Someone’s selling illegal 20th century comics to kids on the street, and Dredd plans to bust the operation.
Ol’ Stoney Face
Dredd has a network of informants, including Max Normal. Dredd is bluntly rude to Max to his face (as he seems to be with everyone who likes him), telling him he feels sick just looking at Max. Dredd really doesn’t like people not toeing the Party line. Dredd pays Max 10,000 credits for his info.
Friends of Dredd
Max Normal, (not at all) affectionately referred to by Dredd as “The Pinstripe Freak”, gets info from the streets for the Judge. He’s smartly turned out in a full three-piece pinstripe suit, bowler hat, carnation and umbrella. Apparently this a ridiculous way to dress in 2099, where it’s normal to have long hair and wild clothes (because Crazy Future!).
His speech doesn’t match his gear however, as he sounds more like a very white person’s idea of how people talk “on the street”. Example: “I got some tight info! Stretch a lobe an’ I’ll lay it on you!’.
The Big Meg
Old comics are incredibly valuable according to Dredd, who describes selling them to children as “one of the lowest forms of crime”. Kids get addicted to them fast, and then can’t pay as the prices go up. The comics are stored on micro-film slugs, each of which contains an entire issue!
It’s implied (but not confirmed) that comics aren’t around anymore.
The Judges are very grateful to Dredd for busting up the comics syndicate, but then aren’t above reading the comics themselves because THEY’RE SO GOOD. Especially this 2000AD one!
Setting #4 on Dredd’s pistol fires ricochet bullets.
Fat Sam, owner of Sam’s Soda Bar, sells the comics to the kids. He’s supplied by Skinner and Sloper, who run an import business (unless it’s just a front). The Judges had apparently already suspected them of being involved.
Sam is picked up by the Judges while Dredd heads to Skinner and Sloper Importers to lay the law on the eponymous owners. They’re all getting life sentences.
Good fun, and very enjoyable. Max Normal immediately stands out as a strange and bizarre character, the incongruity of his outfit and behaviour works well in the comic medium. Dredd’s brutal reaction to his non-conformity is played for laughs but is a bit over the top; surely he actually needs Max to supply him with information? He could stand to be a tad nicer.
The plot is a nicely meta one, and works well enough. It would have been good to get an idea of how the comics actually affected the kids of 2099, but in 5 pages brevity is the overriding concern.
I don’t think it’s quite as clever as it wants to be however, and the actual viewing of the 2000AD comic at the end throws all subtlety out the window. On the other hand, I kind of like the in-your-face arrogance of it. If it’s a choice between too subtle and this, I’ll take this.
What does not work for me at all is the very final panel, with Dredd leaning disturbingly out of the panel right at me and basically yelling “HOW GOOD IS THIS COMIC!?!”. Stuff of nightmares, and a step waaaay too far.