Sunday, April 15, 2012

2000AD Prog 1775 - A medical review

This week's 2000AD is Prog 1779 and there is no medicine to review other than to say that the prognosis for Mega-City One looks to be very poor indeed. Instead I'm going to turn back to Prog 1775 and consider something that the Chief Judge said.

Spoiler alert. This review includes mild spoilers for 2000AD Prog 1775 and the current Eve of Destruction story. You have been warned!

Judge Dan Francisco was the subject of a reality television series called The Streets of Dan Francisco. The Dredd stories have always been peppered with puns and in-jokes so having a show that is similarly named to a 1970s police drama is just par for the course for 2000AD. The Judge Francisco series was a big public relations hit for the Justice department and subsequently he was elected Chief Judge by his fellow Judges. His reign has not been straight-forward to say the least. He seems to be a decent Judge who tries to do the right things but events conspire against him, and now he is struggling to contain the escalating crisis that threatens to destroy Mega-City One. As so often in the past, Judge Dredd may be their only chance for salvation.

In Prog 1775 the Chief Judge and Dredd interview the widow of the scientist who engineered the chaos bug for the rogue Sov-Judges. She reveals that her husband ensured that the bug had an inbuilt weakness.

To recap what we have learned about the chaos bug from previous progs - Dr Yurges created an organism that is based on a protozoa called Toxoplasma Gondii but is much more infectious and deadly. The infection has already been released in Mega-City One and is spreading quickly. There has been some confusion about whether the bug is a protozoa or a virus. In the first panel Dredd plays it safe and refers to it as "the organism". Then Mrs Yurges drops her bombshell - the bug is unstable and will become weaker as it passes from person to person until it reverts to its previous, almost harmless form. "Like the common cold?" asks the Chief Judge but no-one answers him.

The common cold is caused by any one of several hundred different viruses. None of these viruses reduce in virulence as they pass from one person to another. What tends to happen is that people who are more susceptible to infection at any one time tend to pick up the infection first and often develop more symptoms than "fitter" people who get the infection later on. So people whose immune system is weakened by age, medications or another illness will tend to be infected earlier and be more unwell then their family, friends or work and school colleagues who catch the cold from them. Likewise children who have not come into contact with a particular virus before will often have more severe symptoms than their older siblings and parents who have probably developed some immunity already. This is probably where the idea that the Cold virus "burns itself out" comes from.

The Chief Judge may also be confused by something called the Trade-Off Hypothesis which suggested that evolution may have slowly selected infectious organisms that were less virulent because the bugs spread best when their hosts (i.e. us) were still able to be up and about and meeting other possible hosts. As you can read on the above Wikipedia page this doesn't altogether explain what is going on in the complex relationship between micro-organisms and their hosts, which is influenced by several other factors.

Chief Judge Franscisco stumbles slightly on the science stuff but, as always, Dredd is the Law and gets it right. This prog gets a cautiously optimistic 3 out of 5 medic-droids. However, if you are up to date with the current progs you will know that the Chaos bug may be the least of their worries. Writer John Wagner is turning the screws on Mega-City One in what seems set to be his Magnum opus.

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