Originally published on Set The Tape
Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth follows on from the popular ‘Mega-City Zero’ storyline that ran for the complete twelve issue run of the second volume of Judge Dredd. Ten years after the events of ‘Mega-City Zero’, which saw Dredd waking up a thousand years into his future to find civilisation as he knew it gone, Dredd and the rest of the judges are now trying to put society back together.
This is a big shift for the Judge Dredd series, with the futuristic structures of the Mega-Cities replaced by sprawling wasteland and small settlements, and a world that was built around the Judges to one where people don’t want them around anymore. What this does, however, is give the book a fresh new feel, one that helps it to stand apart from other Judge Dredd stories.
Judge Dredd: The Blessed Earth begins with a focus on the construction of the Mega-Rail, a huge train system that will connect hundreds of outposts and villages, enabling the citizens to travel between them more easily, and to allow the Judges easier policing of their territories.
Unfortunately, many of the villages that they intend the Mega-Rail to service don’t want the train or the return of the Judges. This is something of a refreshing change from previous Judge Dredd stories I’ve read, where people are afraid of the law, and the only ones who challenge it are criminals. Here, however, you have ordinary people standing up for their beliefs, and it makes things less clear cut than before.
Working alongside other Judges, such as Judge Quill, Judge Lolo, and series mainstay Judge Anderson, Dredd tries to get to the bottom of the mystery and locate his skeleton. Along the way they discover a group of rival lawmen, the Neon Knights (who look like a cross between the Judges and the KKK), as well as a robot uprising.
The parallels between the Neon Knights and the KKK are most obvious in the third issue of the series, where they are tracking down a robot who has run away from her ‘owner’. This robot looks and acts human, and wants her people to have rights. Despite arguments that she has her own thoughts and feelings she’s taken by the Neon Knights and essentially lynched. The scenes are hard to read, with the parallels to America’s racist history (and some current events) delivering it with much more emotional weight.
Whilst these stories initially seem unconnected it begins to become clear that they play a larger part in the mystery around the missing skeletons as the Judges uncover a plot to create robots that are indistinguishable from humans, who use biology to mask their true selves.
As the fifth issue ends, Dredd and Lolo are ambushed by a new adversary, barely more than a sentient skeleton, who proves incredibly vicious and near unstoppable. Whilst Dredd and a badly wounded Lolo struggle to find a way to stop their new foe, Quill is investigating a possible connection between the skeleton thefts and the Mega-Rail construction…
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