• Judge Dredd #11

    Judge Dredd #11
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: Octoberth, 2016.
    Written by: Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas
    Illustrated by: Dan McDaid
    Purchase From Amazon

    Picking up where the last issue left off, this issue opens with a scene in which a cadet speaks to a tribunal of senior Judges about how they’ve created an unbreakable circle by placing the law ‘in the hands of a restricted ruling class’ which in turn ensures the lower class lives in perpetual anarchy. This results in a constant ‘ecology of super-criminals.’ We get some background on the cadet. When The Sisters Of Death attacked the Mega-Block she lived in as a child, she was the only survivor out of the ten thousand people who lived there. Her parents were botanists that taught her about the seasons and about life and death. The Dark Judges took everything away, their only solution to the crime of life being death. She draws similarities to the Judges and the Dark Judges and explains how in order to fix things she had to become a Judge herself. Though she’s small and not as physically intimidating as many of her peers, they senior Judges get a look at her IQ scores and soon enough, Cadet Berger has become Judge Berger.

    Three weeks later, Berger and her partner are attacked during a vehicle inspect. The assault leaves her face half gone and her partner dead. While she’s on life support, Judge Vazquez volunteers to be her new partner and once she’s back in commission, to ‘teach her a thing or two about watching your partner’s back.’ A month after that and a drug bust goes bad. She’s been setup by her peers. Dredd asks for the report, something seems off about this. Berger is reassigned to desk duty, statistical analysis with a focus on citywide trends. They try to hide her away, break her spirit, but here Berger’s able to use her smarts to uncover a tie between the weather and Mega-City One’s homicide rate. When she provides evidence that there might be a reason to reduce the number of Judges in the blocks, her evaluation comes to an abrupt end and her studies dismissed.

    Two years later and Dredd takes Berger on as a partner while Anderson is incapacitated, even if he notes depressive patterns in her thought processes. However, Berger is completely sold on this idea of making the city experience a shared hallucination brought about by an unnamed green narcotic. She gets her hands on it and puts in place a plan to do just that – get the entire city high as a way to hit the reset button and go through the ‘rabbit hole.’ No one will suffer. They will live forever in the grass.

    This issue is a pretty fascinating condemnation of the police state currently encroaching on modern day America. In what might be the best issue yet of this series, there are some powerful metaphors established. Berger clearly represents a leftist ideal, wanting to set Mega-City One free from the shackles of the police state represented by the Judges. Her intentions are good, she’s essentially a pacifist, but her ideals, as pure as they might be, can’t compensate for the reality of the situation in which she and everyone else live. There’s a lot of food for thought here, it’s doled out to us not in Berger’s words and actions but in Dredd’s reactions to all of this – after all, who better to stand as ‘THE LAW’ then Dredd? None of this happens on the page by accident. Farinas and Freitas write with a wicked sense of subversive black humor but also clearly pull from current events, resulting in the kind of science fiction that sticks in your craw, that makes you question just what it is that we’re all doing, what our elected officials are really up to, and what purpose the cops really serve (note that the book doesn’t specifically posit that they serve no purpose, only that there are valid reasons to question why they do what they do the way they do it). This brings this storyline to a nice close, offering some possible answers to how all of this started and why and also to Dredd’s part in all of it. If he remains the last Judge and turns out to be even partially complicit in all of this, where does that leave him as a man who treats the law as Gospel?

    Dan McDaid’s artwork continues to be awesome and appropriately weird. Berger is drawn as a string bean compared to the other characters, it’s important that we know the others see her as small, as insignificant, because it makes what she does all the more understandable not just as an act of ‘wanting to save the world’ but also as revenge. This element of the story is highlighted by the way she’s drawn, the way that her face reacts to situations and the way that she ‘moves’ in the panels compared to the other characters. The scenes in which we flashback to her younger days, where her parents are literally crucified before her eyes, are horrifying – as they should be – and made even more so by Ryan Hill’s coloring work. Bright shades of orange burn through the pages, turning the crucified bodies into long, eerie shadow figures. These guys do great work together, the panel layouts are stylish and the use of blacks and greens in this issue particularly strong, which again compliments the storyline.

    There’s a lot going on here, loads of social commentary delivered in a most entertaining package – the kind of story that makes you think, that makes you question things and that makes you wonder if this dystopian future isn’t really so far-fetched after all. Either that or the whole thing is an allegory for legalizing weed.