JUDGE DREDD 100-PAGE GIANT is a 4-story anthology highlighting some of the more unique takes on the future law enforcer over the last few years. Each story is a chapter from runs by such writers as Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, Mark Russell, and Paul Jenkins. Some chapters are stronger than others, so let’s find out which ones rise to the top.
Mega-City Zero – Written by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas
What if you crossed Planet of the Apes with The Time Machine to form a primitive future society raised on Twitter? Judge Dredd finds out in this story.
This is easily the most unique story of the anthology. It’s our writing favorite for originality and satirical commentary on the long-term effects of social media.
The lettering by Chris Mowry is clear and sparse when it needs to be to let the art speak for itself while Dredd struggles to figure out what’s going on. Colors by Ryan Hill are bright and help emphasize how much Dredd looks out of place in a primitive landscape.
If there’s one area where the story falters, it’s in the inks by Dan McDaid. The lines are thick and blotchy to the point of sloppiness. None of the lines are clean or clear, giving you the impression you’re reading the story through rippling water.
The Blessed Earth – Written by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas
This story could have easily been call Old Man Dredd with another trip to the future. The infrastructure has been wiped out, and Dredd takes on the challenge of rebuilding the systems of justice throughout the land. It’s a Western, with robots.
Again, Farinas and Freitas demonstrate a real knack for building worlds. They’ve seamlessly blended the outdoor aesthetic of an old-time Western with the trappings of a deadly future.
The lettering by Shawn Lee is clean if a bit crowded on a few pages. The story has a lot of exposition to catch the reader up, causing some of the panels to get bubble heavy. The coloring by Ryan Hill is bright and distinctive but very flat. There’s almost no shadows or shading on any of the characters in the full daylight scenes, giving the overall story an overly 2-D feel.
As with Mega-City Zero, the inking by Daniel Irizarri is the weak point of the story. Every outline on every surface and every character is overly thick, and there’s not a single straight line anywhere. Irizarri made a creative choice that just doesn’t work.
Under Siege – Written by Mark Russell
Under Siege comes closest to a traditional Judge Dredd story, closer still to the film JUDGE DREDD (2012). Our favorite Judge must find a way to escape a high rise that’s been taken over by mutants.
Russell shows an aptitude for fast-paced action that keeps the tension high throughout. He throws in enough jabs at current and future society to cause a few chuckles (e.g., a touchscreen in a church where you can choose your own virtual holy droid)—really enjoyable story.
The lettering by Simon Bowland stands out, particularly on the signage of the set pieces. Buildings and billboards all have unique fonts for their titles that look futuristic and well-worn. Jose Luis Rio does an outstanding job putting color gradients on just the right surfaces to give the impression of ambient light and glow from digital screens. Rio does the best coloring job of all the stories in this GIANT.
Likewise, the art by Max Dunbar is stellar. Every surface and character has depth and weight. This is the story that looks like it would best translate to film.
Toxic – Written by Paul Jenkins
Jenkins weaves a tale of xenophobia in the Dredd-verse but doesn’t quite stick the landing. A collection of symbiotic “bugs” are marooned on Earth and bond with waste disposal workers. The bonding causes miraculous healing for the workers to tolerate their highly toxic working conditions better, but somehow that triggers a xenophobic reaction among the citizens living topside.
Frankly, the reaction makes no sense. Jenkins tries to use the futuristic setting to make a point about irrational immigration and border control fears, but the phobias he paints strain believability, and the point fails to stick.
The coloring by Jason Millet is particularly strong in giving each character depth when most of the story is set in either nighttime exteriors or low light underground sewers. The art by Marco Castiello is crisp on characters in the foreground but tends to get muddled for background characters. The lettering by Shawn Lee is very easy to read for both dialog and narration. Oddly, there are almost no sound effects in this story, so the story is very “quiet.”
The stories in JUDGE DREDD 100-PAGE GIANT span the range from “just okay” to “taut and exciting” in all the creative ways. Mega-City Zero by Farinas and Freitas gets top marks for the story. Dunbar and Rio win high honors for Art and Coloring, respectively. We recommend you pick this issue up if you’re a Judge Dredd fan.