Dreadnoughts vol. 1 TPB: Breaking Ground – Michael Carroll

2 out of 5

Dreadnoughts is an excellent Dreddverse tale, absolutely worthy of being collected. However, this was probably not the way to collect it, at least in making the trade worth the pricepoint.

My original reaction to this addendum to Carroll’s Judges novella was positive, and remains so: perhaps even moreso than the book, Carroll’s foreword that this is something of a horror story is pretty accurate – the coldness with which year-2035 Judge Glover dispatches herself is haunting, given bloody grit by artist John Higgins. It puts a much less satirical spin on the justice-first concept that is an undercurrent of much of Judge Dredd, and really drives home how this could just drop on us one day, making the last few years of politics (it’s currently 2022) especially frightening: that once the rule is made that puts a ruling body like the Judges in place, all of our beliefs about due process are gone. Glover reminds people of this at every step, and even though the people she’s reminding are often corrupt, that’s the purposeful duality with which Carroll makes us face the burgeoning Judges system, as one reminder that citizens no longer have any rights except to act lawful is all that’s required before Glover can take them down; that there’s no hesitation to go in guns blazing during a riot. This goes way beyond an “origin” story, and also, thankfully, doesn’t take the tired route of power corruption, but rather walks the narrower line where the Judges are put into place to fight the corruption, using law, stringently enforced… Uf-da. A must read.

…But maybe wait until we have some more Dreadnought tales racked up to collect it with. Instead, we get back up ‘The Paradigm Shift,’ which isn’t a bad story, but it’s very slight compared to Dreadnought, only involving early-era Judges to set up a MacGuffin, and not really to expand on the concept. In present day, Dredd hunts for an item that ties into the early day, which is given context via flashbacks. It’s not uninteresting, but the fact that those flashbacks take place in 2034 is fairly meaningless; this is really just a normal Dreddverse story, lumped together here because it features some Judges from the same era.

Additionally, we have a bonus of the first three chapters of Avalanche. I’d argue that if you need to include three chapters of something as an incentive to check out more, it might not be an effective preview, i.e. that’s a lot of material to try to lure someone in, so it speaks more to padding the trade than anything.

All of this only gets the book to barely over 100 pages, which, at 17.99 US, is not a great deal. Additionally, The Paradigm Shift has two panels where a character’s dialogue is almost totally omitted, except for the bolded words. The word bubble is completely empty besides those words. I compared to the original progs – the error doesn’t exist there, so, yeah. Whoops.

While sales on this might encourage more volumes of Dreadnoughts, which we need, it’s unfortunately not the best value, and I’d recommend instead picking up the original Megaverse zines (#424 – 429), which had a good set of stories in them.