(2017) Kek-W & Dave Kendall, Rebellion, £18.99 / Can$33.99 / US$24.99, hrdbk, 160pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08603-2
This is a spin-off from the Judge Dredd cannon that describes the origins of the Dark Judges (Judge Death, Fear, Fire and Mortis) in the British weekly 2000AD: Britain's longest running, extant SF/F comic.
Time for a quick re-cap. We first met Judge Death when he simply materialised in Mega City One and started killing people. It transpired that he was from a parallel Earth (called Deadworld) in a parallel dimension where the Dark Judges had determined that, as all crime was committed by the living, all of that parallel Earth's citizens must be killed for the planet to become lawful. Having killed everyone there, they started investigating parallel dimensions and so came across Earth and Mega City One that teemed with life and crime.
Death came to Earth but was defeated by Judges Dredd and Anderson. He subsequently returned (a number of times) with the other Dark Judges, perhaps most famously in Necropolis (1990) where the Dark Judges took over Mega City One and defeated Dredd's clone (who replaced the now ageing Dredd who took the 'long walk' into the Cursed Earth). It was only when the original Dredd returned as the Dead Man along with former – now slightly unhinged -- Chief Judge McGruder (who had much earlier herself had taken the 'long walk') that Mega City One was saved.
So now we have The Fall of Deadworld, which strictly speaking takes up the origins story days after Death and the Dark Judges were created and during the period they were taking over the planet.
This is not the first time we have had a Judge Death origins story. Back in 1990, following Judge Dredd: Necropolis in the weekly 2000AD, we had Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend in the monthlyJudge Dredd: Megazine. Whereas Judge Dredd: Necropolis and the previous Judge Death stories, let alone most of the ones since, had been dark (albeit very occasionally enlivened with a little black humour) Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend was largely a black comedy horror with the humour coming from Death himself who was narrating the story and so portraying himself with something of a positive spin. Conversely, The Fall of Deadworld is pure SF/F horror and a very bleak horror at that. In no small part, the conveying as to the terror the planet was in as the Dark Judges began to move across its face is conveyed by the Dave Kendall's absolutely stunning, full-colour artwork. This looks like it was created by a mix of ink line drawing and pastels. Topping this all off, the artwork is printed on good quality, gloss art paper: the production standard is high.
It should be noted that this is 'part one' of the story. But at its end Deadworld has clearly fallen. So what of part two? Well, the Dark Judges do not have dimensional jump technology; they need that for their appearance on Earth's Mega-City One. Yet they do get a visit from an alien exploration mission and that species does have the dimension jump technology on their own home world. So we do have an inkling as to what might follow.
The final pages of this volume feature four vignettes of each of the Dark Judges, revealing their internecine lack of trustworthiness of their other followers who are despatched so leaving them all alone.
This is simply a must for those into SF/F horror graphic novels. Dredd fans will know all about it and so if barely needs saying that they will devour this. Book II is yet (at the time of writing this review in 2019) to follow. Can't wait.
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