Mega-City Law: Pirates of the Black Atlantic 4 (Complete Case Files Volume 4 Prog 201)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: PIRATES OF THE BLACK ATLANTIC 4

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4 PROG 201)

 

Out of the frying pan, into the…tentacles of a giant mutant octopus. Mmm…calamari.

 

Okay, that’s not how the saying goes, but Judge Dredd certainly finds himself fending off more tentacles than your average anime, as the mutant sea-beast Captain Skank calls mother comes to Skank’s rescue.

 

These tentacles are particularly savage as each has its own carnivorous head. Dredd hacks his way through them with a stray cutlass (having lost his Lawgiver pistol in the first onslaught), but the sheer number threaten to overwhelm him until he severs an electric cable – electrocuting both Captain Skank and his monstrous ‘mother’ (while Dredd is protected by his suit’s insulation).

 

Meanwhile, his fellow Judges have taken the pirate base. Firstly, Dredd releases the captured Mega-City scientists and Jenno Matryx confesses that she built the warheads as Skank would have killed her and her colleagues. Dredd is not impressed – “And now millions are dead. You had a hard decision to make, Citizen Matryx. You made the wrong one. Take her away”. I tend to agree with Dredd on this one.

 

Secondly – and more fundamentally for the future – it was a Sov plot all along!

 

As Dredd is musing what could have led Skank to launch the attack on Mega-City with no conceivable benefit, Judge Giant recovers some sort of remote control from Tuskarosa – a remote control for Captain Skank! Although that begs the question of how Skank seemed to act independently of Tuskarosa just last episode – did Tuskarosa forget to push the button or something? Anyway, the plot thickens when Tuskarosa’s mutations are revealed to be artificial – and surgically removed to reveal…Nikita Kramm, one of the Sov-Blok’s top agents! Although I suppose that Soviet red star tattooed on his forehead is a bit of a giveaway…

 

 

As Dredd returns to Mega-City One, the death toll is four million and counting (somewhat small fry for one of Mega-City’s epic disasters). As Dredd informs the Chief Judge and Mega-City Security  Council (somewhat misnamed for Mega-City One’s Security Council, rather than the suggestion of something like the United Nations Security Council) – “The Sov-Blok thought they could hit us through Skank without retaliation”. Ominously, Dredd intones “As I see it, there’s only one course of action to take now” and Chief Judge Griffin agrees.

 

No, it’s not all-out nuclear war but something of an exchange in equivalence. That afternoon, a Justice Department craft arrives in Sov-Blok airspace and lowers a coffin. Inside is of course Nikita Kramm and also “a curt note” from Dredd himself – ready when you are, reds!

 

 

Soon, the top-ranking Sov Judges meet to discuss their lack of options – “What can we do? We are not ready for a full-scale war – not yet!”. And so the Sov Judges agree – “They must be appeased. We must make a…gesture!”. And that gesture is detonating one of their own ten-megaton warheads in East-Meg One.

 

Hmm, not exactly détente. And the old Cold War looks like getting hot in the future – or again, given there’s already been the Atomic Wars. There’s that ominous emphasis by the Sov Judges that they are not ready for full scale war…yet. And Dredd too urges that Mega-City One will need to look to its defenses – “Sooner or later, the Sov Block will feel strong enough to strike again. Then the solution may not be so simple!”. Try sooner rather than later, Judge Dredd. Indeed, next volume…

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED – WHEN A LAWMASTER GOES HAYWIRE!

Mega-City Law: Pirates of the Black Atlantic 3 (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 200)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: PIRATES OF THE BLACK ATLANTIC 3

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 200)

 

No one nukes the Big Meg and gets away with it!

 

Well, at least in these episodes – the point may be more arguable in later episodes, particularly in these post-Chaos Days, that Mega-City One doesn’t always give as good as it gets.

 

For now, however, Judge Dredd is commanding the Justice Department’s patrol craft (that doubles as aircraft and submarine), bent on exacting one thing upon the mutant pirates of the Black Atlantic – retaliation!

 

Not surprisingly, the Justice Department cuts through these ragtag pirates easily, like those special forces we always see cutting through henchmen in James Bond film finales. However, Captain Skank seems curiously unconcerned when chief mate Tuskarosa alerts him to the Judges boarding his submarine base. What is concerning is Tuskarosa’s thought bubble as he decides discretion is the better part of valor – “Crazy devil! Well, Skank’s served his purpose. I’m getting out while the getting’s good!”

