MEGA-CITY LAW: ROGUE LAWMASTER (COMPLETE CRIME FILES VOLUME 4: PROGS 202-203)
One of my favorite single episodes, prog 203 deals with a rogue Lawmaster. It’s always been an amusing part of Judge Dredd’s dystopian satire that Mega-City One Judges ride the streets on their Lawmaster motorcycles armed with their Lawgiver guns. Both are as over the top as the Judges’ uniforms.
As one comics commentator (Chris Sims of Comics Alliance) marveled at Dredd’s uniform and motorcycle
“The one thing you can get just by looking at that dude? He has a lot going on. The costume is blindingly ornate, almost overwhelming in just how much there is to it — you can’t really take it in all at once, and when you throw in the fact that he’s riding on a motorcycle with five headlights, four exhaust pipes, two machine guns and a Crash Bomber stuck to it, it’s ridiculous. There’s just too much. Which is, at a single glance, the perfect representation of Dredd and his world”.
So of course when a Lawmaster goes rogue (from damage to its computer), it is deliciously over the top. We get to see one of the finest uses of Dredd’s catchphrase (“I am the Law!”) and some black humor at the collateral damage the Judges do in keeping Mega-City One ‘safe’ (from their own equipment) – although the episode is somewhat poignant in the context of modern shooting sprees, given that the rogue Lawmaster essentially goes on one.
But first we have the preceding episode in prog 202. It features that common offshoot to those recurring disastrous consumer fads in Mega-City One – the equally disastrous fad TV shows. We’ve already seen one with Sob Story – now this episode features Any Confessions?
It’s a game show in which contestants compete with each other to confess the most serious crimes (and are immediately arrested by the Judges). Dredd is not impressed, believing that the show incites crime, and he’s right. Not just in a feature of Mega-City One life introduced in this episode, citizens making spontaneous confessions to crimes they may or may not have committed – but more seriously, Dredd identifies that future contestants of the show are committing crimes for their appearance. Despite proving it, the Council of Five reject his motion to outlaw the show – but conveniently two future contestants pick that very moment to attempt the assassination of the Council to scoop the prize jackpot. Deputy Chief Judge Pepper (to whom we were introduced back in The Day the Law Died) is mortally wounded, using his last breath to reverse his previous vote and vote for Dredd’s motion.
Now on to that rogue Lawmaster, introduced with a spiel that with its “Synitron GK13 Audio Computer, Notron 4000CC engine and Cyclops Phylon TX laser cannon”, it is one of the most deadly fighting bikes ever devised. Although there’s not exactly a large pool of candidates for that title, as a motorcycle lacks that primary advantage of other vehicles, fighting or otherwise, for its operator – cover.
As the episode opens, we see a Judge Gorman shot and injured by munce raiders – munce being the main synthetic meat product of Mega-City One, although I wouldn’t have thought there was enough of a black market in it for raiders. Worse, his Lawmaster’s computer is damaged – by a lucky hit as Gorman calls it, or an unlucky one for everyone involved, as it first goes out of control mowing down the perps and then turns on Gorman:
“Bleeding on the public highway is an offence against the Litter Act! The sentence is six months!”
Of course, by six months, it means gunning Gorman down, or rather, dead. After all, its law enforcement options are limited to its bike cannons. It’s as limited in its design as the ED-209 law enforcement droid in Robocop, which doesn’t have any options other than the two cannons for ‘arms’. Or for that matter, the Jedi with their lightsabers in Star Wars – whose minimum response is limited to lopping off a limb or two.
Dredd responds to the alert call – he has to as we’re told that a rogue Lawmaster is automatic priority one rating and all judges in the area must respond. And no wonder given the sheer danger a rogue Lawmaster is to Mega-City One citizenry: “Loitering with possible intent! Sentence – three months probation!”
Of course, it makes no difference what sentence the Lawmaster pronounces – it’s all the same sentence as it guns everyone down.
The responding Judges attempt to bring it down, but that’s not easy. “Lawmasters bear extensive 12mm armor plating. Firelock all-weather tyres are bullet-proof. Only an accurate shot – or a lucky one – can damage them”. (So there you have it – every Judge is the equivalent of Batman with the Batmobile).
“Conspiracy to damage Justice Department property! 2 years penal servitude!”
The Lawmaster continues to evade the efforts of the responding Judges (although Dredd remains in pursuit) – all the while continuing with its garbled pronouncements of crimes (with sentence of death by gunfire, regardless of what it says):
“Lawbreakers in force! Taking avoiding action! I’m letting you off with a warning this time, citizens!
“Walking on a public walkover! Remanded for psychiatric reports!”
Dredd tries to intercept it, but not before it gets on the monorail and pronounces sentence on the passengers with virtual glee:
“What have we here? More lawbreakers by the look of you!…All must be punished!”
Dredd successfully boards the monorail, but unfortunately not before the Lawmaster’s shooting spree of the passengers. The two of them face off in a futuristic gunfight. The Lawmaster pronounces “Interfering with a Lawmaster in the execution of its duty is a serious offence. Sentence – 20 years!”
And Dredd’s reply? You KNOW his reply! “You got it wrong. I am the Law!”
And as the episode pointedly repeats, “only an accurate shot – or a lucky one – can disable a Lawmaster”. Dredd’s shot is accurate – piercing the fuel tank with a high explosive round, which takes out what little was left of the monorail train. Although the lone survivor does thank him, with a nice touch of black humor.
TO BE CONTINUED – UN-AMERICAN GRAFFITI