Sunday, 20 December 2015

Judge Dredd: Trifecta (2000AD #1803-1812) PART ONE

"It's a dead end. You stupid, fey, upright man crocodile!" - Dirty Frank

This is a story of all branches of the Law in Megacity One, an epic tale that ran in three series - Judge Dredd, Low Life and The Simping Detective - set in the aftermath of the massive series "Day of Chaos" that wiped out a big proportion of Megacity One.  Judge Dredd the fascist lawman surely needs no introduction.  I've covered the antics of Judge "Dirty Frank" the quirkiest member of the extremely quirky undercover "Wally Squad" from the "Low Life" series in a previous post.  The third character who I am not so familiar with is "Jack Point" the titular "Simping Detective", another Wally Squad Judge undercover as private investigator who likes to "Simp" as part of his diguise, the word meaning to dress like a fool or a simpleton in Megacity slang (and of course it's a play on the title of the famous Dennis Potter play "The Singing Detective").  The three stories start out seemingly seperately.  Judge Dredd dealing with a potential powergrab from within the system.  Dirty Frank waking up on board a space station to find himself a board member of an organisation called "Overdrive Inc" and Jack Point given a mysterious doll to keep safe.  Gradually the three strands begin to weave themselves together into an explosive finale.  The collection has the chapters in the order they should ideally be read in, meaning it jumps back and forth from colour to black and white and each series has it's own distinctive artwork. The credits are as follows: Judge Dredd is written by Al Ewing and the art is by Henry Flint.  The Simping Detective is written by Simon Spurrier and has art by Simon Colby and Low Life is written by Rob Williams and has art by D'Israeli. The front cover of the hardback collection is a lenticular one that shows Judge Dredd, and when tilted Dirty Frank and Jack Point appear as reflections in his visor, very cool. I'd also like to thank my very good friend Lucy McGough for lending this book to me.  Cheers Lucy!

Due to the packed nature of the collection I have split it into two posts.  This first one covers the most of the indivudual storylines - The Simping Detective's "Jokers To The Right"; Low Life's "Saudade" and Judge Dredd's "The Cold Deck". The second one will cover the rest of the individual storylines and the final merged story "Trifecta".
The story begins with a prologue chapter - "Bullet To King Four" - with Judge Dredd arriving at the Grand Hall Secure Wing.  When one of the Judges present questions the need for so much security Dredd orders him reassigned.

Dredd: "We're not taking any chances with the clone of War Marshal Kazan".

Dredd speaks to the prisoner, Kazan is a little old man with a chessboard.  Dredd asks him about someone called "Borishenko".  Kazan says he never met him and that as Dredd's enemy he had "little to look forward to but my death.  Hence my defection".

He became a valued itelligence asset but Dredd says he never told them anything about Borishenko they didn't already know.  Kazan says he has been confined for seven years, "my knowledge of underground guerilla factions is not what it was."  Dredd says he's "dead weight" then.  Kazan assumes Dredd has lobbied to have him executed.

Dredd: "I've tabled it.  The sooner you're gone the better I'll like it.  Unfortunately we've other fish to fry."

Kazan says he has heard of the Council changes and maybe his gift for strategy can be useful to Dredd still.
Mega-City Justice business.
At an Interim Council Meeting several hours earlier, the assembled Judges discuss Dredd's petition to have Kazan, who let them down, executed.  Dredd is ordered to meet him again by the acting Chief Judge Hershey and once she has an updated report she'll make a decision.,

They then move onto plans to merge all the seperate Judge divisions into larger entities.  There will be a new Undercover division uniting the Wally Squad, PSU, SJS and Black Ops, and headed by someone called Bachmann.  Dredd is not happy about this, "it's like putting a cockroach in charge of the exterminators".  But the Acting Chief says he has no proof.  She says the Chief Judge position is open still if he wants it, but if he doesn't want to burdens of Council membership, he doesn't get to make decisions.

