Villordsutch reviews Judge Dredd: Dead Zone…
While investigating a murder at the Chaos Day Memorial, Dredd comes across a slave ring in which people are being sent into the bowels of the earth to rob the bodies of the dead. Yodie Planchet is one such unfortunate being forced to undertake in this harrowing labour. But when he finds a strange bracelet that bestows great power to whoever wears it, he is able to rescue his pregnant sweetheart and escape to the ‘Big Meg’. However, an item this powerful is always being sought after, and it isn’t long before Yodie is being pursued by mysterious agents from the future!
Way back in July 2014 I was lucky enough to begin reading John Wagner’s Dead Zone with some seriously fantastic artwork with Henry Flint. The story began in Judge Dredd Megazine Issue #350 and it won – over the next few months – the Tale of the Month repeatedly, which is awarded to a standout story within the Megazine. However, due to time and other factors I lost track of the remaining chapters of Judge Dredd: Dead Zone and here I’m given the chance to catch up, though after reading it I now wish I was left with the memory of the four fantastic opening moments.
Dead Zone opens with Yodie and his pregnant partner Belle attempting to get to get to a better place, Mega-City One, to raise their unborn child away from their abusive relatives. On their journey they come across the Chaos (Plague) Memorial Interment Facility, which is the last resting place for the victims of the Chaos Plague. However they’re ambushed by a gang of grave robbers, who bundle them into a wagon. At the same moment Dredd is currently investigating the supposed accidental death or perhaps suicide of accountant Mr McPhee at the Chaos Memorial Interment Facility.
During Yodie’s forced looting of the rotting corpses in the Chaos death pits, he stumbles across a bracelet that can make him instantly invisible. Seizing this as his chance to escape, the guards being to let loose a few rounds and this draws Dredd towards further towards the camp; here Belle makes her escape too. With Dredd dealing with both the corrupt overseers of the Chaos Memorial Interment Facility and now the grave robbers, Yodie and Belle make for Mega-City One but as the net begins to fall Yodie panics and becomes lost in the vast city; he also gains the attention of a lot of people who now want the technology on his wrist.
The second tale with in the book is Breaking Bud, which follows a Tech office named Bud charged with investigating the Bracelet last seen in Dead Zone. However due to budget cuts he is made redundant from his job, then following the loss of his daughter he is informed that his home is classed as to big for his remaining family members and they are moved to a violent block called “Duncan Smith”. Due to the circumstances placed upon him – by the powers above – he seeks revenge and attempts to take his life back with the abilities of the bracelet.
Dead Zone as said before starts fantastically well and continues to run brilliantly within Mega-City One until the Time Cop appears with a power bracelet, called a Pulsar, and her Time Belt. It’s at this point the story unfortunately lost any punch whatsoever for me. This tale was running perfectly well, a simple family, lost in an extremely large city, and all of a sudden a very big world wants what they now own and they’ll kill them to get it. Stapling in a Time Cop with a Time Belt felt like somebody said, “We needed an extra dose of Sci-Fi in the Sci-Fi story to make it more Sci-Fi!”
Though in Breaking Bud the Time Cops turn up again, the story stays consistent; again from John Wagner and with the art this time provided by Richard Elson, this takes a poke at Iain Duncan Smith and the current way our Government treats those that need real help in our society. The message is about as subtle as a brick thrown through a window with a basket of rats strapped to it, also each rat has a note wrapped around their little red collars, telling the reader of said message too. Yet this tragedy is a good read and when the Time Cops turn up there is a good reason to; they need the technology back.
It’s a shame Dead Zone strayed off the path it was following for I was really enjoying it but to bring in such an odd “old school” plot device really turned me off the story altogether. Breaking Bud brought the book back up a few notches, but all it all not the best release from 2000AD.
You can buy Judge Dredd: Dead Zone now in either print or digital edition here.