Mega-City Law: Mega-Rackets (Complete Case Files Volume 5: Progs 208-212)

 

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: MEGA-RACKETS (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 5: PROGS 208-212)

 

Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 5 opens with some of the various criminal ‘mega-rackets’ that, well, rack Mega-City One. However, for crimes that occur in 2103, they’re not particularly futuristic or technologically sophisticated – mostly parallels or counterparts to contemporary crimes, with one or two exceptions or futuristic spins.

 

First, however, we have a short interlude in prog 208 with “The Problem with Sonny Bono Block” – poor Sonny Bono Block is the result of the city’s department of housing deciding to put all its problems into one block. While the Justice Department reigns as the supreme executive, legislative and of course judicial authority within Mega-City One, it apparently does delegate or leave some administrative functions – typically involved with housing or welfare – with the city council and its democratically elected Mayor of Mega-City. The result is predictable – the delinquent residents soon trash the shiny new block into a slum, much to the disdain of neighboring blocks. What was less predictable was Sonny Bono Block’s (incompetent) attempt at revolution and declaring independence from Mega-City One. That attempt is thwarted by a single Judge, albeit that Judge is Judge Dredd – who also deduces that the residents’ (latest) irrational behavior as well as much of the block’s (latest) structural decrepitude actually came from a sonic wave generator operated by the Citi-Def unit of the neighboring Patsy Ann Noble Block because of the aforementioned disdain. Ah, Mega-City Citi-Def doing what it does best – attacking other blocks. So they’re the ones who end up arrested – with the residents of the now condemned Sony Bono Block moving into vacated units of Patsy Ann Noble Block.

 

In progs 209-210, we have the first of the Mega-City Rackets – body sharks. Essentially, they’re the same as contemporary loan sharks, complete with savagely usurious interest – except whereas contemporary loan sharks enforce payment through bodily harm, body sharks do so through actual bodies as security. Typically not the borrower themselves of course, but some cooperative relative as security.

 

As the opening narration explains, body sharking – or the illegal dealings in the bodies of living humans – is one of the most prevalent crimes in Mega-City One, as “one citizen in every four will have dealings with a body shark in his (or her) lifetime”. Although I find that statistic a little questionable, given that a substantial proportion of Mega-City One’s population would end up on ice (particularly with the extortionate practices of the body sharks in these episodes). Of course, that statistic may also include those citizens who find themselves put up as collateral – or the citizens that then trade in the bodies for whatever shady purpose, presumably mostly organ transplantation (as we see in later episodes dealing with organ-leggers).

 

The mechanism for body-sharking is of course something we’ve seen in an earlier episode – the suspended animation that can prolong life indefinitely, such as that used in the homes of the semi-dead for those citizens dying of terminal diseases, to spin out their last days over years of family visits. The more cut-price ones also are fronts for literal body shops – or more precisely body banks – for body sharks.

 

A recurring theme in these mega-rackets episodes is that the Judges rarely get the mob bosses themselves, despite knowing their role in the mega-rackets, as the bosses keep themselves clean – and more fundamentally, lawyered up. Which of course goes to Dredd’s origin as a futuristic Dirty Harry, but rather belies the nature of Mega-City One (and Judge Dredd) as fascist, or at least consistently fascist. I mean, what self-respecting fascist police state is thwarted by lawyers – or the law for that matter rather than resorting to arbitrary arrest?

 

Just arrest them all, Judge Dredd – defense lawyers are just accessories after the fact

 

Anyway, Dredd gets a lead into the body sharks from the citizen who offered up his wife as collateral and then has to resort to (botched) theft to avoid defaulting on the loan. Although once again, Judge Dredd only apprehends the “small fry” operating the individual body bank rather than the big fish behind the body-sharking.

 

 

In progs 211-212, we encounter perp-runners and chump-dumpers, two sides of the same criminal coin – which we know in contemporary times as people-smuggling. Perp-running is smuggling Mega-City criminals fleeing Justice Department off-planet. Naturally, the perp-runners make even more profit by reneging on their end of the deal and selling the perps into alien slavery. They then use the empty spaceships for chump-dumping – people-smuggling or more precisely alien-smuggling would-be alien immigrants back to Earth, except of course only to dump them into space. Even if they do look like dolphins.

 

So long and thanks for all the fish, suckers!

