• Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth #5

    Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth #5
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: September 6th, 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…”

    In the town of Ironbound, a figure runs down the street only to be shot in the chest by a cloaked Judge Dredd. He drags the body out of the street and throws it into the huge pile of corpses stacked nearby. Two other Judges appear, one of whom is Quill – Dredd didn’t request backup, but they’re here to investigate the murder of Carol Rossa. Dredd didn’t seem to care about this case all that much, until he figured that Rossa’s murderer was the same person that stole his bones. He’d like to find the only person that can put his bones back in his body. And then Dredd realizes who the second new Judge is – ‘Ya once knew me as Mean, but dat was my pa’s way, never mine.’ Chief Anderson gave him the badge, Dredd can’t argue this.

    As Mean tries to offer Dredd an olive branch, a rogue robot attacks and Mean Machine take him out on Dredd’s behalf. He then tells Dredd that given what happened to him as a kid, he knows where the surgeons are. Dredd and Quill are going to stand out, Mean tells them. In order to make their way in, they’ll have to wear suits or armor and pose as robots. They agree and make their way in to Sector 01-XX, the red light district, where the human population is less than pleased to see the ‘free robots’ walking their turf. A scrap starts up, but Mean settles Dredd down before it escalates. They make their way through and Mean leads them into a giant lab, where ‘where robots swipe and smuggle their system cores.’ They talk to the man at the desk, tell them they want something more ‘human’ – not cyborg, but a ‘full swap.’ A skeleton. While Mean does what he can to get Dredd outfitted, Quill pokes around the compound to find what she can find and she comes to the conclusion that someone must be making the goods sold here, these guys aren’t just finding this stuff on the black market. When she hacks into the computer and finds a connection to Carol Rossa, well, then she gets caught and it all hits the fan… and then Lola shows up.

    This issue is nuts. It doesn’t start off that way, but it gets that way. Without wanting to spoil the ending (which you really will not see coming because it’s completely unpredictable in the best possible way), this issue puts Dredd, Quill and Lolo into a very unusual predicament. The book is still wearing its politics on its sleeve but this particular issue is more concerned with pushing the story forward and getting things ramped up to the next level. As such, it’s a bit different than the four issues that came before it – not that they didn’t do that (because they did) – but here, it’s a bit more action heavy. Throwing Mean Machine into the mix is also an interesting touch (that’s not a spoiler as his face is the entirety of the cover piece), causing Dredd to fall further into a moral quandary than he already was. But yeah, a LOT happens in this fifth chapter and it makes for a pretty intense read. Hats off to Farinas and Freitas for coming up with something completely unexpected and original here.

    As to the art? Jason Copland continues to do great work, as does colorist Ryan Hill. Even Simon Bowland’s lettering – truly the most underappreciated aspect of comic book art – is top notch. These three work together to keep the visuals fresh and exciting, conjuring up a technologically advanced world that looks like a sixties Spaghetti Western. It gives the series a really unique look and it works perfectly alongside the writing.