BOOK REVIEW: JUDGE DREDD YEAR ONE / AUTHOR: MATTHEW SMITH, MICHAEL CARROLL, AL EWING / PUBLISHER: ABADDON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Year One hero stories are pretty common these days. The idea that the trials and struggles that face a well-known hero when they haven’t quite become the near-perfect paragon we know them as certainly has an appeal; there’s a sort of joy to seeing Spider Man swing straight into a wall or seing Superman accidentally setting fire to a barn through clumsy use of his powers. Judge Dredd Year One takes a slightly different swing at things. After all, Dredd’s origin story is that he was cloned from the cells of one of Earth’s greatest lawmen and has been trained from birth to be a Mega-City judge. Dredd is also mostly a cypher; it’s his city and the people around him that are interesting. The stoic Dredd is virtually unchanging, with character development being something that’s moved at a glacial pace.
This omnibus brings together three novellas that tackle Dredd’s early career, and each author has taken a similar approach; they’ve kept the stony-faced Dredd we know and love, only pausing to add a little bit of inflexible behaviour and a spot of inexperience.
The first story is City Fathers by Matthew Smith. It’s a pretty solid procedural crime thriller; a new drug has hit the streets, and as the criminal element scrabbles around trying to consolidate their position, Dredd ponders his own abilities whilst hitting the streets and pounding perps. It’s a tightly-written work that delivers exactly what you expect - crime, violence and a touch of insight to the younger Dredd.
Next up is Cold Light of Day, which opens up with the Mega City 500 and a huge race across the Meg. As events unfold, we learn of another race, one between Dredd and his twin brother Rico. Events from that day have a severe impact on the future, and we get a nice parallel between the two brothers and the paths they’ve chosen. Much of the characterisation relies on Rico, and the tale mostly hangs together throughout, though it does lack colour in places.
The collection ends with Al Ewing’s short piece, Wear Iron; a heist tale which complements the action-heavy feeling of City Fathers with the character-driven drama that is Cold Light of Day. A solid little tale of choice and tragedy, with plenty of crime and action thrown in for good measure.
All in all, a nice entry into the world of Dredd and it is great to see Mega City’s finest leap from the pages of 2000AD and into the land of prose.
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