 

Skank’s served his purpose? Obviously, there’s more to this – and Tuskarosa – than meets the eye. No more thought bubbles though for Tuskarosa as he is gunned down by the Judges.

 

Meanwhile, Dredd goes after Skank personally – and after an initial tangle with Skank’s cyborg dreadlocks, Dredd seems to get the better of him. However, Skank has one last trick up his sleeve – in the form of his giant mutant octopus ‘mother’ waiting for his call…

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED – MOTHERCARE (OR THE SOV CONNECTION)

Mega-City Law: Pirates of the Black Atlantic 2 (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 199)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: PIRATES OF THE BLACK ATLANTIC 2 (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 199)

 

Mega-City One gets nuked!

 

Not the whole city, mind you – just sector 403, with the aptly named Bob Oppenheimer Block in the epicenter of it, as “a Class K nuclear projectile penetrates Mega-City One’s laser defense screen” and the poor Bob Oppenheimer Citi-Def force looks haplessly on. And they had hazmat suits and everything.

 

Also mind you, it won’t be the last time Mega-City One gets nuked. Just saying.

 

 

The episode then flashes back to the source of the missile – cyborg pirate Captain Skank using the kidnapped nuclear scientist Jenno Matryx to install warheads in thirty missiles. Of course, it might have occurred to her to think what exactly pirates of the Black Atlantic would do with thirty nuclear missiles, as there would only seem to be one target close at hand, Mega-City One, and perhaps Iron Man herself out of her hostage situation. You know, rig up the warheads to detonate within the pirate base itself and hold the pirates to ransom (to release her and her colleagues), or just taking out the pirates in a worst-case scenario of heroic self-sacrifice. Even Captain Skank seems surprised at her lack of foresight (and distress) when he gives the order to nuke Mega-City One – “What’d ye think I wanted the warheads for, little lady? Zzz! Shooting mutiegulls?”

 

 

The thirty missiles fly past a Justice Department patrol aircraft, commanded by Dredd – its lasers intercept two of the missiles, but the others are then out of range and en route to Mega-City One: “Alert the city! Priority double red!”.

 

Along Mega-City One’s Atlantic Wall, the laser defense teams are waiting (although I would have thought that it was predominantly computers or robots) – “We’ve got to vape them before they splinter!”. Splinter that is, into the fifty independently functioning warheads for each missile. (Matryx must have been busy installing one hundred and fifty warheads, assuming fifty warheads to each missile).

 

Sure enough, one of the missiles splinters, but the laser defense screen catches all but one of the warheads, so the damage will be “minimal” – which brings us back to the stray warhead coming down on Bob Oppenheimer Block. As luck and blackly comic timing would have it, Bob Oppenheimer Citi-Def were practicing their nuclear survival drill – nil in this case, as they didn’t expect an actual nuclear missile up this close and personal.

 

Justice Department moves quickly in response. In Mega-City One, weather control stations clear the fallout from the skies, while in the Black Atlantic, Judge Dredd’s patrol aircraft identifies the launch point and goes into submarine mode (“convert to sub-sea status!”) to take the battle to the pirates themselves – “Let’s get those murdering scum!”

 

TO BE CONTINUED: TERMINAL SKANK!

Mega-City Law: Pirates of the Black Atlantic (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Progs 197-198)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: PIRATES OF THE BLACK ATLANTIC

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 197-198)

 

Judge Dredd does Pirates of the Caribbean! Literally, as in mutant submarine pirates (or are they?) operating out of an underwater sea fortress in the Caribbean. There’s even a version of the Kraken. Where’s the check, Disney?

