Wednesday, October 19, 2005

 

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth
Written by Pat Mills, John Wagner and Chris Lowder
Illustrated by Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland
(Titan Books/2000AD)

In the 22nd century much of the world has been destroyed, what remains of civilization has gathered in various "mega-cities" where hundreds of millions of people live. In Mega-City One crime is rampant and on the streets the Judges act as judge, jury and executioner. Judge Dredd is the best there is: he is The Law.

Judge Dredd is a character I go through phases with. I think he's awesome and read piles of comics about him. I read about his history. I look at websites. And then... I burn out. I get sick of him. For a while. Six months go by and I see some other Judge Dredd comic and I get excited again. (Now, admittedly I've only actually been reading Judge Dredd comics for like two years, but I do regret passing up lots of cheap back issues when I had a chance earlier this year. Oh well.)

When I found that one of the comic stores in St. John's was selling off some Judge Dredd trades cheap I got pretty excited. Dredd is, to me, a character who I've read...entirely in cheap bin comics or in stuff I borrowed off friends (who I think got it out of cheap bins). And one of the novels (which I bought for like $1.30 or something). The only Dredd related comic I've ever bought for full price was the DC/2000AD trade of Red Razors, which was fucking terrible. But I digress.

The Cursed Earth is old Dredd, from the second year of 2000AD's publication (which was 1978 for those who didn't know). It was the first epic Dredd story, spanning half a year and twenty five issues of the weekly 2000AD comic. Up to this point all the Judge Dredd comics had been one and two parters. A crime happens, Dredd busts the perp. Rince and repeat. This was different.

In The Cursed Earth Dredd is sent across the vast radioactive wasteland that is the Cursed Earth to deliver a vaccine and hopefully stop the plague that is ravaging Mega-City Two. Thankfully Dredd has three other judges, a pile of robots and Spikes Harvey Rotten (the best biker in all of Mega-City One) on his side and the Land Raider, the Killdozer and some quasar bikes for everyone to ride on (and I do mean on, I found it hilarious how Dredd and Spikes would invariably ride on top of their impervious motor vehicle, you can go inside Dredd...). Along the way Dredd fights the Brother of Crazy Mutants, flying rats, dinosaurs (Satanus), robot vampires, the Alien Catcher General (who has the head of a goat), and countless other creatures. He also befriends an alien, condemns the speciesism that is rampant on Earth and finds the last president of the United States of America.

Now admittedly The Cursed Earth isn't an epic like some of the later Dredd stories. It isn't one long story, but rather a series of picaresque adventures (hah, take that English class). After the two opening chapters the next twenty chapters are broken into nine stories (I think), each a few chapters long. These are just "crazy things happen to Dredd as he crosses America" stories and for the most part they could happen in any order. You could not read most of them and it wouldn't affect the story.

This is proven by the fact that the collection I read (and every collection of the story that exists) is missing two of the stories. Burger Wars featured two famous burger chains fighting a war with each other to see who would be the sole burger server in America. While Mascotomania featured a certain colonel and many different products mascots in a negative light. 2000AD was sued, and they've promised to never republish them. Damnit. Thankfully they can be found online if you know where to look (here's part of them). I read both and found Mascotomania (by Jack Adrian aka. Chris Lowder) to be pretty weird. However Burger Wars (written by John Wagner under his T.B. Grover pseudonym) is really good. Wagner wrote another two parter concerning corrupt Judges in Las Vegas and while good, it isn't as fun as Burger Wars.

However, the writing of most of this volume is done by Pat Mills (creator of Marshal Law, Slaine and the ABC Warriors, which is in my pile of things to read) and it's good stuff. You can't expect "the best thing ever," but if you want Dredd fighting a semi-sentient tyrannosaurus that escaped from an amusement park or other, similarly, ridiculous things then Mills delivers.

On the art side of things most of this collection was drawn by Mike McMahon, who's art is pretty good for the most part, though his Dredd is incredibly scrawny looking in the first few parts. Still, no matter how good his art was McMahon can't compare to Brian Bolland who drew about a third of these comics. Bolland's art and design in these comics is just amazing, really top notch.

Overall I think this is a pretty awesome package (especially since I got it cheap). I only wish that it included the Burger Wars and Mascotomania chapters and the Cursed Earth boardgame that was included in a few issues of 2000AD at the time. (Oh some of the boardgame is online, issues 75-80. Who wants to play?)

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