Calling back on my comic book roots, I tried to think of a year one comic where the hero didn’t suck, and I couldn’t. In Batman Year One, Bruce Wayne barely scrapes by, and only then with some help from the not-so-commissioner Gordon. In Green Arrow Year One, Oliver Queen gets his rear end handed to him for most of the comic, only winning out towards the end. Traditionally, year one books are about a young hero’s innocence being shattered by the realities of the world.
Then again, Dredd is not Batman, and I think it might be unfair to expect him to be. Gleaning what I can from the first issue, I think it’s safe to say that Dredd will always be a bada--; it’s just that he’s going to have to learn what it’s like to be a bada-- in a city that routinely attempts to kill him and might just be able to. I am hopeful that we will see Dredd making a few more mistakes, and I am interested to see how his character develops.
Visually, the book is a feast for the eyes. Its use of shadows drags even the most seemingly innocent scenes through the dystopian mess, creating a gritty feel that pervades the book. In some comics, I might criticize that the book has been gritted up for no reason, but here it really serves the story, layering noir elements onto the cyberpunk world. At times, the book did get visually cluttered by shadows, but these times were rare.
The book’s subdued palette created a world that seemed depressed, painted the world as one of slow decay, and served to highlight the comic book's use of red, which dominates scenes of action and violence, and at the same time hovers in nearly every panel. Dredd’s helmet becomes an omen of violence to come, adding a visual tenseness to most of his interactions.
The attention to detail really tied the whole book together. Though stylized, there was a heavy theme of realism running throughout the book's artwork. For example, I was looking closely at one panel and noticed that some of the bullets were emblazoned with a small badge resembling Dredd's.
Judge Dredd Year One is exactly what I want in my cyberpunk - dark, gritty, and dystopian. While I am having trouble really defining this as a year one book, it is still the first issue. That said, I can’t wait for the next book, and I am looking forward to the series as a whole.