 

Anyway, the Pirates of the Black Atlantic had a significance extending beyond its four episode story arc and its mutant pirates to foreshadowing the escalation of conflict with Mega-City One’s most persistent adversaries, the Sov-Judges of East Mega-City One (and Two). And by escalation – we’re talking Defcon One…

 

 

However, before we get to the Black Atlantic, there’s a single episode in prog 197 wedged between the previous story arc of The Fink and The Pirates of the Black Atlantic. While it lacks the dramatic impact of the latter, this episode does have some noteworthy features. In particular, as authoritarian as Mega-City One is, it still operates under the rule of law (and arguably is not fascist as such). The Judges simply can’t arrest someone without evidence of an offence. Torture is illegal and a confession extracted by torture will result in a conviction (albeit the instantaneous convictions dispensed by street Judges) being quashed – although that’s perhaps taking a very narrow view of torture given the extent of judicial interrogation techniques stopping short of physical injury. And as we’ve seen, Judges who infringe the law are dealt with by the Special Judicial Squad with a mandatory twenty years imprisonment in the penal colony on Titan upon conviction (although again that perhaps fails to distinguish between degrees of infringement of the law).

 

As for the episode itself, Judge Dredd and Judge Turpin apprehend a citizen for a minor street offence, but only after fleeing them first – arousing their suspicions of more serious offending. However, a crime blitz of his apartment finds no evidence and he doesn’t break under interrogation. So Judge Turpin beats a confession to a numbers racket out of him back at his apartment. Dredd had ordered ‘spy-in-the-sky’ drone surveillance, which recorded the beating. Dredd hands Turpin over to the SJS and the conviction is quashed. As Dredd releases the man from custody, he off-handedly asks the friendly question “Think nothing of it…tell me…just between us, did you run that numbers racket?”. The man stupidly replies in the affirmative, although in fairness he immediately realizes his stupidity, and Dredd arrests him again – because “while a confession obtained by torture is illegal, a confession obtained by deceit will stand up in any Mega-City court of law”. (Of course, the Judges are usually their own court of law – and I might note that while confessions can effectively be obtained by deceit, Judge Dredd’s little trick here probably wouldn’t hold up in the contemporary United States or in countries with similar legal principles).

 

On to the Pirates of the Black Atlantic, it opens with the titular pirates issuing forth in submersibles from the “great war sea fortress” they’ve taken over under the titular polluted Black Atlantic. (We last saw the Black Atlantic when the Sovs previously menaced Mega-City One and Dredd thwarted their attempt to steal the secrets of the city’s laser defense system – a significant premonition of the present storyline). The pirates are commanded by their Captain Skank, complete with cyborg dreadlocks, and his equally feared second mate, Tuskarossa, complete with, uh, tusks in a savage mutant underbite. The pirates attack a Mega-City research vessel. Unfortunately, the vessel’s solar-powered laser defense system has the flaw of being dependent on its solar panels – which are destroyed. Hmm – what about back-up batteries? Captain Skank orders the scientists to be spared but the rest of the research vessel crew (those not killed taking the ship) is fair game. And by fair game, I mean thrown overboard into the Black Atlantic, where they die within minutes from the toxic pollution.

 

An aerial patrol of Judges arrive, presumably after a distress call, but find only corpses. Back in Mega-City One, Chief Judge Griffin observes that so far the mutant pirates have been a nuisance, but that has all changed – as they have now captured ‘nuclear boffin’ Jenno Matryx and the old sea fortresses were equipped with 500 nuclear missiles. And now with Matryx to replenish the warheads…

 

 

Fortunately, Matryx holds out against cooperating with Skank, but unfortunately it’s then time for How I Met Your Mother. And by How I Met Your Mother, I don’t mean Skank subjects her to watching all the seasons of that TV series but actually meeting his mother. And by mother, I don’t mean his actual mother – although the cyborg pirate captain seems somewhat delusional about that – but the giant mutant sea octopus that Skank call his ‘mother’. If that wasn’t fearsome enough, Skank motivates her further by feeding two of her colleagues to his mother, before reminding her there’s forty more where that came from for the next course. She gives in as Captain Skank gloats “that when she’s finished, Cap’n Skank will be ready to challenge the might of Mega-City One!”, except with an electric buzz “Zzz! rather than the classic pirate “Arr!”. Uh-oh.

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED – NUCLEAR SKANKIN’!

Mega-City Law: The Fink (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 193-196)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: THE FINK (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 193-196)

 

Judge Dredd has only just recently completed the Judge Child Quest this very volume and its primary antagonists, the Angel Gang (that is, if you don’t count the Judge Child himself), has all Angels dead by hand of Dredd.

 

Or are they?

