Writer: John Wagner Artist: Peter Doherty Publisher: Rebellion (£10.99, paperback)
Judge Death – his very name is enough to strike fear into the very hearts of Mega City One’s long-suffering citizens. Hailing from a parallel universe where life itself is a crime, this undead parody of a Mega City judge is on a mission to wipe out every human being on Earth. By his twisted logic, all crime is committed by the living, so with no one left alive, there will be no more crime. After all, it worked for his own world…
Young Death, Boyhood of a Superfiend was originally printed in Judge Dredd: The Megazine back in 1990. Set after the events of 2000AD epic Necropolis, the tale explores the origins of Judge Death, his warped childhood, how he joined his own world’s judges (a futuristic police force with the authority to arrest, pass sentence and even execute on the spot) and how he became the foetid creature he is today.
Boyhood of a Superfiend is a great yarn in its own right, but the cracks are beginning to show. On the plus side, it’s interesting to read about Judge Death’s origins and what makes him tick. Exploring his motivations gives the character added depth, making him more than a monster with a catchphrase, which he could easily have become had he gone on returning to the comic and Megazine without offering anything new about his backstory. This origins tale was the right story at the right time.
Unfortunately, the tale’s initial premise – a post-Necropolis Judge Death gives his life story to a reporter while lodging in Mega City One with a half-blind woman who is used for comic relief – is too silly and not at all in keeping with the character. Unfortunately, this is the way things went in later stories, with Judge Death himself being used as comic relief, ruining one of the greatest villains ever to take on the mighty Joe Dredd. Naturally, if you’re not a long-time reader of 2000AD and its spin-offs this won’t be an issue – the tale as reprinted here is terrific as it stands. But then, how many non-fans would be interested in the origins of Judge Death anyway?
There’s a second, support story in there too, which is a mean read but ultimately a disposable filler.
Young Death, Boyhood of a Superfiend is recommended for those who are at least a little familiar with Dredd’s world, especially people who read 2000AD back in the day but never touched the Megazine, so missed this tale first time around. Watch how much you pay, though. The cover price of £10.99 is at least £4 too expensive, and you can get it for about half that on Amazon.