REVIEW: ‘Judge Dredd: False Witness,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 is an IDW comic written by Brandon Easton, with art by Kei Zama. Eva De La Cruz is on colors while Shawn Lee provides the letters.

The plot is primarily one large chase between Judge Dredd and a courier hired to transport a package. Through his attempts to escape Dredd, the courier leads the reader on a tour of Mega-City on both a geographical and societal level. From the perspective of Mathias Lincoln, a drop out from the Justice Academy who now serves as a courier for the rich and famous, the city is given its own depth while also setting up a story about scheming comic book villains. The frantic pace encourages the reader to take on the information quickly, but not so fast that they lose themselves from the information given.

Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 features powerful themes being set up, some of which feel new to this franchise. The theme of class inequality is used heavily. Mathias’s disdain for the wealthy acts as a small example of the general unrest within the city. Class inequality is visible in every part of this comic, and Easton effectively uses it to empower an already exciting story.

Judge Dredd, despite being the title character, is woven into the plot as a supporting character. He intervenes in the journey of the book’s true protagonist, Mathias. His thought captions help paint the city through his sarcasm and disdain for it. He names off the city blocks, then dubs them with his own nicknames. Small details heroes list about their homes are what nourish locations in comics. He talks about Mega-City as a local would, quickly familiarizing the reader with the areas.

When Dredd appears, it ramps up the intensity of the book. An interesting note to make is that he appears to hold back from being as fierce as you might expect. He makes several warnings before putting suspects down. There are scenes in the book where he shows levels of restraint. He’s still as badass as ever, but I don’t think he’s been unleashed to his full potential yet.

The art by Zama is instrumental in fueling Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 with its energy.  Mathias’s movement as he flips and sprints away from his pursuers conveys such speed that it raises your heartbeat while reading it. Both Dredd and the drones that accompany him to disperse large crowd are huge and take center stage in every panel they’re in. The drones look particularly fantastic. Their excessive scale instills them with menace and creates the feeling that everything around them is fragile when faced with their might.

Judge Dredd panel

As with the writing,, the way the high-tech city with roads and buildings stacked on top of each other quickly become slums not only demonstrates the differing personalities that live there, but further extenuates how bad the distribution of wealth is within the huge metropolis. Even in the second half of Judge Dredd: False Witness #1, when the action calms down and makes way for exposition, the contrasting areas illustrate how varied the living conditions are between the citizens of Mega-City are. 

The colors by De La Cruz are fantastic. The faded purple of Mathias’s jacket and the use of greens and blues for shadows gives the comic a unique and refreshing palette. Both Mathias and Dredd are always easy to see and track. And in a comic where the location changes so often, the areas have subtle changes in color to ease the transitions. 

The letters by Lee are effortless to read. Mathias’s caption boxes are the same color as his outfit and usually appear when only Lincoln is in the panel, letting the reader know that they are unmistakably his.  There is a lot of dialogue in this book, but it’s not cluttered and Lee helps keep the overall pace of the book moving,

Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 is an energetic ride that strives to introduce new readers into the world by exploring every level of it. It might not be a fantastic jumping on point for people new to the franchise. It isn’t a brilliant character study of the title character, but Mathias is well developed and very likable already.  The incredibly in-depth world-building of Mega-City makes it feel like the city is treated as a character itself. If anything, this feels like Mathias’s story at the moment, and I am perfectly fine with that. The themes heavily influence every aspect of this comic and create a feeling that this book could play out well without Dredd steering the narrative. 

There are times when the powerful characters that are staples of their series add more to a book by being a plot device rather than a protagonist. If another less physically imposing character is on the run from them or having to fight them, it increases the impact of their presence when they are on the page. This comic is well written, well-drawn, and well worth your money.

Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 is available where comics are sold.

Judge Dredd False Witness
4

TL;DR

There are times when these powerful characters that are staples of their series add more to a book by being a plot device rather than a protagonist. If another, less physically imposing character is on the run from them or having to fight them, it increases the impact their presence has when they are on the page. This comic is well written, well-drawn, and well worth your money.