 

Enter a mysterious skeletal mutant bringing mischief with him into Mega-City One – a mischief of rats, that is. (I was intrigued to discover that a group of rats is called a mischief, although not quite up there with a murder of crows). Aww – and look at that! The mutant and the alpha rat have matching bowler hats. Although that’s the only thing ‘cute’ about them over this story arc of four episodes.

 

The clue to the mutant’s identity comes with his first victim – space Judge-Pilot Larter. The mutant uses a paralytic poison (or “pizen” as he calls it) to ambush Larter, who then suffers the grim death of being eaten alive by rats. If it’s any consolation, they’re normal Mega-City One rats – as the mutant tells his bowler-hatted rat unimaginatively named Ratty, “they ain’t so tough as you Cursed-Earth rats!” Or as toxic, since Cursed Earth rats, like virtually everything else in the Cursed Earth, are lethally venomous.

 

It’s not much of a clue, given that most readers have probably forgotten Larter as the pilot of Justice One in the Judge Child Quest but the mutant gives more of one as he appreciates Larter’s slow death by rodent – “it’s the way Pa would have wanted it”. Pa? As in Pa Angel? And in case that one slipped by, Fink Angel abandons all subtlety by literally leaving his calling card.

 

 

Looks like we have a rogue Angel on our hands – particularly as he intones “one down, two to go”, crossing Larter’s name off on a crude carved list which has two further names, Dredd and Judge Hershey.

 

And Dredd, called into investigate Larter’s murder, realizes it is a rogue Angel – just as Fink is luring Judge Hershey into a trap (by poisoning a random pedestrian in her vicinity, although it’s not clear how he’s tracked either Larter or Hershey in a Mega-City of 800 million people spanning the eastern seaboard). Too late, Dredd seeks to alert her – but she has disappeared, paralyzed and dragged into the depths by Fink. Dredd confirms from Texas City records that there was a fifth Angel – and correctly surmises that this Angel is seeking revenge for the Angel Gang.

 

That leads to the most interesting episode of the story arc, titled The Making of a Fink. Fink began as a normal human – well, as normal as you get, firstly in the Angel Gang and secondly in the Cursed Earth (near Texas City). As Pa Angel exhorts each of his sons to embrace their own criminal style, Fink becomes the loner of the family, hiding out in holes (literally) and becoming skilled in the art of ambush (and poison). Funnily enough, this episode also is the making of a Mean Machine, with some fun black humor. Unfortunately, young ‘Mean’ Angel is a disappointment to Pa as anything but his moniker, depicted distractingly sniffing a flower during one of Pa’s home-schooled criminal classes.

 

 

What a pansy! Well, Pa Angel won’t be having any of THAT – and he fixes it with some radical surgery, snatching up a doctor from Texas City to transform ‘Mean’ Angel into the Mean Machine Angel we all know and love, a murderous cyborg with four settings of rage dialed into his head.

 

 

Anyway, Fink continued to retreat from the family, being much more perceptive about the ultimate fate of the Gang – as “they ain’t too smart”, they’ll end up in prison. Of course, as it turned out, Fink was being much too optimistic – as they end up dead instead. And so Fink embarks upon his calling as a Cursed Earth desperado, using poisons and his innate sneakiness to ambush victims, while radiation slowly warped him into a skeletal mutant. Still, it wasn’t all bad – he did befriend the Cursed Earth rat, which joined him as Ratty. By incredible coincidence, a stray newspaper clipping literally blows into his hole in the ground – revealing the deaths of the rest of the Angel Gang at the hands of the Judges from the Judge Child Quest. And Fink, while retaining little else of his humanity, still retained his sense of duty to avenge the family.

 

That takes us to final episode, where we get out first good look at the Mega-City way of death – Resyk, where the bodies of the overwhelming majority of Mega-City One’s dead are recycled. I’m not exactly sure what they recycle the bodies into, but that’s dystopia for you. Whereas Fink fed Larter to the rats, his plan for Hershey’s slow and painful death is to feed her into the resyk conveyor belt. Fortunately, surveillance cameras detect him entering with Hershey, and by further incredible coincidence, Dredd is in the vicinity when the call is put out to the Judges. He arrives to activate the emergency stop just as the robotic arms are about to extract Hershey’s teeth.

