Hey everyone! Welcome back to another edition of Pulp, where we journey into the land of capes, cowls and impermanent life-and-death cycles for your enjoyment (and mine). I must admit, I was caught on the back foot this week; the weeks are absolutely flying by, and I could’ve sworn that I’d only written my last column a few days ago. With that being said, there’s still plenty of comics to talk about, so let’s get stuck in! This week, I’ve picked up Judge Dredd: Mega City Zero, written by Ulises Farinas (Judge Dredd: Mega City Two, Amazing Forest) and Erick Freitas (Amazing Forest), and drawn by Dan McDaid (Jersey Gods).
Judge Dredd awakens to find the unthinkable has happened: Mega City One, his home, is gone. He’d been investigating a series of mysterious disappearances in a mega block, but has since woken up in a grassy plain, with the only signs of civilisation being an overgrown and dilapidated settlement. With all signs of the world he knew gone, and the local populace ignoring his commands, Joe Dredd has to come to terms with the fact that here, he’s just a regular guy. With his resources – and patience – running low, Dredd struggles to come to terms with his new surroundings, and resolves to get to the bottom of what happened to Mega City One.
Despite being a Judge Dredd fanboy, I found Mega City Zero hard to get into. It’s not due to the whole fish-out-of-water scenario – Farinas worked on Mega City Two, a series I read a while back with a similar theme – but it’s more to do with the characters and society Dredd encounters. Early on in the story, Dredd attempts to arrest three children for a variety of reasons (including eyeball-plucking) and they then follow him for the rest of the story. Unless they’re there to humanize Dredd, they seem pretty tangential and irrelevant; they’re just there, and don’t have much to do except provide exposition. Beyond them, the general population is a mish-mash of weirdness that is even less appealing.
I found myself sharing Dredd’s frustration as I read through the story; the book’s weird, and not in a usual 2000AD/Judge Dredd fashion. I suspect that’s the point; Dredd is in an utterly unfamiliar scenario, out of his depth and on the back foot all at once. I suspect that I would appreciate it more given the opportunity to read more of the story, but to begin with, I wasn’t particularly invested in the new world the writers had created. However, once the mystery picked up, and Dredd started to piece things together, I found myself invested in his search for the truth. If Farinas and Freitas had gotten to the meat of the mystery quicker, I probably wouldn’t have had as hard a time getting into it all.
While I came away from the first volume wanting more, I got the distinct impression that Mega City Zero is in it for the long haul (and sure enough, it’s a multi-volume story. I’m going to keep an eye on it; I want the story to be good, but the first volume didn’t really grab me until the end (probably helped by the throwback to Pug Dredd of Mega City Two). The best thing to do is pick up the book and judge (heh, couldn’t resist) for yourself – it’s still Judge Dredd, after all, the grandpappy of weird sci-fi – this is its bread and butter!
Written by Alastair McGibbon