Let's finish out this month of 2000AD flavoured goodness with another of my favourite characters, Dirty Frank. Frank is a Judge who works in the "Wally Squad", the undercover Judges of the Megacity One judicial system. Frank is also severely mentally ill, he refers to himself in the third person and often sees visions and hears voices, and yet he's one of the best and most incorruptible Judges there is. In the previous Low Life arc - Hostile Takeover - that incorruptabiity was tested when he discovered that most of his fellow Wally Squad were in bed with the organised crime bosses of the area of the city the operated in, The Low Life. As the affair unravelled, another Wally Squad Judge Aimme Nixon, a somewhat troubled and conflicted woman was taken by the yakuza of Hondo Cit and it very much looked like she had handed the yakuza the Low Life on a plate as the rest of Frank's former friends and colleagues were either arrested because of his investigation or killed as the yakuza took over ousting the former crime bosses with some ruthlessness. The storyline ended with Frank's career as a Judge hanging in the balance as the panel of Judges reviewing the events decide what to do with him now the Wally Squad has become so utterly compromised. This story picks up from there as Frank makes the titular deal to keep his job if he alone can bring Aimee Nixon back from Hondo Cit a mission that is as surely as suicidal as take the "Long Walk". This storyline is collected in Megacity Undercover Vol. 3.
Just a quick note, throughout this story Frank is being followed by a persistant hallucination of a Judge with "SJS" (Special Judicial Squad) on his helmet. They are the internal investigations department of the Judge system and you can find out more about them here. Anyway, let's begin. Frank is sleeping and suffering a nightmare which ends with him surrounded by samurai and a man say "We have taken everything from you... your home... your friends...your life. Come. Take it all back". But all Frank can say is "I can't.. I'm scared" and the man stabs him while Dredd says to him "because it's not death... is it Frank?" and Frank smashes his way out of the sleeping tube he's in.
We then cut to Frank, clean and tidy in his Judges uniform listening to the assessment and judgement being passed upon him. He is told that although his achievements in a highly dangerous arena are impressive, his "eccentricities" had made his superiors think it was time to end his tenure as an active Judge in the past and only the intervention of his Wally Squad handler had saved him. However with his handler revealed as corrupt during the yakuza takeover of the Low Life now it isn't the finest endorsment.
|The Long Walk?|
Frank: "Dirty Frank - ahem - Judge Frank believes his actions as a Judge should speak for Dirty Frank."
Judgement is then passed. He will not be returned to undercover work, a "clean slate" is needed in the Low Life. And as his more "esoteric character character traits" can't be ignored and he is found to no longer be "mentally competant to hold the badge." His tenure as a Judge is now over and he has the option of taking the "Long Walk" if he wishes. Frank intially does decide to do that and as he walks towards the gate leading out to the Cursed Earth, he stops right on the edge, turns and says "Dirty Frank has a deal for you".
We rejoin Dirty Frank sitting on a commercial flight to Japan's Hodo City aimably telling a terrified woman his theories about destiny and death and what might be the final thoughts of everyone if the plan crashed or extra-dimensional zombies ran amok inside, before thoughtfully confessing "Dirty Frank has never had sex." As the plane reaches Hondo Cit we get a flashback to the deal he offered.
|Arriving in Hondo-City, Japan.|
He leaves the airport and is distracted by his first vision of the SJS Judge and a hover car runs him down. "This is all mildly disappointing" he thinks to himself as he lies in a pool of blood. He sees angels in the sky and is about to "ascend" when a large man grabs him and a woman tells him to get Frank in the roadster before the Judges get there. Frank is chucked in the boot and as Frank contemplates the pain he feels in his legs and abdomen they drive off and he finally passes out.
|Rescued by Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto.|
Finally he wakes properly to find his shattered legs have been repaired and he is sporting bionic leg braces. He stands and follows the woman out of the recovery room and she says that the yakuza have infiltrated every part of Hondo Cit life including the Judges. If the ones at the airport had got to him he'd be dead by now. They new he was coming and the hit-and-run was an assassination attempt. She introduces herself as Yukiji:
Yukiji: "There is not a walk of life in this city where someone is not 'one of theirs'. No one can be trusted. My name is Yukiji. Ex Hondo-City Wally Squad. The yakuza tried to murder you with a drunk cab driver, Judge Frank. They didn't even bother sending a hitman. What do you intend to do about it?"
