Prog #61: For the Future of Civilisation! (The Cursed Earth, part 1: Forbidden Fruit)

Case File

Dredd’s old pal Red has just returned from plague-ridden Mega-City 2. The only way to save their sister city? A suicidal trek across the Cursed Earth!

61Ol’ Stoney Face

Even Dredd finds the prospect of crossing the Cursed Earth to be impossible, but once he realises the scale of situation he’s on board.

Friends of Dredd

Red is a strato-pilot, flying the short-haul between Mega-Cities 1 and 2. He seems to know Dredd reasonably well, although hasn’t seen him for a while. He’s a Bubble Boy now though after his last visit to MC-2. His crew were delivering a vaccine to a horrific plague running rampant there.

His crew is taken out by the plague victims, but he manages to escape and make his way back to MC-1 and tell the Judges. The story doesn’t end well for poor Red though, as he is one of the 10% that don’t respond to the vaccine. He goes nuts, kills Judge Fodder and is taken out by his pal Dredd.

The Big Meg (and Beyond)

Mega-City 2 covers 5000 square miles of America’s eastern seaboard. It’s currently suffering a plague left over from the Great Germ War (which took place after the Atomic War). It turns people’s skin grey and scrambles their brains. It’s technical name is 2T(Fru)T, which the sufferers have mangled into their chanting cry of “Tooty Fruity” for… reasons.

The plague seems to leave people’s general intelligence intact (they can talk and reason), but just twists it to murder and a taste for human flesh (which they call the “forbidden fruit”). According to the Judges, only one section of MC-2 is still surviving the plague. Thousands have already died.

Separating the two great cities is the Cursed Earth – a smouldering wasteland created during the Atomic War. We can only assume this is the place where mutations like The Brotherhood of Darkness and Mr Buzzz came from. It apparently has 500mph winds, monsters, savage muties and something called the “Death Belt” one mile up. It’s common knowledge that there is no safe way to cross it at ground level. So, guess who will be doing just that for the next little while?

There is also a Mega-City 3, which is the only other place where people now live in America.

The Law

We’re introduced to Assistant Grand Judge Fodder. He would have to outrank Dredd, yet puts up with Dredd tearing him down a peg or two in front of a citizen.

Justice H.Q. has a Special Security Wing which can handle quarantine cases like Red.

Creeps

No real criminals here, just victims. The plague sufferers are formidable, even climbing on to Red’s craft as it takes off.

Holy Grud!

The opening two-page spread, which kind of acts like the overture for this 25-part epic, is (there’s no other word for it) awesome. “Never a dull moment when you’re a twenty-second century cop!”

Resyk

Thousands have died in MC-2 as a result of the plague, and here we see Assistant Grand Judge Fodder and Red breathe their last.

Verdict

It’s hard to separate this out from the epic we know is just beginning. On its own, it’s a good start. It’s nice to meet a non-Judge friend of Dredd’s – so of course he’s dead before the prog is done. The set-up and exposition is heavy but well-told with action and good artwork. There’s also a fantastic sense of melodrama, which when finely tuned is such fun to read. Bring on the trek!

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