A solid western that tackles some contemporary real-world issues.
Judge Dredd is a property that has always interested me but I’ve never gotten around to reading it. The Blessed Earth is an opportunity to delve into the rich world of Judge Dredd.
The Blessed Earth is part of the ongoing stories being told in the IDW Judge Dredd universe. It’s set ten years after the event of the previous mini-series, Mega-City Zero. Blessed Earth has the same writing team as Mega-City Zero: Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas. The art is handled by a variety of artists as this book contains the first four parts of The Blessed Earth and the three stories from Judge Dredd Annual #1.
The book starts off strong with the story Return to Luna City One. Dan McDaid’s art perfectly captures the gritty, rough and grimy feel that I associate with Judge Dredd. Ryan Hill’s coloring really adds to that. He makes the backgrounds and objects look dull, functional and worn, which really makes the action and effects stand out while adding to the character of the environment and the story. The story itself is fairly easy to understand as a newcomer and yet it still ties in to the themes and larger stories of the IDW Judge Dredd books. It’s a well told, self-contained story with great concepts and based around themes on artificial life that also feature in The Blessed Earth.
The four chapters of The Blessed Earth very much tell a western story about Mega-City One expanding into the Bad-Lands and expanding where it isn’t wanted. We never see Mega-City One in this book, which adds to the sense of the Judges being out of their element. I like that the story is about the Judges’ constant battle for respect in a world where their low numbers and lack of infrastructure makes it so easy to ignore them or rebel. Judge Dredd was a story of unyielding belief in the law in an oppressive regime, so it’s fascinating to see the regime weakened and constantly being undermined. The story eventually touches on the question of robot rights and freedoms while centering on a deepening mystery around bone removal. It’s interesting to see the mini-series drawing some parallels with the issue of workers’ rights and immigration.
The art is shared by Daniel Irizarri and Jason Copland. Their art works very well together as they have a lot of similarities and Hill’s colors ties it together really well. There are some really good little touches and details, capturing the nature of the environment and characters. In contrast to Return to Luna City One, Hill’s colors are a bit brighter. I especially like how bright the red trim of the Judges’ helmets is, which means that your eye is always drawn to the Judges. It’s like the color red is demanding your attention, like how the Judges demand the citizens’ attention.
The book closes out with the other two one-shots from the Judge Dredd Annual: “The Red Judges” and “Santos”. “Red Judges” is set much further back in the Dredd time line, focusing on the dwindling fortunes of the Red Judge squad. There are some fun riffs on democracy and strong art from Pablo Tunica but the story didn’t really interest me. Part of that may be seeing a supposedly elite group dying off in sloppy fashion and some of it may be a lack of familiarity regarding Chief Judge Goodman. “Santos” is a gladiator story centred on Santos, a former Judge from the Mega City Two: City of Courts mini-series. Again, my unfamiliarity with Santos meant that I struggled to care about this story, although it is well told. The brighter coloring makes the art feel slightly too cheerful at first but after getting used to it I will say that it perfectly fits the world of Mega City Two.
Is It Good?
The Blessed Earth is a good western story with interesting takes on robot rights and real world immigration issues. The art is strong and captures the feel of the story, although there are lots of unanswered questions as the series is ongoing. “Return to Luna City One” is a tremendously strong one shot with the most impressive art in the book and some great concepts. On the other hand, I found the “Santos” and “Red Judges” stories to be less interesting.