 

 

Dredd pursues Fink into some weird decomposing fluid chamber. Fink and Ratty ambush him with the paralyzing poison, but Dredd uses his last ounce of strength to swing Ratty mid-bite at Fink. And then Dredd and Fink are both down for the count. Fortunately, other Judges arrive at the scene to extract Dredd and Hershey as well as to imprison Fink Angel – whose hardened Cursed Earth constitution survived the normally lethal Cursed Earth rat bite. And as for that Cursed Earth rat himself, Ratty escapes to thrive in the recesses of resyk, with plenty of food passing by on the conveyor belt. Eew!

 

TO BE CONTINUED – PIRATES OF THE BLACK ATLANTIC

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 6: Dredd Shakes Hands with the Thing (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 161)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 6: DREDD SHAKES HANDS WITH THE THING (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4 : PROG 161)

 

In Texas City’s mutant Disneyland, Judge Dredd has pursued Brother Death (formerly Brother Bunsen) into the giant statue of…whatever that thing is. That’s not a sentence you get to say too often. As for the statue thing – well, it’s a mutant, I guess. (A mutant what?) It also is the fairground attraction, the Jaws of Doom high dive for a money prize. Of course, you know that someone will be diving off it later in this episode. (No prizes for guessing who, though).

 

Unfortunately, they’re not alone in the statue scaffolding, as the Angel Gang has unleashed the mutant Thing from the Pit in after them. See? I just have to get used to writing sentences like that in my ongoing review of Judge Dredd. Anyway, the Thing is basically a giant arm (hence the episode title) and it moves fast – before Dredd can draw and fire his Lawgiver pistol, because shooting it would be just too easy for the plot. Instead, caught in the Thing’s death grip, Dredd first uses gravity, vaulting off the scaffolding so they both fall and the Thing loses its grip. Having caught on to scaffolding above the beast, Dredd uses gravity again to fall on to the Thing’s arm, breaking it. You almost feel sorry for The Thing with its pained expression and Dredd makes a parting quip about being registered with Texicare. I wouldn’t be too confident about Texicare, given the difficulties the present American government has with passing health insurance schemes.

 

 

Meanwhile, Brother Death tries to ambush Dredd at the top of the statue but of course that fails. However, Dredd only wants to know the location of the Judge Child. Unfortunately, both Brother Death and he can spy the Angel Gang abducting the Child below. And as anticipated, Dredd takes the dive to try to get to the Angel Gang and the Child faster – but in classic car chase style, his bike pursuit is blocked by a procession of mutants being ‘cleared’ from the city.

 

And in the usual economic style of these six page episodes, the next development is simply narrated in one line – “That night, the Angel Gang escaped from Earth on a hijacked space craft”, last tracked heading out of the system into alien space. Again, because if they didn’t, it would just be too easy for the plot (and the Judge Child Quest would be done). Dredd is undeterred (rejecting his prize money from both beating the Thing and the high dive) – “Somewhere out there is the child that can save my city. I’ll find him – or I’ll never return to Mega-City One”.

 

It’s a little like Liam Neeson in Taken – IN SPACE! Fortunately, Dredd does indeed have a very particular set of skills…

 

TO BE CONTINUED – THE GHOST OF ECHO-BRAVO

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 5: Brother Death (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 160)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 5: BROTHER DEATH (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 160)

 

Welcome to Texas City!

 

And you thought Mega-City One was over the top. You were right, of course – it’s all part of Judge Dredd’s dystopian SF satire. I mean, just look at the Mega-City One Judge uniform! As comics blogger Chris Sims wrote, an iconic superhero costume tends to be simple and well-defined, getting across a lot of information with a very streamlined look, while avoiding unnecessary gimmicks – but when you get to Judge Dredd, those rules go flying straight out into the Iso-Cubes as his uniform is nothing but unnecessary gimmicks. That’s overstating it somewhat (like the Judge uniform itself) as the basic uniform is functional (when stripped down as it was in the 2012 Dredd film) but yes – they pack a lot into that uniform. The giant shoulder pad, the other giant shoulder pad with the eagle, the flag patch and another eagle on his belt, the badge with a third eagle and so on. Mega-City One Judges are deliberately over the top – it’s the core idea of Judge Dredd, in a future society where every single thing has become monstrously overwhelming.

