• Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth #1

    Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth #1
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: April 26th, 2017.
    Written by: Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas
    Illustrated by: Daniel Irizarri
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    “Judge Dredd awoke a thousand years in his future to find Mega-City One in ruins and its 800 million citizens gone without a trace. After a long, strange journey, Dredd managed to locate and free them all. And now, ten years later, society continues to pick up the pieces…”

    The story begins in Sector 159. Here a man and his son are riding a wagon outside of the Mega-City One Territories. On their way out, they pass a disheveled looking Dredd heading into the territories. The man tells his son not to stare, that’s a thing that the world ‘ain’t got use for, he thinks the world is his.’

    Dredd thinks to himself as he rides a headless mechanical horse (that doubles as a drone) through the area known as the ‘City Of Flies,’ the only part to have been rebuilt since he reversed the G.R.A.S.S. program. A handful of Judges have returned but most remain missing. A group of Cadets are tasked with getting the Mega-Rail system operational. Dredd checks on them and they complain that the Exiles (their nickname for the eight hundred million that emerged from the grass) don’t want to connect with the rest of the world and they don’t want what the Judges are offering. The bodies hanging nearby stand as testament to this.

    Nearby in Sector 151 a female Judge, Quill, argues with her lazy radio operator. A murder has been called in and with Dredd away she’s got to deal with it. Dredd’s with the Cadets taking inventory outside the walled off town of Forsaken. He’s well-armed but the Cadets are frightened as the townsfolk told the Judge-elects to kill all the remaining Judges and Cadets on sight. Dredd orders them to comply, they refuse. Dredd, being Dredd, kinda-sorta convinces them to see things his way and he strong arms them into breaking into the settlement with him. They need law and order. Dredd makes his way through the sewers and then back up into the town where he learns that the Cadets are definitely not on his side at all. Everyone BLAMES Dredd for this, for bringing back the exiles and the Justice Department.

    The female Judge moves on to sector 153. Here she meets Pine, a self-proclaimed lawman and the guy who called the murder in. She accuses him of messing with a crime scene and tells him to ‘beat it’ but Pine makes a case for his help here, there aren’t enough Judges to go around. Then she sees the body. They take to a medical bay for an examination and learn that she’s missing seventy percent of her skeletal tissue. The medical robot finishes up but Quill notices an odd mark behind the victim’s ear. Quill and Pine talk about how if they could keep the body a big longer they might be able to figure this out but the robot has to follow the law, it has no choice, and that means that after the examination is complete the body gets recycled. Seems the Judges and the robots have something in common.

    Back behind the walls of the town, Dredd stands on a platform with a noose around his neck, the Judge-Elect of the town going on about Manifest Destiny and how the rule of the people is more important than the Law. And we’ll leave it at that.

    A solid cliffhanger ends the first issue of this latest Dredd storyline from Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas, the writing team behind the excellent Judge Dredd” Mega-City Zero storyline that IDW Published last year. This is basically a sequel to it, though the art this time is handled not by Dan McDaid but by Daniel Irizarri (though colorist Ryan Hill returns). Irizarri’s art works well here, however. His style suits the tone of the story, which is something akin to a post-apocalyptic spaghetti western at this point. There’s good detail here and lots of expression on the faces of the different inhabitants of this world as the story unfolds. The coloring work is top notch, bringing the pencils to vibrant life and there’s some nice fine detail in here that adds character to the story – Pine’s missing tooth, some recognizable characters from Dredd’s past on the pages of a reference book, even the flies buzzing around the corpse.

    As to the story itself, if you’re familiar with the direction that Farinas and Freitas have been taking Dredd over the last two years you’ll have a good idea of what to expect, but that’s not a bad thing. The topical issues that made Mega-City Zero such a compelling read once again play a big part in this issue as Dredd deals with what is essentially a rising tide of nationalism. Those that were ‘here first’ like the people of Forsaken don’t want anything to do with the ‘Exiles’ and they don’t care about the rule of law. They want things to go back to the way they were, they don’t want to see the Mega-Rail system expanded as it’ll only bring them into contact with people they don’t want contact with in the first place. Clearly someone on the writing team has been paying attention to domestic politics, but it’s worked into the story so well that regardless of your political leanings, it makes for great reading. It’s also interesting how the story compares the Judges to robots – a Judge has to follow the law just like a robot does, even when that Judge knows that it isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ thing to do.

    Fantastic stuff – darkly humorous, whip smart and beautifully illustrated. Don’t miss out.