Master Criminal “Whitey” and his gang are holed up in the ruins of the Empire State Building. They gun down a Judge, bringing the wrath of Judge Dredd down upon them.
Ol’ Stoney Face
Meet the toughest lawman of them all! Dredd has a good reputation in both the judicial and criminal worlds – the Grand Judge congratulates him for the dramatic drop in crime in the section of the City Dredd’s been patrolling, while one of Whitey’s associates calls him “the toughest of the Judges”.
Dredd reckons that falling defending The Law is the only way to go out.
The Big Meg (well, not quite yet…)
New York in 2099 is a mass of skyscrapers and highways (emphasis on high) encircling them. “Smaller buildings” like the Empire State have fallen into ruin and are now criminal hideouts.
Criminals found guilty of serious offences are sent to Devil’s Island, “a huge traffic island in the middle of a vast inter-city highway complex” where the prisoners are surrounded by lorries going at 200mph at all times.
Judges are “elected by the people to enforce the law”, are based at Justice HQ and report to the Grand Judge. They have access to some kind of “Air Squad”, and Judges are trained to have “lightning reactions”. They view (or at least Dredd does) killing a Judge as the most “odious crime of all”.
When a Judge is killed, their badge (with name in large letters) is hung on a wall under a sign inscribed with “They Died Defending The Law”.
Whitey and his gang carry out unspecified criminal activities, and seem to be mostly annoyances – but they do manage to take down a Judge (Alvin) with a laser cannon they have access to. They’re also able to use Alvin’s bike to some degree, sending it back to Justice HQ on automatic. With Alvin’s body handcuffed to it. That shouldn’t provoke any kind of reaction, right?
Whitey is arrested and sentenced to life on Devil’s Island.
Judge Alvin is blasted off his bike by Whitey. Whitey’s two unnamed pals are taken out by Dredd’s weapon.
Even with my fairly amateur knowledge of Judge Dredd, it’s clear that we’re a long way off the elements we now accept. It’s tempting to just discuss all the differences that will either be ironed out or ignored in the future, but that seems obvious and unnecessary. Looking at these issues one at a time means they should be taken on their own merits, as they were back in 77.
So, on its own, this is fun. It’s clear the creative forces behind this first adventure with Dredd are probably more interested in the future environment rather than the Lawman himself. The city artwork is properly great, with that amazing future retro look. Great concepts are established with simple and effective ideas – like the Empire State Building now being a “small” example of buildings in 2099.
The plot is straightforward and at a bare minimum – but again, with 6 pages to play with this is an introduction. Even with that, there manages to be a standout moment with Judge Alvin’s body sent back to Judge HQ handcuffed to his own bike. This is actually pretty effective, and a good way of riffing off old cop/gangster stories with a hi-tech spin. First issues are tough, and this would succeed just by not being overtly terrible. It’s not, so let’s call it a good start.