• Judge Dredd – Mega City Zero Volume 2

    Judge Dredd – Mega City Zero Volume 2
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: October 5th, 2016.
    Written: Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas
    Art by: Dan McDaid, Jesus Redondo
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    Issues five through eight of IDW’s latest (and best) Judge Dredd series are collected together in this second Mega City Zero trade paperback edition. In the issues that came before this collection, we saw how Dredd wound up the only Judge in a Mega-City One that is very, very different from the one he’s used to. With some help from a tribe of feral girls, he has taken it upon himself to try and find out what has made Mega-City One change the way it has. He heads into the under-city where he’s attacked by mutants, after which two of the girls – Quill and Iggy – are taken hostage by the evil Yes-Men. This left Dredd with no choice but to team up with Lolo to get them back before it’s too late.

    In this volume, the story continues. Dredd is in a Mega-City One that is peaceful, harmonic. The grass is gone, but it’s free of the dystopian crime that he’d been used to before all of that. But of course, it’s completely messed up. He realizes this quickly, when he finds that in this Mega-City One, the male populace has enslaved the female populace. When one man’s lady won’t give up a little ankle, she meets the back of his hand.

    The Yes-Man that claims to be Dredd’s grandpa talks to him, lets him know he’s in a fraternal city, an alternate reality. He also tells him that the girls he has come for are here, and that they’re being treated really well. He also tells him that here, he’s God. This virtual reality runs through his brain and he tells Dredd that by letting women run things in Mega-City One, well, that’s what led to all of those problems in the first place. The girls are here, safe to an extent, and Dredd supposedly agreed to Grandpa’s terms in order to gain access to them and save them, but of course he doesn’t remember any of this.

    Six months later, Dredd seems to have fallen in line. He’s patrolling the streets like a regular cop, helping out where he can and seemingly numb to the rampant misogyny that upset him only a short while ago. It is, however, all an act. Dredd’s forced into this, the lives of the girls he’s trying to save hanging in the balance. Grandpa’s even gone so far as to create a family for Joe, a familiar looking wife and, yeah, some very familiar looking daughters. Eventually, Dredd decide to fight back, but how? He’s got to get this guy out of his head…

    Dredd and the surviving girls – Quill and Lolo accompanied by Pug Dredd! - paddle their way to the refuge where a blonde man named Charles greets them as friends and offers them food and shelter. Dredd immediately notices something odd on his hand – when asked about it, Charles tells him it’s a personal security drone, everyone in the refuge gets one. When Charles corrects one of the girls’ grammar they decide to split, this is kind of weird, but he eventually calms them down and they accept his offer with some understandable trepidation.

    And then Lolo flips out, taking out the drone and assaulting Charles. Dredd tries to calm her but it only kinda-sorta works. She’s suspicious of the way Charles keeps talking about how grateful everyone will be to see some new able bodies to help out. She’s worried they might be cannibals. But then they make their way into the place and get a chance to check it out – it’s pretty huge. But when someone asks them if they’re lost, seemingly offering to help, the girls flip out and go on the run again. Back and the shoreline, Dredd hears Charles mention ‘Berger’ and he grabs him, demanding more information and wanting to know immediately where she is. Charles tells him ‘Oh Berger’ is just an expression

    Quill and Lolo wind up in a room, away from harm, and they’re really starting to wonder if the people in this place are all members of some sort of strange cult. An older man tries to calm them, tells them this is to protect them, and the girls call for help. Dredd can’t hear them. He’s too far away. The old man tells them they’re put away for now not just for their own protection but to protect the other citizens, while they figure out what they’re all about, to make sure they’ll play by the established rules as they’re explained to them. Assimilation is a big deal, the girls are assigned their own drones.

    Watch your tone. Check your inequality. Administer re-assimilation.

    The girls see first-hand what happens when someone breaks a rule, why the drones are really there. And they learn what happens when they use improper grammar! Lolo flips out, Quill goes to get Dredd.

