“Judge Dredd Year One #1”

Judge Dredd Year One
Judge Dredd Year One #1
(w) Matt Smith
(a) Simon Coleby
IDW Publishing

So let’s talk Year One stories.

When I pick up a Year One book, I’m expecting to find the a story about the title character’s first year. They are young, fresh, and inexperienced. They will make mistakes. They are learning.

Being relatively new to anything Judge Dredd, I’m interested in seeing the direction that this book takes. The IDW series that recently started got me hooked on Dredd, and now I’m reading through the Complete Casefiles in order to get as immersed in Dredd as I can. So when I heard about this series, I thought it might be a rather interesting read.

What we get out of the book is a Dredd more green and cocky than the hardliner I’ve gotten to know in other stories. He also seemed to be more talkative, which is not something I really noticed from any of the other Dredd books I’ve picked up. So I’m getting a vibe of year one type story potential in the story.

But something is nagging me. This just doesn’t feel like a Dredd story, but it kinda does at the same time. Outside of how Dredd acts, there really isn’t much that distinguishes this as a Year One type of story. Yes, it is the first time that he visits the Psi division, but it seems to be missing something rather important. We do see some criminals get the jump on Dredd, but that holds true in the regular IDW series as well, so I don’t really see that being a reveal for a rookie Dredd.

It seemed as if a bigger chunk of the comic was focused on all characters but Dredd. Dredd doesn’t appear until page 6 of the comic. The previous pages do a great job of setting up the overall mystery of the story, but even when Dredd appears on the scene, it has more of the feeling of a regular Dredd comic than a Year One story. Hell, we don’t even get halfway through the story until it is referenced that Dredd appears to others in the story as a new cadet. Up until that moment, outside of the year being referenced in the narration, this could have fit in with the regular Judge book. Even after that moment, you could simply change a couple words in the dialogue and bam—you have a regular Judge Dredd story.

Taking it as a regular Dredd story—this is a fantastic book. Interesting premise and excitement that makes me want to read more. But as a Year One story it lacks. It has miles to go before I could consider it as that type of story. When I read the first issue of the IDW series, I really felt and could see Dredd as a two-bit character with this world around him that was going to put him through the ringer. The city itself felt as much of a character as anything else. I don’t get that impression in this issue. Hell, it is hard to point out any character besides maybe one that showed a multiple character traits to their personality. Unfortunately, that one isn’t Dredd.

I look forward to some exploration of the characters happening in future issues. So much time was spent setting up the story that it feels like that characterization was forgotten. Let’s hope that gets some focus in the next issue. I need something that really shows me this is a Year One story and not something that could easily fit into the back of the regular Judge Dredd title.