel & Paul Gulacy
IDW Publishing
32 pages, $3.99

About a year and a half ago I sat down to finally take in a little British Sci-fi show called “Doctor Who.” I knew there was a huge history behind it that had been going on for ages, but I didn’t know much beyond that.

Cue present day and I have a couple sonic screwdrivers and a cardboard cutout of the TARDIS in my bedroom. You can say that I became a bit of a fan.

So I sat down to read Judge Dredd, having come into the book knowing that there is this huge story behind it and that it has had a couple of movies come out in recent history, all of which I haven’t seen or read previously. So I am really coming into this as blind as any other new reader would.

The second issue cannot get here fast enough.

From page one, the story and setting are all set up. You don’t need any back history to know what is going on. But if you are curious, there is a little history lesson at the end of the issue that tells you about Judge Dredd and the ongoing history of the comic and two main characters within this book, Dredd and Mega City One.

Wait, a city as a character? Yes. Much in the same way as Gotham is being presented in the current Batman book, Mega City One is as much a clearly defined character as Dredd. Duane Swierczynski clearly shows the social structure and purpose of the citizens and the city within the first few pages. The city comes off as very complex, yet socially structured in the art and story. And it is the actions of one tiny robot that is linked to a very important part of the city that starts a chain reaction that has some devastating, and what will surely be longer term, effects to the people.

If lawlessness is the sickness, then the Judges are the cure. The Judges’ role in the book is to restore order from any type of chaos. The interesting take here is that the only perceived chaos is from the human elements of the story. Dredd seems to get the idea that the robots may be involved, but every other human character, including his associate Judge Myers, doesn’t seem to think so. The exchange between the two judges at the end of the book definitely delivers the setup for the book, and that’s when the excitement for the next issue begins.

But, wait, there’s more! There is also a backup that features a story similar to the first one with the criminal actions of the humans and their unlawfulness in the city. The story also reiterates a weakness of Judge Dredd’s: he is only looking at the world in a clearly defined black and white view. As one would assume a robot would do, and there is something to be said about the fact that the judges seem to act more like a robots than the actual robots in this story. It is a story angle that I like, and when done well, can have some big payoffs later on.

The seeds for this payoff are planted when you see how the humans react to the robots when they are given orders and don’t exactly follow them. There seems to be an understanding that the robots are to function based on their programming and not to think for themselves. A celar example of this when it comes to Dredd himself is in the second story. Dredd believes exactly what the robot tells him after Dredd catches a citizen murdering another. Knowing the bigger picture of the story, we the reader are able to see that trusting robots isn’t exactly the behavior that Dredd should have.

And there is always something creepy about a robot with very distinct human facial features that has no iris or pupil in their eyes. It is a very typical look of a robot, but with the posturing, words, and overall look, the Trans-3000 in the back up comes across as the creepy villain of the piece. The Judges would almost come across with the same look with their helmets on, but at least there is a reflection in their visors that are meant to act like eyes, albeit slightly in-human looking.

This book is definitely worth the price of admission. Great story, great characters, and a clearly defined setup for the series are usually enough for me, but this book also includes a small history lesson and an immediate desire to have the next issue in your hands. I know I’ll have it at the top of my reading list when #2 hits the stands.