 

 

The Texas City Judges have essentially the same uniform, but with lone stars on their belts and cowboy hats instead of helmets – so arguably even more over the top than the Mega-City One version. That’s not uncommon with Judges from other cities, as we’ve seen with the Sov Judges (my personal favorite), or for that matter other dimensions, as we’ve seen with Judge Death.

 

It’s Texas City itself that is most over the top, putting Mega-City One to shame. I mean, just look at that opening panel. There’s the giant cowboy statue of Tex with its Walk Tall logo (substituting for Mega-City One’s Statue of Justice, towering over the Statue of Liberty) and buildings with virtually every Western motiff – cowboys, cowboy hats, steer heads, a horse or camel head, saddles, Lone Stars. Not to mention, as the tour guide on a paddle steamer helpfully tells us, Everest Tower – two miles high with a permanent snow cap.

 

One thing that puzzles me is the inset map. Mega-City One tended to have a fluctuating southern border in maps, but usually extending further south than in this inset map, typically down to Florida – with approximately half Mega-City One being the south. Well, until the Apocalypse War anyway.

 

As for Texas City, it has a strained relationship with Mega-City One, even though they and Mega-City Two are formally still part of the Union. Texas City hasn’t been particularly helpful on the few occasions we see them in any of Mega-City One’s crises (or their interaction generally) – and they even attempted something of a coup in Mega-City One after Chaos Day (which Mega-City One turned right back on them). And they’re not particularly helpful to help Dredd look for the Judge Child now – as they are more concerned with their ‘mutie clearances’ as well as the escaped Angel Gang, “a bad buncha hell-raisers”. No matter – Dredd prefers to work alone and he tracks down reports of ‘pre-cog’ activity to Brother Death, a new fortune-teller at Texas City’s Mutieworld with uncanny accuracy in predicting his customers’ deaths. (Mutieworld has permits for its mutants, hence is unaffected by the clearances).

 

Of course, it’s Brother Bunsen using the Judge Child. But really? This was Brother Bunsen’s big plans for the psychic Judge Child. Doesn’t Texas City have a lottery or some other form of big money gambling? Or a stock exchange? Maybe the Judge Child is only good at predicting deaths, as indeed we’ve only seen him do so far? That tends to make him a somewhat useless psychic. Even as a fairground psychic, it doesn’t seem the most lucrative attraction. And as for that uncanny accuracy in predicting deaths by which Dredd tracks him down, surely enough time hasn’t passed to tell? After all, the large majority of customers would be dying years in the future.

 

 

Anyway, Dredd tracks down Brother Death, passing by another attraction – the mutant Thing from the Pit, which seems to be a mutant basically consisting of a giant arm. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one who has tracked down Brother Death – of course the Angel Gang has also tracked him down, as they intend to escape into alien space, where they similarly see a psychic to be a lucrative asset. We’re introduced to Pa Angel and his sons Link, Junior and Mean Machine. And we get to see Mean Machine Angel try his hand at gentle persuasion on Brother Death, which involves only going to the second setting in the four settings of rage literally dialed into his head.

 

 

Brother Death tries to escape but runs into – or more precisely, away from – Judge Dredd. Dredd pursues him into a giant statue – and Pa Angel sees the opportunity to eliminate both of them and abscond with the Judge Child, by unleashing the Thing from the Pit after them.

 

TO BE CONTINUED – DREDD SHAKES HANDS WITH THE THING!

Mega-City Law: The Judge Child Quest 1 – The Judge Child (Complete Case Files Volume 4 – Prog 156)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: THE JUDGE CHILD QUEST 1 – THE JUDGE CHILD (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 156)

 

Unlike previous epics, The Judge Child Quest begins in media res, with Judge Dredd giving an ultimatum to Cursed Earth slavers – “You slavers got a choice! Surrender or die!”

 

Of course, the slavers do it the hard way, preferring to shoot it out – “Death it is then!” Dredd laconically replies. It doesn’t entirely go his way though, as a mounted slaver whips him good – snaring him with the whip and attempting to drag him through the ‘sulfur sand’ (spelt in the British style of sulphur) in a nearby pit. Dredd quickly turns the situation around by stopping himself and pulling the slaver off the horse by the whip into the pit. I believe the phrase is hoist by your own petard.