When he explains why he is here, she can't believe that he is alone. That they have sent just "one pungent, overweight, slow, mentally ill, one-eyed, pungent..." She says that in Japanese, Frank imagines that the word she said twice was "handsome".
|Yukiji lays it all out.|
We then see that their wrestling is being projected into huge kaiji monsters via the balls attached to them using futuristic motion capture. Yukiji then tells Frank a familiar story. Her Wally Squad was infiltrated and taken over, honest Judges were betrayed and murdered, so she and her friends deserted and went underground in order to survive.
Yukiji: "The yakuza could not be fought. They were simply everywhere. They are this society. We are no longer Judges. We are criminals to be shot on sight. We are a resistance. And a pitiful one at that."
They here Mega-City One was sending a Wally Squad Judge to infiltrate the operation and they expected a "Super Judge". They knew he would be targeted the moment he arrived in Hondo, so they risked their lives to save what turned out to be a "useless, pathetic old fool." He must prove he is worthy of their help or there'll be one more dead Judge on the streets of Hondo. At that, Frank knocks down his opponent then waves his bum at him saying he's "hitting him with my giant atomic lizard tail".
|This is awesome. I want this to be real.|
Kadokawa: "You are still wearing the motion-capture balls, you fool! The amorphous and gooey giant monster mimics your movements!"
Frank: "How often have we all heard that sentence before?"
Kadokawa threatens Dirty Frank saying he'll track down and kill Frank's family, even relatives he didn't know he had. So Frank drops him and demands to know who headed up the yakuza invasion of Mega-City One's Low Life saying he'll use Kadokawa as a "kaiju monster enema" if he doesn't 'fess up where he is.
Kadokawa tells him it's a mansion called "The Espers" in Otomo province. Dirty Frank thanks him, the shoves him up the monster's bottom anyway for threatening his Uncle Heinrich. Then the monster is fired on and lots more sumo wrestlers with their own monsters come chasing after him. Frank runs, "Dirty Frank robo-legs don't fail him now!" As he runs the SJS Judge tells him he can't run forever, sooner or later he's going to have to do "the deal."
We then join Frank with Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto, the huge guy who bunged him in the boot of the hovercar, buying tickets for Otomo province. Yukiji is somewhat annoyed with Frank's rather direct approach to gathering information as well as grudgingly congratulating him on his swift grasp of Japanese. Frank says, "Dirty Frank rides the daffodil ointment with great aplomb".
Yukiji: "You play the insane buffoon very well so others underestimate you. It's an excellent Wally Squad tactic. I respect that. But you can still be hugely stupid it seems."
She tells him that she and Mini-Inamoto are risking their lives for him, then gets annoyed that Frank doesn't seem to be listening. Actually he is seeing the SJS Judge again and it's distracting him. She asks if when he boarded the flight to Hondo did he honestly expect to survive. "Good question" responds Frank.
They arrive and recon the mansion, it is heavily guarded. Yukiji asks Frank if the person he is after is worth it even though he must know she is dead "in one form or another." Frank says they came to his home, killed his friends and "took away the only thing Dirty Frank knew or could ever be good at." Mini-Inamoto finally speaks, saying Frank is there for revenge.
|Frank with a hard choice to make.|
SJS Judge: "Corrupt Judges. Turncoat Judges. Wally Squad pretending to be something they're not. Breathing lies like air. There's no idealists in this world. Not right or wrong. Just what you are willing to give up to get what you want."
The SJS Judge goes on to tell him to walk up to the gate and tell them where the other two are, it'll be the only way he gets past the gaurd. Frank takes the "Long Walk" to the front and tells them he has something important to tell them. But instead of giving up the two ex-Judges he says it's about Aimee Nixon.
Inside the mansion, while several guns are pointed at him, Aimee says it's good to see Frank again. The man in charge is Masahisa Yamaguchi, the man in charge of the Mega-City One Low Life, "albeit from a considerable distance." Masahisa says how did he find them and what is he doing to Aimee. She doesn't answer right away until a large man holds a knife to her throat.
She then spins an epic yarn about Frank being the Low Life's secret crime boss. Masahisa tells the man to let Aimee go and the guards to put their guns down, he says any Mega-City One operation would have to be cleared with the Hondo Judges and as they aren't aware of the reasons Frank is here, Aimee might be telling the truth. She goes on to say that Frank took her under his wing when she joined saying anger could be her cover like madness was for him.
|Aimee bluffs on a lethal hand.|
The large man, Daichi, demands to know why she didn't tell them before, she had said that she was the "big man". Aimee yells at him that she gave them the Low Life didn't she? She sold them every connection they had. Masahisa tells them to stop:
Masahisa: "Aimee Nixon has been an exemplary pragmatic and driven ally... after our intial somewhat unpleasant disagreement on terms. Her knowledge of the inner workings of the Low Life has been vital to our operations in Mega-City One."