 

Of course, Dredd having come on board impersonating a perp through the usual face-change (but having been detected and captured), foils the plans to dump him and the usual alien chumps.

 

TO BE CONTINUED – MEGA-RACKETS 2

Cult & Pulp: Stranger Things (2016 – present)

 

CULT & PULP: STRANGER THINGS (2016 – PRESENT)

 

I assume this series needs little introduction – the Netflix Original series to rival HBO’s Game of Thrones!

 

And what’s not to love for fantasy and SF fans?

 

Eleven! The Upside Down! The Demogorgon and Mind Flayer! Steve Harrington’s magnificent hair (and its secret)!

 

 

More broadly, 1980’s nostalgia and pop culture references aplenty! Psychokinetic girls (reminiscent of Charlie, not to mention her adversary, the Shop, in one of my favorite Stephen King novels, Firestarter). Extradimensional alien invasion – evoking Alien and Aliens in Seasons 1 and 2 respectively (with more than a touch of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos)! Mysterious government agencies to rival the nastier versions of men in black (with their black helicopters) – so that’s what the Department of Energy does?

 

And of course there’s all those Dungeons and Dragons references for this fantasy fan – “I’m our Paladin, Will’s our Cleric, Dustin’s our Bard, Lucas is our Ranger, and El’s our Mage”.

 

To quote Wikipedia, series creators the Duffer brothers “developed the series as a mix of investigative drama alongside supernatural elements with childlike sensibilities, establishing its time frame in the 1980s and creating a homage to pop culture of that decade. Several themes and directorial aspects were inspired and aesthetically informed by the works of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, and Stephen King, among others”. Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980’s, the first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy amid supernatural (or rather paranormal) events centered on the nearby Hawkins National Laboratory – and the second season is even, ah, more upside downier.

 

On the other hand, I can suspend disbelief in the Demogorgon and Upside Down – but no one ever made it that far in the Dragon’s Lair videogame…

 

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS*****

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Fantasy & SF (Special Mention): Uhura, Barbarella, Santanico Pandemonium & Leeloo

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF FANTASY & SF (SPECIAL MENTION): UHURA, BARBARELLA, SANTANICO PANDEMONIUM & LEELOO

 

For my top ten girls of fantasy & SF, I reserve special mention for the girls of cinematic or television fantasy & SF, given the literary focus of the top ten itself.

 

 

NYOTA UHURA – STAR TREK (1966 – PRESENT)

 

Star Trek is of course one of the two most iconic science fiction franchises. Despite a proliferation of female characters – including the classic green-skinned alien space babe, Nyota Uhura remains the most iconic female character in one of the most extensive science fiction or fantasy media franchises and pop culture phenomena of all time – albeit more by her surname than her given name.

 

 

Star Trek itself needs no introduction. And as for Uhura herself, she was the starship Enterprise’s receptionist, uh, Communications Officer (“I repeated the computer” as Sigourney Weaver’s parody character snapped in Galaxy Quest). Okay, it may not exactly seem to be breaking that space glass ceiling (although she rises in rank and ultimately to a well-deserved captain’s chair in the animated series). Played by Nichelle Nichols, she made a difference, kicking ass as one of television’s groundbreaking black female characters. Whoopi Goldberg exclaimed as a young girl “Mama! Mama! There’s a black lady on TV and she ain’t no maid!”. She influenced Dr. Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut, into space. And her fans included none other than the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who talked her out of quitting as it was inspiring for Americans to tune in every week and see the future of the human race being represented, at least in part, by a black woman) and President Obama.

 

 

 

 

However, with all due credit to Nichelle Nichols, I’ve chosen the reboot’s Zoe Saldana for my feature images because, well, Zoe Saldana.

 

 

BARBARELLA (1968)

 

“Like some baby Barbarella…

She’s just a cosmic girl

From another galaxy…

It’s a distant solar system

I tried to phone but they don’t list ’em

So I asked her for a number all the same

She said, step in my transporter

So I can teleport ya

All around my heavenly body” – Jamiroquai, “Cosmic Girl”

 

 

 

Jamiroquai may not have been the best lyricist, but it doesn’t matter when you’re that funky. Anyway, this should technically be an entry in comics rather than cinematic fantasy – but the comic is little known outside France and Barbarella is better known by the film, directed by Roger Vadim with his then wife (and s€x symbol) Jane Fonda in the title role.

