The definitive Judge Dredd epic gets its own definitive edition. The big, sprawling Mega-epic which started it all, The Cursed Earth is what we talk about when we talk about Judge Dredd epics. And now it’s back, with The Cursed Earth Uncensored: bigger, longer, uncut and with added special sauce.
At last, the story’s infamously banned chapters are restored, returning Burger Wars (episodes 11-12) and Soul Food (episodes 17-18) to their rightful place in Dredd canon. Of course, given that The Cursed Earth has been getting along just fine without these pages for forty years now, it does beg the question… was it worth the wait?
Compared to The Apocalypse War, Necropolis or the more recent Day of Chaos, there’s no denying that The Cursed Earth has always been something of a ‘slight’ story. It has its influence and its brilliance, but it is essentially just ‘freak of the week’ style episodic storytelling, using The Cursed Earth as its backdrop. Which is fine. This widens Dredd’s world and allows for some of the best action 2000 AD has ever seen – mutants, robot vampires, rock-eating aliens, dinosaurs and more! It’s a Mad Max riff in true Dredd style. Within that context, though, Burger Wars and Soul Food are perhaps the most slight of all, adding nothing to either the narrative or Dredd lore (apart from a slap on the wrist for 2000 AD from twitchy lawyers, which no doubt curbed a few satirist inclinations in the following years).
“After the war, with the government gone, there was nothing to stop the burger chains lust for complete control. They grew more and more powerful until their hamburger war turned violent.” Dredd has never really been one for subtlety, but you’ll find even less of it here – with Burger Wars’ antagonists being fairly accurate depictions of Ronald McDonald (Macdonald here) and The Burger King, battling it out for the monopoly on hamburgerdom. “Don’t worry folks,” Ronald reassures his audience, after shooting a worker stone dead for not cleaning a table properly, “everything in Macdonalds’ is disposable… including the staff.” It’s little wonder the Burger Giants wanted the story banned, especially given the supremely, suspiciously defensive nature of recent Maccies’ adverts. “Nuh-uh, these are real Russell Burbank potatoes, real Canadian beef, real eggs and we totally don’t shoot the staff for not wiping tables.”
Next up (after a lengthy Satanus interlude) Soul Food pits Dredd, Spikes, Tweak and, um, Judge Jack against Colonel Sanders and the Jolly Green Giant. Also banned for infringement of copyright, it’s a play on the Island of Doctor Moreau, with the Colonel (alright, here re-named Gribbon) standing in for the good doctor. This is the strip at its blunt silliest, but it does get Dredd fighting the Jolly Green Giant with his Killdozer, so there is that. Ho ho ho.
While both pale in comparison to the rest of The Cursed Earth’s highlights, the restorations do get us four hitherto lost chapters of vintage Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland, both of whom are typically wonderful. While nothing else of vast importance is brought to the table, it does all slot in as though it had never been away in the first place: The Cursed Earth as it was meant to be. It’s classic Dredd, with added classic. Insert line about ‘lovin’ it’ here.
JUDGE DREDD: THE CURSED EARTH UNCENSORED / AUTHOR: JOHN WAGNER / ARTIST: BRIAN BOLLAND / PUBLISHER: REBELLION / RELEASE DATE: JULY 14TH