I’ve been looking forward to the Dredd: Underbelly comic ever since it was announced because – as you know – I’m a huge fan of Judge Dredd. I first discovered the character through Karl Urban’s depiction in Dredd (2012) and I’ve been pretty much hooked ever since. I’ve been reading IDW’s Judge Dredd run and I’ve checked out a few of the older 2000 AD comics in trade paperback here and there. But the film is where my love for Dredd begins. So I picked up Underbelly the first chance I got.
Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed.
I mean, Underbelly is more or less a nice little addition to the film world but it’s too short, too rushed, and lacks the character that the film had. If not for the references to the film and the attempt to make Judge Anderson look a bit like Olivia Thirlby, you’d think that it could be a generic storyline shoved into either the IDW or the 2000 AD timelines. Featuring a new crime lord, a new drug, and a plot centered around the mutants from the wastes, it definitely does the original story justice while adding enough new bits to make it worth while.
It is perhaps a bit political in how it handles the mutants – illegals sneaking into Mega City One for a ‘better life’ but finding only heartbreak and dangerous conditions before being kicked back out into the wastes. Dredd sees it as justice. Anderson sees it as cruel. But it doesn’t really bog down the story any. It just seems like an not-so-subtle parallel to the current US immigration debate.
Judge Anderson’s presence is a bit limited in Underbelly though I guess that’s all right in a book called Dredd. Joe Dredd is our main character, after all, and though Anderson helped us get a feel for the guy in the film we’re much more familiar and comfortable with his character and his world after.
On the plus side, the artwork is phenomenal.
Basically, my real issue with the comic is that it’s not the sequel we’ve been waiting for and haven’t gotten yet. That was the point of it and that’s what people keep saying but it’s really not. The connection to the film could have been stronger instead of the few references here and there. While it’s worth a read, I could have skipped it and stuck to the IDW run and really felt more or less just as connected to the film. Though not connected to the movie the IDW run is far more accessible to movie fans than the 2000 AD run with it’s decades worth of history. And that’s more what Underbelly feels like – a standard Judge Dredd arch packaged to draw in the film crowd but not substantial enough to really add anything new.
I was hoping for something more along the lines of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, I guess.
Worth a read for Dredd film and comic fans. If all you’re looking for is the most basic of connections to the film to justify calling this a ‘sequel’ then you’ll in enjoy it but if you were looking for a more substantial continuation you may be disappointed.