 

Here she is in perhaps her most iconic costume from the film – and doing a very impressive set of splits

 

The film is set in the distant future, about the 40th century, with peace reigning on Earth – but Barbarella is sent to retrieve Dr Durand Durand (who subsequently lent his name to the 1980’s pop group), is subjected to various s€xual encounters and…I confess, I’ve never seen all the film. It was on television one night when I was a child and my parents sent me to my room when it started to get naughty. “But it’s science fiction!” I protested, partly motivated by my strange new crush on Jane Fonda. And I’ve never seen it since. Damn you, parental guidance!

 

Some impressive Barbarella cosplay by model Paula Labaredas and an equally impressive set of splits

 

And I’ve dreamed of Barbarella ever since.

 

 

SANTANICO PANDEMONIUM – FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996)

 

“I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my foot stool. And at my command, you’ll lick the dog shit from my boot heel. Since you’ll be my dog, your new name will be ‘Spot’. Welcome to slavery.”

 

Of course, Seth Gecko has the perfect response – “No thanks, I already had a wife”. I can empathise with that.

 

 

Anyway, who can forget Santanico Pandemonium as played by Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn – and particularly that introductory scene? (Although not quite with the same stage presence, I also have a soft spot for Eiza Gonzalez in the television series).

 

 

From Dusk Till Dawn famously features a genre shift from the first half of the film, in which Tarantinoesque gangsters, Gecko brothers, including Tarantino himself as the creepier Gecko brother seek to flee the law south of the border. Of course, Tarantino brings his usual foot fetish to the film, although I’d drink tequila off Santanico’s toes too. The Geckos, and the family they have taken hostage, essentially hole up in a stripper bar in Mexico, which turns out to have fangs – as the focus of some sort of vampire cult, with Santanico Pandemonium as its vampire queen or demi-goddess.

 

 

 

 

 

As her Mexican compere (played by Danny Trejo) announces her, “kneel and worship at the feet of Santanico Pandemonium!”

 

 

Interestingly, her name comes from a cult Mexican exploitation horror film – with nuns! Nunsploitation!

 

 

LEELOO – THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997)

 

“Multi-pass!”

 

Leeloo is adorable.

 

And not just because she’s played by Milla Jovovich in, ah, whatever those costumes are – from her initial appearance as bandage babe to those yellow spandex pants with orange suspenders.

 

She’s adorable as a character – “Leeloo is cute, innocent, has No Social Skillsand No Nudity Taboo and is perfectly capable of breaking every bone in your body without breaking a sweat. Which she will do if you cross her”.

 

 

And she cries when she reads the entry on war while speed-reading her digital encyclopedia – apparently having skipped over every other traumatizing entry, including entries for historical wars, that preceded it alphabetically. And also over the entry for love, as Bruce Willis’ Korben Dallas has to show her.

 

 

 

The plot of The Fifth Element is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t seen it, but essentially resolves around a perfect being or the titular fifth element designed by aliens as a living weapon against the Great Evil. This is introduced in a preface with those same aliens in 1914 (“Are you…German?”), before leaping ahead to twenty-third century Earth, in which the Great Evil takes the form of a comet of death roaring towards Earth – although it can also literally phone ahead and make black goo ooze from Gary Oldman’s nose. It’s up to Leeloo – short for Leeloominaï Lekatariba Lamina-Tchaï Ekbat De Sebat – to save the world.

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 20: Mayhem of the Micro-Judges (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 175)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 20: MAYHEM OF THE MICRO-JUDGES

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 175)

 

Judge Dredd and his fellow Judges have been miniaturized by a ‘galactic salesman’ using space warp technology. What has this to do with the Judge Child Quest? Not very much except to fill out two episodes before the showdown with the Angel Gang on the planet Xanadu.

 

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree – but we’re not talking about that Xanadu. Although, come to think of it, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was also interrupted when writing that poem by some salesman from Porlock (or so Coleridge claimed), much as the Judge Child Quest is here – and just as annoyingly.

 

Fortunately, one of the Judges’ bikes was also miniaturized with them – and they use it for their tiny great escape from the Salesman’s suitcase in which they’ve been imprisoned. Unfortunately, the readers are now subjected to their tiny great escape, although it is amusing to see the miniaturized Judge Dredd on his bike launch a Lilliputian attack on the Salesman’s foot. The attack culminates in the Salesman succumbing to one of his own space-warp globes, shrinking down and out – while Dredd, correctly identifying a ‘reverse space-warp globe’ restoring himself (and his bike) to normal size.

