• Judge Dredd: Mega-City Zero

    Judge Dredd: Mega-City Zero
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: June 15th, 2015.
    Written by: Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas
    Illustrated by: Dan McDaid
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    When this storyline begins, we’re in a field. Dredd wakes up, confused that there’s no noise, no traffic. He messages control but it’s no use. He does, at least, have forty-five rounds left. He doesn’t know where he is, but figures since there’s so much vegetation it can’t be the Cursed Earth. His coordinates say he’s in Mega-City One but clearly this isn’t the Mega-City One he knows.

    So he goes through the last entry in his case log. He was called out to investigate the disappearance of 13,450 citizens. The Judges have no leads. Anderson can’t get any sort of Psi reading. Back in the present Dredd gets something on his radio – someone is mouthing off to him, he thinks, and then he finds the source – a group of thugs taking out a guy they’ve accused of puppy kicking. They want to pluck out his eyeballs but Dredd stops them. The puppy kicker winds up dead, the three thugs, kids really, get arrested. Dredd but when he mentions Mega-City One they have no idea what he’s talking about. “We are from the grass” he’s told.

    From there, a herd stampedes right past them, scores of people… some possibly mutants or human-animal hybrids, racing towards a tower that looks like it’s made of the Earth itself. They call it Ang Avi but Dredd calls it a Mega-Block with no Mega-City. But there are Judges here, sort of, and they’re not about to let this herd into Ang Avi, no matter how bad they want it. All Dredd wants is to find a holding cell for the perps, he asks the robotic Judges for directions but they see this as a Trojan horse style attack and respond accordingly, but Dredd is determined…

    Once he gets in, he realizes that Ang Avi is a whole lot like the Angela Davis Block where he was working on his last case… before he woke up in whatever world it is that he’s in now. Dredd, with some help from the kids, makes his way through the hordes, determined to find the person in charge. He’s pointed towards a Sys-Op, a mammoth dude on a floating chair but when he asks the Sys-Op what has happened to Mega-City One he’s accused of ‘trogging.’ Dredd tries to put everyone under arrest but it’s no use, the citizens really just make fun of him.

    This changes when one of the citizens, Trog Lody, a devout follower of PJ Maybe, realizes who Dredd actually is. He can’t tell him what happened to Mega-City One, he really doesn’t know, but he explains the Trog system, the emergence of the Sys-Op’s and how and why anarchy has taken over. When Dredd enlists his help, Judge Trog, complete with an ‘old school’ Judge costume, suits up and is ready for action. He likes the power that he feels from it and understands immediately why ‘you guys couldn’t stop.’

    And off the two of them go to find out what happened to the kids, recently missing, who led Dredd into all of this in the first place… BAD IDEAS MUST BE REMOVED.

    Out of the smoke and the ash and the rubble, a determined Dredd emerges. The girls he thought were dead are not, he frees them from the mess they’ve been trapped in, but they realize that they’re still being held captive where a man/bird thing, Chicken-Head, tries to get Dredd to question the system. That’s not going to happen, even if at this point it should. A massive mutant Iggy that dubs Butt-Face, comes out of the shadows and confronts Chicken-Head and his rhetoric. This results in a hulking-out of sorts when this ‘real life Trog’ loses control.

    With no other option, Dredd does what Dredd needs to do. There’s a fight and he takes on the Trog to get Iggy back in one piece, if that’s still an option. And it ends in an interesting way, a truce of sorts, in which Dredd preaches his message – the world needs law – but when the audience starts throwing bricks at the ‘gladiators’ the Trog mutates again, this time into an even bigger threat. The Gate Keepers show up, there’s a change in the terms of service, the event is now over and people literally get crushed.

    The Trog goes up against the Gate Keepers, Dredd noting, ironically, that everyone here thinks they know how the world should work. Dredd is forced to accept the new ‘terms of service’ (username JudgeDredd has been taken!), the girls are ‘removed’ and he’s accepted into Ang Avi… so long as he doesn’t tell others what to do.

    Dredd wonders, despite his instincts not to, what the point of solving this mystery is if he can’t put it back and what the point of being a Judge would be anyway if that were the case. Heavy stuff for Dredd to contemplate, but as he delves deeper into all of this, contemplate he does. Outside, however, the girls play catch with an eyeball belonging to an old man who would like it back. That old man knocks’em out and takes then to the boss but one of the girls falls out of the truck on the way and figures she’d best find Dredd to set this right.

    Dredd ,meanwhile, reaches the basement of the complex, the sewers if you will. Above him those robots tear up the populace, literally, as they get out of line but let’s get back to Dredd – there are mutants of some sort in those sewers he is working his way through, and they’re hungry. As Dredd ‘brings light’ (both literally and figuratively), however, he scares them off – saving the pug they were going to eat - and makes his way to what is left of a customer service center. He enters and learns from what’s left of the mutated survivors that he’s not the only Judge in these here parts, but before he can look into that he realizes that Lolo, off the truck, has gone into the bowels of the city after him and that she is in need of his help.

    “Drokkin’ cannibal mutants!”

    A fish out of water story inspired by Jack Kirby’s Kamandi stories, this TPB collects the first four issues of the new series, and it really is off to a great start. It was clear that the creative team wanted to do something different with Dredd that would work for those who have been reading the character for decades and at the same time appeal to new readers as well. Well, mission accomplished. Long time readers will get a kick out of the way this story pays honest tribute to Dredd’s history while those new to Dredd’s world should have no trouble dipping their toes into the story. It’s accessible and at the same time, it’s interesting, it’s unique within the pantheon of Dredd stories and it’s got a genuinely wicked sense of humor to it (as all good Dredd stories do). There’s a great mix of action and intrigue here and some interesting sci-fi elements worked in as well. Farinas and partner in crime Erick Freitas are onto something here.

    Those familiar with Ulises Farinas’s previous work on the character know he’s one of the best things to happen to Judge Dredd in a long time and while he isn’t handling the art chores on this run (though he is contributing some great cover pieces), Dan McDaid manages to knock it out of the park in his own right. The coloring work from Ryan Hill compliments McDaid’s style and there’s a lot of nice depth to their work here. The action scenes are appropriately chaotic in their look and the various characters that inhabit this story are well drawn and interesting to look at. They’ve crafted an alternate Dredd-reality that looks dangerous and interesting and beautiful and wonderful and horrible all at the same time. The better lit scenes show off nice detail but really it’s the darkly lit panels that are more impressive. Here Dredd stands out against the shadows, a light at the end of the tunnel in a way, a potential savior in a world gone to Hell. Great stuff, no reason not to keep going with this series and seeing where a very talented creative team go with this series –one of the more interesting and original Dredd stories to be told on either side of the Atlantic in quite some time!

    In addition to the four issues collected here we also get a pretty cool cover gallery.