Dreadnoughts Book One: Breaking Ground

Dreadnoughts Book One: Breaking Ground
Dreadnoughts graphic novel review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: 2000AD - 978-1-78108-938-5
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2021
  • UPC: 9781781089385
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Crime, Science-Fiction

As Dreadnoughts writer Michael Carroll notes in his introduction, after several decades of Dredd John Wagner decided it was time to look at how the world of the near future became that of the Judges. Judge Dredd: Origins did that very well, but concentrated on the political crisis prompting the Judge system rather than the early days of the Judges themselves, and that’s what Carroll and John Higgins address in Dreadnoughts, a clever title, but too contrived.

As Breaking Ground begins it’s 2035 and the system of armoured police trained to dispense on the spot justice is in its infancy and attracting widespread public condemnation when newly qualified Judge Veranda Glover is the sole reinforcement sent to quell rioting in Colorado. Glover is rigid in her application of the law, having no problem with killing a rioter when her colleagues hold back. It’s a deliberately disturbing scene explicitly drawn by Higgins with Carroll’s captions reinforcing what will become normal and that human rights are dead. Having established that, Carroll then seductively proceeds to demonstrate how Judges can be the solution to present day problems and crimes, showing freedoms eroded in the name of protection.

Once the impending new world has been introduced, Carroll supplies an old fashioned detective story, demonstrating how procedural inconveniences hampering the police no longer apply. It’’s the mystery of who abducted a child and why.

The immersive art Higgins supplies is first rate throughout. It’s important that the world of Dreadnoughts isn’t greatly removed from our own, and Higgins clearly establishes that, going the extra mile with detail and weather conditions to create an oppressive mood. His Glover is tightly wound, seen without her helmet, but never smiling, a person it’s very difficult to warm to.

That’s only slightly mitigated when Carroll reveals her surprising past, a neat twist you won’t see coming. It’s dark, though, as is everything about Breaking Ground, but it’s also compelling, insightful and page-turning.

However, it’s only just over half the collection, the remainder being occupied by ‘The Paradigm Shift’, which is a sort of dry run by Carroll and Jake Lynch. In 2140 Judge Dredd discovers a recently stolen device is an invaluable data source that’s been missing for over a century, while in the 2030s Judge Deacon uncovers a secret. It’s a crisis point in the early days of the Judge system, and cleverly written so you’re rooting for the appalling system over the callously gung-ho military representatives protecting the nation. In Dredd’s time it’s a race against time to prevent a century-old horror being unleashed.

The back-up is okay Dredd if you can buy into Lynch’s strangely distorted people, but nowhere near as good as the title story. As there’s so much of it, though, it drags the overall rating down.