Back with Kazan, he sets up the chessboard but his comment to Dredd, "perhaps you cannot see the real game at all" causes Dredd to shoot the chessboard to pieces.  Dredd then leaves and gets a strange message over his radio from "a little glowing friend".  Dredd seems to recognise who it is and the voice says, "let's you and I sit down and have a nice chat."
Mr. Mystery contacts Dredd.
We then join Jack Point, somewhat hungover.  In his best Raymond Chandler style he introduces himself as being "all about the funny" and that in "a city like the Big Meg, crazy's a kind of camouflage".  He goes outside and bumps into a hugely fat woman, who says she's supposed to give something to a "badgepoint, a prophet of Megatopia".  Jack is confused and when the woman thinks he is signalling someone she gets angry and attacks him.

They fight and Jack calls his backup, an alienform velociraptor called "Larf".  The woman is subdued and as she lies dying she addresses him as "Judge Point".  She hands him a small doll in the shape of a jester and she pleads, "please! Take it!  The Broomcupboard bitch wants it".  She tells him that someone made her steal it. Then she dies and under her torn clothes is revealed a Judge's badge.  Jack takes the doll as someone spies on him from afar and thinks:

Jack: "This job? You weren't already a fool, youda quit years ago."
Jack Point meets the disguised Folger.
Then the action cuts to Dirty Frank dreaming he is back working the streets.  He is woken up by a robot butler.  He gets out of bed confused and walks to the window to find he is on a moonbase. "Oh.  Well that explains it" he says to himself.

The butler returns telling him "they are waiting for you" and Frank puts on a suit.  He goes into the boardroom and the robot introduces him as the newest boardmember of Overdrive Inc, "as per the terms of his recent contribution."  When a somewhat disbelieving boardmember questions this and asks Frank his net worth, Frank says "Dirty Frank has teddy."
Dirty Frank somewhat out of his depth.
The robot directs everyone to check their tablets for details on Franks contribution and they are all impressed.  He comes and sits at the table and it takes off to another location with everyone sat round it.  As they travel, Frank finds a large lump on the back of his head.  They stop at a new location and are introduced to the CEO of Overdrive Inc, "Mr. Overdrive" a humanoid shark.

Frank: "Dirty Frank is genuinely scared now".

Back with Jack Point he returns to his office, depressed that he killed a fellow Judge he starts to drown his sorrows.  He's called by his local Sector Chief who calls him and "abomination and a travesty" and that he has something he wants - the doll.  The Judge has taken something of Jack's in retaliation.  And shows him a tied up fellow PI called DeMarco, "kinda my girlfriend" thinks Jack.

He agrees to trade the doll for her safety and goes to where she is being held.  He hands over the doll, but the Judge betrays him and decides to kill them both.  But DeMarco shoots him with a laser hidden under her tongue and kills him.  Freed, she departs telling Jack to throw the book at him.
DeMarco is grateful for her rescue.
Jack admits to himself he has no idea what's going on.  A jester doll, a fat chick "and a buncha radrooks talkin' religious."  He thinks it's a setup and is rewarded by a gang of armed religious fanatics turning up saying "Hallelujah" and they detain Jack. "Aw hell" he grumbles to himself.

Dredd meanwhile is out doing his job, but is distracted.  A Judge called Buell comes along and informs him that the acting Wally Squad head Folger has been found dead in a "chem pit".  Forensics say she had "deep tissue body alteration" so she was undercover but shouldn't have been, she was strictly admin only.

As Dredd deals with more perps, Buell asks if he wants the "worse news".  Before she died, Folger withdrew some "gold clearance file" data.  It's a non-copy file, when it's moved it's gone until it's put back.  Buell says he is reluctant to report it up the chain of command because it means it will end up with Bachmann.
Bachmann!  *shakes fist*
She'll use it as an excuse for a power grab, consolidating the Wally Squad, SJS and PSU under her purview as well as Black Ops.

Buell: "Best case scenario?  Give it five years we're looking at a new Chief Judge who makes Sinfield look like... well, like you... and that's if she wants to play nice."

