In Mega-City One, there is a fine line between order and fascism. While comics’ most compelling anti-heroes walk a tight rope between the two ideas, Justice of the Peace Judge Dredd is not confused about his thoughts on the law. He is the law. Judge Dredd is a comic book franchise based on the longest-running comic strip in 2000 AD. When IDW Publishing announced their new miniseries, Judge Dredd: False Witness, fans hoped that the four-issue run would take the anti-hero back to his politically charged roots. The new creative team of Brandon Easton and Kei Zama have found the roots of the 44-year-old character and delivered an initial issue dripping in political satire and conspiracy.
Award-winning writer Brandon Easton opened the first issue of Judge Dredd: False Witness with a simple question: “What is fascism?” Easton (Star Trek: Year Five) and artist/colorist Kei Zama (Death’s Head, Transformers) zero in on the topics of xenophobia, immigration, protest, and human trafficking while creating a fun and visually stunning story. They have begun to weave a conspiracy that will surely encompass all of Mega-City One, telling a tale that reaffirms old Dredd tropes while introducing characters and possibilities new to the franchise.
The first issue follows Mathias Lincoln, a dropout of the Justice Academy who has made himself a comfortable life as a courier for Mega-City One’s wealthiest citizens. The story is narrated by our protagonist and while he plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with everyone’s favorite justice of the peace, Lincoln inadvertently uncovers corruption that stretches across the elites of the city. Mega-City One, corrupt? No way! Whatever the baseline corruption is for this dystopian future world, Judge Dredd stories always have a way to introduce more sinister characters that, by comparison, give Dredd a chance to be the hero. Or at least not the villain. So much story is dropped on us in this first issue, but Brandon Easton balances narration, action, and flashbacks brilliantly. Nothing feels like exposition, and the choice to have the story follow Lincoln and not Judge Dredd is my favorite aspect of this issue.
Kei Zama's illustrations exemplify the world that Easton’s storytelling is creating, and her energy filled lines add so much to the muted colors of Eva De La Cruz’s pages. The series' colorist does a wonderful job tonally, but it’s Zama that shines brightest. Her skill at drawing intricate, futuristic machinery and unfathomably gigantic skyscrapers adds so much depth to the world, but she impressed me most with her design of the story’s action. Zama understands the brutal dance of fighting, and I would not be surprised if she was a martial arts practitioner herself. The action sets the tempo for this story and builds the world. More can be learned from Mathias Lincoln’s fighting prowess through two panels than could be explained in paragraphs of backstory. She illustrates the courier delivering a round kick and back elbow with such tactical precision and an economy of movement. Kei Zama’s art alone is more than enough reason to grab this series. I want to check out her other works ASAP but can’t wait to finish this miniseries first.
Comic books have the ability to transport readers to a world of wonder, free of the anxieties of the times. For example, the bright, sci-fi superheroes of the “Silver Age” were the savior for many psyches during the '60s Cold War scare. In the shadow of debilitating existential threat, stories of superheroes born of gamma radiation with the unheralded strength downplayed young readers' fears of an actual nuclear bomb. If we let comics do their job, each periodical can be an escape where we can live out our fictional fantasies and gain inspiration from the characters' acts of bravery. Imagining ourselves in the shoes of a superhero, we share in their power, and fear can not overcome us. So, why not let a bit more Dredd into our lives?
Creative Team: Brandon Easton (writer), Kei Zama (artist) Eva De La Cruz (colorist)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
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