Judge Dredd: Year One
Judge Dredd is a strangely iconic character. Hop the pond, and people know his name, but for some odd reason, the crochety ol' lawman has never quite gained traction here in the states. After reading this trade all I have to say is “What is wrong with us?!”
Year One is much like the title suggests, a rookie Dredd roaming the streets and busting heads with no hint of compassion. It is basically exactly what I expected. But then it took me a step beyond expectation, and I soon found myself genuinely intrigued and entranced by this peculiar bit of UK sci-fi.
The art does a fantastic job of creating a truly visceral and disturbing world. From faces to scene work, everything is bleak, gritty and harsh. There is heavy use of shadow work constantly, and it really does invoke some sense of this world. It is as if Mega-City One has no truly bright facet, there is no place where things are jovial and pure, and I love it. Artist Simon Coleby and colorist Leonard O’Grady manage to craft a world that I simply never want to live in. Page to page and panel by panel there was not a moment that I didn’t think “Holy hell, this world sucks…” and this is meant as absolute praise.
The story line itself is very fun. The narrative by Matt Smith is really well composed, and he does manage to give every character a sincere and unique voice. This is not an easily accomplished feat, and I know all the writers out there are nodding their heads in agreement. The idea of an unseen villain, some sprawling entity that gnaws away at society by infusing children with vast psychic powers is haunting. The fearless Judges find themselves trapped at a moral crossroad, when the opposition are nothing but children with a streak of bloodlust in them a mile long. It really is a well composed dilemma and Matt Smith executes it incredibly well. His invocation of a fledgling Dredd is about as spot on as I can imagine.
I really can only spew positives about this trade. If I were to sling out a complaint it would be that the ending did not quite explode as intensely as I had hoped, but it does leave room for mystery and further development.
In summation I loved the art, it manages to invoke a sense of misery. I loved the writing, the voices and storyline are all very clean and focused. I am made at Americans, because why the hell are we not reading Judge Dredd?
4 ½ out of 5.