As he and Dredd talk, we see a bald Judge telepathically monitoring them, "he still thinks we don't know" she says.  Bachmann who is with her smiles, "does he? Good. Very good."

We return to Jack Point. The fanatics point guns at him and cry "Crimes against God! Righteous execution!"  Jack takes off his clown nose and tosses it at them, it explodes and allows him to make a getaway.  He returns to his office and finds his current status is "Rogue.  Detain on sight".  He laughs almost hysterically, "Hahahahahahahaha!  I'm out. I'm out.  I'm out!".

He goes to see a woman called Anne, saying he needs help.  She says the underworld is buzzing, "Stolen artefact.  Collectors offering biiiiig cred".  He shows her the doll and she examines it, while he he asks for a face changing machine, some cash, two weeks in a sleep pod and a route offworld.
Jack Point on the run.
She gives him back the doll saying it's "the real deal".  Only one like it in the world.  She then asks over the intercom if they can help him, but a silky voice says no.  So she shows Jack out, but shakes his hand.  Outside he finds a small, folded piece of paper in his hand, the note says the "helmets" will come for him and to sell the artefact to the buyer whose number is given.

Over to Dirty Frank.  Mr. Overdrive tells the board members he could "rip them to shreds with my awesome teeth" but he won't because he values them.  He then speaks directly to Dirty Frank and a man called "Lom" saying he has not "had the chance to intimidate either of you" before.

He then plays a short film which shows how he made his billions, by patenting the phrase "Don't be a shark, be a great, great white shark" before having his DNA bonded to a real great white shark.  He then went to Luna- 1 and bought all the struggling businesses there and asset stripped them.
Frank is startled.
Dirty Frank manages to get away while this is going on.  Down the corridor he is confronted by a guard with a crocodile head.  He cowers in fright but the crocodile man asks if he has come to check the new arrivals?  Frank blusters that he has and is taken to the teleporter. There are many people there, "illegal arrivals not being processes by Luna-1 customs" muses Frank.

He asks for access to a com unit and accesses his Judge file which says he has no current case on the go.  Bewildered Frank doesn't understand why he is there if not on Judge business.  Then "Lom" grabs him saying how stupid he is for calling up the Judge computer and he's blowing three years of undercover work in Overdrive Inc.  Mr. Overdrive appears and confronts them both saying he knows Lom is Wally Squad and blows Lom's brains out.
Tough luck "Lom".
Now with Judge Dredd, he is with a crippled Judge called Roffman who is having his lower body repaired.  He is a "valued strategic resource" so was put at the head of the queue for body repair.  Dredd muses on the hundreds, thousands rotting in med bays because they weren't considered useful.

They discuss Folger's death, the transponder she had fitted wasn't standard issue anymore because she had moved to admin.  They figure out when she was dumped, but lack a "who" and "why".  Dredd gets impatient and says if Roffman can't find the perp "he'll find someone who can".

Roffman, using the time the transponder activated tracks a robot truck passing by the pit at the time of the dump.  He accesses it's audio memory and gets a fragment of speech, local and which Dredd thinks he has heard before.  "Patois indicates the south-west part of the sector" says Dredd.  Roffman says give him an hour and he can come out with a programme that'll match the voiceprint next time the person opens his mouth.

Dredd gives him fifteen minutes to do it. We cut to the telepath with Bachmann still monitoring them.  She wants access to Dredd's mind but his "mental defences are up".
Bachmann: "No, of course they are.  The man's got a mind like a clenched fist.  I doubt he relaxes to pee."
The file is sold on as Dredd listens.
Dredd is out on his bike when Roffman calls him saying he matched the print and taps into "a robo-janitor at the No-Tell motel opposite Gavin Leahy block. Third floor".  Dredd moves out and gets to the building.  The voice Roffman matched is engaged in a deal for the "Gold Clearence File".  It is being bought for five million creds.  Dredd waits outside the room but for some reason holds back until the file has been sold and moved elsewhere, then the buyer points a gun at the mystery person who sold it to him and Bachmann listening in is pleased the file has been sold.