 

Of course, he then uses more globes to restore the other Judges and robot crew to normal size, while repacking the suitcase with the Salesman’s miniaturized wares, now including the Salesman himself, to be kept in suspended animation for subsequent judgement.

 

Yeah – what the hell did I just read? I wasn’t a fan of these two episodes when I first read the Judge Child Quest and I’m not a fan of them now. Dredd concludes in his log that Mega-City One scientists will have a field day examining all the miniaturized wares, although I would have thought they would have been much more interested in the warps. Those devices would seem to be incredibly useful in their potential back in Mega-City One, but they are quickly forgotten, like these episodes should have been. Anyway, on to Xanadu and the Angel Gang!

 

TO BE CONTINUED – THE ANGEL GANG FOUND!

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 19: The Salesman (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 174)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 19: THE SALESMAN

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 174)

 

We’re headed towards the conclusion of the Judge Child Quest. Thanks to Oracle Spice and the jigsaw diseased Prosser, Judge Dredd has discovered that the Angel Gang have taken Judge Child to Xanadu (and disturbingly, that the Judge Child may be evil).

 

The conclusion plays out in surprisingly conventional Western style, which is perhaps fitting with the Quest going full circle back to its Western-themed origin in the Weird West styled Cursed Earth (and Texas City). Interestingly, Strontium Dog – Judge Dredd’s closest rival to a running series (albeit a distant second, like all other desserts to chocolate) – also plays out like a spaghetti Western IN SPACE! (And with mutants). This makes it something of a Clint Eastwood companion piece to Judge Dredd – Judge Dredd is a futuristic dystopian Dirty Harry while Strontium Dog is a space opera Man with No Name.

 

Anyway, before we get to that conclusion, there’s a weird alien episode or two left with The Salesman, except these two episodes feel misplaced since unlike other episodes, they do nothing to advance the Judge Child Quest (via Oracle Spice or otherwise).

 

 

The Salesman opens with Justice One docking at a galactic refuge station in response to a distress call en route to Xanadu. Who builds, maintains or services these stations? And writes on them in English? And why it is designed like a lighthouse in the vastness of space? And how useful are they in that same vastness of space?

 

All those questions go unanswered and even the distress signal is nothing more than galactic spam, as Judge Dredd and his fellow two Judges are greeted by an alien ‘salesman’ who introduces himself as Rinus Limpopop Quintz. Travelling salesman doesn’t seem to be a lucrative idea or profession in space, particularly when waiting for passing spaceships. And he is obviously alien in appearance but the thing that disturbs this arachnophobe most is that there seem to be giant spider legs on his head. Is it some weird arachnid humanoid, or more probably, has he simply skinned a giant spider to wear its legs on his head?

 

And he’s as annoying as any other spam, although one interesting feature is that his travelling salesman bag is like the Tardis, with some sort of dimensional warping device (Terlian warpers, as the Salesman name-drops) that give it infinite extra-dimensional space inside. However, that’s not all they do – as Dredd and his crew soon find out.

 

Dredd of course tells him that they’re not buying, which prompts sinister words from the Saleman: “Travellers find it pays to deal with Rinus Limpopop Quartz – before Rinus deals with them!”

 

And how he deals with them is how he collects his inventory – he steals it by miniaturizing spacefarers using his space warp devices, as well as gas to sedate them and then keep them in suspended animation in his suitcase. Fortunately, Dredd’s quick reflexes with his respirator negates most of the gas and he recovers to find himself in Rinus’ suitcase, for a boxed set of three Mega-City Judges (including Judge Hershey and the spaceship pilot Judge Larter, in case you’d forgotten). Dredd fixes their respirators to revive them and they begin to plan their escape – they might be downsized but not out…

 

Also featured this episode – Dredd says the expletive “Stomm!” It just doesn’t have the same bite as “Drokk!”, drokk it.

