Thursday, 21 March 2013

New Beginnings - Judge Dredd Year One #1

IDW is a publisher that has a somewhat naughty pleasure for me. It’s not your mainstream Marvel or DC comics, and very often they have titles that everyone knows of, but not necessarily thinks about,  like Transformers. They also have a great range of publications that are constantly finding me something new to experience. This week I have one of those exact moments with Judge Dredd Year One.

Now my exposure to Judge Dredd is limited to the Stallone film and recent reboot, although I am aware of the previous 2000AD comics that I used to see on newsagents shelves as a kid. This does mean that I can take a fairly neutral view on this issue.

The story is brought to us by Matt Smith (not that one!), 2000AD's current Editor-in-Chief, and revolves around Joe Dredd's early days. Things are not quite what he expected, as there are strange psychic abilities manifesting in the juveniles around him.

Initially told in a third person style (which isn’t given by Dredd), the introduction of Mega-City One is more about showing how things the future are different and yet still very much the same. Children get bullied, babies play with no apparent understanding of the world around them and gangs try to rule the streets. But then things have begun to change. Sudden outbreaks of what can only be described as phenomena start appearing - telekinesis, levitation, mind control - and there are many more eluded to.

Skipping forward four days we see Dredd on patrol. Ending up in pursuit of two criminals, the subsequent chase brings him to witness such an event where a small child tears a man limb from limb.

Posed with the problem of what to do Dredd approaches the Psi-Division to get some guidance. This is a whole new world for the old fashioned cop. What this does mean is that when Dredd is back on the street, things have definitely changed in what he comes to expect and how he intends to to handle it all.

From the outset the cover is fantastic and looks glorious. With art from Greg Staples I felt this so-called standard cover was anything but. I definitely preferred it to the subscription and alternative covers, though it's worth noting the subscription cover comes from Dredd's co-creator, Carlos Ezquerra.

The artwork inside is a little different though. The fine work and details that we saw outside does appear to have been all used up and now we have a less defined depiction of the story. The interior artist is Simon Coleby, an artist I haven’t knowingly seen before but is a veteran of Judge Dredd and has received some fantastic words of praise from his editors.

What I did like were the little touches. Even though the inside cover has the contributor listings there is still a box on the second page which ties in perfectly with the story simply labelled “Citation:Y1N1” which has the main contributors listed as droids. It’s a tricky call for me as it’s not a style that I usually like - and part of me probably still doesn’t - but I really enjoyed the story and the artwork became a little secondary.

Not knowing any of the lore and history behind Dredd meant that I had no preconceived ideas about it at all. The story felt good and easy to read and the casual reader can easily pick it up. This is an iconic figure being given a new beginning for anyone to jump on board with relative ease.

Matt Puddy. Three countries. Two weeks. And one serious race to run.

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