Today, let’s talk about Judges and no, I don’t mean the ones with the fancy wigs. I mean the ones with golden eagles on their shoulders, guns at their hips and a helmet that never, ever gets removed (NEVER, Stallone. NOT. EVER.)
Let’s talk about the man, the myth, the legend, the chin – no, not Bruce Campbell – Judge Dredd, probably one of the most iconic creations of British comic publishers 2000AD. A man who has spawned countless spin-off comics, games and even a movie or two (though the less said about the Stallone abomination the better). Let’s talk about the latest Dredd comic Under Siege.
Our story opens with Dredd busting up an underground football game, and there’s a quick little nod to the controversy that engulfed the NFL a few years ago regarding head trauma and their players. We also have a series of text boxes that help set the tone.
“There’s a reason why street Judges are always in uniform. We don’t go undercover, we don’t blend in or try to hide. This conveys to the public a simple message – That we don’t need to. That the law is everywhere.”
Immediately, I got a very Karl Urban’s Dredd vibe from this one. The main story setup is simple enough, a Judge has gone missing in “Patrick Swayze” block and with the Judges being spread thin on the ground, Judge Dredd is sent in alone to try to find out what’s gone on. This seemingly routine mission soon spirals into something far more deadly and violent as we discover that there’s more to worry about in this block than just some disgruntled locals or street gangs. The Urban comparisons are made stronger by the design of the Lawgiver handguns the Judges use, being a rather pleasing mashup of the classic gun with its iconic dial and the chunky, utilitarian look of the movie version.
Before I go on, another of my favourite quotes from this issue, reminding us that for a lot of citizens in Mega Cities, Judges are as rare as Santa Claus, only rather than bringing presents, they bring steel-toed boots and bullets. A reminder that Stallone’s square-jawed “I AM THE LAW” attitude just won’t fly in this version of Dredd.
“I never seen you before. Around here you ain’t the law. You a tourist.”
We also need to talk about the art for this comic. Cover A (above, right) is Dredd sitting on his Lawmaster motorcycle, gazing up at the monolithic block he somehow has to handle. Cover B is a simple image of the iconic Dredd design in glorious detail, though I notice this version drops the, ahem, armoured codpiece which had been present on some earlier versions of the Judge uniform. Our variant covers are pencil images of the two regular coloured images but I have to say I vastly prefer the coloured versions in this instance.
The rest of the comic is quite brightly coloured once we get into the main areas of the city block, veering away from the drab greys of the rest of Mega City 1, reminding us that Patrick Swayze block was meant to be a happy place for families to live and raise their kids, a stark contrast to the warzone it’s become now. The rest of the art style is lovely and clean, which I vastly prefer. I was never able to get into the Slaine comics because I found the art and text they used just a painful mishmash.
Speaking of art, let’s talk backgrounds. There’s lovely little details everywhere you look. In one of the first panels there’s a character in the background wearing a “Grud’s Gym” shirt, (a nod to the legendary Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach) and the coach for the football players appears to be wielding a cattle-prod! Later on we have a poster proclaiming “Need credits FAST? Kidney Hut!”. I’ve always been a huge fan of little details like this and the “Church of the Holy Question Mark” made me laugh out loud. Definite hints of a Transmetropolitan vibe there.
While perhaps not as iconic as The Judge Child or America, this is a solid setup for a new series and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Dredd doing what he does best – Laying down the law.