I’ve never read a Judge Dredd comic or graphic novel before this, so I come as a truly blank slate.
In a future or alternate reality, mega-cities employ “judges” — police officers who have the power of judge and jury (and executioner) to uphold the law. Dredd is a Judge fresh out of the academy and immediately he finds himself involved in a case of epic proportions. Juveniles have developed a strong psychic ability which makes them feel invincible. Dredd, already with a prejudice against those with psi-powers, does not want to have to deal with the problem, but as the first Judge on the scene, it’s his problem. A good lesson for a recent grad … you’re going to have to deal with things you’d rather not have to deal with.
During his investigation Dredd goes through a vortex and finds himself in his mega-city but in another time (or alternate reality) in which the juveniles have run the ‘helmets’ (as the Judges are affectionately known as) underground and taken control. Dredd gives an inspiring speech to some older, underground Judges and gets them motivated again to take back control of the city. The fight to take back control is dispatched quickly and Dredd returns to his own time and with the knowledge of how the juveniles were controlled, the Judges will hopefully be able to stop the attacks, now and in the future.\
I liked what I learned about the Judges and the society that would employ such a force. Dredd does not come off as a recent academy graduate, but a seasoned veteran with a chip on his shoulder. If this is Dredd in his first year, I can’t really imagine what he’s like with some experience under his belt.
The juveniles with psychic abilities was a really interesting concept, but it’s never developed. The entire story could easily have been expanded and retained reader attention for four more comic book issues (this story was a four-issue arc). Dredd and the future Judges make such short work of their foe it’s hard to imagine that they ever had enough power to run the Judges off in the first place, and if you accidentally turn two pages instead of one, you’d probably miss the entire encounter.
I felt cheated by the brief story. Not having read a Judge Dredd book before, this doesn’t turn me off, but it doesn’t entice me to want to read more, either.
The art is really fabulous…it has a style that’s hard to define, but feels very appropriate for this futuristic setting.
Looking for a good book? You may feel a little cheated by the simple, easily-resolved story in Judge Dredd: Year One, but for Dredd fans, it’s nice to see a story of a new Judge, and the artwork is superb.
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Judge Dredd: Year One
author: Matt Smith
artist: Simon Coleby and Greg Staples
publisher: IDW Publishing
paperback, 104 pages