Roffman: "I don't believe this!  Dredd what in Grudd's name were you waiting for-"

Dredd: "That'll do Roffman.  I'm going in."

Dredd busts in and finds Jack Point as the seller.  He threatens the buyer with getting rough if he doesn't tell him where the file is going and tells Jack:

Dredd: "Charge is treason against Mega-City One.  Solicitation and sale of classified information... and murder of Acting Wally Squad Chief Folger."
Dredd crashes the deal.
While Dredd is distracted by his radio, Jack and the buyer decide to create a distraction and one leaps out of the east window, the other out of the west one.  Dredd decides to chase the buyer, and calls in units to apprehend Jack and if he won't come quietly, they can kill him.

Jack is confident he can't be found on "my streets".  Then he has a strange vision of a tea cup.  "What the hell's wrong with my brain?" he mumbles.  Then he is confronted by another of the religious nutters who has a gun trained on him. "The Urban Parachete demands sacrifice" he says.

Before he can kill Jack, he activates his whoopee cushion which calls Larf who attacks the armed man.  Jack makes his getaway and decides to stop Simping.  Wondering who can help him, he suddenly is confronted by a huge sign for "The Church Of Simpology".  He grins and puts his red nose back on.

Meanwhile on the moon, Mr. Overdrive says he values loyalty and undercover Wally Squad activity is definitely disloyal, hence the need for disciplinatory murder.  Frank has a flash vision of someone sipping tea from a teacup.  "Are you listening to me?" shouts Mr. Overdrive.

Frank: "Sorry.  Dirty Frank drifted off for a bit due to blind panic.  Where were we?"

Overdrive asks him if he should accept Justice Department infiltration at "such a key point of The Project?"  Dirty Frank starts chanting "All hail The Project" and the rest of the board members who have wandered up to see what's going on join in.
Mr. Overdrive shows off his new city.
Mr. Overdrive says he likes the cut of Dirty Frank's jib and says because he didn't object to him killing Lom, he can't be Wally Squad as well.  Not that he thought he was, he has a partner high up in the Justice Department and Dirty Frank was checked out thoroughly.  He takes him to a window and shows him The Project.  It is a city.  All the people illegally transported in are working on it.

Frank: "You're building Luna-2 in a giant moon crater and no one knows about it."

Mr. Overdrive tells FRank it's a "mega-city for this generation" engineered purely for profit.  Mr. Overdrive sheds a tear as speaks of this:

Frank: "And lo.  Even great white sharks shall weep.  Which is a top name for a future Frank power ballads album."

Mr. Overdrive thanks him saying he is moved and says he was right to accept Franks huge donation, for "revolution" doesn't come cheap.

Then someone drops some sort of memory device into Mr.Ovedrive's hand and something "is confirmed from Mega-City One".  The person handing it over says they successfully purchase "the list".  Mr. Overdrive says there is "blood in the business waters".  Frank asks how much.  "Lots" responds Mr. Overdrive:

Mr. Overdrive: "Because Overdrive Inc has just successfully purchased the true identities of every single Justice Department Wally Squad operative and International Secret Agent".
Dirty Frank is determined to save his fellow Judges.
Left alone, Frank realises this is why he was placed on the moonbase with a cast iron backstory.  Because the company are planning the murders of his fellow undercover cohorts.  He tries to call the Justice Department, but the comms are jammed "for the foreseeable future."  Another board member confronts him saying he suspected Frank of something.  Frank muffles him and tells the crocodile guard to eat him.

Frank: "This is how boardroom takeovers are done, yes?"

