Having graced the pages of 2000AD since 1977, Judge Dredd is a quintessentially British comic book creation, mixing bleak dystopian science-fiction with sharp satire and a black, often odd-ball, sense of humour. Getting the recipe right is a fine art that only a handful of greats have managed to do with aplomb. Which brings us to this, the first issue of a new ongoing Judge Dredd series from IDW Publishing. This is the second attempt at bringing the Mega City lawman to a wider (i.e. US) audience, after a short run with DC in the early 1990s. But as is often the case when Dredd is taken out of the safe confines of his homeland it is never quite the same, and with this new incarnation it looks like Dredd, it reads like Dredd, but there’s something missing.It could be the simple fact it’s a first issue and so the story doesn’t feel very substantial when compared to the main continuity. It does a good job of introducing the characters and doesn’t leap straight into the complex continuity of 20+ year old character, but at the same time it makes what is a very rich and long-running character feel 2-dimentionsal.
Perhaps it’s also the weight of expectation for a title with such a heritage that means we are unfairly judging it. Although the story of malfunctioning (or is it sabotage) robots creating chaos and so inticing law abiding citizens to become law-breakers as a result is common fare for 2000ad, yet it feel more like facsimile of an old story rather than something new. It isn’t helped by the fact that the story is chopped into two halves, (intentionally following the 2000ad pattern of short stories or progs) and so prevents the story from developing beyond the opening gambit.
The art from Nelson Daniel is slick and Manga influenced, which gives the book a cool modern feel. However, the backup story with art from Paul Gulacy again feels like a another forced attempt to mimic the work of Dredd’s past (in particular Brian Bolland) rather than be a part of regular continuity or doing something new.
As this is a first issue, it feels unfair to be too hard on it, as things could well develop and improve in time. However on first impressions this feels like an opportunity missed rather than a must-read new title.