Judge Dredd Mega-City Two #1 is Light on Story, But Succeeds in Worldbuilding and Satire

Judge Dredd Mega-City Two #1Dredd08
Writer: Douglas Wolk
Artist: Ulisses Farinas
Colorist: Ryan Hill
Publisher: IDW

Judge Dredd Mega-City Two #1 follows Judge Dredd’s temporary transfer to Mega-City One where he is investigating a larger conspiracy under the guise of a normal Judge exchange program. This conspiracy is barely touched on, and the comic has a noticeable lack of an antagonist or an overarching plot. However, Mega-City Two #1 does succeed as a “day in the life” story for Dredd as writer Douglas Wolk and artist Ulisses Farinas use dialogue and setting to show how out of place Dredd is in Mega-City Two. Along with being an interesting character study for Dredd himself, Mega-City Two #1 acts as an over-the-top parody of American celebrity culture and media. Farinas sticks in little references to modern pop culture in his backgrounds and uses inset panels to show the constant media presence around Dredd in his pursuit of justice. Colorist Ryan Hill brings the neon, garish world of Mega-City Two to life and is the unsung hero of this comic.

Wolk balances drama and comedy in his portrayal of Dredd in Mega-City Two #1. He gives Dredd quite a few chase and action sequences where he struggles with a talking car and non-lethal ordinance while trying to chase down criminals. Dredd is good at his job, but is a poor fit for the overall philosophy of Mega-City Two in which the definition of justice is a bit more flexible. Wolk milks a lot of fish out of water laughs in Mega-City Two #1 in Dredd’s response to his surroundings. There is a running gag that may grow stale for some readers though. Farinas’ visuals show the gap between Dredd and Mega-City Two in even more pronounced ways, like when a criminals gets away because of rush hour. And between action scenes and flashbacks, Wolk sticks in little parodies of 21st century culture ranging from reality television to media portrayal of crime and the War on Drugs.

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Artist Farinas and colorist Hill work in tandem to bring the Hollywood dystopia that is Mega-City Two to bloated life. There is as much urban sprawl, run-down buildings, and overcrowding as Mega-City One, but Hill’s bright color palette makes Mega-City Two look like an absurd parody of Los Angeles. Farinas and Hill binge on Southern California stereotypes and add plenty of details to Wolk’s relatively bare bones plot. The opening two page spread of Mega-City Two is a gaudy, yet gorgeous piece of pop art that establishes the tone of the comic perfectly. Everything has to be caught on cameras, and there are screens everywhere even in the Iso-Cubes. Farinas’ art is a bit cartoonish, and it is hard to take Dredd seriously sometimes. However, he and Hill capture the absurdity and character of Mega-City Two without a single line of dialogue or caption box.

Judge Dredd Mega City Two #1 is a great example of worldbuilding and sheds light on Dredd’s character and beliefs by placing him in setting that is the complete opposite of his comfort zone. However, its lack of hints about a bigger threat or conflict makes it less compelling in the context of a five issue miniseries. Mega-City Two #1 focuses mainly on parody and atmosphere at the expense of plot. Sometimes it seems like an issue-long establishing shot. However, there is enough humor and great Dredd moments to redeem it as a comic.

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