Hey everyone! Hold on to your hats, because Pulp is back once again to send you careening into the pit of madness and despair that is the twisted world of 2000AD. That’s right, gang – I’m back on the Judge Dredd train, and the brakes have been shot out by a high-ex round! This week, I’ve picked up a Judge Dredd comic that goes right to the heart of all that is Joe Dredd – Judge Dredd: Origins, written and drawn by the OG Dredd maestros John Wagner (A History of Violence) and Carlos Ezquerra (Preacher, Strontium Dog).
Origins, as the name suggests, is the origin story of Judge Dredd himself. What is not immediately obvious, however, is that Dredd’s origins tie in closely with the origins of the Judges themselves. One of the longest running story arcs in 2000AD history, Origins definitively covers the early days of the Judge Dredd universe, and coincided with the 30th anniversary of the title.
A sealed, refrigerated package is delivered to the Grand Hall of Justice in Mega City One. What it contains is a ransom note – demanding one billion credits for the safe return of the founding Chief Justice – and father of both the Judges and Dredd himself – Fargo. The problem? Fargo has been dead for decades… or so it was thought. With the Judges desperate to locate the body of their founder, Dredd is chosen to lead a crack team of Judges out into the Cursed Earth and track down the group that claims to have the father of justice alive in captivity.
Origins is more than just Judge Dredd’s own person origin story. While Wagner and Ezquerra took pains to sort out the contradictions in Dredd’s own early days, they also put a lot of care into fully developing the setting of the story. Origins is told primarily through flashbacks; as Dredd and his team track their prey, Dredd retells the story of how the Judges came to be, following the fall of America and the Atomic War of 2070. Wagner does a fantastic job of setting the scene; Mega City One seems so far removed from modern society, so I’d always been curious about how things could go so wrong.
My one sticking point with Origins is Ezquerra’s art style. I didn’t actually realise that he’d worked on Preacher prior to researching this column, but I saw a number of similarities to Steve Dillon’s style so I can see why he was called up to fill in for some one-shots. For the most part, Ezquerra does a good job of portraying the blasted hellscape of the Cursed Earth, but it’s his character designs and closeup line art that suffers; more often than not the characters look lumpy to the point of disfigurement, even when they’re not mutants.
Gripes aside, Origins does a pretty great job of setting the stage for the 2000AD universe. It has its flaws, but it’s still a satisfying story of crime, political intrigue and good ol’ fashioned justice. If you’re a Judge Dredd fan, Origins is required reading. If you’re not a Judge Dredd fan – get stuck in already!
Written by Alastair McGibbon