Immediately, someone says they’ve spotted the fugitive, and we see Judge Dredd. That’s all we need to know to enter the story. Dredd is no longer a Judge, and he’s on the run. Color me intrigued. Marvel comics feels the need to write four paragraphs on the inside of their books, so people feel caught up. This was visual and taken care of in two lines of dialogue. Economy in writing. Exactly what you expect from a visual medium, and Duane Swierczynski, the writer, keeps this up throughout the book.
We’re given exposition clearly, concisely, and entertainingly, so those (like myself) just jumping in can understand enough of what is going on while still feeling intrigued and entertained. It does help that I saw the film, because Dredd’s psychic partner, Judge Anderson, plays a crucial role in the story, as does another Judge of whom I am unfamiliar, Verrity, but her immediate motivation is clear enough. There are other characters involved who you get to know or don’t need to know to understand what’s happening. And, Dredd is Dredd, even when he’s trying as hard as he can not to be.
Swierczynski is always a strong writer, and, here, he keeps the story flowing without feeling the need to be pedantic. You move along to the next moment you need to see to understand what the heck is happening, without being shown every specific step of what happened to get to that point: it’s smart writing. He’s also given us an interesting villain with an intriguing introduction that involves a clever twist of events. That sells the worth of the book right there. Smart, smart, smart.
On a visual level, the art by Steve Scott and Mark Torres is pretty close to excellent. There were only a couple of panels in which I got lost as to what was happening: during a flying car wreck while Judges were shooting at each other and when it appears like a judge is crawling around the wreck of said crash and disappears completely; however, none of this hindered my understanding of what was happening a few seconds later.
One thing I take special note of is when every element used is integral to the telling of the story. The world of Mega-City One is colorful while remaining gritty, thanks to H. Michael Russell’s coloring. That’s how I imagine a huge metropolis to be. Not just shades of grey and shadows – boring – but full of life, even if half of the city is falling apart. Also, and I took specific notice of this: the lettering (Shawn Lee) indicating Judge Anderson’s psychic conversation with Dredd is subtle but visually interesting. Nicely done, Shawn.
This is good Dredd, and if I’d been following the series up 'till now, it might even be great Dredd. Either way, I’m certainly interested to read more, and that’s a great start.