The sprawling metropolis of Mega-City One is no more, just a relic of the past. Skyscrapers replaced with rocky outcroppings, neon replaced with ramshackle, Old West housing. Still, one lawman scours the desolate wasteland in the hopes of bringing some order to the people.
Read on below for our full spoiler free review of “Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth” #1 to find out why this is a must read comic.
Written by Ulises Farinas & Erick Preitas
Illustrated by Dan Irizarri
Coloured by Ryan Hill
Lettered by Shawn Lee
It has been 10 years since the events of Mega-City Zero, and Judge Dredd continues his mission to restore order to a lawless land. The mystery of The Blessed Earth begins to unfold here!
When it was announced that Rebellion had licensed the “Judge Dredd” property to IDW, I was at best skeptical. For one, I wondered what American writers could bring to a property that had uniquely sprung from a very British style of anti-authoritarian satire during the rise of Thatcher and right-wing Britain in the late ’70s and early ’80s. For two, I just didn’t know what a new continuity for Dredd could bring to the table. Despite having massively important stories over the course of 40 years, the world of Mega-City One remains fairly static. The authoritarian regime of the Justice Department maintains an iron grip on keeping the world pretty much the same no matter what so that new readers will always jump into a Dredd story that feels like what the know of Dredd: a massive crime ridden city in which the long arm of the law is embodied by the few and the fanatical.
What I’ve learned about IDW’s take on “Judge Dredd” is that no one is precious in the same way “2000AD” is with it’s Dredd stories. With ‘Mega-City Zero,’ Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas and Dan McDaid really shook things up for the world of Dredd and that has trickled into their follow up, “The Blessed Earth.” Farinas and Freitas are joined by artist Daniel Irizarri for “The Blessed Earth” #1 which reconfigures the world of Dredd as a Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic western. Mega-City One is no more, just a relic of the past, and what’s left of the Justice Department is desperately trying to unite disparate settlements across the wasteland with a futile railroad connection.
What must “Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth” #1 be commended for above all is how accessible it is as a first issue. Despite being a direct sequel to ‘Mega-City Zero’ and building upon IDW’s world of “Judge Dredd,” Freitas and Farinas have constructed the issue’s story in such a way that it’s understandable and accessible to readers who might not even have read a “Judge Dredd” issue before. The story presented focuses more on the state of things now, the desolate wasteland and the settlements bucking against the imposing presence of the Judges. It pits Dredd as a wandering relic, desperate to impart his antiquated notions of law and order in a world that’s literally been reset to zero to evolve on a different path.
‘The Blessed Earth’ reads like Dredd juxtaposed against world that’s a mix of Mad Max and True Grit and it lends itself to an interesting reinterpretation of Dredd iconography. The issue’s main story has Dredd riding into town on his droid (read: horse) to investigate a delay in the construction of the railroad before being accosted by the locals. It allows Freitas, Farinas and Irizarri the opportunity to experiment with form, to see how far they can push Dredd outside of his comfort zone as a fictional character before he stops being Dredd.
It also allows Daniel Irizarri and colourist Ryan Hill to showcase an art style that feels unconventional for a Dredd story, but works all the same because this isn’t a conventional Dredd story. Irizarri has a somewhat European-influenced art style, using the linkwork to build up textures like the rough hewn skin of the wasteland dwellers, the chips on the metal shoulder pads of the Judges and and the flow of fabrics. Combining that with Hill’s use of flat colours with minimal shading and you have a “Judge Dredd” comic that seems to draw artistic inspiration from the styles of Geof Darrow and Moebius.Continued below
It’s an inspired choice as it shows on the page how different this is to your usual Dredd fare. It’s not just a case of swapping out skyscrappers for rocky outcroppings or swapping gangs of cyberpunk criminals for poncho-wearing wastelanders, it’s an entire refit of the mythos into a new style of artistic storytelling. And yet, it’s still fundamentally Dredd. Freitas, Farinas and Irizarri are careful to keep the recognisable themes and visual aspects at the fore, changing the environment around them to recontextualise them.
This issue juxtaposes Dredd’s storyline of going up against a town full of, in his view, criminals, with a murder investigation by another Judge. These are story threads that you would expect from a “Judge Dredd” comic, but the recontextualising of the environment and how the characters interact with the environment is what makes it special. Dredd taking on a gang of criminals is really nothing new, but a shirtless Dredd with a Santa beard being saved from the gallows by a robot horse with a gatling gun in it’s neck? Now, that‘s a comic.
All in all, this is the kind of comic that shows that even 40 year old franchises can still have new life injected into them when you have creators that aren’t precious about bringing new contexts and new styles into the mix. The writing team of Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas construct an issue that’s easy to follow and understand and, most importantly, is enjoyable for long time Dredd fans and newcomers alike. The artwork from Daniel Irizarri and colourist Ryan Hill, meanwhile, brings a fresh new world to Dredd, swapping the sprawling metropolis for the desolate wasteland and the cyberpunk aesthetic for post-apocalypse westerns.
If Dredd in “2000AD” is one lawman clinging desperately to the notion that fascist law is the only thing that will save society from the cursed Earth, then Dredd at IDW is one lawman clinging desperately to the past, to only order he knows after society has returned to the blessed Earth.
Final Verdict: 9.5 – Read this grokking comic.