Judge Death and the three Dark Judges are amongst Judge Dredd’s most deadly recurring adversaries. First introduced to 2000AD back in the 1980s, they’re bizarre undead Judges from another dimension, who keep reappearing in Dredd’s world to deliver judgement on the living. On their own world (latterly known as Deadworld) the justice department had worked out that all crime was committed by the living, so they eliminate crime completely by ridding the world of all life.
Originally illustrated by Brian Bolland’s clean lines, Death and his associates (Fear, Fire and Mortis) have plagued Dredd in many storylines, arguably to the point of diminishing returns. However, this story is different. It takes us back to Deadworld at the point where Death has taken over the post of Chief Judge and is bringing his plan for extinction to fruition.
Writer Kek-W has created a truly terrifying post-apocalyptic drama, clearly influenced by modern survival horror such as The Walking Dead, but merging it with a good smattering of typically 2000AD sci-fi. We join the action after Judge Death has initiated his ghoulish crackdown on all living things, and is creating an army of undead Judges by spiking their food with ‘dead fluids’, which turns them into zombies.
Judge Fairfax used to be a protégée of Judge Sidney De’ath before the coup that brought Death to ultimate judicial power on his world and he decreed life itself a crime. From the flashbacks we see here, we can see how this was a slow process, a long series of events that shaped a justice department that valued cruelty and suffering over justice.
Despite making Judge Dredd look like a beacon of virtue and compassion, Fairfax can see things taking a turn for the worse and has no intention of getting caught up in the dead fluids trap. So he jumps on his artificially intelligent motorbike and goes on the run.
As well as the main story, this volume also contains some short ones, which illuminate the dark spheres of influence that the four Dark Judges rule over. Kek-W takes them beyond the generic horror villains that they’re usually portrayed as and gives them more rounded personalities, which successfully serves to make them scarier.
Dave Kendall’s art is as dark and gritty as you could probably stomach. The brown and grey palette provides the perfect backdrop of a world on its knees, while his renditions of the Judges are more rotten and disgusting than we’ve ever seen them before. The dying world and the vicious undead servants of death top it off to complete a veil of horror that hangs heavy over this darkly brilliant book.