Prog #140: They Say He’s Hard as Petrified Hickory – But Fair With It! (The Black Plague, part 1)

Case File

A huge, ravenous force of large spiders is decimating towns in the Cursed Earth. Can Judge Dredd stop the black plague?

Ol’ Stoney Face

Turns out Dredd has got a bit of a reputation for himself in the Cursed Earth. I really like this callback, as it was a really interesting part of that epic story. Dredd is seen as basically harsh but fair, and won’t just leave the mutants to their fate.

This proves to be true, as Dredd decides to check out Moze’s story after the mutant makes his way to the City’s West Wall to ask for Dredd’s help. Dredd and a patrol-wagon make their way to Atom Gulch, but very quickly realise they are facing something even they are going to struggle with. The spiders are due to arrive in five minutes – and Dredd doesn’t yet know what to do.

The Big Meg (and Beyond)

We seem some towns and homesteads similar to ones we’ve seen before in the Cursed Earth. We learn this time though that there are some pretty blunt naming conventions in the Mutielands – here we meet Moze Bigleftear (he’s got a large left ear) and Uncle Flatface (his face is pretty flat) before the Uncle is devoured by spiders. We don’t get to meet Moze’s cousin Amos Sixfingers, so we can only wildly speculate what (if any) physical characteristics he may have had. Before becoming spider-food.

Atom Gulch seems to be a fairly large town in the area, with a Mayor who also seems to have a large left ear. Moze and his partner Nance get to them in time to warn them – but even with the arrival of Dredd and the Judges face destruction at the fangs of the spiders.

We also say “howdy” to Henry Ford, a mutated talking horse that belongs to Moze. He’s the real star of this episode, with a good line in sarcasm and world-weariness.

Growing crops is a tough and unforgiving business in the Cursed Earth, but people are still trying.

The Law

The Justice Department can use “hover wagons” to evacuate the citzens of Atom Gulch – but radio communications are blocked, so Dredd can’t call them in.

Creeps

The “Black Plague” of spiders is pretty nasty, and continues the tradition of monsters from the Cursed Earth really freaking me out. There are “millions and millions” of them, in a single group that stretches for miles. They are on average about the size of a grown man’s hand, have sharp fangs which dispense poison, suck out blood and then pump digestive fluids into the body. Nasty.

Resyk

We see the spiders take down Uncle Flatface, and witness the aftermath of the destruction on Amos Sixfinger’s homestead.

Verdict

I. Do. Not. Like. Spiders.

This is a really good intro, with an appropriate sense of doom and destruction. The cliffhanger – with Dredd and the Judges given five minutes to work out what to do – is one of the best so far. Henry Ford the talking horse is fantastic. Really looking forward to where this one goes.

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