Mild Spoilers Ahead
A courier is given the task of transporting an illegal aphrodisiac across Mega-City One and he is immediately interrupted by a Nativborne riot attacking a recent immigrant to the city. The courier saves the immigrant, only to be stopped by Judge Dredd and a pair of mech Judges. They round up the rioters, but they try to take in the courier too. He makes a tight escape and loses Dredd in the old subway system. This doesn’t stop Dredd, but the courier makes it to his client: Dr. Filth.
Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 takes a look at Mega-City One in a state of crisis. Disease has ravaged civilization, immigrants seek shelter in Mega-City One, and hucksters like Dr. Filth seek to generate and profit from xenophobia.
Dredd isn’t the protagonist of this story and he’s not doing anything to actively curtail bigotry or stop Dr. Filth himself. Dredd and the Judges are more akin to a force of nature that must be navigated and negotiated. They are on no one’s side, but they will do whatever it takes to maintain a semi-peaceful status quo. They react to symptoms but not the disease itself.
The courier is the true lead of the story and he is the one who has a genuine pang of conscience. Dredd is a static character who remains unchanging despite outside factors. The courier puts his life and profit at risk on whim because he can’t stand to see the Nativborne attacking a refugee.
The comic is far from subtle with any of its allegory and that mostly works to its benefit. It’s angry about an ongoing situation in much of the Western world and it wants to talk about it. That intensity translates to tension and forward momentum in the comic’s story.
I will say that it almost gives too much credit to the type of talking heads it’s parodying with Dr. Filth–I don’t think Filth’s real-world analogues are anywhere near as convicted to their cause as he is.
Kei Zama’s artwork is downright excellent. The detailing is impeccable and Judge Dredd himself looks as intimidating as ever. The action scenes are satisfying and often quite brutal. Eva de la Cruz’s color work is dirty, moody, and perfectly suited to the world of Mega-City One.
Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 is an intense, raging, and brutal first issue that takes a look at humanity’s worst instincts exacerbated by a crisis of its own making. It’s a compelling read with excellent visuals and it earns a recommendation. Check it out.
Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 comes to us from writer Brandon Easton, artist Kei Zama, color artist Eva de la Cruz, letterer Shawn Lee, cover artist Kei Zama with Eva de la Cruz, and variant cover artists Jonboy Meyers; and Kei Zama.
Final Score: 8.5/10