 

And hoist the slaver is, as he finds himself sinking into the sulfur sand – “It’s s-sucking me in! Help me, Judge!” Dredd knows when he has a captive audience – “That all depends on the answers you give me”. As a fan of Mega-City One slang, it’s nice to see the slaver’s expletive “drokk” in reply – as in “drokk ya!” Dredd then asks after Owen Krysler, a boy taken by slavers from a settlement six months previously, and shows the slaver a photograph.

 

 

That’s when the epic flashes back to the backstory which I set out in my introduction to the epic – the deathbed vision of pre-cog Psi-Judge Feyy (with a track record of 88.8% accuracy in prediction), in which Mega-City One is fated for destruction in 2120 (18 years in the future) with only his vision of the mysterious Judge Child to save the city. Fortunately, Feyy’s vision also includes distinctive features to identify the Judge Child – his name, Owen Krysler and the mark of the Eagle of Justice on his head. The former is not quite so helpful without the latter, given that there are 47 Owen Kryslers in the city. Although…none of them match the description (presumably of the eagle mark), but an Owen Krysler did accompany his parents to one of the new Cursed Earth settlements.

 

 

And that brings us to the present – via the settlement, which has since been sacked and enslaved, but for one particularly mutated mutant.

 

 

The slaver recognizes the mark, but also the boy’s strangely calm demeanor when they hanged his parents – “It was like he knew it would happen”. As for the boy himself, the slavers took him to the slave market in ‘Neutron Flats’. As for the slaver, Dredd pulls him from the sulfur sand – and releases him to his just desserts at the hands of the vengeful ex-slaves. “You promised!” wails the slaver. “I kept my promise” Dredd replies to him, “you’re out of the sand”. Dredd’s like that – he’s worse than the most literally-minded genie when it comes to the wording. However, Dredd is now certain that the missing boy is the Judge Child – “I won’t rest until I find him”. Although you’d think that the Chief Judge and Justice Department might have sent more than just Dredd into the Cursed Earth, given what’s at stake (and that they decked him out with a team and the Killdozer in The Cursed Earth epic)

 

TO BE CONTINUED – WHAT AM I BID FOR JUDGE DREDD?

Mega-City Law: The Black Plague – Part 4 (Complete Case Files Volume 3 – Prog 143)

 

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: THE BLACK PLAGUE – PART 4 (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 3 – PROG 143)

 

Mega-City spider invasion!

 

Finally, the moment to which this story has been building (and for which we’ve been waiting), the mutant spiders swarm into Mega-City itself – and at midnight too, because any decent hive-mind has a sense of timing.

 

Of course, we’ll skip over the implausibility of the spiders surviving that barrage of liquid fire by burrowing underground in the last episode. Given that the burrows weren’t that deep, one would have thought that the liquid fire would have flowed into the burrows, even with the little earth plugs the spiders made to cap them. Or for that matter, the heat from the fire would have simply cooked the spiders in their burrows – or asphyxiated them. In fairness, it’s a common and annoying trope, particularly on screen, that fire or incredibly hot things like lava only kill on contact, despite the incredible heat (or toxicity) having an effect at a distance. (I’d imagine that the liquid fire shells used by the Judges had a similar heat to lava – 700-1200 degrees Celsius or 1300-2200 degrees Farenheit). One might also have thought that the Judges would have kept a closer watch, given the suspiciously low spider body count – particularly given the other things they might have had ready against the spiders, such as robots or riot foam.

 

But who cares? We came for a creature feature horror story and we want to get it – spiders swarming over the wall into Mega-City One. As Dredd laconically comments as the spiders swarm through the city – “Looks like we missed a few!”

 

 

Insecticide sprayers form the first line of defense – but as usual anything spawned in the atomic wasteland of the Cursed Earth is immune to poison, while the sprayers soon succumb to the spider venom. Dredd calls in the second line of defense – robots and Justice Department ‘pat-wagons’, which appear to be spraying the spiders with something, probably high-pressure water but perhaps riot foam (although the sprays don’t look like it). So perhaps we have robots and riot foam after all – but too little too late. The spiders disperse too widely, “along every road and every walkway” and “through every crack and every passage”. And so we are treated to diners and drivers being swarmed by spiders.

