Graphic Novel Reviews

The Fall of Deadworld – Book I

(2017) Kek-W & Dave Kendall, 2000AD / Rebellion, £18.99 / Can$33.99 / US$24.99, hrdbk, 157pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08603-2


The wonderful thing about Judge Dredd is that as the character developed so did his world. Indeed this has continued over the decades so that there are entire story arcs relating to the world outside Mega City One (such as The Cursed Earth Saga ) or even off-world and even off world and not featuring Dredd at all (such as Insurrection and Lawless: Welcome to Badrock) and then there are Dredd characters that have lives of their own (such as P. J. Maybe or Mean Machine).  Of these one of 2000AD readers and Judge Dredd fans' favourites arguably is Judge Death.

Judge Death first appeared in 2000AD back in 1980. He literally materialised in Mega City One and, in an near skeletal form and wearing a perverse version of a Judge's uniform, he began killing people.  It transpired that Death was from a parallel world where a perverse form of the Judge system had decided that as all crime was committed by living people, that life itself was a crime.

In 1985 he returned with three fellow 'Dark Judges': Mortis (whose touch caused flesh to become diseased and whither), Fear (whose gaze literally scared people to death) and Fire (whose touch was incendiary).

But what of Death's origins?  Well in 1990 in theJudge Dredd Megazine, we got Judge Death's own version of that when he recounted his early life story to a Mega City One reporter in Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend.  This being Death's own telling of his story, it depicted Death as a misunderstood person fondly recounting his early life and so was darkly comedic.

This brings us to The Fall of Deadworld graphic novel which is a re-working of Death's autobiography as a biographical account of the events around the corruption of Death's home world Judge system and the rise of the Dark Judges and the annihilation of the planet's civilians. This origins tale mixes the fantasy elements of the Judge Death story – of which Dredd regular readers are familiar – with some hard SF trappings.

Judge Death has begun his assault on his home world. The majority of the population is unaware as to what is going on. What they do know is that a blight has affected the land, food is short, there is disturbance in the cities.

Riding into the diseased countryside is Judge Fairfax, a senior Judge that was part of the Chief Judge's inner circle.  Fairfax is trying to locate the Chief Judge's bunker.  Meanwhile, the Judges that death and his cohorts have taken over are seeking Fairfax as Death apparently wants to convert him so as to turn him into his fourth lieutenant, joining Fear, Mortis and Fire…

The Fall of Deadworld is a dark, bleak story skilfully rendered by Dave Kendall using what seems to be a mix of inks and water colours (sorry, I'm not an artist and may be wrong). The key thing is that the artwork is absolutely brilliant: almost up to the standard of the truly excellent Dark Justice.

Book II to come. I can barely wait.

Jonathan Cowie

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