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Friday 17 October 2014

Judge Dredd Year One, Omnibus

Judge Dredd Year One, Omnibus

Matt Smith, Michael Carroll, Al Ewing

Richard Saar

I don’t normally read anthologies, or review them in fact; more than one story in a book seems like too much work for me. However, I will stretch that rule if the subject is one that I’m really interested in and it makes sense to create an anthology, or omnibus as is the case here.

Out of all of my favourite dystopian science fiction story lines, Judge Dredd has always been the one that has grabbed my interest the most. The raw reality of what could well become our future always seems so compelling, if I have a choice when picking up a graphic novel, I normally start with Judge Dredd… 

So to Judge Dredd Year One, the omnibus; we have three stories that explore Judge Dredd in his first year on the job as a fully-fledged street Judge, for those counting that’s the year 2080 in Dredd’s world. This is a setting that really sparked my interest as we normally see Dredd in his prime as the hero, one of the greatest judges to walk the streets, not the fresh out of the academy rookie.

CITY FATHERS by Matt Smith

Dredd comes across a murder, not just any typical Mega-City One murder, but a particularly gruesome murder of a serial voyeur, who is working for the city after one too many peeping tom arrests. With local gang markings at the scene it would be easy enough to chalk this one up to a turf war, but for Dredd taking the easy way out is not an option, even now in his first year on the job.

Dredd methodically, and quite often violently, works his way through the underworld of Mega-City One to discover that a new and devastating drug is about to hit the city, one that will topple the city from its knife edge hold on control into chaos.

Matt Smith portrays the seedy underbelly of Mega City One with a gritty realism which is just exactly how Dredd’s world should be portrayed. Dredd himself shows some unfamiliar vulnerability, lack of confidence and even doubt about his next action. This really showed Dredd in a new light, not the completely sure of himself legend that Dredd fans will already know. Adding just a little bit of doubt gives Dredd some real extra depth.

COLD LIGHT OF DAY by Michael Carroll

It’s the day of the annual Mega-City 5000 race, a race that winds from one side of the huge metropolis to the other. It’s one of the only events that makes the normally apathetic citizens stop to watch, if only on the off chance of seeing a spectacular and quite often fatal crash. It’s also the busiest day of the year for the Judges.

Dredd, still new on the streets, is called away from patrolling the huge crowds to a violent massacre that has killed two of his fellow judges. He’s been called to the crime because the perpetrator is someone Dredd sentenced 5 years earlier as a trainee, and he’s being blamed by his fellow judges for the death of the two judges.

In Cold Light of Day we split into two story lines; one taking place on the day of the race, and the other delving into a Hotdog run Dredd and his clone brother Rico took, five years earlier, as Cadets into the Cursed Earth beyond the city.

Once this story is off and racing (pun intended) it defies you to put it down before you’ve finished it. The pace is exhilarating as Dredd gets involved in the Mega City 5000 race in more ways than one. The story of Dredd and Rico dealing with gun runners in the Cursed Earth and the ramifications of that expedition on the race makes this the pick of three stories in the book.

WEAR IRON by Al Ewing

Paul Strader considered himself to be a professional, not just a common thief like most of the others on the city streets; a professional who doesn’t get caught and works by a set of unbreakable rules.

Except that his last job in Texas City was a bust and he owes a lot of money to the wrong people. So he ends up in Mega-City One working with a crew who breaks every rule he has, putting him squarely in the sights of Judge Dredd.

It’s a race against time to pull off one of the largest heists in MC1 history, all the while keeping one step ahead of Dredd who wants to uphold the law, and Dredd’s brother Rico who just wants the money. Paul has to play both sides, one mistake and he’s looking at a standard execution bullet from either of the Dredd brothers.

Wear Iron explores the two different paths Joe and Rico Dredd have taken since leaving the academy twelve months prior at the top of the class. We see the self-doubt over the genetic make-up of both men, how it’s possible that literally the same person can be so different; we also have the thrill of a good heist story too.

Judge Dredd Year One, the omnibus, is a great idea, really well done. I’m a long-time Judge Dredd fan and placing these three stories in his first year on the streets as a rookie really takes Dredd into a different place. Not only is he shown being doubted by his fellow judges, but he also shows his own self-doubts, even a lack of confidence.

The three stories work very well together and paint a really vivid depiction of life in Mega City One, we don’t just focus on Dredd but also those whom he deals with. In the end we really get to know Dredd better and the world he inhabits much better.

So, if your first exposure to Dredd was the excellent 2012 film Dredd with Keith Urban, and you want to read more, you can’t go wrong starting there… just don’t mention the 1995 Stallone version…  don’t ever mention that film.

Source: Supplied in e-book format via Netgalley

IBR Rating: ★★★★

Recommendation: An absolute must for Judge Dredd fans, but also a pretty good read for sci-fi fans in general. If you’ve never read Dredd before, this is a great place to start.

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Item Reviewed: Judge Dredd Year One, Omnibus Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Saar
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