• Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth #3

    Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth #3
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: July 12th, 2017.
    Written by: Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas
    Illustrated by: Jason Copland
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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…”

    Picking up where the second issue left off, this third chapter opens with a still white bearded Dredd asked for verification by a younger Judge just trying to do his job and keep people away from the Mega-Rail. Dredd, trying to make his way to Ironbound on the massive train, makes his way in through the crowd and meets up with Quill and Lolo. They ask him about his hands, he tells them the pain is manageable and it’s noted that he only has ninety-seven surgeries to go.

    As Dredd tries to make his way to his quarters Quill interrupts him with questions about the bodies that they found. Dredd is distracted when he thinks he sees someone he knows, but the conversation continues until a man comes up to them looking for help. He claims that the ‘knights’ took his wife. He produces her ticket to prove she’s on board and Dredd calls it in and gets permission for a full sweep. Elsewhere, Quill makes her way deeper into the train and enters a room full of robot workers. She shows them a picture of two people who might be related to the murder and asks them if they’ve got any info for her. She gets into an argument with one of these ‘free robots’ – capable of producing art, eating food and disobeying orders – but this robot makes it very clear: “WE ARE NOT PROPERTY.”

    Dredd’s sweep fails to turn up the man’s missing wife, at least on the main deck, but it does find two terrorists associated with the Greener movement. The Judges are about to head to the lower level when Quill does a scan in the robot deck for life and finds some! The result, a female that looks like it could be half human/half robot, makes an escape and many of the free robots follow. The Judges hop off the train in pursuit and from there, they meet up with the ‘Neon Knights’ and that’s where things start to get really complicated not just for Dredd and the other Judges but for the man and his ‘wife’ as well.

    “The law can only be one way.”

    There are, once again, strong political overtones to this story with the ‘free robots’ serving as an allegory for illegal immigrants in America. They’re treated as sub-human, they’re asked for their papers, and should they be married to a ‘citizen’ that isn’t enough to get them off the hook – they remain, in the eyes of some at least, the property of Mega-City One. As Dredd notes earlier in the book “there are no free robots.” At the same time the knights in the book, who wear red hoods (which is no coincidence), serve as over the top caricatures of libertarian types. They espouse to all who will listen how things have changed, how once you could own your land take care of your own but now you give up your freedom in order to be protected by the judges. They, as a group, push back against this but they too also don’t believe in ‘free robots’ and see them as little more than property. They even go so far as to incite the crowd to chant ‘LOCK HER UP!’ when they point out the issues in the aforementioned marriage. This might not be subtle, but it is poignant and politically savvy as a sort of twisted reflection of the modern day American landscape. It’s twisted and dark in a really clever way and it makes for great reading – the kind of entertainment (and yes, as heavy as this gets it still smartly puts entertainment front and center) that sort of creeps up on you and seeps into your brain as you spend more time with it. And without wanting to spoil the last third of the book, it sets up some seriously interesting things to come. Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas are doing seriously interesting things with this book, once again taking Dredd in a brand new direction and somehow still adhering to the traits that make the character the classic that he is.

    Jason Copland’s artwork, beautifully colored by Ryan Hill, continues to excite. Panel layouts are fairly traditional here but he’s got a real handle on bringing the dystopia where all of this plays out to life. The thick line work gives the book a distinct look and there’s enough detail in both the foregrounds and the backgrounds of any given panel to keep it all interesting to look at. There are, towards the end of this issue, a full page illustration and a few larger panel illustrations that are not only quite striking but genuinely unsettling as well – which is the point, and makes the book all the more effective for it.

    This has been a wild ride so far, a really unorthodox Dredd story, but one that is entirely worthy of your attention. If you’ve got even a passing interest in satirical sci-fi and post apocalypse style storytelling, don’t miss out on this book.