Review - Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 (@IDWPublishing)

"Fascism is a byproduct of a society without imagination."

Judge Dredd is probably the most effective Judge Mega City One has on its payroll. In Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 from IDW Publishing, that effectiveness is put to the test. The issue is written by Brandon Easton, illustrated by Kei Zama, colored by Eva de la Cruz and lettered by Shawn Lee.

Justice Academy drop-out Mathias Lincoln has built a comfortable life working as a courier for Mega-City One's most elite citizens. But after he uncovers a horrific conspiracy stretching from the Cursed Earth to the city's seats of power, Mathias also finds himself pursued by legendary lawman Judge Dredd!

The sheer staying power of a character like Judge Dredd is pretty awe-inspiring and for Easton to make him somewhat a secondary character in the issue is refreshing. Most of the issue is focused on Mathias Lincoln, but the fact that he has familiarity with the Justice Academy offers a nice twist on the traditional Judge Dredd formula. Easton uses Mathias to get a new perspective on the difficulties that come with living in Mega City One, providing readers with some fresh perspective on the setting and franchise as a whole. The dialogue throughout the issue is heavy on the narration and social commentary--both of which are used rather deftly by Easton. It's also nice to see Judge Dredd "lose" every once in a while; he'll most definitely continue in his quest to mete out justice, but for the time being Easton infuses the miniseries with a sense of the unknown and unexpected.

There's a grittiness to Zama's illustrative style that's very adept at conveying to the reader the dredges of Mega City One as well as it inhabitants. The pages depict an extremely overcrowded Mega City One, rife with citizens looking to navigate the tight line between peaceful protests and unlawful gatherings. Zama goes heavy on his version of Judge Dredd, capturing the bulkiness of the massive, square-jawed Judge, providing plenty of visual contrast with the smaller citizens he comes face-to-face with. While many of the panels are relatively straight and neat, Zama breaks through those borders on occasion, primarily to again show the reader how imposing of a force Judge Dredd is. The colors by de la Cruz are very bold, relying heavily on reds and blues for much of the issue (and very on-brand for Judge Dredd).

Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 sets into motion events in Mega City One that provide context for the setting outside of what's seen primarily through the eyes of the Judges. Mathias brings with him an intimate knowledge of how the Judges think, which provides some new avenues to explore for the property. Easton's plot is methodic in its approach and feels new. The artwork by Zama is dense, crowding each panel with an overwhelming sense of no available space. Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 is a fresh look at a familiar character, done by making the aforementioned familiar character a secondary character of sorts.

Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 is available March 25.