Judge Dredd: Origins
Written by: John Wagner
Written by: John Wagner
Art by: Carlos Ezquerra, Kev Walker
Diamond Order Code: JAN131250
Price: $19.99 (US) $22.99 (Canada)
Release Date: March 19th 2013
Judge Dredd has been running in 2000AD for a weekly basis since it's second issue, with a handful of exceptions, and over the thirty years that it has been featured in the sci-fi anthology, there have been references to the back story of Mega City One and the creation of the Justice System. In particular, the fact that Dredd and his brother Rico were clones of the legendary Judge Fargo, was so ingrained within the character's history that the first feature film used the plot as it's focus - for better or for worse. However, there had never been a definitive story that filled in all the gaps, so as part of the 30th anniversary of Judge Dredd, creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra produced the mega-epic storyline, Origins, to show readers how the America they know became the sprawling metropolis that is Mega-City One and how the Judges rose to power over democracy under the guidance of Judge Fargo.
The graphic novel for Origins contains the five-part prologue called 'The Connection' which is a nice little introduction and sets up some foreshadowing in the form of Dredd's dreams about his clone brother, Rico, whom he killed in the line of duty and their 'father', Judge Fargo, from whom the two were cloned. The story focuses around a mysterious box that two mutants (three, if you count the talking armpit!) are attempting to deliver to the Justice Department. There is the sense of a Coen Brothers movie about this introduction (Fargo, perhaps?) as plans go awry and corpses begin to mount up. I really enjoyed this interlude and as always, I appreciated the artwork of Kev Walker, who in my opinion draws a fantastic Dredd, equalling that of the character's creator, Carlos Ezquerra, who comes aboard to draw the main event.
The contents of the 'macguffin' are revealed in the first part of Origins and prompts a journey into the Cursed Earth. Without spoiling too much, the Judge's are concerned that a very important element of their history might be being held ransom by a group of Cursed Earth mutants. Sending Dredd and a select team of veteran Judges, the search party head off into the wilderness to locate what is theirs. Along the way, the encounter various groups, some hostile and some not. Throughout the adventures, Dredd recounts the history of Mega City One and his involvement in it, and they soon discover that not all history is dead and buried.
I'll admit that I found the flashback sequences to be slightly slow and they didn't hold my interest as much as the present day scenes. Wagner manages to inter-splice the flashbacks with action in the present to prevent them from being too slow, which considering that this book was originally published in six-page episodes, some of the flashback material could have seemed even slower when reading it on a weekly basis. For long-term fans of Dredd who are more intimate with the character's past from the hints dropped over the years, there was probably a lot more pay-off to seeing the history of Mega-City One recounted almost from start to finish. For myself, however, I did find myself slightly confused in parts, although that may be due to my pre-conceptions of Dredd's origins that I had picked up from the 1995 film. I was always under the impression Fargo took the Long Walk into the Cursed Earth, so I was slightly confused at the retelling here, although this could be a revision of events, as Wagner makes it clear that there has been falsehoods and inconsistencies in the tale as part of a plot point.
Reflecting on the story as a whole, it makes sense on why the flashbacks go into such detail, since there is a pay-off in the final act. In fact, the whole story works well as a full package and neatly sets up the changes that will occur in Dredd's character in later stories, particularly his feelings about mutants and the laws preventing them from entering the city. This is clearly an important story that has had far-reaching consequences within the Judge Dredd series, in some ways fundamentally challenging the character's views and beliefs.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on this beautiful collection that contains both the five-part prologue and the main Origins storyline. As usual, the 2000AD graphic novels are perfectly crafted with a thicker page than the usual comic and a nice gloss on them. The reprinting is crisp and clear and the colours all leap of the page with a shine. There is a covers gallery showcasing some artwork from Jock, John Higgins, Rufus Dayglo, Simon Coleby and Boo Cook. Also included is a sketchbook from Carlos Ezquerra, which has some black and white sketches of early designs.