 

TO BE CONTINUED – MAYHEM OF THE MICRO-JUDGES

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 17: The Jigsaw Man (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 172)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 17: THE JIGSAW MAN

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 172)

 

And now we come to my personal favorite amidst the Judge Child Quest – Jigsaw Disease! You do not want to catch Jigsaw Disease – a disease so alien it does not make any sense. If anything, it doesn’t seem to work on a biological level so much as an extra-dimensional one. Parts of the body vanish, literally like taking pieces out of a jigsaw – and although they are clearly not there as things pass (or fall) through the now vacant spaces, the remaining body parts stay in place and continue to function as if the missing body parts were there, even down to a disembodied eye or mouth. Uh…quantum entanglement? Of course, there’s no real explanation other than magic or fantasy. (Indeed, I’d love to see jigsaw disease or a variant of it in a fantasy setting).

 

 

As the patient himself exclaims to his doctor on an alien world (that itself, like Jigsaw Disease, resembles a surreal Magritte painting), “It just doesn’t make any sense! How do I say together? Why don’t I feel any pain? Where am I disappearing to?”

 

Worse, despite the painlessness of it, jigsaw disease is fatal. As the alien doctor informs his patient – “There is no cure for jigsaw disease. When a piece of you is lost, it’s lost forever! I’d give you forty days at most. You’ll go on wasting, until…you’re just not there!”

 

What’s all this got to do with the Judge Child Quest? Well, as the episode narrates, “a few days earlier in another part of the galaxy”, Judge Dredd is about to start toad-tripping on an Oracle Spice magical mystery tour. More precisely, Judge Dredd assigns that particular vision quest to Judge Lopez. Remember him – the Judge other than Judge Hershey accompanying Dredd and that has spent the entire mission with Dredd breaking his balls because of his moustache? Lopez protests Dredd’s order (“It’s because of my moustache, isn’t it?”) but Dredd coldly informs him that it’s because his personality profile shows him to be the most unstable member of the crew and accordingly the most receptive to Oracle Spice. Finally – a job I’d be uniquely qualified for!

 

 

Anyway, it doesn’t work out too well for Lopez, as the Oracle Spice is one bad acid trip. As Hershey observes – “He’s got the screamers!” Dredd exhorts Lopez to concentrate on the Judge Child, which leads to this obtusely oracular oratory from Lopez before becoming comatose – “Bedlam! Bedlam! But hurry! Hurry! All the king’s horses couldn’t put Humpty together again!”

 

Well, that was helpful. Was that worth dying (and killing Lopez) for, Dredd?

 

Apparently so, as the ship’s computer translates Bedlam as an old Earth name for planet Ab (or perhaps AB?) in the Warp System. Sure enough, that’s the alien world on which our Jigsaw Disease patient is located. Of course, to the residents of that world, the patient is the alien – and an illegal alien at that. The alien police identify their singular human patient to Dredd as Prosser – and as awaiting deportation. Unfortunately, prior to Dredd’s arrival, Prosser has become paranoid that the aliens are withholding the cure and essentially mugs the alien doctor to abscond with it. Hence he is missing when Dredd arrives to interrogate him – and worse, the ‘cure’ he absconded with is no such thing but essentially a euthanasia or ‘mercy killing’ drug, designed to speed up the rate of the disease, and he’ll be gone within the hour. Uh-oh.

 

TO BE CONTINUED – PROSSER, THE PUZZLE AND PA ANGEL!

 

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 14: I am a Natural Hazard! (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 169)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 14: I AM A NATURAL HAZARD! 

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 169)

 

Judge Dredd pulls off an Iwo Jima moment in the war between the alien Lurgans and Gallipardans. As much as I love the iconic pose of US Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Second World War, I have to admit it might be even more awesome being pulled off by a guy on a motorcycle.

 

Like this, only with motorcycles!

 

For that matter, Judge Dredd and other characters from 2000 AD replicated the pose more faithfully for the comics’ namesake issue in the year 2000.

 

 

Back to this battle, Dredd has decided to take matters into his own hands to stop the slaughter and bring the battle to an end (not least so that he and Judge Hershey can leave the battlefield) – literally in this case, by taking the Lurgan flag and planting it in Gallipardan home territory. As he informs Hershey – “The way I see it, the game is over when this flag is planted on the enemy hill. Okay, let’s see if we can stop to this slaughter!” By that he means the larger slaughter, since he and Hershey still have to slaughter a few Gallipardans en route, but of course he does it.

