First published in Prog 2011 in 2016.
Artist: David Kendall
This short story continues directly on from Tainted and continues the Kek-W and David Kendall partnership as they explore the effect of the Dead Fluids on the people, and nature, of Judge Death’s homeworld. This all means that Winter Break sticks with the horror-focused storytelling and Fall of Deadworld’s ongoing bleakness.
As with Tainted, the writing and art here are fantastic. We’re not sure if 2000 AD can be classified as a kids’ comic but this is the kind of storytelling that would have been unthinkable back when Judge Death was created in 1980.
Death doesn’t actually appear in this story but a pre-sheep skull Judge Mortis does as he is revealed to be the one manipulating the weather*. It’s only a one panel appearance but the Fall of Deadworld series is essential reading, including Winter Break, and given that your best bet is to read the collected works, picking up Winter Break won’t cost you any extra anyway.
*thanks to David Kendall for clarifying.
Winter Break starts soon after Tainted with Jess and Fairfax riding on Byke away from town after her entire family has been killed. They are being chased by the ‘Invisible Republic’ (more Dead Fluid casualties) in a truck when Byke detects that they are heading towards a roadblock. Jess’ training from her great-grandfather comes in handy though and she’s able to shoot out a tyre on the truck which then crashes into the roadblock, causing a big explosion.
They become engulfed in snow and make their way off-road where they are attacked by wolves that are displaying the same grey, drawn out complexion as humans that are infected by the Dead Fluids. However, an old man called Beartrap rescues them and offers them a place to stay at his cabin where they talk about what is happening to the world. Beartrap even wonders if the weather is being manipulated and it is revealed that Judge Mortis is the one controlling it.
Eventually a group of infected people, and more wolves, come to the cabin and there is a struggle that ends with Beartrap dying and Fairfax and Jess leaving the cabin as it catches fire after Fairfax shoves some flares in one man’s face (notably, a spirit appears to leave him and it looks a bit like Sister Phobia).
They escape and Jess makes Fairfax take a moment to look at the sunset showing that she’s not given up hope yet.
Loose in the colony of Dominion with Mortis and Fire. Judge Fear trapped by Dredd and Anderson (in main timeline).
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.