JUDGE DREDD FALSE WITNESS #1, available from IDW on March 25th, tells the tale of our future law enforcer pursuing a courier holding dangerous cargo. To say this story draws parallels to current year immigration concerns would be the understatement of the 22nd-Century. But does it still hold up as an entertaining read? Let’s find out.
Brian Eastman’s story is a thinly veiled essay on current year immigration woes. Paper-thin. That’s not a bad thing if the writer can spell out those issues in an engaging story and without being too on-the-nose with the characterizations. Eastman pulls it off successfully.
The main character (Mathias) has a clear backstory and a relatable motivation for his actions. Dredd is, well, being Dredd. And the main villain’s true master plan makes sense, albeit a bit too convenient.
There is an odd bit in the middle of the book explaining the genealogy of “mutants” that was a little hard to follow. The opening narration talking about the nature of fascism seemed out of place with the rest of the story. You get the impression Eastman just wanted to pontificate on fascism and used this story as a platform without blending into the context.
Kei Zama’s artwork carries through consistently from the cover to the internal pages. The dark, dirty sewers look especially grimy. The lower streets look worn and tattered. The pristine penthouses look shiny and new. Zama captures the nature of the aesthetic difference between the multiple levels of society.
The artwork could be a little more potent if the inks weren’t so heavy. Every shadow and outline is a series of thick, almost blotchy, lines. Using thinner lines, especially on character faces, would have helped take the artwork up a notch.
Eva De La Cruz’s coloring works for this issue when juxtaposed with the inks. Zama continues the thick lines and deep shadows from the cover throughout the rest of the book, making every line very heavy. De La Cruz really had to push to get the colors to pop through the heavy lines, and she does so expertly.
Shawn Lee handles the lettering duties, and he does a great job keeping the different voices straight in an easy-to-follow way. Also, Lee organically blends the sound effects into all panels with action. For example, Dredd’s gun contains an array of different munitions types, so it’s not as simple as lettering “BANG! BANG!” every time Dredd fires a shot. Lee needed to incorporate everything from stuns to incendiaries to straight munitions, and every panel matches seamlessly.
Zama is pulling double duty for both cover and internal art on this first issue. Zama’s composition on the cover conveys heavy intimidation from Dredd and his fellow judges. The shadows are VERY heavy, making the Judges faceless (or more faceless than usual with their helmets on). Whether intended or not, keeping the shadows deep and obscuring the characters’ faces makes you feel like the Judges’ authority is a deep, dark force. The shadows de-humanize them as individuals on one particular side of the law, possibly with evil intent.
It’s a very good cover in that it captures the spirit of unceasing intimidation a lawbreaker would feel when confronted by the Judges.
JUDGE DREDD FALSE WITNESS #1 takes a current issue and brings it into the 22nd century without being too heavy-handed. Judge Dredd, in typical Dredd fashion, doesn’t play favorites…in the best way. I’m looking forward to the next issue.
Writer’s Note: Local Comic Shops (LCS) are going through a tough time right now with the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. Comics fans of every flavor that care about his or her LCS should try to do what they can. So, here’s my part:
If you’re in Northern Delaware, South East Pennsylvania, or Southern New Jersey area, please take a moment to visit Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE. Say ‘hi,’ pick up a book, order a book (they’re on Comichub.com), and let them know you support them.
If you’re nowhere near that area, please find YOUR LCS using https://comicshoplocator.com/ and lend your support.
Thanks, and stay safe.