 

 

However, the referee calls foul, quoting the rulebook at Dredd – “According to the rulebook, no player may plant the battle standard before all the enemy have been killed”. (One wonders why the rules provide for battle standard at all in that event). The referee should have known better than to quote the rulebook at Dredd. He is the Law, after all, which extends to the rulebook of war on an alien planet. “More slaughter for the folks at home, eh? Well, read your rulebook again, creep – it said no player. I’m not a player – I’m a natural hazard!”

 

 

You sure are, Dredd, you sure are. And he’s got them there – the war’s over. In game control, Dredd finds the answers he needs for his Judge Child Oracle Spice Quest from the grateful Lurgan general, who tells him that the Oracle Spice can be found on the Planet Necros. And if you didn’t guess from that name, the Lurgan adds that it is an evil place. EEEVIIILLL! Okay, he didn’t do that last bit, but you get the idea…

 

TO BE CONTINUED – AFTER THE WAR, THE HORROR

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 13: Weapon of Choice (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 168)

 

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: JUDGE CHILD QUEST 13: WEAPON OF CHOICE

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 168)

 

Judge Dredd is declared a natural hazard of war!

 

Our last episode saw the Judge Child Quest (presently the Oracle Spice Quest) land on the planet Agros in the mysterious Hades system – on which there are twelve intelligent but highly belligerent species, that inexplicably have adapted war between themselves into something resembling twentieth-century broadcast sport. Inexplicably that is, because it’s not entirely clear how the rules of the sport are enforced, particularly when random draws as to weaponry can give one side an overwhelming advantage. Judge Dredd and Judge Hershey are now caught up in the ‘match’ between the Lurgans and the Gallipardans, with the former hopelessly mismatched as they drew twentieth-century American weaponry. How does a planet in a distant star system  even think of using, let alone have access to, such weaponry – given that they would be rare antiques even back on Earth?

 

The Lurgans were just on the verge of defeat (due to their outdated weaponry, even by Earth standards) when the Judges wandered in to the battlefield and the Gallipardans fired on them. The two Judges return fire, seemingly routing the Gallipardan army, while their (future) American English is unintelligible to the watching aliens. Mind you, some of it is bewildering to contemporary readers outside the fandom – you know you’re a Judge Dredd fan when you find yourself uttering expletives like “drokk!”

 

And then it’s half-time. Literally, as Hershey exclaims, “those weirdoes on the hover-chairs whistled and all the fighting just stopped! I don’t get this, Dredd!”

 

Dredd is equally as bemused but intuits the situation – “Yeah, crazy…like we blundered into some fantastic game!”

 

You sure have, Dredd – a point underscored by the Gallipardan protest to the referee’s committee, composed of members of the ten non-competing nations. The Gallipardans accuse the two Judges of being hired mercenaries – the committee identifies the Judges as residents of Earth through their computer records (which presumably also disclose it as the source of the Lurgan weaponry in the draw) and in the absence of any proof the Lurgans hired them, declares the two Judges to be natural hazards. Of more concern to the Judges, the committee also declares that they cannot leave the field of play until the battle is over. Again, how do they propose to enforce that?

 

 

Meanwhile, the two Judges are being feted by the Lurgans for turning the tide of battle, while one of the frog-like battlefield commentators seeks to interview them. Fortunately, the Judges’ translators (in tiny microprocessors attached to their throats and helmets) kick in by this time. Unfortunately, they also learn of their status as natural hazards that can’t leave the field of play – which looks to be heating up in the second half, and to the Lurgans’ advantage, as they got lucky in the draw with literally juggernaut-like (juggernautical?) ‘war wheels’. And sure enough, those war wheels mow down the Gallipardans. Dredd, however, is unimpressed by the prospect of more death – and decides to take a third option of ending the war, presumably by planting the Lurgan flag on the Gallipardan home base…

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 12: Battleground (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 167)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 12: BATTLEGROUND

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 167)

 

Judge Dredd’s mission log opens this episode as Day 40 of the Judge Child Quest (now Oracle Spice Quest).

 

Wait – Day 40? I hadn’t been paying attention to the days in Dredd’s mission log. Let’s see – the first entry or Day 1 was Justice One about to exit our solar system (just before stopping to investigate that crazed asteroid rig beyond Pluto). On Day 12, they entered the Epsilon system with its one inhabitable planet of Lesser Lingo, the planet of the body-brokers. (No day was logged for their previous stop at the primitive planet of Ombra, where Dredd was immortalized in cave painting as the dread face of God). Day 17 was recorded as heading for the Hadean system, the location of the Oracle Spice – and Day 40 is the next entry, approaching Planet Agros in the Hadean system.

