• Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth #4

    Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth #4
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: August 9th, 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…”

    This fourth issue begins with Dredd, Quill, Lolo and three cadets making their way to Ironbound. Quill says to Lolo that Rico shouldn’t be with them, he’s an ‘unknown quantity’ but Lolo tells her she’s just jealous. The six make their way across the bridge and into the city where they’re greeted by a robot who reminds them that robots have gone on strike. Lolo reassures them that they’re not here for that, but the conversation gets heated until Dredd steps in and cools things down. He tells the chatty robot they need its help, the robot tells Dredd to keep walking – they’re on strike, after all. A quick round from Dredd’s Lawgiver puts one down but fails to convince the others to help. The strike holds, the Judges keep travelling, heading towards Sector 01.

    Along the way they see humans doing the labor that the robots would have done for them not too long ago. When they see the Judges and respond with ‘Weren’t ya Judges supposed to make Mega-City One great again?’ Rico, who carries a genetic match for Dredd’s skeletal system inside him (and therefore seems to get away with more, even if Dredd says otherwise) interprets it as hostility and shoots them down. Shortly after that happens they’re surprised to meet Enzo, a Judge-Elect from Settlement 227 who has been trailing their posse for days. He asks for their help finding the water shipment that should have reached the settlement by now. The truck is less than a day from where they are and while Dredd is clearly very sick, he agrees to help... their canteens are empty as well.

    They find the truck and its dead driver. The rig is in no shape to be driven back to 227. Dredd figures this is a setup and orders everyone to fill their canteens, get the water they need and keep moving. Turns out, Dredd’s right – he’s usually right – but the setup is nothing like any of them could have expected…

    “We’re all marching off the cliff together and all this is just a distraction until we reach the edge.”

    Again, the writers of this series wear their politics on their sleeves and while some of the imagery, metaphors and comparisons are far from subtle, they’re no less apt. In fact, given the climate in modern day America, they’re spot-fucking-on. At the same time, the series is not content to exist solely as a statement on what’s wrong with things these days, it exists just as importantly as a work of fiercely creative entertainment. Farinas and Freitas have been taking Dredd in strange new directions since they started on the book but this latest run sees them upping the ante even more than they have in the past. All of this ties in to the last series, Mega-City Zero, in a big way but so too does it expand on that. The Neon Knights, Dredd’s ties to Rico, Quill and Lolo coming into their own as Judges, the robot strike, the uprising that has put the Judges into a position they’ve never been in before… it’s all tying together in really interesting and unexpected ways. And then of course there remains the unsolved murder of Carol Rossa, an even that still ways very heavy on Lolo’s heart and that clearly ties into her need for acceptance and acknowledgement from her fellow Judges, Dredd in particular (like it or not, he’s still very much a father figure to both Lolo and Quill). And if that weren’t enough, this issue reintroduces a classic Dredd character in a very unexpected, almost frightening way… but we won’t spoil that here.

    “The grass did things to people’s age, some came back younger, others have lost years.”

    Jason Copland’s artwork, once again beautifully colored by Ryan Hill, illustrates this strange tale of dystopian future really well. His line work is thick but not short on detail. The inks are fairly heavy in spots, which gives the story a somewhat noirish look when things take place inside, but at the same time when things are happening out in the desert (which is the bulk of this issue) we get a nice, arid sort of Spaghetti Western vibe to the visuals. It works quite nicely and it suits the story really well. The design work is also very creative. The Judges still look like Judges (as they should) despite little quirks (Dredd’s beard and cape) but the robots come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes as do the various vehicles used by the characters in the story and the cityscapes and desert locales where all of this plays out.

    This series is clever, frightening, humorous and very, very smart. Fantastic stuff, really. Don’t miss out.