Prog #30: One of Us Will Have to Die! (The Return of Rico)

Case File

20 years ago, Dredd’s clone brother Rico was busted as corrupt Judge and sent to the penal colony on Titan. Now he’s back, and has a score to settle with Joe.

Ol’ Stoney Face

We learn a lot about Dredd here, and his devotion to the Law. He’s been part of the Justice system since before his birth. His DNA was identified as being perfect for that of a Judge, so he and his duplicate clone brother Rico were born to serve the system.

Rico was clearly better than Dredd throughout their time at the Academy – and Dredd knew this, and was OK with it. He was grateful for Rico’s help to improve him, and displays no sense of jealousy or frustration with his brother’s better performance.

Dredd made the tough call to book Rico for corruption – and he claims to have always known that Rico would come back after serving his time and they would have to fight it out. To the death. It’s implied here that Dredd never visited or spoke to Rico for those 20 years on Titan.

Oh, and his name is Joe.

Friends of Dredd

Maria is thankfully rendered unconscious by Rico before she can have too many lines.

The Big Meg

Kennedy Space-Port is the main jumping off point for extra-planetary travel from Mega-City 1.

Apartments in the Big Meg (or at least Dredd’s) can apparently be completely sealed off, and deprived of air. Wouldn’t want to accidentally bump into that button while going to the toilet in the middle of the night.

The Law

Rico’s story includes the detail that Judges are “raised from the cradle”. This doesn’t quite square with what we’ve read so far, where we actually see older children signing up. It could be that this just refers to cloned Judges.

Speaking of cloning, Justice HQ has some sort of Genetic Control department which identifies DNA that makes for excellent Judges.

Corruption in Judges is frowned up, and leads to 20 years on Titan. Rico says that because so few Judges fall foul of the Law, they get “special treatment”.

Creeps

Dredd faces a personal challenge here, as he is forced to take on his own clone brother. Rico was sent to Titan 20 years ago after running a protection racket. A few issues back we learned that Dredd “passed out” of the Academy 20 years ago, so it seems that Rico must have turned to crime pretty quickly after graduation – or more likely that he had already gone bad before leaving the Academy.

Doing time on Titan is tough. Inmates are physically altered to survive in a vacuum without protection: their mouths and noses are sealed up, a voice box and speaker installed in the throat and other changes made to the body. We see a lot of augmentations to Rico’s face.

Despite being clone brothers, Rico was the better Judge between himself and Dredd – apparently by a fair distance. Despite this, they were the “best of friends” and Rico helped Dredd to improve. We don’t get a reason for Rico’s turn to crime, but he is completely devastated that it is his brother Joe that calls him in.

Rico plans to subject Dredd to asphyxiation as a taste of his two decades on Titan.

Resyk

Dredd is forced to kill Rico here, as his brother makes him do a quick-draw. Rico’s experience on Titan has slowed him down though, and Dredd – despite being weak – carries his brother’s body away from his apartment.

Dredd feels that Rico actually died 20 years ago.

Verdict

Let’s just get it out of the way with, this is fantastic. Easily the best issue so far.

The more we learn about the Justice system, and Dredd’s relationship to it, the murkier and more dramatic things get. The whole concept of cloned Judges is creepy enough, but the idea of Rico and Joe growing up under the complete indoctrination of the system raises so many questions.

Rico is a broken and pitiable character – and the lack of a reason for his turn to crime is actually a positive to this story. He and Joe are clones, they should be exactly the same. Their differences add to the mystery and drama – and the issue’s tragic ending leaves Dredd with no opportunity to find out.

It says something worrying about Dredd that he is able to send his identical brother – essentially himself – away for 20 years and apparently never speak to him. When the Dredd series focuses on the detail and darkness of its world, it works incredibly well. The only real shame is that we introduce such an interesting character, and then immediately kill him.

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