Back with Dredd he has caught the files buyer and he is interogating him about who he passed it onto.  The perp manages to blurt out it's "the corporate guy from the vids?  You know the guy - he's got a face like..."  Then Bachmann orders a sniper to fire a blast from a "nightmare gun" at him.  The perp sees Dredd transform into something monstrous from his childhood nightmares and dies of a fear induced heart attack.
The Nightmare Gun in action.
Grimly Dredd realises that one of the organisations who use such a gun is the Justice Department.  He calls Rothman to tell him he is going after Jack, but it is Bachmann who replies.  She says Rothman passed on details of the case to her, and she's passed it onto the Chief Judge.

Bachmann: "She's not best pleased.  In fact we'd like you to explain the matter with you in some depth.  Bring your badge.  We may be needing it."
On the moonbase, Frank tries feeding the board member to the crocodile guard, but his gag reflex prevents this, so he ties him up and puts him in an airlock.  "Truly the ruthless business world is a ruthless... business" thinks Frank.  Frank asks the guard where Mr. Overdrive has gone and is told he is off inspecting his new statue and palace in the new city.

Suddenly the alarms go off and the guard comments he has new orders that Frank is to be "captured or shot on sight."  The man in the airlock was able to use a local comm unit to reveal Frank's duplicity.  Frank speeds off as the rest of the guards come after him shooting.
Frank goes space walking.
He burst through a hole in the side of the building and into the outside.  He is coated in a thin plastic space suit which will allow him to "drift pleasantly to the Luna-2 construction site".  As he floats over to it the guards fire cannons at him.  The lump on the back of his head is itching and as he scratches it he gets a flash of a man saying he has a job for Frank.

Frank: "Whoever that is.  Dirty Frank would like to give him a right slap."

He reaches the Luna-2 site and floats down onto a building.  He confirms to himself he needs to find the disc and destroy it, "easy peasy".  As he clambers into one of the buildings though he is greeted by a motley array of alien looking guards and captured.

We return to Jack Point, who has arrived at The Church of Simpology, an obvious parody of the "Church" of Scientology.  He goes to register with a donation and submits to a security check where they find a "bugbot" in one of his teeth which they pull out.  Jack has no idea how it got there.  They believe him and welcome him into the Church.
Mr. Turner - The Archmime.
He is led deeper into the building and is told the mindreader detected he is filthy rich.  So he is being taken to meet "The Archmine", Mr. Turner.  Who turns out to be a man in a tall hat with an extra set of robot arms.  He mimes his speech and the hat translates and speaks it.  He knows all about Jack's woes as the "psi-sweep was remarkably revealing".  Left alone, Jack notes all the drugs and guns Mr. Turner has.

Mr. Turner: "Let's not Drokk around Jack.  My sleazy little cult exists primarly to liberate creds from rich retards, and I'd feel awful about that... if the repugnant skin wastes didn't wind up happier, calmer and more fulfilled in the bargain."

He says he is cynical, but who is Jack to judge, joining a Church just to get a ticket off-world.  And by funny coincidence that ticket will cost five million creds, "ha ha ha" he says.
Tough times for Acting Chief Judge Hershey.
The Acting Chief Judge Hershey is sat in a budget meeting where nationalising the collapsed banks is being suggested.  She flashes back to some prior events about finding a special boy while her mind wanders. Then she snaps back to reality to be told the city is "running on fumes".  She realises Mega-City One is in no position now to demand money from other cities.  It is dying "and she was stuck haggling over a defibrillator".
Dredd is shown in, he passes a Judge Maitland who greets him then has a flashback to having found an overspend in the Black Ops department and unexplained income of a private firm of the exact amount.  She is reporting it to a mystery person drinking tea and seems to have been made to forget it as she shakes her head and wonders if she dreamt it.

Judge Hershey is pissed at Dredd for allowing the list of Wally Squad operatives out into the wild.  She tells him she remembers something he told her when she was eighteen:

Hershey: "I remember you saying the Chief Judge must be pure. Above corruption, and I remember thinking... really?"

She says when you take on the job you quickly become compromised by the deals you need to make.  Also that Kazan's execution has been rejected thanks to Bachmann.

Hershey says Bachmann has been useful to her, "her and her 'specials' - her little psi-talents".  Dredd asks if she ever suspected her.  Hershey says there was nothing to suspect.  Bachmann might be powermad but she has never shown any evidence of illegality and Dredd hasn't been able to provide proof to the contrary.
Hershey is pissed at Dredd.
Hershey says she gave her a council seat to force her into the light.  Now due to Dredd and Buell's actions "she has all the ammuntion she needs."  She is aggrieved that Dredd didn't trust her, she could have forgiven him if he had managed to retrieve the list but he let it slip through his fingers in a mistake even a rookie wouldn't have made... why?  She asks him is he knew it was the Wally Squad list when he let it go.

Dredd: "I won't dignify that with a reply Chief Judge".

She dismisses him "for now".  We then cut to Bachmann who says a "nice juicy tragedy" blamed on Dredd and Buell will allow her to restock the Wally Squad with more suitable people.  She then gives the order to her Black Ops Judges:

Bachmann: "Give the word to all operatives - total annihilation.  I want every name on that list dead.  In less than fifteen minutes the Wally Squad as we know it will no longer exist!"
Dun Dun Duuhh!
And I'll leave Part One on that cliffhanger for now.  What good stuff this is.  The art is remarkably good, especially Rob Williams and D'Israeli's Dirty Frank who has to be one of the greatest recentish creations to come out of 2000AD, and I love the depiction of Mr. Overdrive and their interactions as well.  The Simping Detective parts are as gritty as they need to be and there is an incredibly effective use of small splashes of colour to enhance important details here and there and finally it's good to see Judge Dredd hasn't changed since I last read him, a man with a strict code but some sympathetic qualities as well and an uncanny ability as a detective to use the right resources avaliable and put together clues that other might miss, we know he has a plan it's just a matter of waiting to see how it's going to play out.  The stories are still unwinding separately ready for the final uniting of the three protagonists in "Trifecta" so join me in a few days for the concluding part of this epic crime tale.


  1. You're welcome :-)

    I think Borishenko was the mastermind behind Chaos Day, which killed hundreds of millions of Mega-Citizens with a virus that made them all very angry.

    I also think that Jack transferred his sublingual laser to Galen when he snogged her.

    When Dredd walks in on Roffman he's reading a pamphlet entitled Your New Sphincter and You :-D

    Strictly speaking, Frank's contribution should have been an 'investment', not a 'donation'. Hardbitten capitalists don't do donations. (Unless it's to charity. And Mr Overdrive doesn't look like he's running a charity.)

    The 'crocodile guard' is a Klegg. A Klegg is also what that guy has an hallucination of, from the time when Chief Judge Cal used them as his shock troops (very early on in Dredd continuity).

    This story seriously strained Dredd and Hershey's relationship, but I think they were reconciled to some extent after Dredd and Dirty Frank saved Hershey and the city during the invasion of ex-Judges from Enceladus. IYSWIM.

  2. A virus that made them all very angry, hah! Like that description :D I wish I had the cash to catch up on all the Dredd I have missed, maybe my new year aim should be to start buying the collected volumes...

    See this book is so packed, I still missed some details like Jack passing his laser and the proper name of the Klegg.

    I'm glad Dredd and Hershey are on better terms, I can understand why she was so pissed at him even if he couldn't tell her what he was up to because of Bachmann's telepaths.

    I hope another Dirty Frank collection comes out soon. He's quickly become one of my favourite 2000AD characters and that's a packed field to choose from!

  3. I've got a hardback of some Jack Point stories if you'd like to borrow it.

  4. Hmmm... let me think... YES PLEASE! :D

  5. Wicked. I'll scrape some pennies together and get it off to you :-)

  6. No, you don't need to send it, I'll come and visit and I'll bring those Mark Kermode books with me. If you can hang on until February which is after my mums birthday I don't have to spend money on anyone until Mother's Day after that so I shall have some coins to spare.

  7. what an incredibly cool looking series, and yay for more dirty frank!

  8. And part two is full of even more cool! :D