(Note: the Bolland cover seen above did not appear on the cover of the magazine wherein the Judge Dredd story first appeared, It's likely that Bolland was commissioned to create a new cover for this 1983 American reprint, one which played off the narrative of the story "Father Earth." It's an amusing coincidence that Dredd's dialogue anticipates one of the catchphrases of 1986's Robocop character.)
Roughly a year after Judge Dredd attempted to "bring law to the Cursed Earth," the mutated inhabitants of the apocalyptic wasteland returned the favor. Ten thousand "mutielanders," creations of atomic fallout, converge on Mega-City One, given common purpose by the environmental terrorist "Father Earth." The story, written by John Wagner and illustrated by both Brian Bolland and Ron Smith, does not expatiate on the villain's background, though, since the fellow literally has plants growing from his body like a sci-fi version of the Celtic "Green Man," one assumes he's a particular type of mutant. Unlike the Marvel Comics breed of genetic spinoffs, Father Earth displays only a very minor ability-- the creepers on his body can choke people-- but his real power consists of being able to entrance the wasteland rabble with high-flown religious rhetoric: "Today Mother Earth will claim back what is hers! Today her bowels will open and fire and brimstone will spew forth upon the cursed city." The Bad Father, in other words, despises the technological civilization of Mega-City One, holding all technology responsible for the devastation visited upon Earth, and thus postulating a hellish catastrophe spawned not from the skies but from the depths of Mother Earth-- to whom Father Earth may deem himself the consort.
At the same time that the mutie horde advances upon the impregnable walls of the city, most of the Judges within those walls are more concerned with internal politics, for an annual election of Mega-City officials is in progress. All of the electioneering, Wagner tells us, builds up to one massive electronic vote submitted by the citizens, in contrast to contemporary times' extending the voting over a period of days. Our hero Judge Dredd concedes the need to ride herd on criminals amid the crowds, but senses that the mutielanders are the greater threat, even though the wastrels have no weapons capable of breaching the walls. Dredd's suspicions are partly confirmed when it's discovered that some of Father Earth's soldiers, warriors known as "the Doomsday Dogs," have infiltrated the city and have attempted to sabotage a power facility. Dredd and other Judges whip the Dogs, preventing them from triggering a live volcano from the city's use of subterranean lava.
However, even after Father Earth's minions are defeated, the ten thousand followers remain camped outside the city. Dredd attempts to disperse them, but he's not allowed to arrest them without cause under current Mega-City law. The city goes about its business, building up to the massive, all-in-one-minute voting surge-- at which point Dredd intuits Father Earth's backup plan. He discovers that the saboteurs planted a bomb in an unobtrusive auxiliary pipeline, and the bomb goes off in tune with the massive voting surge. This puts such stress upon the energy-system that Father Earth gets his fire and brimstone eruption.
Despite the terrene terrorist's marshaling of chthonic forces against the world of technology, his plans are foiled by three brave Judges, "the Holocaust Squad," who shut off the lava-flow at the cost of their own lives. Once the volcano no longer menaces the populace, the better-armed Judges lay waste to the wastelanders. However, John Wagner-ian irony, not Judge Dredd, gets to pronounce sentence on Father Earth.
Of the many buildings destroyed in the catastrophe, one is Mega-City's Botanical Gardens, whose specimens include a handful of man-eating plants culled from other worlds. One of these, the Bloodplant, lures its human victims into its maw by emitting a siren-call. Father Earth hears the call, decides it's "the Voice of God," and marches with the last of his followers into the plant's gizzard. Muses Dredd, "You can't be more one with nature than that."
While I think Wagner definitely wanted to evoke the myth of "technology over nature" in this story, I'm not as certain as to whether either he or one of the artists conceived the "Doomsday Dogs" with some idea about the role of dogs as mythic death-harbingers. I wondered at one point why Wagner specified that the deadly blooms all came from alien worlds. It's an apocalyptic world; couldn't they be mutant Earth-plants? But it now seems appropriate that the man-eaters aren't born from Planet Earth. Since they've been brought to Earth by the spacefaring technology of the Mega-City, the plants are, like the nuclear missiles, another example of "death from the skies," which once more trumps the forces of "death from beneath the earth."