 

 

Dredd comes up with a plan – evacuating every building west of the “Mega-Circular” from the roof tops, which we are told is over a million people (and will take “at least twenty minutes”, which in my mind speaks impressively of the Justice Department), while forming a new line of defense to contain the spread of the spiders, obviously at the Mega-Circular. As for that evacuated city sector, Dredd’s plan is characteristically simple – “There’s only one thing we can do…burn the whole sector down!” So it’s bombs away – high explosives and incendiaries. The difference being that inside the city, the spiders can’t burrow underground through concrete.

 

And it works. The spiders are well and truly cooked, while a recovered Henry Ford gets in the last word in response to Dredd’s comment that the Black Plague is cured – “Are your cures always so drastic?” Pretty much, Henry Ford, pretty much.

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED – UMPTY CANDY AND THE LONG WALK

 

Mega-City Law: The Black Plague – Part 3 (Complete Case Files Volume 3 – Prog 142)

 

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: THE BLACK PLAGUE – PART 3 (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 3 – PROG 142)

 

The spider super-swarm has been deterred from the mutant township of Atom Gulch by Judge Dredd’s ring of fire – but only because they are now headed for the richer food source of Mega-City One itself.

 

I’m skeptical. Sure, the swarm has shown itself to have something of a hive mind, but Mega-City One is thirty miles away from Atom Gulch. That’s quite some distance for even the brightest spider hive mind to sense the city.

 

Anyway, Dredd is concerned that thousands will die if the spider swarm reaches the city, but his bike is wrecked and the Judges have no transport…except the mutant horse Henry Ford, volunteered by his owner (or partner) Moze Bigleftear. Henry is of course indignant at being ‘volunteered’ for a mission effectively through the swarm, turning an old phrase round – “Wild humans wouldn’t drag me through them spiders again!” In fairness, most of the human residents of the Cursed Earth are considerably wilder than Henry. (Also in fairness, poor Henry has already run the thirty miles to Mega-City One only a few hours before).

 

Dredd, however, is persuasive in his usual style. Riding Henry Ford at night, they catch up to the tail end of the swarm and try to overtake it by a mountain bypass. Dredd’s goal is the memorial H-bomb bridge. Unfortunately, they reach the bridge too late, as the swarm is just starting to cross the bridge. Dredd proposes a drastic solution – “We’ll have to go through them”. Henry is not impressed – “It’s instant death down there! You gotta be joking!” Dredd dryly responds “I don’t joke! The city is in danger!”

 

 

That’s not entirely true. Well, the city IS in danger but Dredd jokes – or wisecracks rather – quite often. It’s part of being a comic book hero.

 

 

So Dredd rides Henry through the swarm, although Henry can’t resist a wisecrack of his own – “What did you say was wrong with your bike?” Dredd again dryly responds “Shut up and keep running! Slow down and they’ll be all over you!” However, their speed also sends spiders flying up at them from Henry’s hooves. Even worse, Henry gets a hoof stuck in a crack – sending him and Dredd flying into the swarm, Dredd swatting away spiders and Henry snapping at them as they bite him in turn. Is this the spidery end for Judge Dredd (and Henry Ford)?

 

 

Well no, as Henry hurriedly regains his feet as Dredd remounts him, swatting spiders off. Henry gallops across the bridge and Dredd shoots it out behind them, until…

 

 

Henry collapses, his legs paralyzed from spider venom – even as he brags “It’ll take more’n a few bites to stop ol’ Henry Ford”. Fortunately, they’re now in radio range of the city and Dredd calls in an airlift for Henry and himself. Unfortunately, the spiders are also in range of the city within a few hours – and they’re hungry! (All that exercise of a thirty mile run). Forewarned, the Judges unleash incendiary shells on the spider swarm – “each shell contained one ton of liquid fire”. When it comes to spiders, there’s no such thing as overkill.

 

Yeah, this is pretty much my reaction to any spider too

 

Except after the flames have died down, it seems to be underkill – “There were billions of spiders. There ought to be more bodies”. And indeed there are – when the first shell hit, the spiders had begun to burrow underground, losing less than a quarter of the storm. And in the cool of the night, the spiders reemerge – “death was hatching from the Cursed Earth”…

 

TO BE CONTINUED