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Review – Judge Dredd: False Witness #3 (IDW Publishing)

So for those who know the man behind the Moan, you may have seen me on the costuming/Comic Con circuit in the past. For many years I have been circling Comic Cons collecting art prints and signatures from all sorts of creators. Being in the UK, this meant becoming immersed in not only a wealth of 2000 AD talent, but also their fans.

Prior to my time on the convention scene my only exposure to 2000 AD was the Rogue Trooper video game and the Judge Dredd movies. After a few cons and meeting a lot of great people I took a dive into the Dredd series and found myself reading a large number of varied titles. My love for 2000 AD was challenged by a distribution issue with my local comic book shop, which forced me into reading collected paperbacks rather than monthly magazines. With this being the case, I would often go long stretches without reading anything 2000 AD related. But with four-part miniseries Dredd: False Witness hitting previews with an artist that instantly captured my attention, I found myself taking a small vacation to a familiar place.

My 2nd year hosting a cosplay competition at our local Comic Con trying to talk my way out of 10 years in the isocubes. Featuring Judge Woods & Brockbank with photo by Dan Burgess Photography.


Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Brandon M Easton
Artist: Kei Zama
Colours: Eva De La Cruz
Letters: Shawn Lee
Release Date: 30th September 2020

So enough about me and onto Judge Dredd: False Witness issue #3. Firstly, I am in love with every cover this series has published. The power, the presence, the backdrop, the references to the story to come but most of all the strategic use of shadowing to really sell you on the giant stature of Dredd and the fear this man will punch through your skull. The best news is the cover art is very reminiscent of the internals, so huge respect for the talent but also the continuity. The cover advertises exactly what you get inside, so well played Kei Zama.

The story so far features courier Mathias Lincoln who has been framed for a celebrity murder, making him Mega City One’s most wanted man. Never a good thing with Dredd on the case, I assure you. This penultimate issue brings more twists and turns to a case that has already challenged Dredd. Previous issues included the birth and growth of a biased media, child trafficking and the distribution of chemicals which turn people into goo. The first three issues of False Witness have focused more on the case than the characters, which is a strong selling point for a miniseries acting as a jumping-on point or light reading. It may not tickle the itch of long-term readers the same way, but is still a very enjoyable read. However, I do take issue with how the case itself is handled.

The story wants to you believe these highly skilled and intelligent people are besting each other and the Judges. Either with cunning plans, deception or evasiveness. Unfortunately, this has made some of the key storytelling elements essentially boil down “because the plot says so”. This is a bit of a shortcut in terms of getting you from point to outcome with what feels like illogical writing or uncharacteristic behaviour. In a story that is pushing a case/chase at the forefront of its narrative, cutting corners because it’s convenient shouldn’t take the place of detailed prose. Perhaps this is due to the four-issue limit imposed on this series, but the reason it’s so problematic here is because it undermines the qualities of each of the key characters. Why did such a powerful, intelligent person allow this? How did this person evade the Judges? To best someone in a confrontation of their own strengths requires careful thought and creativity. This allows both people to be brilliant in unique ways rather than one looking weak by comparison. I apologise for the vagueness of the examples here but I’d rather not drop spoilers.

I feel this could a bad year for this book, or perhaps IDW Publishing hindered would could have been a huge narrative opportunity. Often it feels that the Judges are handcuffed with them not taking action they’d commonly have taken before. The shows of force from the judicial system have been significantly dialled back from 2000AD/Rebellion outings. Perhaps it’s the state of our current world that caused writer Brandon M Easton to hold back, but then again could be editorial… or perhaps I’m simply reading too much into it. With IDW steering the ship it does feel very ‘Judge Dredd light’, although that’s not always a bad thing. The issue arises when the handcuffing of the Judges makes them look blindly incompetent and results in the targets fleeing with ease.

All in all, it’s a great read because of the commentary on our current media affairs, but feels held back by “because the plot says so” moments.  That said, the artwork has been more than enough to carry my interest through all the issues so far, while also making it worth my coin to collect the covers. For those looking for an easy read this one is for you, but if you’re seeking a mystery with a light seasoning of violence or character analysis there are plenty of other stories to choose from.

Before I close out this review please take the time to check out Jonboy Meyers. He has contributed alternate covers for this series and the art is nothing short of breathtaking. You can find him on Instagram, but just check out these four retailer incentive covers he did for the series:


[CLICK TO ENLARGE]

 

 


The writer of this piece was: Mike Chandler
Mike Tweets from @mike_moans ‏


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