MEGA-CITY LAW: WAYS TO DIE IN MEGA-CITY ONE (PROGS 215-219)
And it’s time for another instalment of Mega-Rackets, as Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 5 continues with the various criminal ‘mega-rackets’ that, well, rack Mega-City One. And these rackets are not particularly futuristic – hitmen and hackers.
We’ll jump ahead to the hackers in progs 218-219, or as they are known, ‘numbers rackets’, because they operate in the codes for corporate computers – which are then used to hack the computers, mostly for larceny. So in other words, a disappointingly mundane crime not too distinct from that in contemporary society without the usual futuristic dystopian satire we expect of Mega-City One. Judge Dredd is tipped off to the numbers racket by a mob hit – not exactly inconspicuous as the killers drive around in a truck with a vat full of acid they use to dissolve their victim. Fortunately for Dredd, it doesn’t completely dissolve the victim as he had a newer model of plastic (or rather plasteen) kidney – which the Judges then use to trace his identity and set up the numbers racket.
More interesting are the hitmen in progs 215-217 – although hitmen are also a disappointingly mundane criminal phenomenon in contemporary society, there’s some Mega-City One twists. In Mega-City One, hitmen are a business, the so-called blitz agencies – “blitz, wipe-out, hit, big whack – there are a thousand words for it: contract murder”. You know, I suspect that thousand words might be a bit of hyperbole. And given that 90% of the city’s population is on welfare, I’m surprised there’s that much of a market for contract murder (as opposed to prolific amateur murder) – unless of course, life is very cheap in the Mega-City. Which it might just be, with 800 million citizens.
Anyway, prog 215 opens with something of that now well-worn cliché of people engaging contract killers with themselves as the target – in this case, a young couple who have had one hard knock too many and are weary of life in Mega-City One. The husband’s blitz contact is intriguingly depicted with mutant scales or something, but we only see him for a couple of panels. And of course the couple have a change of heart as some good luck comes their way, although the contract is irrevocable – too late for the husband as he is taken out by a sniper, but the wife evades death and calls the Justice Department. Fortuitously, the blitzers make their second attempt by delivering a bomb to her apartment while Judge Dredd and other Judges are there. In a futuristic twist, the blitzers are wired to blow to avoid capture – literally, as they have emotion-sensitive explosive implants. Rather than hide from contract killers indefinitely, the woman prefers to be sentenced for conspiracy to murder to fifteen years in a nice, safe iso-cube (although subsequent episodes show that they’re not that safe).
Progs 216-217 feature an interesting variant of psi-hitmen as part of the wider ‘psyking’, the use of paranormal mental powers for criminal purposes – just as the Justice Department has its Psi-Judges, most notably the pinup girl of Judge Dredd comics, Judge Anderson. Otherwise, the episode opens with a fairly standard criminal situation for contemporary society – a protection racket, operated under the transparent moniker of Third Eye Insurance, standing over a wealthy restaurateur for not paying his ‘insurance’. In this case, it’s a psychic hit – as Third Eye Insurance’s leading psyker projects illusory images into the victim’s mind and sends him plummeting to his doom as he steps into an illusory air-taxi. Judge Dredd opts to play the man, not the psychic ball, as he harasses the psyker with the considerable resources of judicial harassment at his disposal – ‘crime blitz’ apartment searches, drone surveillance, roadside strip searches, psi-Judge mind probes. Not surprisingly, the psyker cracks and attempts to take out Dredd (by psychic manipulation of random citizens and then professional blitzers to attack Dredd). Of course, the attacks fail to take out Dredd – but they do succeed in prompting the mob boss to take out his rogue psyker to avoid the even heavier hand of the Law. Which again begs the question of Dredd’s fascism. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – what self-respecting fascist police state lets things like due process or lack of evidence to get in the way of just arresting its adversaries, in this case known mob bosses? Big Brother would never pussyfoot around like this. Step up your game, Justice Department!
TO BE CONTINUED – STOOKIE-GLANDERS AND ALIEN RACKETS