Script: Pat Mills, John Wagner, Alan Grant
Art: Mick McMahon, Brian Bolland, John Higgins
Publisher: Rebellion/Hachette Partworks
“You forget Spikes…when someone calls on the law for help…be he mutie, alien , cyborg or human…the law cannot turn a blind eye! And I AM THE LAW!”
The Cursed Earth was 2000AD’s first-ever Dredd Mega-Epic and it’s quite unlike any that followed. For a start, it’s written for the most part by Pat Mills, not John Wagner, who contributes only a few chapters.
More unusual than than even the lack of Wagner is just how Dredd himself is portrayed as a straight-out hero. There’s no sign of the inhuman fascist of later stories, instead Mills plays him straight down the line, as a traditional tough-but-good guy, one who’d quite literally crawl through Hell to help his fellow man. And by the end of this sprawling storyline, that’s exactly what he’d end up doing.
When Mega-City Two is ravaged by plague, Dredd is assigned the task of delivering the antidote that will save the city, but with the space-ports in the hands of the deranged plague victims, the trip has to be made across the most hostile territory on the planet, The Cursed Earth.
More episodic than later epics, this sprawling 25-parter sees Dredd teamed with punk biker Spikes Harvey Rotten blazing a trail through (amongst other things) mutant tribes, insane war robots, Mafia judges and genetically-engineered dinosaurs. Its ridiculously entertaining stuff with the pace never letting up for even a second.
As glorious as it is, it wouldn’t be 2000AD if it was just all about the action though. Remember, this was still very much a kid’s comic at the time, but still found space to throw in concepts like slavery, religious fundamentalism, PTSD and nuclear holocaust.
In a kid’s comic.
Of course it helps massively that the art duties are split between arguably Dredd’s two most definitive artists, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland. The pair are absolutely on fire here, with McMahon’s ragged style contrasting beautifully with Bolland’s masterful clean lines. It’s truly gorgeous from start to finish and a main factor in this story having the reputation it most deservedly has as a stone-cold classic.
Despite only kicking off weeks into its second year, The Cursed Earth is one of the real gems of Dredd’s lengthy history and as such is a perfect example of just how quickly 2000AD got it right. Incredible.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy