Of all of Judge Dredd's many enemies, the Dark Judges and their leader Judge Death in particular, have to be the most popular and enduring. No matter how often they are defeated and imprisoned, they'll always find a way out to continue judging the living merely for the crime of being alive. Their warped thinking is that because all crime is committed by the living, life itself must be a crime. They quickly wiped out the population of their own Earth and via reality shifting shenanigans, came across to Dredd's Earth to continue their mission. This storyline focuses on Judge Death, the only one of the four Dark Judges to escape in a previous storyline, and his road trip across the Cursed Earth (the radiactive wasteland outside of Megacity One) as he considers how to enact a quantity over quality policy of judgement. Normally he likes to do his killing up close and personal, pushing his hand into a person's chest and squeezing their heart until they die. But feeling that judging a whole world alone might be a bit beyond him, he starts to search for weapons of mass destruction to aid him in his task. This storyline also gives us a peek into his mind as he interacts with the various humans he meets along the way. The story is penned by veteran 2000AD scribe John Wagner and the art is by Frazer Irving whose thick, black linework gives it a medieval woodcut look that befits the somewhat dark subject matter in hand.
A small farmhouse in the Cursed Earth, a family working outside it. A rangy figure comes into view. It is Judge Death and "I mean you no harm". However the woman points a shotgun at him while the old man says "It's the Devil Incarnate" and the two young boys cower behind them. The woman tells Judge Death to get lost or she'll cut him down where he stands. Judge Death shrugs and says:
Judge Death: "I can ssee I am not wanted. Sso be it. I havve never been one to impossse myselff. What happened to the old tradition of welcoming ssstrangers."
The woman says he is "too damn strange" for her liking so he leaves, bidding her a "good day" as he does so. But he lurks close by waiting for nightfall as he needs to be careful out here, he has no way of repairing damage to his body.
|Not even children are safe from Judgement.|
He returns to the farmhouse and lures the woman out to the barn where he impales her on a pitchfork and shoots the old man with her shotgun. She yells at the children to run before Judge Death kills her via a squeeze to the heart. The boys run, but Judge Death has found the quad bike and is able to catch the older one and runs him through with the pitchfork. The younger one hides in the cornfield until Judge Death gives up looking for him and moves on.
Next day his father, Hocus Ritter, returns home to find his family killed apart from Morty who he holds tight when he finds him alive. He says Morty can tell him all about what happened once they have buried the others.
Biking across the Cursed Earth, Judge Death comes across some circled wagons and kills everyone there. He makes use of the gun, but:
Judge Death: "Where possible I have come to prefer passing sentence face-to-face. Up close and personal. Justice with a smile".
Next day he comes across a lone dwelling, feeling vaguely unsatified by the previous nights judging. There is a man sitting outside the house drinking tea. He is blind and invites Judge Death to sit down and have a chat and a cuppa.
|The friendship of the blind.|
The blind man seems unfazed by what Judge Death is saying, and just makes polite interjections every now and then. Three men walk past and shout at him that Judge Death "doesn't look right". Judge Death shoots two of them, the other flees. The blind man says he should be careful with the gun, "somebody could get hurt."
Judge Death reiterates his philosophy that crime is committed by choice, therefore choice is a crime. "Simple logic. Yet so few of you seem to grasssp it" he hisses. The blind man comments that "you sure have a lot on your mind stranger".
|Truly an evil book!|
He leaves Judge Death to read in peace. Outside the friends of the two men Judge Death gunned down have arrived looking for revenge. Judge Death meanwhile has found a book called "Great Mass Exterminations".
Judge Death: "As I absorbed the words of the ancients, my course of action became clear. I must complete the task I had begun - the annihilation of the human race. Satisfying as individual executions may be, I had to be prepared to make sacrifices. Sheer weight of numbers demanded I seek a more comprehensive solution".
The gang outside seal the mine up with a huge rock, but Judge Death tosses it aside easily and kills several of them, he allows the rest to flee because he will kill them later instead when he enacts his new plan.
|You shall be Judged!|
Judge Death: "And I took him down and laid him out in the place that he had loved. Among the words of the ancients. He had been useful. He deserved no less. And they say I don't have a heart".
Still following his trail of death is Hocus Ritter. He finds one settlement in which only some nuns survived and leaves his son with them to continue his quest for vengeance. Meanwhile, Judge Death's bike has broken down, but he is almost immediately picked up by a kill crazy couple, the female "Nirvana" and male "Slide". They shoot people as they drive past and Judge Death thinks, "sinners, perhaps. But their hearts were in the right place."
|"Jay" makes some new friends.|
Judge Death: "I fffear I'm well passt that ssstage, my dear. Ssstill. Iff we're talking fffull penetration..."
I can't believe they got away with that joke! Anyway, then he goes and kills Slide and takes all their weapons and the car and sets off again, looking for clues to something to help him wipe humanity out.