He says it is an intriguing story, then shoots Frank in the leg. Aimee babbles that Frank could work with them, he has connections she could only dream of. He'll make the Low Life more profitable for them. Masahina shoots Frank again saying "I believe that is a lie."
As Frank writhes on the floor in pain the SJS Judge taunts him, saying that his whole "wacky insane-for-laughs act goes out of the window when you're about to die."
SJS Judge: "That is. If it is an act. Strange Frank. Here you are about to check out and you look terrified it's true. But not because you're about to take a bullet between the eyes. I asked you once what you were scared of. So what are you scared of Frank?"
Aimee starts sweating profusely, Masahina says this is a pivotal moment for her. He says she has impressed him and excelled in the yakuza the way she has. Frank is part of a past, "and your past is dead and gone."
|Aimee has to choose.|
As the SJS Judge looks on with a bowl of popcorn, Frank pleads with Aimee to save his life, not for him but for her. She turns away saying "drokk you Frank. Drokk you for coming here. Kill him". Before Masahina can fire though there is a barrage of gunfire which takes out all the guards and Daichi. Masahina gets up and sees who it was and finds the dead bodies of Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto who launched the suicidal attack.
|Aw, I liked those two.|
The SJS Judge tells him he's on his very own Long Walk. Also he looked like a "cold-blooded, super-assassin badass back there". He could have arrested the guy, but what he did looks awfully like "revenge". Frank says he'd never had made it out with him as a prisoner, "so Dirty Frank delivered judgement within the statutes of the law." The SJS Judge then says he thinks he knows why Frank didn't go into the Cursed Earth.
SJS Judge: "That place is chaos - and you've got enough of that rattling around in yer smelly head, right? You claim you're an idealist. But really you bought into the law because you need it. It's what tethers you. Because you know, without it..."
Frank silences him and says the pandas he can see are trying to communicate using the power of pointing. There is a yakuza hovercar racing behind him. He puts down Aimee and faces down the car with a gun. His legs are riddled with bullets but he manages to take the car out. Unfortunately another one is approaching and he is out of bullets. Then Aimee stands up and takes it out with a rocket fired from one of her bionic arms. She starts dragging him saying she misses the Low Life.
|Aimee wants to go home.|
Frank: "For a second Dirty Frank wonders if he wants to live on in a world where idealism is either extinct or never truly existed. Then he started giggling. And Aimee passes out".
The roadster goes out of control, they roll and spin off the edge of the freeway as Frank contemplates that in such a postion humans beings will desperately grip onto something, anything "for Dirty Frank it was the purity and clarity of the law. That was, and remains his totem. Without them he would simply be... well... insane."
Aimee crawls out of the crashed roadster which as landed on top of a train followed by Frank. She starts to walk away saying she can't come back with him, "we both know what I am. They'll send me to Titan". He crawls after he as she says she hopes he'll make it. He manages to grab her ankle and dangles her over the edge saying "You.. Are... Under arrest!"
|Oh shit Frank...|
Frank: "You! You betrayed Thora and Mortal! You betrayed the Low Life! Dirty Frank was your friend! Dirty Frank trusted you!"
The life starts to drain out of Aimee and the SJS Judge reappears and tells Frank he actually likes him and so just this once "I'm going to do you a solid. Look up". And Frank, in a spash of vivid colour sees his badge shining in the sky, "oh. Thank you." he says tearfully.
The story wraps up with a taxi driver delivering Frank and Aimee to the Mega-City One embassy. After urgent medical treatment he and Aimee were snuck out of Hondo-City before news of them still being alive could reach Hondo ears. Aimee did a deal to avoid Titan for an Iso-Cube instead. She was able to give information on the yakuza in Hondo and the Low Life.
Dirty Frank thinks how he felt no accomplishment or joy at returning successfully. He'd lost another friend and Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto's death weighed heavily, also bullet holes "really bloody hurt, it turns out".
Frank: "He also had no idea if he would be welcomed back into the Justice Department upon returning home. Beloved justice, that which saved him. But he was alive, and he was Dirty Frank. He knew this. Not many of us can say the same"
|Anothre deal and Frank returns home to an uncertain future.|