 

Of course, this doesn’t really clarify anything as we have no idea of the propulsion system or speed of Justice One, although presumably it has to be able to travel faster than light in some form to reach other inhabitable planets in the galaxy in a matter of days. At a pinch, I’d guess that the Hadean system is about three times the distance from Earth than the Epsilon system, given the passage of time.

 

Anyway, Dredd’s log continues to narrate that they are approaching the aptly named planet of Agros in the Hadean system – “Little information exists about Agros – save that there are twelve intelligent races – all of them aggressive”. Well, that doesn’t bode well for a harmonious world…

 

And sure enough – it’s a planet engaged in perpetual warfare, except that it seems to have contained it within some sort of limits. We’ve seen this before in Judge Dredd – in particular ‘war’ with the Sovs in the Lunar Olympics as a five player team sport. This is that on a larger scale – whole armies still fight each other, but within the ‘rules’ of the sport – which include set venues (Battlefield 8 in this episode) and random draws as to the weaponry with which each army is equipped. I’m not sure how they would enforce those draws, or any other ‘rules’, if one of the races chose to ignore them or pursue war in earnest. (Perhaps it would result in an alliance of races against the rule breaker). In the battle raging in this episode, the Lurgans drew the short straw with twentieth-century Earth weaponry – resembling nothing so much as American soldiers, down to their flag (“but they’ll be making up for that with some good old-fashioned Lurgan spleen”). Their opponents, the Gallipardans did much better in the draw, armed with “Ju-Mantu death weapons”. The whole thing is commentated on in curiously twentieth-century Earth style (complete with commercial breaks) – “Hello and welcome to the war!”

 

Of course, Justice One lands not far from Battlefield 8. Worse, Dredd and Judge Hershey find themselves caught up in the battle – by chance against the Gallipardans (who decide to kill them on sight out of xenophobic principle), to the relief of the Lurgans who were on the verge of utter defeat (and had called a time-out) and to the excitement of the commentators who declare “a new and deadly factor has entered the game!”

 

 

Well, the commentators are right about that – it’s Judge Dredd, after all. How does it turn out? Find out after the commercial break!

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 11: The Hungry Planet (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 166

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 11: THE HUNGRY PLANET

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 166)

 

Judge Dredd is pulp SF, deliberately so as a dystopian SF satire. Everything is, in a phrase, over the top – from the Mega-City Judges (including their uniforms, their Lawmaster cycles and their Lawgiver guns) to Mega-City One itself, a future world where every single thing has become overwhelming.

 

And that is even more so in the Judge Child Quest Oracle Spice Quest, where Judge Dredd is IN SPACE!

 

So far we’ve already seen Dredd as the dread face of god and on a planet of body-brokers. Now we encounter a living planet.

 

 

No, not Ego the Living Planet – although Marvel Comics is similarly over the top IN SPACE, as recently popularized by the second Guardians of the Galaxy film.

 

This living planet is more along the lines of that giant spaceship eating asteroid worm that almost slurps down the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back. And it similarly begs the question of how such an entity survives, let alone grows to its cosmic size, on a diet of spaceships that just happen to fly into its mouth (literally in the case of The Empire Strikes Back) in the vastness of space.

 

Which is what happens to Judge Dredd’s Justice One here as it enters the Hadean system – the planet literally opens and swallows the ship inside its stomach with its tentacles. At which point, it then becomes Judge Dredd’s version of the Fantastic Voyage, with the planet’s anatomy fortunately resembling that of terrestrial biology, and Dredd directing the pilot through some radical surgery – using an armor-piercing nuclear missile and blasters to get the ship into a blood vein and then dropping nuclear depth charges (they have those on a spaceship?) to float to the planet’s heart, killing the planet as they blast out of it.

 

 

Dredd’s post-operative bedside manner is droll – “Let’s skip the celebrations and get moving! If that’s a sample of what we can expect in this system, the sooner we find the Oracle Spice and get out the better!”

 

TO BE CONTINUED: WELCOME TO THE WAR