    Winter has come. Dredd looks rough, a shaggy white beard visible under the helmet. He makes his rounds, wonders why Charles is late for his rotation and goes to check on him, Pug Dredd along for the walk. When Dredd arrives at Charles’ place he’s told that all of the children are gone. The townsfolk revolt, they drag Lolo out assuming she’s got something to do with it. Dredd questions the girl but Lolo insists she’s got nothing to do with any of this. He puts Lolo back in her hut and, with a few others in tow, heads out to find the kids. A trace of clothing on a branch offers a clue. Dredd gets Quill to prepare to leave with Lolo in tow. He’s afraid what will happen if he doesn’t remove them from the situation. He also needs their help.

    They head out into the brush, but the fact that the dog seems scared of something in the area doesn’t sit well with them. As they follow the trail, something in the river alongside them appears, a black humanoid shape. Dredd spears it but it escapes, climbs up a wall. They go after it and follow it into an aged building, only to come face to face with the Dark Judges (that’s not a spoiler – Judge Death is on the cover!)… and one of the missing children.

    But is all of this really what it seems? Who are the children of the grass? What is that thing in the cage? Why is it taking the youngest ones and more importantly, what, if anything, can Dredd do about any of this?

    The strangest and most interesting Judge Dredd story in ages keeps getting weirder, and it’s all the better for it. What started off as a fish out of water story has added layer after layer of plot development to the point where, with this eighth issue, things have gotten pretty complex. Pay attention. You’ll get more out of this. There are elements of social satire here, elements of horror, the standard sci-fi and action tropes that a Dredd story requires – and it’s smart. It’s written as more than just a story about a man obsessed with serving justice. This takes Dredd into decidedly different territory and forces the character into an arena in which he’s always been uncomfortable – compassion. He’s become a father figure of sorts, and while he’s still Dredd – the stern and unstoppable force he’s always been – Farinas and Freitas are doing something genuinely unique and original here. It’s great stuff.

    This collection isn’t subtle as far as its political leanings go but that’s not a bad thing. Given current news items about the wage gap between male and female and the way that women can be and still are treated around the world, this is a subject worthy of tackling. It’s interesting and a bit subversive that in this issue Dredd, a stickler for rules and very much old fashioned in a lot of ways, is the progressive character when compared to Grandpa. Here this very embodiment of the law strikes back against traditionalism in an earnest attempt to make the virtual world he’s become trapped in a better place. There are repercussions here, just as there are in the real world, but the story is all the more interesting for it. The writing is clever, humorous and poignant – social commentary has always been an important part of what makes Dredd stories worth reading, and Farinas and Freitas not only recognize that but seem intent on turning that aspect of the series up a few notches.

    Dan McDaid’s artwork has been completely satisfying from the very first issue and seven issues later, that hasn’t changed. There’s still a lot of detail here in both the foreground and background of each and every panel. Some larger panels allow him to go all out with the action scenes and his depiction of the Dark Judges is impressive and appropriately macabre. Ryan Hill’s coloring work continues to be the perfect fit for this series, making the outdoor scenes green and earthy and the indoor scenes dank and dire. This is very cool stuff –highbrow sci-fi/post-apocalyptic insanity on a level that many other books should aspire to! Jesus Redondo Ramon’s artwork, which is featured in issue six, is also beautifully colored by Ryan Hill and it stands out. There’s a lot of nice background detail here but it’s the way that he draws Dredd in action that gives it the punch that it has. It’s animated without coming across as too cartoonish and it’s slick without coming across as overdone. It suits the storyline well and this is one of those books where everything comes together just as you’d hope it would.

    Dredd’s getting put through some very unusual and unexpected motions on this new IDW run, but if you’re a fan of the series check it out. It seems that you really can teach an old dog new tricks – this is as creative, unique and original as anything done with the character in a very, very long time.

    In addition to collecting the four issues that make up this run, this volume also reprints all the regular and variant covers that were commissioned so look for art from Farinas, Nick Percival, Darick Robertson, Giannis Milonogiannis, Josh Adams, David ‘Max’ Millgate (if you’re not reading Jackboot & Ironheel you’re missing out!) and John McCrea.