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The Cursed Earth Saga by Pat Mills, John Wagner, Mick McMahon and Brian Bolland

01/03/2012. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy The Cursed Earth Saga in the USA - or Buy The Cursed Earth Saga in the UK

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pub: Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins. 160 page small black and white graphic novel. Price: GBP 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78108-008-5).

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‘The Cursed Earth Saga’ is an early Judge Dredd epic and is presented here in mostly full. The missing bits are from ‘2000AD’ progs 71-72 and 77-78 and they are summarized in text but omitted for ‘copyright’ reasons. Those wits at 2000AD messed with multi-national fast food corporations which are long on lawsuits and short on humour. The missing parts by no means ruin the saga.

Plague has struck Mega City 2 on the west coast of America and they need a vaccine. Unfortunately, the usual access to Mega City 2 from Dredd’s Mega City 1 is by plane and crazy plague victims have taken over the airports. A square-jawed hero is needed to transport the vaccine by land across the Cursed Earth, the radioactive wasteland that was once middle America. Dredd is actually quite narrow jawed in this early incarnation, and much slimmer, but he’s still the man. He is aided by some other Judges, an expert biker and unreformed criminal called Spikes Harvey Rotten and some slightly dim war droids. He is equipped with a killdozer and a land-raider which combine to form a modular fighting unit capable of covering any terrain. ‘Oooh, I get excited just looking at its multi-level kill-power,’ says Judge McArthur. ‘Kindly remove your hand from my uniform,’ replies Dredd.

So the quest begins. En route, Dredd and his team battle through giant rats, crazed mutants, robot vampires operating out of Fort Knox, hillbillies, enslaved aliens, dinosaurs and more. The dinosaur sequence was rather too long for my taste and it is scientifically inaccurate to give memories of a life 65 million years ago to a dinosaur that was cloned from some cells found in a fossil. But dinosaurs were all the rage back then and I don’t supposed the kiddies noticed. All the aforementioned horrors are standards of pulp fiction and B-movies but they are done with panache here.

Apart from a couple of episodes credited to T.B. Grover, a pen name for John Wagner, most of the writing is by Pat Mills, and he did a bang up job. Likewise, while a few episodes are drawn by Brian Bolland, most of the art is from the pencil, pen or brush of Mike McMahon. Bolland’s work has a smooth, tidy finish that looks good but personally I slightly prefer McMahon’s rougher images in this context and he seems to put more stuff into each panel. It is all in glorious black and white. Some people don’t watch monochrome movies and there is one nutcase reviewer on Amazon who gives everything in black and white a one star rating and sends it back. Happily, most people don’t confuse colour with quality. Unhappily, this digest-sized format doesn’t allow a better appreciation of the illustrations, which are not large. On the plus side, you get a good hunk of reading for a mere £6.99. That’s the price of two pints of beer in an English country pub. Save your liver and read Dredd instead!

Eamonn Murphy

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This book has 13 votes in the sci-fi charts

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