Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.
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ComiConverse Contributor, Darryll Robson, reviews the continuing adventures of Judge Dredd as visualised by writers Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas for IDW Publishing.
Judge Dredd is out of his depth, quite literally, in part 4 of IDWs Mega-City Zero storyline, and his newest little friends aren’t fairing much better.
At the end of the last issue, Dredd was accepted as a resident into Ang Avi, the de-evolved version of the Angela Davis block that the Judge is more familiar with. Once inside, it doesn’t take long before he is climbing into the depths of the tower block to see what makes it tick. In scenes reminiscent of the 2005 movie The Decent, Dredd ventures into the pitch blackness and comes face to face with some horrifying creatures.
Meanwhile, outside the city, Lolo and his friends are harvesting eyeballs to get back into the tower block when they run afoul of the Yes-Men, so called because they don’t listen when you say ‘No’. Only Lolo manages to escape from their grasp and he ventures into the sewers of the city with the hope of finding a new way in.
Ultimately their paths cross and Dredd must once again rescue the youngling from the horrors of the city. This turn of events makes Dredd realise that he should never have let the children go and his behaviour could constitute a breach of his own lawful standards.
The focus of this issue of Judge Dredd is on the character’s lack of a comfort zone. Lolo has been shown, over previous issues, to pride himself on his ‘street smarts’ and always knows what is going on. However in this arc he trusts an unknown and the consequence of that is the kidnapping of his friends. He then risks everything, by again entering the unknown to find the one person he knows can help; the same person that made him start to trust others in the first place.
A form of irony?
Possibly, but it definitely illustrates the infective character of Dredd.
Joe Dredd is also well out of his comfort zone. He is in a tower block that is both familiar and yet unknown to him; He has lost all contact with Control, a lifeline for all Judges when they are on patrol; and he has no idea what to expect as he climbs down into the darkness. Usually he has some idea what kind of perps he’s going to be facing, but in this instance he is clueless.
Mega-City Zero is an intriguing mystery story that is slowly unravelling month-after-month. In this issue, the reader is given a few more titbits of information; most importantly that Joe is ‘not the only Judge’ in this warped world. This point is comically reinforced by Lolo when he renames the stray dog Pug Dredd. This scene is a light moment in an otherwise dark story, but it’s not just a flippant throwaway gag, it reinforces the early part of the narrative when Dredd was basically told he was not alone.
Despite the clever writing, I would say that the real star of this issue is Dan McDaid’s artwork, supported by the brilliant colors of Ryan Hill. From the very first page, where you are shown Dredd climbing into the darkness, the art work sets the tone of the story. It’s mostly black with a few murky colors thrown in to mark out details. The image of Dredd is merely hinted at through the use of sandy browns and shadows of grey. Even the text boxes are not the usual clean white but instead an off shade of orange boarded with blood red. Outside of the city, under the star filled sky, the artwork emphasises the harshness of the surroundings; piles of blackened rubbish frame the dirty green grass where the children harvest eyeballs. There is nothing safe about this world and McDaid adopts a horrific visual style to make the reader feel uncomfortable on every single page. The early scenes of blackness are some of the finest scene setting images I’ve seen in recent years. They invoke the uncontrollable claustrophobic feeling that The Decent achieved and are haunting images that will stay with reader long after they have closed this comic.
Judge Dredd is an icon with a massive following and this take on his world is brilliant and engaging. Long-time fans of Dredd will find a character they recognise in a very different environment and if you’ve never read a Dredd comic before this is a good place to start.
Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow us on Twitter: @ComiConverse
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