First published in Progs 1946-1949 in 2015.
Artist: David Kendall
If John Wagner is the master of the Judge Death timeline, then Dreams of Deadworld ushered in a new era where Kek-W became the master of the Dark Judges’ past. This four part series was published in successive issues of the Prog and each one focused on a particular Dark Judge as they struggle to cope with the success of destroying their planet but then having no-one left to judge.
The stories vary in tone but they do all show the Judges at their most unreasonable best. There’s very little humour on display (apart from in Mortis’ story) but plenty of bleak desperation.
Kek-W does a great job in his first effort with the characters and adds some very welcome back story and depth to each of the Dark Judges while David Kendall, also making his first appearance, delivers some fantastic art. Each panel is loaded with detail, individually each one is a fantastic piece of art, but never at the expense of the story and the oppressive post-omnicide Deadworld feels more real than ever before.
While this story, and the subsequent Deadworld ones, do not advance the main timeline, they are essential reading for fans of Death and the other Dark Judges and were a real treat when they first appeared. Unmissable.
Dreams of Deadworld is a four part series with each part focusing on a Dark Judge each. They are all set after the living were eradicated on their world.
Judge Fire into an object, remembering a day over and over. It was the day that he confronted two previously unseen Dark Judges: Judge Reaper and Sister Despair. She had fled to an underwater base with Reaper, who was in love with her, there too. There she conducted genetic experiments, creating mindless living slaves. Fire, who also loved her, feels betrayed and executes Reaper before confronting her.
However, Sister Despair destroys herself, leaving Judge Fire to endlessly mourn her passing. We see him sat on a large seat, claiming to not feel anything but we know he does.
Of all the Dark Judges, Mortis is the most bored once all life has been extinguished. He laments the slow passing of time and spends his time with small projects or tending his garden (which is pretty much just a place with dead folk in it).
One day something breaks through the atmosphere and Mortis decides to investigate, assuming it is a meteor. It turns out to be an expedition of alien creatures call the Ymoi. They are charting the expanses of the galaxy. They converse with Mortis who is overjoyed to meet them and even more thrilled when he finds out there are billions of them back home.
He shows them his project, a wine that he has made from the corpses of the dead: the original dead fluids. He kills the Ymoi and feeds the fluids to one of them. They are kept alive by their nanoware technology but turned into a mindless slave by the fluids. He instructs them to send a message back home, happy to wait for the rescue ship for as long as it takes.
Judge Fear is in his castle, paranoid that the other Dark Judges are plotting against him. He thinks back to the last days of life on the planet. He and Judge Fire have a bet to see who can clear out a building quicker.
As Fear works his way through, killing everyone either with his traps or by psychically suggesting they do it for him, he encounters a young boy. The boy attacks him and Fear opens his mask but the child is not afraid. So, Fear throws the child to his death through a window.
Later, Fire asks him what took him so long. Fear brags that he likes to take his time with his victims and that the mere sight of him was enough to make them jump to their death, pointing to the dead boy as an example. But he knows he’s faking it and acknowledges a feeling of dread. A nice reference to the fact that he’d forever be a highlight reel entry for Judge Dredd when he gets his face punched through.
Death calls together all the Dark Judges. This isn’t just Fear, Fire and Mortis but also others, Scourge, Ossify, Fly Blown and Silence among others. He announces that one of their number, Judge Omen, has been murdered. He begins accusing each Judge before Scourge tackles him from behind, declaring him unfit to rule.
Death fights back and destroys him and then announced that it was he that killed Judge Omen and that he was guilty, as are the others, of being in thrall of life and just being murderers rather than truly believing in their cause.
He gets Mortis to activate a shield, protecting all four main Dark Judges, and then uses a psi-drain device to destroy all of the others before noting that Judge Omen had foreseen new beings arriving in the future, bringing with them the dimension jumping technology that would ultimately lead them to Mega-City One.
Death, Mortis and Fire lost in space. Judge Fear captured.
Buy it now
Thankfully, this story and the rest of Kek-W’s Fall of Deadworld series were re-printed as two hardcover collections. You’ll need the first one, Fall of Deadworld: Book One to read this story.