Comic Review – Dredd: Underbelly

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Sometimes he will review them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I picked up the second printing of the Dredd: Underbelly one-shot comic from 2000 AD and Rebellion. This originally came out back in January, but I was a bit slow on the uptake (and it also sold out pretty much before it even came out). Lucky for me, such high demand meant a further printing (with a very nice variant cover by Jock no less), so I grabbed it on my usual visit to the comic book shop.

Dredd: Underbelly was written by Arthur Wyatt, with art by Henry Flint, colours by Chris Blythe and letters by Ellie De Ville. This works as a sequel to the film, set at an unknown duration of time later. The story is fast paced, bringing in elements I recognise from the limited amount of old Judge Dredd I have read (slowly working my way through the Complete Casefiles collections) and mixing them into the movie universe. With parallels to illegal immigration and abuse of people in such a vulnerable position, mutants (or ‘muties’) are brought into Mega-City One from the Cursed Earth radioactive wastelands that surround the mega-city, to find work and send money back to their families, or just to escape the harsh conditions outside the city walls. These people are lied to, and effectively sold into prostitution or slavery to be worked to death producing drugs. The main thrust of the story comes from a Judge raid on the arrival of a truck load of muties, where Anderson (now a member of the Psi division) encounters a woman who has followed her son to the city and is trying to find him. The case is brought to Dredd, and a brief interaction with Anderson (along with the fact that Anderson is actually listened to as a member of the Justice Department) is the only real indication of how much time has passed “I hear your arrests are up to quota. Good.”. The rest of the one-shot follows the case through to the end.

The book is a very quick read, and at times the story feels a bit rushed. There are all sorts of interesting elements introduced, but we don’t get a huge amount of time to get to grips with much of it. I think that this is very much more an issue with the format of being a one-shot story, rather than with the writing itself which is solid and in line with the Judge Dredd we saw in the film. I feel that this could have benefited from being a 3-5 issue mini series, to make it feel more like a sequel and a complete story in itself. As it stands, it feels like an episode of a procedural cop show in its pacing and conclusion. In fact I think that a Judge Dredd series like that, with stand-alone cases (and possibly an overarching plot brewing in the background) would work really well, either as a comic book series or as a live action show. I found it impossible to read all of Dredd’s dialogue without hearing Karl Urban’s gruff tones, especially when selecting ammo (“ricochet!”). The art is dark, gritty and ugly in the best way, as it completely suits the bleakness of both the Cursed Earth and it’s denizens, and Mega-City One itself. I particularly enjoyed the double splash page near the end involving multiple Judges raiding a compound, and the representations of Olivia Thirlby and Karl Urban’s chin work well.

chin

I really enjoyed this comic, but it was all over too quickly for me. I’d be really interested to see an ongoing or a mini series as a sequel. If you liked the Dredd movie, or Judge Dredd in general, I would recommend this book (available in all decent comic book shops, and if it sells out again I’m sure a 3rd printing will come out). We here at TLL were pretty big fans of Dredd, and would welcome a sequel. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the film didn’t perform brilliantly at the cinema (be it bad marketing, lack of interest/laziness on the part of those interested etc.), though it has seen more success on home release. There is an official 2000 AD ongoing campaign to get a sequel made (and there is a full page advert for it inside the comic), so you should definitely sign the official ‘Make A Dredd Sequel‘ petition if you haven’t already. The campaign sounds like it is actually making some real headway with 100,000+ signed already and Judge Dredd himself Karl Urban actively pursuing it. So fingers crossed!

If you didn’t like Dredd, I recommend getting the hell off our website.

Score – 8 Judges out of 10

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