Title: Judge Dredd Year One: City Fathers

Author: Matthew Smith

Publisher: Abaddon/Rebellion/2000AD Books

Published: Out Now

Price: £2.99 (Kindle)

Mega-City One, 2080. It is Joe Dredd’s first year as a full-eagle Judge – he may have been created from the genes of Eustace Fargo, the ‘Father of Justice’, and thus part of an illustrious lineage, but right now Dredd is not long graduated from the Academy, and yet to establish himself as the metropolis’s toughest, greatest cop. His reputation will be moulded in the years ahead, but at the moment he’s a young lawman, fresh on the streets.

The brutal murder of a Justice Department-sanctioned spy sparks an investigation that will see Dredd trawl the criminal underworld in the hunt for the killer – and he will discover that all is not what it seems in the sector’s murky black market. Something new has entered the system, and unless Dredd can stop it, chaos will be unleashed…

I began reading 2000AD from the start back in 1977, I remember Prog: 2 and the introduction of Judge Dredd and his dark, dangerous, crazy world. Ever since those early days I’ve been a big fan of old Stoneyface, I may not have read the comic from the late 1980s onward’s but my interest with the character and his world was always there. Recently I’ve gotten back into reading the comic – I’m 20 Progs into the current epic Day Of Chaos – and have been following the development of the new film closely. So it was I was interested when I saw that this first in a new series of books had been published, Year One will be an ongoing look at Dredd’s early days in the uniform.

This book is very much like the early strip, the story is tight and well visualized, the author is expecting the reader to know who the Judge’s are, and what Mega City 1 is like. He takes very little time explaining, instead you are thrown into the story and he drip feeds information about Dredd and the Big Meg. From the off it is interesting to be inside Dredd’s head, to know what he’s feeling, what he’s thinking. There are some insights to this in the comic, but here you get more depth.

The story is gripping, what starts out as a brutal murder leads onto a conspiracy that threatens the city. The characters are more that two dimensional, each are there for a reason and help to move the plot along. It is interesting to see Dredd as a rookie, the fear his name instills is not there yet, but there are glimpses of the Judge he will become. It is also interesting to be a part of his inner monologue and see how he has doubts, mainly about himself and his place in the world. Also he feels the pressure of his heritage, he feels he needs to be more than just a Judge.

There is one thing though that confused me, the inclusion of Rico. Without giving too much away I found it strange considering what he is and how he was portrayed that he was included, and more strange that other Judge’s – including Dredd –  know what he is, especially considering how another Judge is dealt with later in the book. Now I know most Year One stories in other continuities  are re-boots of known histories, I’m not sure if this will turn out to be the same. Considering Rico, it is already different from the known back-story for the character, so I’m left wondering if he will feature more in the early years of his brother in book form than he did in the comic.

If you’ve never read any Judge Dredd I highly recommend this, its a great introduction to a great character.