MEGA-CITY LAW: JUDGE DEATH (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 3: PROGS 149-151) – PART 2
And here we are at Judge Death’s debut, decked out in the finest art by one of my favorite 2000 AD artists, Brian Bolland.
A petty criminal – a ‘tap’ in the Mega-City One vernacular for a mugger – has narrowly escaped apprehension by the Judges, only to find himself facing much darker ‘justice’. At first, he mistakes the silhouette for yet another Judge, understandably given the resemblance. Well, he’s half right – it IS a judge, just not one from Mega-City One. Or this world. Or living. The light reveals Judge Death’s cadaverous visage, his uniform a dark inversion of the Mega-City One uniform – same black leather appearance with pads and helmet, but with a bat-like thing instead of an eagle on the shoulder and other macabre twists on the theme, with a distinctive portcullis ‘visor’ to the helmet.
It’s too late though for the unimaginatively named Tiny the Tap, as Judge Death ‘ghosts’ (or phases) his hand through Tiny’s chest and heart, killing the unfortunate tap – “My name is Death. I have come to judge you!” (said with suitable sibilance for evil effect). Judge Dredd is called soon after Judges find Tiny’s corpse – Judge Death’s hand left no mark as it phased through Tiny’s chest but it did leave some of his centuries-old decayed skin, much to the puzzlement of the forensic ‘tech’ Judge (varied to the more phonetic new-school Tek-Judges in subsequent issues)
In the meantime, Judge Death has been drawn by the offensive sound of, you know, life to a Mega-City One club – the Rabbit Hutch, suggestive of contemporary Playboy Bunny clubs at the time of publication. Although perhaps he just didn’t like the music, as he targets the disc jockey first – particularly as it looks like he had to pass a few patrons first. Anyway, once again he phases his hand through the DJ’s chest – “Do not be afraid. Dying is good. Dying is easy…I just stick my hand in and…SQUEEZE!”
You see, this is why Judge Death is so ineffective a villain in terms of body count despite being an omnicidal maniac – he does all his killing literally by hand. Anyway, Judge Dredd is soon at the scene – and he and his fellow Judges have guns. However, their bullets have little effect – “You cannot kill what does not live!”
Well no, but you can destroy it with fire – as Dredd promptly switches to incendiary fire (one of the standard settings on their Lawgivers). However, as is common with eldritch abominations, it only succeeds in destroying the physical body – Judge Death’s foul spirit ghosts from the body, declaring his intention to ‘cleanse’ the city.
And so we are introduced to Psi-Division, Justice Department’s division of “Judges specifically trained for their psychic power” (although thankfully they generally use the SF terminology of psi rather than psychic), typically for deployment against just such supernatural threats. Judge Death would seem to be the most potent supernatural threat, so we are also introduced to Judge Anderson in particular, “our best operator” (although we are not yet introduced to her first name Cassandra). And what a breath of fresh air she is – with the usual idiosyncratic personality of a Psi-Judge, which in her case is her “flippant” sense of humor, much to Dredd’s distaste. She interrupts Dredd as he is about to brief her – “Save your breath. I’ve already read you. Can’t hide your guilty secrets from a telepath, you know!” Dredd gruffly (but accurately) responds “I have no guilty secrets”.
She then brings her powers to bear on ‘reading’ Judge Death’s ‘body’ (already in skeletal form) to locate his spirit – and she reads him loud and clear as he channels himself through her to explain his insane troll logic. “Long ago, the judges on my world saw that all crime was committed by the living. Therefore life itself was made illegal! We judged our people – all of them! We wiped the curse of life from our world! Now I have come to judge yours! The sentence is death! It will be carried out!”
Anderson then returns to her apartment, drained by her “heavy psi-session”, but unfortunately her contact with Judge Death has given him a point of access. His ghost-form, ah, haunts the apartment and he possesses her body, despite her strong (and continuing resistance) – although curiously he needs her to open the window for his ghost-form, like a vampire. It does seem that his ghost-form is still physical, as it is described elsewhere to be like smoke (and can be seen), so perhaps it is a mist of particulate matter formed from his body.
The unfortunate Anderson then becomes his body-puppet to retrieve his actual body from the Justice Department ‘morgue”. (An old-fashioned touch, perhaps for forensic investigation only – as subsequent episodes reveal that Mega-City One most recycles the bodies of its dead citizens at Resyk for their useful ‘components’. Soylent Green perhaps?). However, she does continue to resist him, crashing the ambulance morgue en route to his planned resurrection and telepathically sending out one word repeatedly – ‘boing’, Mega-City One’s miracle plastic in a spray can.
Now that’s telepathy!
Dredd understands the message (but does not explain it at this point) as he races to intercept the Death-possessed Anderson. He’s just in time too, as Judge Death has almost succeeded resurrecting his body, having Anderson use some mysterious equipment and their equally mysterious “death fluids”. Dredd thwarts Death by destroying the equipment with an explosive shot, although Death declares it only as a temporary setback – “Again you defy me! It is useless! I can create another body!”
In the meantime, he regains his possession of Anderson, but she resists him enough to implore Dredd to use the boing – “Now, Dredd! Do it – the boing tin!”. Dredd sprays her, encasing her in boing and trapping Death inside her – the supreme sacrifice, placed in a position of honor in the Justice Department Hall of Heroes. “Anderson can never come out of there…and she knew it. Her bravery will be remembered…The menace of Judge Death would never again be let loose on the Mega-City”.
Although of course we all knew that both Judge Death and Judge Anderson were too good as characters to be left like that. After all, they’re only wrapped in plastic…
TO BE CONTINUED – THE BLOOD OF SATANUS!