Judge Dredd – The Cursed Earth.
(AfroGamers.com) The last time when we talked Judge Dredd it was the short story arc The Robot Wars. It was a story of humans mistreating robots, the robots rebelling, a few robots who loved being enslaved to humans helping the most cold-hearted cop in Mega City-1, and one robot getting his freedom. It’s a great intro to the world of Judge Dredd and the fast pace of the comic.
Now we’re going to jump into some deeper water. There’s another story arc prior to The Cursed Earth but its not required reading. If you want to know how the Earth ended up the way it did in 2100 A.D and what exists beyond the large, safe walls of Mega City-1, then The Cursed Earth is what you want to read.
Mega City-2’s Got A Zombie Virus Problem
The story starts with a friend of Dredd making it to Mega City-1. He’s in quarantine and its revealed that there’s some nasty business back west in Mega City-2 with a virus going around. This virus called 2T(FRU)T causes people to become hyper violent and try to eat their victims’ brains. After having to kill his friend, Dredd volunteers to take the vaccine to Mega City-2 in what is obviously a suicide mission.
He picks up a few judges, some heavily armed and armored vehicles (the Landraider and the Killdozer), and a convict by the name of Spike Harvey Rotten. Spike was a biker who survived a previous story, Death Race 5000, who knows the Cursed Earth better than anyone in Mega City-2. If Spike survives this mission he would get a pardon.
Spike proves useful in helping Dredd during their first run-in with trouble, a death cult. The team manages to escape leaving the cult to be torn apart by a storm of rat winds (wind carrying violent rats). In their adventures they add to their team with the rock-eating, psychic alien Tweak joining them.
One Large, Nuclear Parking Lot
Setting out of Mega City-1, the group finds that most of the United States is now wasteland. When I say “most of” I mean that large portions of it is either barren desert (most of Middle America and the west) or nuclear swamps and forests (the South).
The products of the Cursed Earth include mutants, psychics, monsters, plague rat winds, and wasteland bandits. It’s truly a mess. The wasteland has also resulted in some survivors forming gangs and taking over the remnants of cities such as the KFC vs. Burger King gangs and the mafia.
Worst Fictional President Ever
This all happened in 2070 when President Robert L. Booth launched nuclear weapons and ignited the Atomic Wars. It was a cover up attempt that escalated and spiraled out of control when an aide said they would go forward about Booth’s rigging of the 2068 election.
This resulted in most of the U.S. outside of Mega City-1, Mega City-2, and Texas City becoming a wasteland as Booth’s nuclear screens failed to protect the country. The Atomic Wars was a showdown between the judges and Booth’s robots.
In the end the judges would win and put President Booth on trial. He is found guilty and sentenced to 100 years suspended animation.
Dredd’s team would run into Booth again at Fort Knox during their run. They find that the medical robots tasked with his care have been killing women for their blood. This makes the locals think vampires have arrived in Kentucky. Booth comes out of suspended animation and begs Dredd to release him. He sentences the last President of the United States to serve out the rest of his sentence doing hard labor on a farm.
Jurassic Park Before Jurassic Park
The two true threats to Dredd’s team–or what’s left of it by this time–are Satanus the Dinosaur and the Legion of the Damned. Satanus was the result of science tampering with what it shouldn’t. Then again, if excitable scientists just kept to their work, we’d have none of this science fiction stuff, right? No Dr. Zin creating walking spider robots or regular humans getting extraordinary powers. It’s a weird double-edged sword.
In Judge Dredd, it’s a sharp, single-edged sword with scientists being habitual line-steppers. Satanus is evidence of that as there’s no good reason for anyone to clone or bring back a Tyrannosaurus rex. None. Satanus’ story is one of finally tasting human flesh and being considered a threat. However, he was a threat that brought in money! He was kept chained up and sedated at a zoo until he and other dinosaurs broke free and attacked humans.
There’s also this mother-son thing with him in that he was killed by his mother when he tried to claim superiority in a past life. Yes, this Tyrannosaurus rex had a past life. Once cloned, he remembers all of this. The Atomic Wars releases Satanus and others into the Cursed Earth. So again, Booth is the worst fictional president ever.
A town nearby offers sacrifices to Satanus to keep the dinosaurs from eating them. Dredd, Spike, and the remaining judges are the latest offering but as you will find out, Dredd never loses. After he gets free, he takes the fight to Satanus and eventually defeats him by dropping a burning building onto him. It is revealed that Satanus isn’t dead but he’s severely wounded.
The Final Stretch
After dealing with mutants, gangs, robots, dinosaurs, and scientific experiments, Dredd, Spike, Tweak, and the few judges make it out west. Spike has become a trusted ally to Dredd and is like deputy out in the wasteland–for what that’s worth. I mean, it’s the wasteland. Tweak is extremely reliable and has pulled Dredd out of the fire several times. But now, it should be cool sailing from here, right?
Oh reader, have you learned nothing from the past few minutes?
The crew come upon a war memorial to the judges and mega troopers who found in the 2071 Atomic Wars. Nearby, the ground starts to stir and robots start to break through! These are the robots deployed by President Booth to bring the judges under boot: the Legion of the Damned.
Their objective is to kill every single judge until none are left. Following the war, they became covered by dust and time but the arrival of Dredd awakens them. Leading them is General Blood n’ Nuts, a giant robotic head on a tank.
This final battle is just as bloody and much more violent than the last encounter with all of Dredd’s remaining judges being killed and the vehicles are destroyed. He manages to hold on to the medicine but is cornered in the ruins of a building with Spike and Tweak.
Spike can’t bring himself to just wait to be killed and runs out blasting at the robots.
He meets his doom and is left dying in Judge Dredd’s arms. Dredd comes up with an idea to steer the robots away and sends Spike off with a judge’s honor, putting him on the bike and riding him towards their pursuers.
They take the bait leaving Dredd and Tweak to escape with the medicine.
Dredd Never Loses
In the end, near death and unconscious, Dredd manages to achieve his mission. With the help of Tweak, he gets the medicine to Mega City-2 and it looks as though it will recover. Dredd makes it back to Mega City-1 and Tweak telepathically makes him promise to send him back home. While Dredd initially believe that Earthlings could learn from alien life, he agrees with him that Earthlings can’t be trusted based on the state Tweak was enslaved and his family killed.
Dredd recovers and we await his next adventure.
I enjoyed The Cursed Earth, it was over-the-top from start to finish. I’d sum it up as fast-paced, action packed sci-fi. While the lore and world building was done in this story–a year after Judge Dredd started–it didn’t slow down the story at all.
The Cursed Earth is a terrifying place with threats that make you want to stay in Mega City-1. Not only that but it would be built upon in future stories! This is just a story from 1978, it gets worse and its constantly revisited in Judge Dredd’s 41-year run without massive story and timeline compromising retcons.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.