Dredd and the Cursed Earth convoy come across an alien slave gang, and find themselves in the middle of a hunt when one of the creatures escapes.
Ol’ Stoney Face
As we’ve previously seen with the Robots and mutants, Dredd has an inherent sense of justice that doesn’t discriminate based on anything – even species in this case. As he says: “When someone calls on the Law for help… be he mutie… alien… cyborg… or human… the Law cannot turn a blind eye!” (No women though, apparently.)
Dredd does prioritise the vaccine mission however, and initially decides to just notify Mega-City 1 that the slave operation is happening and not stop it himself. But when the hunt is on for Tweak, Dredd doesn’t hesitate in taking the alien on to his Lawmaster and helping him escape. He bluntly tells the Ferry Master that he’s sickened by the man’s practices.
Dredd’s keeping a log of the Cursed Earth trip – with a pen!
The Big Meg (and Beyond)
The convoy has reached the Mississippi, which according to Dredd is perpetually on fire with petrol, pollutants and nuclear waste from the Atomic War.
Somewhere in this area is a gang of alien creatures lorded over by the Ferry Master.
The Alien Zoo
We get our first indication here that alien life exists, and indeed seems to be fairly common. A bunch of aliens have been put to work, but we mostly get to know Tweak here. He looks a bit like a squat, dark-haired, upright deer with claws for fingers. Dredd describes his eyes as very intelligent, and surmises that he uses his claws as sensory appendages. He can break apart rocks with his bare paws.
The Ferry Master claims that these aliens were brought back as specimens to an Alien Nature Reserve before the war, and then after the devastation he bought them up cheap. He claims that they’re unintelligent, but Dredd isn’t convinced.
While being worked the alien creatures keep saying “welcome to Earth” over and over again.
The vaccine convoy is apparently 12 days into its mission, according to Dredd’s Judge’s Log.
The Ferry-Master is a pretty nasty piece of work, using the aliens as slave labour.
He works with an even nastier guy – the Alien Catcher General and his Slay-Riders, who hunt the creatures down if they escape. The General has the head of a goat – but is he an alien himself, or a mutant? The Riders themselves are riding some pretty monstrous mutations, all vaguely horse-like but with the heads of birds or reptiles. They’ve also got napalm flamethrowers.
We can assume casualties abound in the battle with the Slay-Riders – we only really see one definite death at the end of Dredd’s bike cannons.
More world-building and expansion here as we get our first aliens – and rather than being invading hordes, they’re slaves imprisoned by human nasties. Nice work, Humanity.
Another solid entry, lifted again by Bollard’s fantastic artwork, and yet more character development for Dredd as he is crystal clear that even these alien creatures deserve justice.
The planning that went into the Cursed Earth series is really showing through – I remember Slay-Riders being mentioned in one of the first parts as a hazard of the wasteland. It’s clear that the creators behind these issues are feeling revitalised by this epic. Hopefully they can keep it up!