So often, science fiction is a good salve to help society realize deep truths about itself. By seeing extreme cases in a quasi-real world, we can understand ourselves better. That’s my first take after reading Judge Dredd: False Witness, written by Eisner-nominated, Glyph Award-winning writer Brandon M. Easton. It’s a story about the super rich keeping the poor down, many of which are immigrants. It’s about a society where Judge Dredd may be the law, but who should he be working for when the 1% are more evil than the worst gangbanger? This first issue introduces us to the political situation in Mega-City One and how it may not be just at all.
This issue opens with a question: “What is fascism?” From there, we gather the captions are being spoken by the protagonist who is a courier of illegal goods named Mathias Lincoln. He’s interesting thanks to his backstory, but also his ability to navigate the city better than most. He has a good handle of the situation and understands a fear-mongering politician is trying to tear the city apart. A lot of what Easton writes about this issue is going to hit close to home for many. The fear of immigrants, and casting them as the villain, is prevalent even though the boot of society is on their neck. These captions help inform the reader of Lincoln’s opinions on society and help us connect with him.
By the time Judge Dredd shows up, one can surmise the hero may not be Dredd. At least not yet. Lincoln clearly has an inside track of what is going on while Dredd is following orders. Given Dredd’s nature, I don’t think he’ll continue to do the bidding of the 1%, but it’s an interesting place to add conflict to the story. By the end of the book, it’s quite clear who the villains are and how blackmail is factoring into Lincoln’s life.
The art by Kei Zama suits this world as the city goes from gleaming with hope and brightness in the rich part to cracked and grubby in the poor parts. The attention to detail in the environment is fantastic and it helps support Lincoln’s point of view on the way immigrants are being treated. Dredd and his robot enforcers are stylized and futuristic looking which juxtaposes well on the rioters who are in plain clothes. Subtle details in wheels on cars or clothing help convey this is a sci-fi future.
I liked this first issue as it dives into Lincoln’s point of view on the state of Mega-City One and all its inequalities. This story is shaping up to be incredibly relevant, especially in American society today, and should serve as a reminder to us all the subjugated deserve a hero even when there are none at present. Heroism comes in different forms and being a whistleblower may be the only salvation for some.