After a couple of days and nights travelling he finds himself in "a veritable den of iniquity", Las Vegas. Unable to control himself he passes judgement on a man playing the slots. He is arrested by a pair of Judges and allows himself to be taken, thinking he'll get closer to the seat of power that way and maybe get some information on tracking down some W.M.Ds.
|"Spin, spin, spin the Wheel Of Justice. See how fast the bastard turns!"|
There he tells Judge Death that sometime ago a Judge called Dredd came through the town and put "The League Against Gambling" in charge. So they bided their time and struck back and ran the "goody-goods" out of time bar one, the former Chief Judge Rudy who is just a head on a small dog's body. Rudy is somewhat surly and is on the receiving end of a few zaps from a device the Chief Judge has. Asked what he wants, Judge Death says he is after W.M.Ds to end the human race.
Not-at-all put off by this answer, the Chief Judge says he can help but only if he gets some quid pro quo. If he agrees to a ten night run fighting in the arena as "The Dark Destroyer" with people paying 10,000 creds to fight him for the chance of one million if they defeat him, he'll help him out. Judge Death grits his teeth, thinks of his mission and agrees.
|The "Dark Destroyer."|
He knows where he can find W.M.Ds. But first he wants Judge Dredd's assurance he'll wipe the whole of Vegas off the map with them, Judge Death agrees so Rudy shows him his information. He taped a council meeting where the Chief Judge states they will string "the Dark Destroyer" along for another ten night run then kill him, because even he won't be able to withstand twenty guns. This enrages Judge Death and as Rudy tries to stop him, he marches to the Council Chamber killing everyone in his path, "sometimes the effrontery of sinners would try the patience of a saint - and mercy knows I am no saint".
|Immortal but not invulnerable.|
They sneak up on a nurse out with an old male patient, Judge Death takes control of the nurse and goes and buys a Judge Death cosplay outfit the merchandisers are stocking due to his popularity. Then he takes the old man back to the hospital and into the pathology lab, dresses him in the outfit, kills him and uses the "dead fluids" to soak the body and turn it into a vessel for him. He leaves the nurse and takes control of it, and kills her. Rudy is unsure he should be helping him now, "I was a good guy once" he says.
Judge Death: "I prefer you consssumed with hatred and bitterness. Ifff you know what'sss good for you, keep it that way."
Back with Hocus Ritter, his horse collapses with exhaustion but he soon comes across another settlement decimated by Judge Death. When they hear of his mission of vengeance they give him a car and he keeps following the trail of the dead.
|Rudy shows him the silo.|
The General is old, wheelchairbound and practically senile. When he admits during a rant that he is the only human left in charge, Judge Death possesses him. He orders the robots to take Judge Death to the weapons and obey his every order, but first they need to leave them alone. He relaxes his hold on the confused General and then strangles him. Afraid, Rudy tries to sneak off, but Judge Death says he hasn't had his reward yet. Then he goes with Rudy to inspect the missiles, ready for firing in forty-five minutes.
Ritter has made it to Vegas, but when he sees someone dressed as Judge Death he attacks him mistaking him for the real thing. Then he sees more and attacks them too. Two Vegas Judges arrest him and when he realises his mistake he apologises, but it falls on deaf ears and they drag him off to the Hall of Justice for sentencing.
|Ritter arrives in Vegas.|
Rudy is tied to the missile aimed at Las Vegas so he can see the destruction "firssst-hand!" Then Judge Death launches all the missiles. In Megacity One interceptor missiles are dispatched to deal with them. Meanwhile in the unsuspecting Las Vegas, Ritter's punishment is the electric chair. As they start to fry him, he calls for his horse, while Rudy and the missile he is strapped to hit Las Vegas wiping out everyone in a mushroom cloud of death. But Ritter and his horse's spirits are suffused in a heavenly light much to his confusion.
Judge Death: "Ssstill I never exxpected it to be an inssstant sssolution. No victory worth havving comess eassy".
However in retaliation, Megacity One launch a couple of missiles of their own at the base and it is blown to bits, Judge Death along with it, "Fools! You only postpone judgement. I shall return!" vows his disembodied spirit.
|Ritter's revenge after death.|
Ritter: "Not enough! Nothin' can ever repay you for the hurt you handed out!"
They fight and Ritter calls for help and a whirlpool of angry souls appears and grabs ahold of Judge Death. "This cannot be -! Thisss iss my domain! I hold power here" he cries. But he can't stop himself being dragged down by the "lost souls cryin' out for retribution! Such power is greater than you!" says Ritter.
Ritter: "Burn Devil Judge. Burn in the pits of Hell!"
And Judge Dredd disappears, hellbound, with one final "it cannot be!" And then he is gone and the storyline comes to a close.
|The end of Judge Death...? (nah)|