First published in Megazines 209-216 in 2004.
Writer: John Wagner
Artist: Frazer Irving
Published in 2004, The Wilderness Days reunited writer John Wagner with artist Frazer Irving, who together produced Judge Death’s previous story, the excellent My Name is Death in 2002.
That story had revitalised Judge Death after a decade spent cracking jokes and getting caught by endless suction traps and the hope here was that we’d see the ruthless, all business Death but The Wilderness Days is somewhere between My Name is Death‘s starkness and the 1990s wise-cracking Judge Death.
Wagner’s writing is good here with an interesting story with plenty of twists and turns, and one that has Judge Death in reflective mood. But there is a lot of silliness too. Judge Death in shorts and boxing gloves? Yeah.
Irving’s monochrome art isn’t quite as stylish as his work on My Name is Death either. But what this does feel like is a real 2000 AD strip in so far as there are mutants, larger than life badguys and plenty of chaos.
While being a slight letdown after My Name is Death, on its own merits The Wilderness Days is a decent outing for Judge Death that gives Wagner plenty of space to really explore the character.
The Wilderness Days sees Judge Death outside of Mega-City One, walking the Cursed Earth, having escaped captivity and neutralised Judge Anderson in My Name is Death.
He approaches a family on their farm and is asked to leave which he does, initially signifying that this might be a changed superfiend. However, Death is biding his time, mindful of the fact that he doesn’t have the facilities to create a new body out in this wilderness.
He comes back that night though to wipe out the family but one of the children manages to hide and tells his father, Hocus Ritter, the next day what happened and with the rest of his family dead, Ritter sets off for revenge.
Meanwhile, Judge Death continues to execute everyone he finds but discovers that he is no longer satisfied by it. He stops to discuss it with a blind man that he encounters and realises that even with his power, he cannot purge the living faster than they repopulate.
The blind man shows Death an old, untouched library. It is here that Death discovers a book called Great Mass Extinctions and this inspires him to change tack. As much as he enjoys personally dispensing justice to one sinner at a time, Death realises that he needs to be more efficient and sets off to find weapons of mass destruction.
He runs into a young couple, Slide and Nirvana, who are on their own murder spree and jumps in the back of their convertible as they head towards Las Vegas before Death dispatches both of them.
Once in Las Vegas, Death wastes no time and kills a woman who is gambling on a slot machine. He allows himself to be arrested, knowing that that will get him closer to the authorities and closer to those coveted nuclear weapons but is disgusted to see that the Las Vegas Hall of Justice has now been turned into a casino and that the judges there aren’t real judges and have instead overthrown the former Chief Judge, Rudy, and transplanted his head onto a dog’s body.
Rather than execute Death, they decide to put him in the boxing ring and let people gamble on him. He agrees to ten fights if they’ll show him where the local missile base is but Rudy points out that they have no intention of fulfilling their end of the bargain.
Death kills his captors and makes his way to the missile base where there are 24 nuclear missiles. He overpowers the General there who is the only human at the base and commands the robot staff to launch missiles at Mega-City One and at Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is destroyed, pleasing Judge Death greatly knowing that many thousands have perished but Mega-City One’s defenses are able to take care of the incoming missiles headed their way.
Meanwhile, Hocus Ritter has been pursuing Death but is captured by Judges when he attacks a Judge Death impersonator. He is given the electric chair but survives it because of the pure will to survive and get his revenge. However, the process changes him, and his horse, giving him some sort of electricity-based power.
He finds Judge Death who underestimates him and is shocked to find that Ritter can hurt him. As Ritter lands a barrage of punches, his hate swells eventually opening what appears to be a portal to hell and Judge Death is dragged in there by the souls of the people he has punished.
Trapped in hell. Fire, Mortis and Fear captured.
Buy it now
It looks like your best bet for this story is My Name is Death which compiles this story with My Name is Death. It’s hard to track down a physical version but 2000 AD sell a digital version (link below).