on 29 October 2009
This is one of my all time favourite stories, not least because the reader didn't know who the Dead Man was until close to the end of the story. Can't remember if anything was done for Yassa in later progs though...
The only gripe I have is about the way Rebellion have sliced and diced the story. I already have Necropolis from a previous printing, but they've left the end of the Dead Man story line to vol 14 of the Collected Judge Dredd, so I'm now going to end up with another copy of Necropolis. Argh!!
on 3 August 2009
When I first read this in 2000AD, all those years ago, I was immediately hooked. With no idea as to what was going on, I found myself slowly drawn in to this man's quest to discover who he was & how he came to be in the state he was. This is essentially a mystery story which built up week by week to a truly jaw dropping revelation at the end. It's hard to say any more without spoiling the end if you don't know anything about it. But that's the best way to enjoy this story. If you've read it before I'm sure you would like to read it again. But if you haven't & your a 2000AD fan, I believe your in for a treat.
on 27 June 2013
I made one of the greatest errors in my comic reading lifetime, and that was reading this terrific comic after i had read Necropolis, so i pretty much knew about the big twist going into this book. And what a twist it is too. Not only one of the best in 2000ad's 30 plus year history, but in the comic book genre as a whole.
The story starts with two kids making a startling discovery. Yassa Povey and a friend come across a man whilst out hunting for food in the outbacks of the Cursed Earth. He is in a very bad state, his skin burnt to a crisp and death just one short breath away. But Yassa's mother and father and people from their community take the man back to their home to see if they can have a remote chance of saving him.
Yassa lives in his tatooine-ish hut with his 'mam' and 'pap', and his uber intelligent dog. From his thoughts we learn about his fears and his nightmates. The fear of hearing the screams "like a saw scraping on glass" at night. These nightmares start as soon as the Dead Man is brought to their home, but is there a link between the two? The man is christened the 'dead man' by Yassa because of the state he found him in, and whisperings start afoot that he is bad news for their community especially by one of the supposed Christian resident. But Yassa's mother who is deeply Christian herself, doesn't relent. Pretty soon the Dead Man is conscious, but he has no recollection of who he is and where he came from. He is 'interrogated' by the villagers but he sounds like someone who isn't from around here.
Thus begins a journey, with Yassa and his dog in tow, to get to the bottom of the Dead Man's true identity.
I must say that although a short read at 92 pages, it was still a very enjoyable and gripping story by Wagner. When this story was first serialised in 2000ad, Wagner hid his name and took the moniker of Keef Ripley, so the readers wouldn't get suspicious - and it worked. It was also very refreshing to see a black charactet in Yassa Povey, take centre stage.
The b&w artwork by John Ridgway is astoundingly beautiful. His work is reminiscent of Eddie Campbell's outstanding work on the seminal From Hell. His line drawing helps to convey a sense of time and place, you can almosy feel the desperation and bleak existence of the small communities in this harsh environment. Not to mention the feeling of dread and forboding when we enter the Grunt Wood, where evil lurks. Or the burnt desolation of the small township of Crowley.
Reading it it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's The Road with the Dead Man, the boy and his dog on a journey through a bleak unforgiving landscape. Also John Hillcoat's The Proposition with its bleak de- saturated feel and shots of the Australian outback (which could easily double up as the Cursed Earth on film). The supernatural angle especially toward the end when we come face to face with two fearful apparitions, reminded me of acid westerns or supernatural westerns such as Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter, with a character much like the comic, coming back from the dead. In fact, the dead man looks like Clint Eastwood, both with his squinted look and his speech. The only thing missing is a chewed cigar and you'd have the genuine legend himself! I feel this demonstrates the strength of John Ridgway's art that it manages to evoke to me the reader, all these works of literature and films.
Toward the end we learn who the Dead Man is, but at a price. Its a really affecting moment in the comic because the revelation is so mindblowing but also at the same time, we are worried for the safety of our characters and one of them out of the three, has to pay a price. Having read Necropolis and especially Tour of Duty: The Backlash TPB I know how it turns out, but even as a stand alone story its a really impressive story, and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading.
Yassa Povey is a likeable young lad, with an intelligent mutant dog, who lives with his family in the village of Bubbletown, in the radioactive wasteland of the Cursed Earth. But in 2112, Yassa stumbles upon a horrifically burned amnesiac man, who he christens the Dead Man, and is subsequently plunged into a nightmare he may never escape from. Meanwhile, the Dead Man, who seems to have survived his grievous wounds through sheer willpower, pieces his memories back together, trying to figure out who he is, what he's doing in the Cursed Earth, and what devilment has nearly claimed his life.
This is the set-up for one of my all-time favourite 2000AD stories, a slow-burning 12 episode piece of genius, in which superscribe John Wagner carefully builds up the tension and terror before unleashing a nightmarish and unforgettable finale which genuinely shocked many 2000AD readers at the time it was first published. But Wagner's script, packed as it is with a growing sense of dread, would be nothing without an artist capable of matching him every step of the way, and in John Ridgway, he has that artist. Ridgway, maybe best known for his astonishing contribution to the Dr Who strip `Voyager' here excels himself, his scratchy, studied line-work a perfect fit for the grim environment of the Cursed Earth and the nightmarish forces which stalk the Dead Man. Particularly memorable is the scene when Yassa and the Dead Man arrive at the ghostly ruins of a decimated village - through sparse but telling details, and a wonderful sense of space, Ridgway's work is able to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
As other reviewers have noted, this story is vital to an understanding of events in Judge Dredd Casefiles 14, and once you've read this, you will definitely want to seek that volume out. (As an appetiser, 'Tales of the Dead Man' also includes the first episode of a related Dredd story with art by Will Simpson). Overall though, `The Dead Man' is a vital piece of 2000AD history, suspenseful, beautifully illustrated, and deserving of a place on the bookshelf of any comics aficionado.