By Douglas Wolk, Ulises Farnias & Ryan Hill
The world of Judge Dredd is wacky, bizarre, and downright insane, and that’s just Mega-City One. Outside the walls and into the atomic wastelands, Mega-City Two stands as a beacon of contradiction against its east coast counterpart. Where one is ruled by violence, mayhem, and mutants, the other is dominated by TV and movie celebrity. Douglas Wolk and Ulises Farnias take us into partially unexplored territory, and dump the infamous Judge knee deep in an unfamiliar, generally unwelcome world.
What makes Judge Dredd such a fun read is the degree to which science fiction wackiness can happen at any time; in a dystopian world where law and order are fleeting ideals, a bit of fun with fictional laws, regulations, and populations. And Mega-City One succeeds in doing just that. The entire issue is a funhouse mirror reflection of media consumption, and its permeation into society as a whole. Dredd isn’t just up against a corrupt society, he is combating institutionalized acceptance of a criminal culture: a society which believes behaving in a delinquent manner will benefit their lives as a whole.
Douglas Wolk approaches this foreign society with an excellent level of wit and sarcasm. Dredd is resolute to do business how he does business, while everyone around him attempts to preach the virtues of fame. Obviously Dredd is too old and too devoted to justice to learn new tricks. The result is a bizarre look at the bizarre, Dredd’s overzealous personality competes on every panel against a world gone completely mad.
The absorbing nature of Ulises Farnias’ artwork is the perfect complement to Dredd’s fish out of water experience. The panoramic expanses Farnias creates fill the world of Mega-City Two in ways that would make a Where’s Waldo book jealous. Every establishing shot is worthy of careful, analytical dissection. Small details and nuances constantly emerge which expand upon and round out the humor of the story. His unique and colorful style paints a wonderfully bright picture within an otherwise dark and drab world.
Unfortunately when both of these excellent elements combine, an inopportune reaction occurs: the words on the page and the images they appear with tell completely different stories. The action in one panel is clear and precise, but the dialogue or exposition in accompaniment feels like it is in the wrong panel. This strange contradiction culminates in a weird, stream of consciousness type of storytelling, where the lines between beginning, middle, and end are so blurred it’s difficult to get a sense of pace.
As a whole, Mega-City One establishes a promising story, with great commentary on modern society, and immersive artwork. It gets bogged down by a disconnect between writing and art, but as this is the first issue it still has time to correct the confusion.